Critical Perspectives on Transformational Culture.

Lines of flight: Deleuze and nomadic creativity

by Jeremy Johnson

Jeremy Johnson:

Reblog post of the day goes out to “Philosophy for Change,” a great space I discovered while through a Google search for “Lines of Flight,” a term by philosopher Gilles Deleuze to describe counter-movements to the status quo, or “bolts of pent-up energy that break through the cracks in a system of control and shoot off on the diagonal… It is our desire to escape the status quo that leads us to innovate.” Thought this post was some excellent Sunday food-for-thought. What do you think? Does this clarify your understanding of counter-culture and creativity?

Originally posted on Philosophy for change:

prisoner (1)In the 60s cult-TV series, The Prisoner, a British spy (played by Patrick McGoohan) is held captive in an Orwellian Village on an island controlled by a faceless authority. The prisoner, known only as Number 6, has resigned from the secret service. This seems to be his crime. In the opening sequence for the show, we see him burst into his spy chief’s office and passionately submit his resignation; he is subsequently drugged, kidnapped, and whisked off to the Village. We never find out why he quit. The authorities are perplexed. The prisoner is told that he will remain interned on the island until he has explained his actions to Number 1. But the prisoner refuses to do so. Instead, he seeks to escape. Insistently. The prisoner’s whole tenure on the island (the entirety of two seasons of the show) consists of attempts to elude his captors and flee…

View original 842 more words

Daniel Pinchbeck Launches Mind Shift, a new Talk Show:

by Jeremy Johnson

Daniel Pinchbeck, whom I’m a long-time reader of, has just started a new talk show called “Mind Shift.” Think Real Time with Bill Maher but with mystic-artists, psychedelic authors and counter-culture philosophers. The first show rounds up Michael Muhammad Knight, Alex Grey, Howard Bloom and Jay Michaelson. Sounds good to me!

The FB page says:

“This is not a talk show about politics, and this is not a talk show to plug the latest books or movies. This is a talk show about the big ideas that aren’t talked about in the mainstream media. Big ideas that may scare some people but will inspire others.”

Take a look at what CULTiE said about the first show.


I’m highlighting Michael Muhammad Knight’s discussion here because of his unique subject: Islam and psychedelics. He has a new book out called Tripping with Allah: Islam, Drugs, and Writing.

Why, that’s my favorite writing recipe right there! Religion, mysticism and literature.

Take a look at what CULTiE wrote:

What happens when a traditional religion like Islam meets psychedelics?

Michael Muhammed Knight, author of Tripping with Allah, answers the question. He details a lurid psychedelic visitation with the naked Fatimah, daughter of Muhammed. Knight sought the feminine within what is generally a male-dominant religion and got what he wished for when he took Ayuasca. Fatimah’s apparition told Knight, “The Koran is for the boys,” and insisted that her body was the door to the mosque. He proceeded to enter.

Knight describes walking into a traditional mosque the day after the experience, doing the all the usual things, but with a new expanded understanding of his religion.

Added to my wishlist. And when I’m visiting New York, since Mind Shift is filmed in front of a live audience, I’ll blog about it!

PS: Check out CULTiE’s about page:

CULTIE (‘kʌltɪ) —short for Cultivator—spotlights Art, Design, Technology, and Thought Leadership inspired by Philosophy and Spiritual Cultivation.

Sounds like a sister-site to EL! Great design to boot. Add them to your blogrolls, people.

Beyond Religion by William Irwin Thompson, A New Publication

by Jeremy Johnson


Lindisfarne Press, an imprint of Steiner Books has just published William Irwin Thompson’s latest book: Beyond Religion: From Shamanism to Religion to Post-religious Spirituality (Thompson was also on my blog for a video podcast).

Here is an excerpt from Beyond Religion:

“If religion is an expression of the evolution of consciousness and the growth of the animal into the human mind, then fundamentalism is the metastatic cancer of consciousness – a malignant growth of mind that displaces a healthy sense of humor, ambiguity, compassion and tolerance for a violent commitment to a literal reading of a sacred text. In the theory of “cognitive dissonance,” when you are asked to believe something patently absurd, it generates a need to proselytize, for if you can convince others that your religion is acceptable, it stills your own inner doubts and the ontological terror they generate.”

This was from the book’s Foreword. Beyond Religion also features chapters like “From Shamanism to Religion,” and “Our Contemporary Cultural Evolution of Spirituality: Modern Integral Tantra Yoga.”

I’m currently also reading my friend Amir Nasr’s own book, My Isl@m: How Fundamentalism Stole My Mind—and Doubt Freed My Soulwhat Clay Shirky calls a “love letter to freedom of speech,” and features Amir’s personal struggle out of his faith, into atheism and secular thought, and finally back into an example of Thompson’s “post-religious” spiritual practice. This one also comes highly recommended by yours truly.

Amir was moved into his renewed spirituality by the work of Ken Wilber and his book, The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion. For the curious about Wilber’s approach, that would be a good place to start, but lately Thompson’s writings on spirituality come highly refreshing, backed up with decades of experience he’s had working with poets, scientists, and mystics at the Lindisfarne Association (including Lynn Margulis, James Lovelock and Francisco Varela). But decide for yourself. After all, as Thompson says, “post-religious spirituality” comes with no center, no single leader:

“We are now in another era of crisis in which catastrophes and new visions have come forth to shift humanity from a militaristic and materialistic industrial civilization to a new planetary culture. Appropriately, this post-religious movement from nation to Emanation has no single leader, but is an emergent domain – an ecology of consciousness in which diversity is its most striking feature and strength.”

I couldn’t agree more. Perhaps also of interest to my readers is The Coming Interspiritual Age, a book by Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord which has recently been making the rounds in the integral network.

Happy “post-religious” readings, seekers and wanderers of the Way!

Related Links:

William Irwin Thompson’s homepage.

Bridging Worlds of Myth and Science” An introduction to Thompson’s work on Beams and Struts.

William Harryman’s blog about my interview and Thompson’s work, at Integral Options Cafe.

Sources of the Good: Toward a Complex-Integral Ethics for the Planetary Era – Sean Kelly #ITC2013

by Jeremy Johnson



Sean Kelly’s presentation brings Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory and Edgar Morin’s Complexity together to consider ethics in the planetary age.

