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Ah yes, now I remember writing, and thinking, and pondering (and throwing my various opinions out at the world)… sorry ’bout that 8-month or so interruption.  Life tends to get in the way of one’s best laid plans, I guess.

And when I left off, I was thinking a lot about- in fact, even working in my spare time on a book- the importance of integral theory to the political providence.  Conversely, I was also thinking a lot about the many ways in which integral thinkers get politics all wrong.  For instance, I just came across a new (to me) site by integral heavy-weight Corey W. deVos, a guy who I generally like (OK, I’ve never met him).  This despite the fact that I have some serious disagreements with his take on “integral politics”.  But it’s nothing personal against him, since the mistakes he makes are rampant throughout the integral community.

In particular, my attention was drawn to a post up on Mr. deVos’ site which is more or less a mini-manifesto on the wonders- the integral nature even- of green capitalism.  As I’ve said before, I’ve found that in general the integral community is liberal (in the American popular sense, liberal to social democratic in the European political sense) and very, very defensive of capitalism.  They like it.  A lot.  At the very best they’d like to see it look more like the capitalist-socialist hybrid that is popular through much of Europe.  But the integral community is, from what I’ve seen, more or less 98% upper-middle class or better.  Even those “without money” come from privilaged backgrounds (not surprisingly, there’s a high concentration of ‘whiteness’ too, since economic standing and racial make-up are so often related, though, again just from what I’ve seen, the racial mix of the integral community is a bit more diverse than the socio-economic mix).

And while I’m on this tangent (I will get to Mr DeVos’ post and my opinions of what’s wrong with it), a word about the integral community’s general economic background (and connected political leanings): it’s no coincidence at all that the integral community is by-and-large made up of individuals whose economic lot have enabled them to have a higher degree of education, and have afforded them the leisure time to ponder the sorts of bigger picture questions that might lead one to come to an integral vantage point of the world (Kosmos, whatever you’d like to call it).  There are, in fact, little if any people (let alone currents) involved with integral theory (or practice or interests) from Harlem, East St Louis, or South Central LA.  There are, however, hotbeds of integral activity in Boulder, Ashville, Burlington.  Speaking in strictly political terms, people who benefit from a political (economic) system are going to be loath to embrace the destruction of that system, even if the destruction of that system were to bring about a net gain for the majority, or even the planet.  Instinctually, we want security and safety, and if we have it, well, it becomes quite a thing to root for something else to take its place, no matter the pros or cons.

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(Note):  As I mentioned in a recent post, I’m just a few chapters into my quest to finally read Ken Wilber’s opus Sex, Ecology, Spirituality.  I’ve started the thing several times in the past, but have never made it more than a quarter through (not including the 256 pages of footnotes, which even Wilber himself notes can be read as a separate book unto itself), but this time, I feel confident that with the aid of a reading group (yeah Colin!) I’ll finally be able to conquer this beast.  I’m still toying with the idea of writing periodic posts/reviews as I go, though I’m leaning towards waiting until the end for a big bang write up that can get more in-depth with the entirety of the thing.  However, after this week’s reading group meeting dissecting and discussing chapter 3 (Individual and Social) I’m inclined to offer-up what follows.  On the heels of my own inclinations (some of which I’ve tried to flesh out in past posts such as my An Integral Politic I, II, and III) and spurred much further thanks to some of Colin’s great questions and insights, I’ve decided that a rebuttal of the chapter- or, more specifically, of Wilber’s map of how social/cultural evolution fits into his larger Theory of Everything schematic (a schematic that I largely and enthusiastically embrace and agree with) is due.  In hopes of propagating my thoughts on this first and foremost through the “integral community” I’m writing here specifically with them as my audience; which is to say if you’re not particularly “in” on these ideas and theory’s, this is just not likely a post for you (and I realize that excludes the vast majority of my regular readers- sorry ’bout that).

Wilber’s Integral Vision– and that of Integral Theory in general- is largely brilliant and singular in it’s importance.  However, I think there’s a crucial error in integral’s political (social/cultural) position and I’m very interested in (an attempt at) patching this hole.  This is one piece towards fixing this problem.