Intrinsic to planetary awareness is an ethical engagement with the world, social oppression and environmental destruction. What I like about Kelly’s presentation is that his point of view naturally makes you aware of social responsibility. “We need to revive the idea of the global commons,” he says. Planetary awareness, complexity thinking, invites a truly engaged, complex and compassionate communion with human societies and the larger biosphere.

“Nobody should own rights, to water, to soil, to air. Nobody should be allowed to carry on an activity which toxifies the global commons, which in some way prevents you from having healthy air, water, soil, to grow food and nourish our children. Anything that impinges on the global commons is intrinsically evil. We need to identify it as such, and use that moral conscience to guide our policies and our decisions at the political, national, level and so on. This plays into our renewed sense of nature as a good.”

For Kelly, planetary ethics directly addresses the current world crisis in the global commons. It calls us to action:

“We live in a state of global apartheid… where the 1% own the majority of the world’s resources. There’s a massive power difference, in the nature of oppression. If we’re serious about raising our level of consciousness and our ethical development to the level of the planet, once we have started with the “I” and our individual, and we’re moving out into the “we” – this is what suddenly hits us. Look at all this suffering, this oppression. What do we do about it?”

Furthermore, a planetary ethics develops in us a sensitivity to distortions and abuses of power, and invites us to cultivate a sensitivity to how structures of authority are developed:

“We need to look at how structures of authority are created at an institutional level, a social level, a political level… These are the kinds of things we need to do if we want to reclaim the “We” and make it ethically integral. We need to start identifying the oppression, the exchanged distortion, happening at all levels of complexity.”

Commenting on planetary politics and spirituality, the “universal we need to appeal to needs to be a concrete universal. And what is that, but the Earth?” He leaves room for the “transcendent” orientations of the past, but encourages us to de-emphasize them. We have a spiritual reality, and concretely, its form is our shared planet. A third kind of religion, as Edgar Morin suggests, as “citizens of Homeland Earth.”

“If you’re serious about your non-duality… then where do you see that Spirit? You cannot see it other than here and now in this common planet that we share in.”

More later!




Saturday Night Keynote – Paper Awards, Honorable Mentions, and Edgar Morin! #ITC2013

by Jeremy Johnson


Tonight’s presentation started with an awards ceremony for the best presentations, academic papers and honorable mentions. There was a beautiful little moment where all of the women were invited to stay on stage, after which Sean asked us to give them a round of applause. He acknowledged that so many of the presenters on stage have been men. So, it was great to see the women of the integral world properly recognized – especially Neville Kelly’s award for best theoretical paper, uniting integral theory with critical realism.

8:00PM: Now we’re introducing Edgar!

“What is a complex society? It is a society with the greatest possibility of freedom.”

photo (20)

It’s difficult to fully understand Morin, but he is being so beautifully passionate right now. Transmitting his insight and lifetime of wisdom. He’s over 90 years old but he came to life suddenly upon reaching the stage. Hands waving and eyes engaged with members of the audience. It’s really inspiring. I hope there is a a transcription of this talk to share with you all. Sean Kelly is on stage but quietly listening. Edgar’s moment to shine, even if this ultimately can’t be about the words.

What follows is my best understanding of Edgar’s speech.

I think it would have been a better idea if Sean Kelly worked something out with Morin about translating with him on stage. Nevertheless, it’s amazing to see him do his thing, and I can just make out what he’s saying.

“Complexity is not a solution,” he says, “it’s a challenge.” Nice way to start – and a break from the blatantly “theoretical heavyweights” we’ve been watching over the course of the conference. Morin has been a continuously refreshing presence, and I’ll get back to why in a minute.

Next thing. “Complexity is not a theory,” he says, “it is a comprehension of reality. It is a way to see.”

Earlier today in Alfonso Montuori’s “The Epistemology of Complexity” presentation (Morin was also present there), a similar idea was broached by Allan Combs. Complexity, like the rise of perspectival thought in art and physics (Gebser’s work is great for this insight, but I think the idea is common enough, check out Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light by Leonard Shlain) arises not as a set of ideas but a new set of eyes. A way of sensing the world.

Morin also recognizes that the theoretical meta-systems we’ve been discussing over this weekend are, themselves, diverse ecologies of thought systems. (There’s more than one way to skin a… meta theory? No, I don’t think this joke works).

Complexity is also something more than a “system.” Life is self-organizing, it needs energy and takes energy from its environment, in which it is dependent on. Morin seems to be relating complexity to dynamic processes in nature. He has a lovely part where he says all of theses systems need energy to happen, like our body, and so complexity is really about how dependent everything is on each other. Yes, more than a system. Complexity is life.

An important characteristic of complexity is that you have to work with contradictions. Opposing systems, ideas, beliefs, energies, religions, organisms. Morin is saying though, that these are actually, totally fine. Contradictions are O.K. You can’t avoid them, but often we like to “cut reality into little pictures… it’s impossible to avoid contradictions, because they are in fact complementary to each other. Not only in the complexities of life, but in human complexity.” Here Morin brings up an interesting cultural example: the Holy Trinity in Christianity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit – a seemingly contradictory affirmation of faith, one God being these three beings, is actually an example of this ability to hold contradictions in one’s mind. “They make each other, become each other… You are the individual, the society. You are spacious. The individual and sociological.” I love how he is stretching our definitions, our assumptions – our mental inertia. He gets the mind dancing.

“The part is in the whole, and the whole is in the part. The world is in the part. Inside of us is the society.”

This really resonates with me. I wonder if there is significant wiggle room in all our theorizing to make room for this notion – that the whole society is in us. That not only are there 4 quadrants but, in a sort of fractal way, you can look at the individual and through that looking, you can see the whole reflected. You don’t have to glance over to another category, another quadrant – that separates you from seeing the immediacy of connection present in a person, the immediacy that reveals that person as wholeness. I think an integral worldview needs this. Last night, we spoke of Bhaskar offering Integral Theory “gifts.” Well, this is Morin’s gift.

Seeing the person as the whole society also calls you to action. You are intimately wound up in the social. Last night, Jordan discussed the integral community’s resistance to becoming socially engaged – staying “neutral” – well, Morin’s view is implicitly suggesting that you can’t. Even a neutral scientist is affecting his, or her society. We are called to responsibility and engagement, even if what we end up choosing for our engagement is dis-engagement. Something to really consider.

There were also some heated and inspirited moments. At one point Morin exclaimed (or more like, disclaimed) “complex thinking cannot eliminate the mystery of the universe, but it is no better to specialize, fragment ourselves in the dominant technocratic age that dominates our minds today!” The audience whooped and clapped for that one!

Towards the end of the talk, Morin began to speak about “the poetry of life,” which I strongly feel is actually another iteration of what he means by complexity. He ties this idea to the imperative of social engagement:

“What is the poetry of life? It is love. It is communion. We need deeply to have a political life… The poetry of life is the connectivity of the human mind to produce goodness. It is, in another sense, spirituality. It is the integration of self in something greater, something beautiful.”

A contemplation of the complexity and interconnectivity leads one to a kind of spiritual metanoia, a call to empowered action and political activism, and most of all a “communion” with life. This is Edgar Morin’s Complexity Thinking.

“We can have a discipline,” but, he warns, “we cannot be closed in a discipline. We have to be trans-disciplinary, like Integral or Critical Theory, it is necessary.” 

Finally, Morin stressed that we had to connect the humanities and the sciences. A difficult task if there ever was one, but this weekend provided some possible avenues towards that realization.

This, however, really is the crux of Complexity Thought:

“What is a complex society? It is a society with the greatest possibility of freedom. A complex society needs liberty. It is necessary that each person has an inner sense in his mind of his solidarity to the community and society. Once you have communion and solidarity, you will have a complex society, a progressive society.”

What I liked most about Edgar Morin’s presentation, in spite of the fact that it was difficult to make out everything he was saying, was that he brought us through to a very dynamic, enlivened, impassioned perspective – without much use of, well, systemization or theorizing. Somehow everything he was saying was connected to our lived experiences. The man is a shining example of imbibing brilliance with social activism – a Marxist, a WWII French resistance fighter, and an active political thinker in his country for many decades. He was able to flex our minds by being who he is. In this sense, I think, while Morin is the least emphasized in this conference (in my experience anyway, Bhaskar was sort of the emphasis throughout the panels and presentations I went to. Admittedly I couldn’t got to them all), he has the most important contribution to Integral Theory’s new direction of social engagement. But are integral theorists willing to embrace the kind of metanoia Complexity Thought actually offers? Morin’s notion of Complex Thought, and the approach he takes to understanding and grasping it, is by far the least “meta-theoretical” in the sense of singular theories. He had what I described as a “permeable” theory – a theory that leaks, and good ones leak in context that they are tools to open and extend one’s mind into reality in new ways, and not the reverse effect. Montuori asked us in his presentation earlier today: “Do you have the theory, or does the theory have you?”

Well, in my mind anyway, we need to open up Morin’s work more, so it can open us up.

Goodnight everyone. See you tomorrow for the final day of the conference!

Jordan Luftig Speaks Integral Political Activism, Roy Bhaskar’s Friday Night Keynote #ITC2013

by Jeremy Johnson

photo (14)

In many ways this was a culminative night. I just got through the “Beyond Speaking Truth to Power: Integral Modes of Social and Political Activism,” which was a deeply affirming experience for me. As I said in that post: let’s face it, political activism is the elephant in the room. Many have leveled this criticism, including myself, and that is that the integral world is dangerously politically naive. It’s high time we changed that, asking ourselves how we might be playing into the systemic problems we are claiming to be the answer for. This is “beyond speaking truth to power” to me. So, I was nodding my head as Jordan began to situate everything in a narrative. After all, this is not just meta-theory building (I’m imagining that’s something like a LEGO conference for grown-ups). It’s about enacting an integral culture. As Jordan said, “instead of asking where we are headed, it’s more important to ask how we get there.”

Furthermore, he suggested that “our preferred attitude is scientific, not political. Descriptive, not normative. Neglecting our will to power” is a failure to engage with the cultural narrative (PS: Scientists have been quite political, especially lately. Think of Carl Sagan’s work, Cosmos, as a means to try to steer public consciousness away from the madness of the Cold War arms race into a deeper, biospheric and even galactic contemplation of the “Pale Blue Dot.” That dude put satellites into space, but he was in no way culturally disengaged. So the science-as-neutral observer is hardly an excuse for disengaging from the social sphere). Quite frankly, if integral can’t or doesn’t engage it, it risks irrelevancy. It risks the same problem that the academic world is imploding with right now.

Jordan continued with saying that “we orient from the upper-left quadrant, which makes us individualists, not collectivists, let alone activists.” He called out the community for a possible escapism into “neutrality,” and invited everyone to embrace their “will-to-power.” He brought up some criticisms from 2010′s conference, leveling Integral as: “Totalizing, colonizing, corporate, hegemonic, imperialist, and ideological.” While clearly a postmodern critique, Jordan aptly points out that “we would be foolish if we didn’t think it says something about us,” and after this afternoon’s panel, I think he’s right. This is the big elephant in the room.

“Instead of presencing the will to power our stance entails – we pass over it. The question is why. Conflict avoidance. Confronting systemic power takes courage.”

Without taking a deep look at this, integral risks being the “Emperor with no clothes.” Integral ultimately risks its relevancy as a cultural force: “We forsake our stand for an integral future, or a planetary culture.”

I can’t help but feel this is the crux point of the whole conference. This is the question. But Jordan’s talk wasn’t all dire. It was a call to enact integral’s potential and power. Integral is not neutral. Maybe it’s been wielding that power into the hands of “colonizing” and “imperialist” attitudes because of its failure to heed the call, but that can change.

Jordan contextualizes MetaIntegral as a baby step towards a “global digital network.” It may not be actualized yet, but through their mistakes they are moving towards it. I’m glad for this honesty.

Since 2010, we’ve seen the rise of “new economy movements” in the West through Occupy, and tremendous socio-political upheavals from the Arab Spring to the current ongoing protests worldwide. Jordan levels the integral community as “bystanders” to this zeitgeist, which in my mind puts integral smack dab into a crisis of relevancy. Isn’t it supposed to be tapped into what’s happening in consciousness? If it isn’t, or if its dismissing it as merely “green meme” activism, then what the heck is integral good for?