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In the highest peak of meta-physical moments reported by human experience is described a world of completely intangible wholeness and perfection.  Not much beyond an awe-inspiring unfolding of pure beauty and splendor exists in the realm of pure knowing, of the moment of I-Am-I, where language fails as we admit to everything and nothing with declarations of “I Am God” or “I Am Nothing” in our only possible notion of relaying such a wonder to the skeptics who ask.  And it is from this experience, and the knowledge of it, that many people have come to develop and embrace an integral theory which seeks to recognize this Great Web of Existence and put-forth a way of being, in this world, which allows for the most Wholeistic and authentic Self to be and develop.

Arguably, at least part of the purpose for developing such a theory- in Ken Wilber’s words, a true Theory of Everything, is to create a space, a dialogue both internal and external, where each and every one of us may find a home for our own beliefs, understandings, and experiences, and place them into the larger context of human experience and thought, and hopefully, begin to find ourselves transcending the altitudes that we can find ourselves often stuck languishing in.  In this way, integral theory itself can be seen, at least to some degree, to be a sincere attempt to help push (or pull, enable, drag, allow for) the highest development of each person on the planet in all the endeavors for which were made possible by the act of our birth.

Yet, curiously enough, it would seem that often the very language of integral itself is enough to turn many (if not most) people away and close them off to the exploration and acceptance of much of what an integral life has to offer.  The first paragraph above is enough to disinterest untold millions, perhaps billions, of people.  While it is true that a person at one particular stage of development will often be simply unable to understand or accept some descriptions of the Kosmos (religious Red can’t hear Orange science, Orange science often despises Green’s beginnings of a post-rational world, etc) it would seems that Second-Tier, integral perspectives are meant less to describe or preach for the world what a Wholeistic, integral universe looks like than to create a space where each of us may be best suited to develop and grow, to evolve, to such an understanding in our own natural progression.  If approached from this view, the material concerns of life- at any stage of development- begin to jump front and center at our collective impediment to growth.  It is here, among other places, that we arrive at what has sometimes been called the social question; namely, how do humans best come together in a manner, socially and externally, which allows for and provides for the greatest degree of individual, subjective happiness and health.

I am not meaning to elevate the exterior over the interior.  But what I am meaning to draw attention to is the interconnectedness of both spheres, and to note that while our internal spheres are quite capable of overcoming the seeming limitations placed on us from outside forces, it is nonetheless obvious that external limitations can and do have a dramatic effect on the individual’s ability to focus the time, energy, and intention often necessary (and certainly beneficial) to these deeper explorations of human life.

All of which leads many of us to wonder: what is an integral politic? what does (or would) such a thing look like, not only in theory but also in daily practice?  It is towards this question, one that I personally find under-appreciated and under-developed by many integral thinkers and those drawn to the discipline, that I turn much of my attention to.  Of course, there are countless ways in which an integral politic may be seen to manifest itself and and equal number of  ways which we may go about encouraging and developing such an idea and its practice.  But, as with all things, relativism must give way to a recognition that some things are more direct, more effective, and more to the point; some points are simply better, more efficient, or more root than others.  My central concern here is in the overall tact, the “big picture” of where an integral politic comes from and where it’s going.  While Wilber and others have made incredibly important observations and contributions to the development of a politic that is truly from a higher-consciousness, I feel that some of the conclusions that they have arrived at are lacking.  I will try to address some of the reasons I believe for this shortfall later on. Read the rest of this entry »

Earlier I outlined a bit of what my problems are with the standard line of what an “integral politic” looks like from the perspective of many of the foremost thinkers of integral theory.  Before moving forward I want to ensure that I’m being entirely clear: though I used Corey deVos’ recent post on as the subject of my criticism, my critique is neither personal against Corey (who I do not know at all and who seems, from his response to my first installment, to be quite intelligent and decent) nor confined to his article whatsoever.  His piece argues for and follows the same logic as many, if not all, of the visions of an integral politic that I’ve seen from the field and my disagreement is with all of them.  A little more than a month ago I downloaded and read the excerpt from Ken Wilber’s upcoming publication in which he outlines very similar ideas, and it has been my intention ever since (well, actually since way before hand, but the motivation started up after reading Wilber’s piece) to add my contributions to this conversation.  