And yet, we live in tremendous times. Jordan compares our age to that of the American Revolutionary War. America’s founders rejected the corrupt monarchies and power structures at that time and stood for a new vision of human society – enacting the consciousness of modernity in doing so. Why would we feel exempt from another tremendous upheaval, enacted by new modes of consciousness, new sensibilities of compassion and justice, in our own time? Especially a community which claims to understand the stages and developments of consciousness through history. Integralists can eat their own words with a bitter flavor of self-irony, or take the “power” they are sitting on and join in the long, hard road of social transformation.

Jordan doesn’t shy away from the visions of the integral community: to become the “intellectual precursor” to the next big revolution.

He suggests that, theoretically, integral is on the right track. But it needs to be more politically engaged. It needs to embrace its political power.

So here’s my two cents, Jordan, and my readers: why not invite the bemoaned “green meme” thinkers next conference? What a dialogue that would be. Bring in activists and academics involved with Occupy and the Arab Spring. Bring them into the intellectual foray of the Kosmopolitan just as you brought in Bhaskar and Morin. I think integral will be ready for this soon.

Jordan ended with the idea of the “Spirit of History” (a Hegelian concept,no?). That we can allow the Spirit of History to work through us by “getting in the way.” Escapism or neutrality won’t do. We’re alive in this time, this space, this context. Keep the vision – you need not abandon it or let it fall to the wayside, losing yourself in the barracks and trenches of the current “war” of political upheavel. Your vision is needed down here. All you visionaries and mystics, climb down to the trenches, as Teilhard de Chardin did in his time serving during WWI as a field medic, staring death and destruction in the eye, and yet still coming to recognize the Omega Point amongst the foray of bullets and bayonets. We need what Gloria Anzaldua called “spiritual activists,” bringing the best of both worlds together. Please heed this call.

“Get in trouble, necessary trouble,” Jordan says. I share the deepest affirmation of this calling.

OK, now, time to really switch things up.

Roy Bhaskar’s Critical Realism 101: Meta-Theory Dialogues

photo (15)

This was a surprising turn, in that I was anticipating Roy’s engagement with the Integral community, but wasn’t quite expecting to receive a Critical Realism 101. That’s exactly what this was. I admit I learned a lot, it stretched my brain like only a graduate level philosophy class can do. Roy gave us a relatively “quick” (well, over 2 hours or so… but that’s quick for a lifetime’s philosophical work) rundown of Critical Realism’s various stages, and the “13″ gifts it could offer an integral meta-theory Sean posited yesterday. Personally, I was hoping to have more engagement, wrestling with the contours with the theories and more specific elucidations of where Critical Realism could address both Morin’s Complexity Thought and Integral Theory. Also,  why it can help the meta-theory? Roy offered “gifts” – but why? What was it that they were needed for? I suppose this would have entailed an even larger, longer discussion. At any rate, for what Roy did, I enjoyed it. He is an engaging lecturer, and what he offered the audience was not easy to digest, but his demeanor was pleasant and sensitive. You go for a really wild ride, intellectually speaking. To be truthful, this probably was not the appropriate place to offer an introduction to his heavy, theoretical work. Especially since most of us are not grounded in Critical Realism and didn’t have a sufficient background in the discipline to be familiar with many of his terms.

What would have been better? If Roy, Sean, and Morin had a 3-manned panel discussion. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. This would have better enacted the theme and value of the “Kosmopolitan” spirit of the conference. I hope this model can be used for future events. It would have also really helped keep the audience more engaged.

All that being said, Roy offered some interesting theoretical tools for the integral meta-theory I can try to go over (mind you, I haven’t read his works yet!)

Bhaskar’s talk began with a discussion on power (Thanks Jordan!). In Critical Realism, there’s a concept of “Transformative Capacity.” But he doesn’t get to that for 2 hours or so. In the meanwhile, the gist of his presentation is to offer “13 points to ‘heaven’” – tools that Critical Theory can offer as a “kind of gift to the movement we’re creating here.” Bhaskar repeatedly used inclusive language during his talk, which I appreciated, and felt quite natural. He referred to “our” movement and included himself in the collective in meta-theory building. He sounded like he’s all-aboard. I’m sure this must be exciting for AQAL enthusiasts, and Sean himself seems to be beaming about having Roy as an intellectual collaborator.

Despite the heavy philosophical lecture, then, I got a deep sense of brotherhood and the kind of rising energy present of a new, collaborative engagement. There’s truly a meeting of minds present. That’s what this half of the keynote was all about, and it may or may not have translated to the rest of the conference participants.

To give you a general idea, Bhaskar offered a “life story,” how he got involved in philosophy – moving from his interest in economics to addressing the odd theoretical customs of the time (theories apparently weren’t meant to engage with the world, due to Kant and Hume’s axiom: thou shall not do ontology).

Bhaskar discussed Critical Theory’s role in providing a response to Kant and Hume’s aversion to ontology – and here is where I got a bit muddled in the terms and ideas (forgive me, I haven’t read philosophy in quite some time). Suffice to say, he offers a rather brilliant critique of Kant and Hume while providing an alternative framework that, arguably, brings together human reason, science, and even relativism into an intriguing theory of reality that attempts to answer, and move beyond, the postmodern world. Big kudos and credit to this man’s mind.

As it turns out, though, he didn’t stop there. Critical Realism kept evolving. It started to enfold more and more ideas, including dialectical thought, and, eventually, non-dualistic and philosophical-mystical insights that are, in my mind anyway, well argued and clearly presented. Coming from a position of being in “mainstream” British academia, he went out on a limb to argue these points. He’s brave for doing this, but it makes it all the more enticing (perhaps, in a poetic way, this shouldn’t be surprising: his parents were Theosophists, one of the foundational movements of modern spirituality). What I liked about how Bhaskar presented non-duality to us was that he was giving very concrete examples. When you get caught up in a good book – that’s non-duality. When you get caught up in a good lecture, that’s an example of non-duality. So it happens everyday, in common-place ways. But you can go deeper, of course, into the experiences of “one” consciousness. This spiritual turn is Critical Realism’s turn into “MetaReality” discourse.

Bhaskar offered each of these insights (and with much more detail, of course) to the larger, meta-integral discussion, ending with the 13th gift, which I’ll describe, “Immanence of Heaven.”

Just as we all have moments of non-duality with each other and the world, we also have moments of universal compassion and trust. Moments of heaven. Even in economics, when we pay for, say, coffee at a register, we share a moment of trust. The cashier trusts you are going to pay them, and you trust you’ll be able to walk away with a coffee. Bhaskar says this is actually an example of the Golden Rule: Do unto others. “This governs the way we behave in commercial transactions,” he says. The dualistic world we live in is filled with what Bhaskar calls these “pockets” of non-dual reality, the “immanence of Heaven.” As incomplete and finite as they are, they reach back into an aspect of reality that is transcendent, reciprocal, where we are all connected. He calls this world, the world of duality, a “demi-reality” – and I was struck by this as it sounds superficially like the Gnostic and Hermetic concept of “Demiurge,” which were, according to their creation myths, half-gods that weave the world of separation and material existence. The goal of the Hermeticists is to give up their lower nature, as much as possible, and break past the demiurgic sovereigns to re-gain their non-dual and “un-fallen” state. I sense, narratively, that Bhaskar’s philosophical system has moved in a similar way – reclaiming first the possibility of depth and rejecting reductionism, and then moving into the deeper spiritual waters. Finally, the 13th gift represents a call to action – to realize these immanent moments of the divine in our world.

I’ll end here and catch some sleep. Hope you enjoyed the run-through. See you all tomorrow!

Beyond Speaking Truth to Power: Integral Modes of Social and Political Activism – Panel Discussion #ITC2013

by Jeremy Johnson

Moderator: Darcy Riddell

Panelists: Lisa Chacon, Marilyn Hamilton, Bob Kezer, Terry Patten, and Vernice Solimar

photo (16)

3:37: Walked in a few minutes late, already a great conversation happening about inquiring into what political activism can be within the integral world, and the sense that the current state of affairs is not enough. [So many great statements, fiery critiques and heartfelt responses were articulated here. I encourage everyone to read this one deeply].

Vernice, “I was a nun for several years, and taught in the inner city school for several years.” She read Ken Wilber’s work and everything she did before all came together. “The aspect of involution and evolution came together in a very deep form of incarnation… a way of expanding the idea of incarnation, and bringing it out of the ground of Christian mystical perspectives, into the realm of social change.”

Wow, really like how this is starting.

“My major questions are primarily: how do we all, regardless of whether we call ourselves activists or not – become conscious of becoming agents of change? Regardless of what we’re doing. Whatever I’m doing for developmental work in the upper left quadrant, it’s alive in every relationship and everything I’m doing in the world.”

“The second question is: how do I discern the altitudinal distances and shifts between amber, orange, green, teal and above… there are real differences in each altitude in the ways each manifests in the world.”

The third question,

“sometimes integral philosophy, as wonderful as it is… and it is the foundation of how I see the world… how can it be brought to the kids in fifth grade? The prison system?”

Really great and grounding questions.

Bob Kezer speaks now.

“I don’t consider myself to be an activist…” he starts off, and inquires about how to make change when the social and political institutions are no longer capable of supporting change and well-being. He asks, “is there a legitimacy requirement for somebody to be an activist?”

Marilyn Hamilton now.

“I was really surprised to be invited onto this panel…. I have an eclectic background.” Marilyn’s work specializes in the city (See Integral City. I have a copy at home and am very interested in engaging with this topic myself). Speaking about her work… “I am a contrarian,” she says, and used Ken Wilber’s framework for studying an online community’s system, and she took it and started applying it to real life systems.

Lisa Chacon speaks…

“The main perspective that guided me through my life was the sciences,” and she began to “wake up to what was happening in the world around 2001-2002. I had an early activist phase during the Bush era.” This “began a journey of inquiry… How does change happen, and why doesn’t change happen?”

“If you love this planet, you will re-arrange the priorities of your life to help save it.” – A quote from a political writer. This changed her view of the world.

“It led me to take a masters degree in sustainability, came back, quit my job, and came across A Brief History of Everything.

“I see myself creating conditions for community to grow.” Nice. “I’m trying to bring the integral community in relationship with this global change-making.”

Beautiful, vitally important and grounding, I think.

Terry Patten‘s turn:

“I was raised in an intentional community of activists… lived 15 years in an ashram. I feel profoundly inquired of by the incredible privilege that’s converged in my experience. At this time we’re at the 6th great extinction, and every institution is in crisis. There’s a stasis that is yearning to break free, and I feel that the inner work of my own spiritual practice, and serve others in spiritual practice… and that practice takes place in all four quadrants. The circumstances imply very rapid cultural evolution. This is a moment of punctuated equilibrium. So what is it to be change? I inquire into that.”

Terry is quite an eloquent speaker – and I think he’s right about this. We’re in a systemic crisis right now, a “chaotic bifurcation” point of human evolution. The outcomes are uncertain.

“I feel that an inquiry is holding me by the short-hairs. We don’t know how to do this, but we’re in this together… The next Buddha is the sangha, and we’re learning to be that sangha. It does mean a changed relationship to power. We have to become power, exercise power… not just speak truth to power.”

There’s a spirit of truth in these words, for sure, and more in line with what’s happening in the world right now with Occupy, Arab Spring, and the world-wide protests happening all over (and not being covered by the media). We’re in a time of tremendous upheaval.

“Why should the integral community care about social and political change?” Darcy asks. Essential question.

Back to Terry now.

“There’s an optical illusion for taking every perspective… seeing all the perspectives at once. You can step back, and step back, and step back. And I think we (integral) tend to. We want to get it right. It’s vital for every one of us to identify this dimension of social and political activism as a core model of our integral practice. That is, we are citizens of a world in crisis. It needs conscious participants. We are conscious participants. Our perspectives are valuable, but only valuable to the degree we implement them… Advancing integral is important, but there is a resistance in integral to join folks in the urgency on the ground. Singing to the choir is good. There are all kind of levels of participation and validity, but we tend to want to check this participation off our list, rather than bite into the meat of this life responsibility.”