For starters though, lets make sure that we all agree with what the standard idea of integral politics gets right.  Most importantly, integral theory- Second Tier, Teal & Turquoise Altitude perspectives- quite rightly recognizes the importance (and relative truth) of all stages of development.  This extends to the political arena.  However, as I quoted Ken Wilber saying in the first Part of this (and as I will probably refer to often throughout) Integral politics is one of the most seriously difficult issues to ponder.  This fact is easily demonstrated.  For instance, when we notice a society or nation which engages in some horrific culture of  human oppressions (be that sexist values, institutionalized homophobia or xenophobia, genocide, etc) we would be foolish to ignore or even justify such violence and bigotry by comfortably declaring from afar “that’s just the stage of development they are at.”  This is obviously post-modern little narrative-ism, and is at best the unhealthy relativism of the Green meme.  Taken to an even further extreme, we must recognize that the last half of the Twentieth Century and the beginning of the Twenty-First Century has seen, for the first time in all of history, the development and proliferation of weapons so powerful- capable of literally destroying the entire planet- that are in the hands, or at least the reach, of individuals and State’s who’s world-view rests in dangerously narcissistic, often magical or mythical based, short-sighted, pre-rational perspectives.  This is and must be recognized as wholly unacceptable.  Along these same lines, the Industrialization of the so-called “Western countries” over the past 150 or so years has brought the planet to the brink of environment collapse, also unprecedented in known history.  No scientific model exists which sees room for the further industrialization of the second wave of nations (China, India, Brazil) who are now on the precipice of a paradigm shift into Orange/Orange-Green’s highest economic conclusion (i.e., liberal capitalism).  I’ll speak further on the limitations of the “greening” of our technologies in Part 3 of this ramble. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve been meaning for sometime to begin exploring what a truly integral politic looks like.  Admittedly, just as I finally got started- with something that I’m going to make quite a project out of- spring time arrived and with it, all the typical chaos and distraction of a Vermonter trying to cram as much gardening, house renovation projects, softball, bocci ball, lazy afternoons reading in the hammock, BBQ and beer drinking as humanly possible into a 25 hour day.  So to get things going, I figure I’ll start with this quick post pointing to the problem of what has so far been passed off as an “integral politic”.  My overall goal here is to ultimately demonstrate to the wider integral community just how short-sighted, self-serving, and unlearnt their typical approach to politics is.  On the other hand, I believe radicals, revolutionaries, and in general the friends and readers of this site could do well to place their political goals, ideas, and actions into the broader framework of an integral vision.

Recently posted on the site, we get a look at the typical idea of “integral politics” as passed off by the leading minds of the field.  Now, while I think that integral theory is very valuable (and ultimately, right about the nature of human consciousness and the world we are a part of) few if any people who are involved in it/draw to it come from a very deep or thorough understanding of politics- in theory, history, or practical application.  What starts off decently enough very quickly becomes the most outrageous and (admittedly!) elitist garbage I can think of for a political theory about the change that is necessary.  In the video clip at the beginning, Ken Wilber (who I generally have tremendous admiration and respect for, except when he tries to talk politics) at least gets one thing right from the get-go: “Integral politics is one of the most seriously difficult issues to consider.”  Yes Ken, it is, which is why I don’t hold the nearly fascist vision of it that you and your peers espouse as a complete repudiation of integral theory overall.  This piece by Corey W. DeVos begins:

Many are beginning to recognize this systemic inadequacy and are searching for a genuinely Integral “Third Way” politics—a new way to break free from the restrictions of such rigidly calcified party lines, transcending both sides of the partisan divide, including the very best of both parties, without resorting to the effete compromise of mere centrism that has been typical of the political “Third Way” to date.

In order to fully understand and appreciate the different sets of values and beliefs that make up the flesh and bones of America, we must allow ourselves to step back and take a developmental view of American culture—one which can make sense of the full spectrum of perspectives that are currently at play in the political arena, while also being able to account for America’s rich political history, as the oldest functioning democracy in the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Steve Paulson recently interviewed Integral philosopher Ken Wilber for  It’s a good, clear interview that introduces most of Wilber and Integral Theory’s basic stances.  I highly recommend giving it a read.  Seriously, check it out….