Back to Vernice:

“There tends to be an emphasis on the spiritual ecstasy… but another practice is allowing the suffering of the world to break my heart open. There’s a certain aspect of presencing… what level of consciousness will allow me to be totally present and create that causal space where suffering happens, and be able to listen to communities who are in this pain to express what they’re totally feeling, without us trying to fix the situation? What I would like to see integral theory, and integral life practice do more of… is to just calm down with the upper-left quadrant, developmental process. But with each developmental process ask: to whom does my heart break open? The Trayvon case, for example. Can I just allow myself to break my heart open? Out of that authentic presencing, then we create that trust… that potential for change that comes out of the community. But to wait for everybody to go to second-tier is going to take too long. And I think we can access these stages of consciousness momentarily, at any time.”

Deeply appreciating Vernice’s perspective.


“I’m a practivist… I learn what doesn’t work as well as what does work. It’s not just my work, it’s who I’m engaging with together. So the co-creation piece is really important to me. The other piece is working with the frames of living systems… once I do that, I’m out of an integral reductionist frame…. and ask myself, why are we doing this? Why are we going through waves… how do we live through this? It brings me into a place of being curious, and think that there’s nothing that I now know… that precludes the verticality, or the perspectives… and that has helped me to not only to check in with myself every day, but it also has helped me to invite intentionally other voices.. entrapeneurs, citizens, businesses. Allow them to hold the space.”

Darcy speaks: “Integral as it is now… is a naive theory of change.”

“Just because we’ve read what Ken says about Marx and Foucault, doesn’t mean we’ve incorporated the insights on power and postmodernity. To me, the vast array of reflecting on our own structural privilege… these long chains of production and consumption… we need to presence our positionality, we need to be aware of that. I see there is a requirement in integral theory. We need to get over our reaction to green, and to enrich and embrace the practices. Coming from where we are coming from, we don’t need to fear the limitation of green, but we do need to understand that is the key right now, the leading evolutionary edge right now in the world. To the extent that you have tiptoed through green.. I think there is a requirement to understand and go back to it as a form of practice.”

“A practice that brings with it a tremendous sensitivity to invisible power structures, and invite us to a much more sophisticated understanding… and open up possible ways of acting, beyond comfortable spaces where we’re developing ourselves. There is an implicit elitist theory of change in integral development.”

Darcy is really laying it on. Interested to hear the community’s response to these criticisms.

“There’s a lot of work for us to do.”

“We have resources within integral theory.. but they’re not being actualized.”

Tracy asks the panel how they’re working with power structures in light of what she said:


“We have to ask… what will people be grateful for 100 years from now, with what we did with the world? For Integral, I think it is: again, what are the visible results, in the upper right hand quadrant, of my space in the upper left? In every institution that I’m a part of, how does my presence reflect my actual values of who I say I am and want to be? I think the AQAL model is perfect for that. It gives us the right-hand visible results for what’s happening in the left. If we can take responsibility for the physical results… I think change will naturally happen.”

Goodness, what a panel. I’ll pause from transcribing all these rather potent and radical statements to simply say how grateful I am for this discussion. It’s only the first day, and yet, I wish this was the keynote. More so than meta-theoretical memetic exchanges is bringing down integral theory’s efficacy for change, and thus, its capability for enacting a mode of consciousness, on the ground, for healing and crisis response. How we respond to systemic global crisis is precisely this new mode of consciousness – a new mutation, so to speak – and if we are not responding to it, what the heck is integral doing? What the heck is its relevancy? How tragic it would be if the grand narrative Wilber posits in Brief History of Everything that, when it comes to our moment of history, the integral narrative fails to respond to this moment of epochal transition?

In other words, by failing to respond, Integral theory becomes a dead end. An evolutionary cul-de-sac that did not respond to the planetary crisis and initiation.

“What the hell are we going to do?” Lisa asks.

“It’s kind of mind boggling… a slow erosion of our constitutions, and I’m speaking from a US position, but the US is an obstacle… it’s holding the world back. As an American I feel obligated to engage somehow, but I feel held back by the situation. The change model, if you want to talk about it… there’s a lot of grassroots. We’ve seen it in Occupy and the Arab Spring. Fierce love and grief that drives us as activists… The system can’t change except through people, and can’t change without a ground-swell of culture that supports that change. Once we have all these pictures then that systemic, structural aspects of the system can begin to move.”

“The political system is completely corrupted and broken. If two-thirds of the states call for a constitutional convention… then they can re-write the constitution, because the supreme court is making bad decisions, the executive branch is making bad decisions… There are pieces that are broken about corporate person-hood. The system will not be able to correct itself from the inside. But without really tackling these really hairy, scary problems, I don’t know if we really have a chance of getting to that big change.”

Terry now:

“Passionately caring… not knowing what to do… looking at many different levels at the larger situation, and being rooted in the prior “OK-ness” of being… what is, has a kind of perfection, otherwise it wouldn’t be. Sanity is gratitude. Gratitude and fundamental well-being with rage and an insistence of changing what’s broken. We don’t have to be neutered by our awakening and enlightenment, in fact, it can empower our activism. And this deep, intense pressing of ourselves (we don’t have to.. we’re being pressed by our circumstances)… into a koan that has us all confounded. We need better answers than any of us know. I don’t feel our answers lead to a clarity that is adequate. I feel that what we don’t know is more important than what we do.”

“The rawness, intimacy, tenderness of our way of showing up with each other is closer to truth than our very sophisticated political analysis.”

Vernice speaks.

“I feel that so much of the disempowerment… stems from shame. There’s a very strong need… and would love to see the integral community do something about this… is shadow work around shame. What this community is doing in Uganda: they’ve decided that they’re going to start their own university, because so many are more Anglo-Western centric. They’ve decided that they’ve had it. It will be geared primarily towards African issues, wisdom, and possibilities from the ground up.”

This shame may have to do with the way “the world sees Africa,” and also the domination of world cultures by globalization. There is a tremendous need to come from the ground up, for everyone. A radical decentralization and empowerment must somehow take place.

Bob Kezer now on activism in the US vs. in dictatorships. He has little empathy with activism in the U.S., where the majority of us have no idea how life is like in dictatorships around the world, nor how our lives play directly into their conditions (empire, hegemony, U.S. funding…).

“Activism operates within institutional channels… When we protest, we get permits… we got out and engaged in the largest protests the human race has ever seen. If you want to work on global change you need to work out of global channels. We are the empire. Our empire is around this world.”

Bob brought it down to the ground, and simultaneously pitched the biggest, planetary perspective possible. The room is uncomfortable and charged. Trevor shouted an “amen,” and I wish I had too.

Terry responds…

“There’s a tremendous wellspring of passion and heroism in every heart, and a willingness to step forward. It’s kind of wild about people in the streets in Brazil. There’s that level of activism in a country that’s soccer-crazy (football, they call it!) In the U.S. we’re hypnotized by cable television. Many people get that. We may see a new mobilization sooner than we think. I have a tremendous trust in emergence. Something comes from nothing every time, and I’m watching the spaces… the cracks.”

Lisa recently watched Occupy Love. Facebook revolutions and the Occupy Movement and so on. The documentary asks: how is this a love story?

“We have so much at our disposal, using technology and connecting like never before… there is this sleeping giant.. if we were to exercise that… Occupy was green and fuzzy without demands or goals. That was a experiment. The next one that comes along will… boil over again, that gives me hope. There’s so much power. That is the power of collective action and the means, the technological means to coordinate something on those massive scales.”

Marilyn Hamilton encourages us to be patient… “not yet, not yet…” the gradual release and expansion and emergence of it all. It’s happening. It will happen. And we take responsibility for playing into that…

“What’s the story of ‘not yet’ that’s going on… today? It isn’t over. There’s more.”


“We can crack the nut…. but we can’t shy away from conflict. There’s a great role for non-violent, direct and skillful action… strategies for change. We don’t know everything about what those strategies look like yet. The diaspora of activists around the world are doing amazing things to transform and make change.”

4:44. Phew, what an hour. Now it’s time for questions. I’m brimming over with thoughts and passionate feelings about this whole dialogue and feel it’s the crux of the conference thus far.

Follow up: The feedback and questions afterward were charged and passionate. I think a lot of folks feel acknowledged and recognized here. What I ended up saying in a fit of passion was that this panel felt like an equally important conversation for the integral world to have – no, I suppose I really mean to say this topic takes precedence even over the meta-theoretical “mating” happening between Bhaskar, Sean and Morin. Complexity thinking and meta theorizing will always tingle my neurons and get me thinking deeply on the world, but at the heart of it all is not a cognitive endeavor. We’re here to transform ourselves and the world.

In Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga, he and Mirra (the Mother) often emphasized the importance of bringing down spiritual insight and consciousness back down into the world. In other words, the involutionary or incarnational aspect to their Yoga is in an immanental shift, an active process of sublimating our world in the divine. This means acting in the world. Really engaging with it. You can’t get more engaged than this panel has about the problems of empire, the crisis of power and the systemic failure of many world social systems that are bringing us to the precipice of collapse. Many of the panelists stated that it was hard to see how even activists could really change things for the better. There was an emphasis on being radically subversive. And yet, Marilyn Hamilton’s point is also sound in her saying, “not yet,” and the kind of patience involved in the epochal shifts that take place in evolutionary bifurcations. It takes generations of work.

Yet there is a hopeful element in all this. If Integral can get its feet on the ground and address the real, lived-world and its socio-cultural problems, it can become an ally in the struggle to realize a new consciousness. Daniel Quinn, a writer who I really came to love during high school, wrote a book called Ishmael about the problems of civilization – literally, the whole way of living, for the past 10,000 years (David Graeber’s book, Debt: The First 5000 Years also ties in here). He suggests that civilization, as it stands, is unsustainable. An evolutionary cul-de-sac. We will have to find a new way of living on a planetary scale.

Clearly, and as many folks who are more involved in the “activist” culture of radical thought have long embraced (neo-Marxist, anarchists, anti-globilization movements, radical primitivists and many sociologists) the notion of Western powers as “implicating empire“, and the currently economic model (really, a form of consciousness) as utterly unsustainable. We need radical re-thinking and re-tooling… re-imagining of human civilization. Daniel Quinn’s later book explores this point, Beyond Civilization, because he intuited that however we will be living on a planetary scale, it will have to be different.

So, let’s be frank. Political engagement is the “elephant in the room” for the integral community. We’ve avoided it, perhaps out of an allergic reaction to “green meme” – but at the cost of integral’s efficacy as a movement. What’s happening on the ground is messy and political, and its high time this community got engaged – if it truly wants to live up to its claims to be the next “stage” of human culture ( a bold claim to be sure ).

The irony is, the less integral is involved in the issues this panel has so potently articulated, the less it really comments on what’s going on with the evolution of consciousness down on the ground.

Tonight’s keynote began with an awesome talk by Jordan Luftig that addresses these points, so I don’t really feel a need to push this point any further. The subject has been breached. Now I just hope it starts gaining traction by integral enthusiasts between this weekend, and the next conference.

Towards a Meta-Integral Philosophy: Mysticism in the Philosophies of Bhaskar, Panikkar, and Wilber – John O’Neill – ITC2013

by Jeremy Johnson

photo (12)

2:13 PM: [Rough draft. I'm posting-and-going here to the next one!]

The room is packed and I’m sitting in the back. John was introducing Roy Bhaskar’s work when I came in, and his role in moving beyond dualism to solve contemporary world problems. Now he’s onto Panikkar (of whom I’m the least familiar with out of the three mentioned here).

“For Panikkar, the philosophical method is that of thinking… as an active philosophy itself, to the rhythm of being… Putting one’s mind and heart to the rhythm of being… A contemplative form.. of being co-responsible for and influencing the destiny of reality. He says wisdom is the mystical core of reality, requiring and openness to the whole, including the wisdom of love, as well as purity of heart.”

“Mysticism is the awareness of the whole… and always includes our own contingent perspective, touching the infinite at a point.” Very interesting take on spiritual experience.

“Man is triadal… sense, reason, and spirit,” Panikkar says. These are the three “I’s.”

“He wants to defind the position that the locus of mysticism, not even knowledge of being, but is the realm and home-ground of emptiness… as touching the deepest strata of the real without the medium of consciousness, the groundless ground in which everything stands and finds its support, and this is the basis of human life. It is direct experience, which puts us into immediate contact with reality.”

When we talk about it, however, we move away from it. It is “beyond thinking and language.” So, the mystical is a field of emptiness, rather than a field of knowledge and being.

What’s interesting is that Panikkar believes that language is a kind of co-creative dimension to “the grandeur and witness of mysticism… it has no language of its own.” So, we speak for it.