(Steve Paulson) You’ve written that there’s a philosophical cold war between science and religion. Do you see them as fundamentally in conflict?

(Ken Wilber) Personally, I don’t. But it depends on what you mean by science and what you mean by religion. There are at least two main types of religion. One is dependent upon a belief in a mythic or magic dogma. That is certainly what most people mean by religion. Science has pretty thoroughly dismantled the mythic religions. But virtually all the great religions themselves recognize the difference between “exoteric” or outer religion, and “esoteric” or inner religion. Inner religion tends to be more contemplative and mystical and experiential, and less cognitive and conceptual. Science is actually sympathetic with the contemplative traditions in terms of its methodology.

When you refer to mythic religions, are you talking about the kinds of stories we read in the Bible?

Or any of the world’s great religions. Lao tzu was (allegedly) 900 years old when he was born. According to the Hindus, the earth is resting on a serpent, which is resting on an elephant, which is resting on a turtle. Those kinds of mythic approaches aren’t wrong. They’re just a stage of development. Look at [Swiss philosopher] Jean Gebser‘s structural stages of development. They go from archaic to magic to mythic to rational to pluralistic to integral and higher. Magic and mythic are actual stages. They’re not wrong any more than saying “5 years old” is wrong. It’s just 5 years old. We expect there to be higher stages. There was a time when the magic and mythic approaches years ago were evolution’s leading edge of development. So we can’t belittle them.

Where do you think the scientific worldview falls short when dealing with religion?

Conventional science has correctly dismantled the pre-rational myths but it goes too far in dismantling the trans-rational. The mythic and magic approaches tend to be pre-rational and pre-verbal, but the meditative or contemplative practices tend to be trans-rational. They completely accept rationality and science. But they point out that there are deeper modes of awareness, which are scientific in their own way.

What do you mean by trans-rational?

The rest of the interview can be read here.

Continuing from where I last left off, I wanted to look a bit closer now at the spectrum of realities (I, We, It) that are often referred to (and slightly expanded) as the Four Quadrants of human experience; but as I began to explore these quadrants it turned out that I needed to look closer at some of Integral Philosophy’s key concepts (also known as Integral Theory, or Integral Approach, shorted here for simplicity as IP).  So before I get to the Four Quadrants, lets detour a moment (regular readers of my big, theoretical pieces may be noticing a pattern in my style developing here).

Last time, before moving forward I felt it necessary to make a cursory note about Ken Wilber.  This time, I want to say a quick word about the New Age movement:  A lot of this stuff can often sound, at first, quite New Age-y.  For folks not interested in those beliefs (myself one of them) this can be quite off-putting.  I urge you to try and understand IP as a school of thought- a way of understanding the world, of approaching the world- that moves way beyond any singular belief system.  IP is itself a map which seeks to account for all worldviews beyond any simple right/wrong dichotomies.  It is an intellectual (and yes, spiritual as well) pursuit of furthering our understanding of how life, and the universe, work.  As will be explained bellow, IP understands New Ageism at its particular place within human consciousness development.  Even more so, under the parlance of Wilber (which is used by many) New Age spiritual beliefs are generally seen to be at the Green meme stage of development (and a terribly unhealthy function of that stage no-less!); but we’ll get more into that in a bit.

The mistake that some make in identifying IP as a form/offshoot of the New Age movement is a sadly shallow understanding of both fields, IP especially.  One of the major limitations of IP, in my opinion, are the terms- the language- that it often uses.  This is one of the main reasons that I seldom find an appropriate way to directly speak in terms of IP with folks unfamiliar with the field.  However, it’s important to look beyond what our initial associations with many of these terms may be: IP speaks its own language, and should be given a chance to describe itself on its own terms, not within the frame work of any other philosophy or set of beliefs.  I will try my best hand at de-stigmatizing the most loaded terms that IP uses for its own.  As well, for those readers who don’t at all find themselves to be “spiritual” in their beliefs, I’ll suggest that you go along for the time being with IP’s spiritual premiss; I will spend ample time shortly in this series to explore what the actual terms, premisses, and assumptions of IP’s spiritual underlinings are really all about- and at that point it may be (more) fair for you to pass your judgement as to whether or not you agree. 


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