“The mystical is open to the fragility of being human,” he says, “and must be discerned in some way.”

This attitude opens us up to the plurality of experiences of the mystical, and makes it important to consider each of them.

“The rhythm of being cannot be grasped by reason… but must be understood through the third “I” of spirit.”

John says that even a stone is constituted by these three dimensions.

“Silence is not the negation of being, not non-being, it is the absence of everything. It is prior to being.” This insight tells us that the presence of God can be recognized directly in silence, as silence itself.

According to Panikkar, monotheism is not an absolute truth, but a human reaction to the divine. I like this understanding and invokes a participatory mode of thinking that is increasingly becoming (for me, anyway) the direction of metaphysics and ontology.

On interreligious dialogues: “mutual fecundation (?)” –

There’s a lot that’s presented here, however, I think the important point thus far is Panikkar’s contribution to a new Kosmology (Like Wilber), that is non-dualistic, cooperative with the divine and human realities, and overlapping in his interest on “meta” realities beyond the dualistic, technocratic and hyper-rationalized Western culture. He invokes, calls for, and attempts to cultivate a new spiritual philosophical world-view that is, perhaps, rich and sophisticated enough for the plurality of global cultures and the multitude of religious experience.

2: 32: So now we’re onto Wilber.

John is going over the basics of Ken’s works: quadrants, levels, states, lines, types, etc. Ken’s work tries to ensure “all bases are covered.”

“He asserts these elements are always in our awareness…” and the usefulness of the theory is so that we can “accelerate our own development” and help make a better world. Good summary.

John is now going over Wilber’s usage of both Gebser and Aurobindo: archaic, magic, mythic, etc. and then higher mind, supermind, etc. (I’d be interested, actually, in Gebserians engaging in dialogue with John, since Wilber’s usage of the structures of consciousness into a developmental hierarchy as misappropriation of Gebser’s phenomenology).

We’re going over more of the integral model, “a cultivation of body, mind and spirit… in self, culture and nature.” So far, so good.

“I, you, it, we… goes all the way down, all the way up. And then there’s spirit in first person, spirit in second person, and spirit in third person.” Here’s where we get into the mysticism, which can be experienced in any of these perspectives – 1st, 2nd, 3rd.

There is also gross, subtle, and causal states, and you can experience all of these. But you can have a non-dual experience at any one of these stages.

“it is appropriate to consider mysticism as including permanent access to these higher, transpersonal, transrational, third-tier stages.”

John goes over some of Wilber’s experiences, “seeing wholes, being wholes, feeling wholes,” and suggests that only folks who have applied injunctions, and verified these claims validity, can really affirm these descriptions.

And so, enlightenment is a union of emptiness and form. But an enlightenment today is fuller than yesterday (since the world of form has changed). I never really bought this idea. It seems to be a very literalized sense of time. Gebser and Aurobindo’s concept of latency is an interesting alternative conception of growth, time, and development.

“The Frothy Creative Edge… with New Kosmic patterns starting to be formed… which eventually might create kosmic habits.” This can be done through tetra-enactment.

Wilber encourages 3 methodological practices: 1) non exclusionism, 2) unfoldment, and 3) enactment (meaning that subjects bring forth, enact, and experience different worlds according to their quadrants, levels, lines, states and types).

So far, John has given a nice overview of each man’s contributions and work, but he hasn’t really emphasized, but perhaps implied, where they over-lap. I am looking for his thesis—where is the synthesis? Do the contours and impasses, overlaps and interconnections, provide some kind of illumination and transform one another’s work?

John is describing the potential for an integral vision, and the birth of an “evolutionary unfolding to greater dimensions of being, knowing, and acting.”

Here we go…

“Common to all theories… is the triadic nature of reality. They agree that a philosophical vision must include non-dual mysticism, contemplation and spirit. Beyond what can be said about reality is silence, mystery, the unqualifiable absolute. This also agree that this must be experienced. This vision must include spirit, along with human, or cosmic evolutionary development… emancipating our fullest potential.”

“Meta-Integral philosophy is meta-integral in that it allows room for pluralistic, integral philosophies, such as these three, to dialogue and engage, interact with each other.”

“Mysticism shows us the higher and deeper levels of reality within a thought system… as well as reality beyond all thought-systems.”

“Meta-philosophy is a philosophy because it goes beyond philosophy… while still grounded in philosophical and cognitive structures. Encouraging participation across philosophies and lineages. It can provide spacious, hospitable openings for polyamorus, co-creative, evolutionary, rhythmic dances of being, non-being and becoming.”

So I think that just about sums it up, and I appreciate the “polyamorous” gesture, similar in tone to my thought on “combinatorial creativity.”

Concluding thoughts: I appreciated John setting these three philosophies in the context of each other. Arguably not much new was said here that wasn’t covered during Sean’s keynote last night, except for the emphasis on how each of these theoretical frameworks handle mysticism and spirituality. I wanted it to go further in some, perhaps exploratory sense, and a good question by someone at the end was just that: so what kind of creative combinations will come out of these three? John was pleasantly thoughtful about the question but admitted he hadn’t necessarily developed anything yet. Still, a good way to set the stage for interested thinkers to hold these three meta-theories and cosmologies and tease out the currents – or movements – of change they are each alluding to in their unique ways.

The benefit of John’s talk was in that it allowed the listener to come to their own “meta” interpretation of the three frameworks and draw their own intersections – for me, it was the importance of a “participatory” reality, of perspectives, or co-creative generative language (and human thought) as it interfaces with the ineffable mystery of emptiness. Now, these points are very aligned with my interest in Henry Corbin’s esoteric work on the Imaginal and the participatory spirituality he enacted there. I think if this attitude is re-iterated enough, folks will begin to do some good work in updating and incorporating multitudes of thinkers into their own unique contributions to what Jorge Ferrer calls the “participatory turn,” and I hope to see more along these lines. More thoughts later (at some point!)


Gilles Herrada: The Gender War, No (Integral) End in Sight- #ITC2013

by Jeremy Johnson

photo (11)

10:51 AM:

“The relationship with gender may have been pacified by integral discourse, but by no means has been transcended.” – Gilles Herrada

Gilles starts by giving us 3 names: Elizabeth Debold, Rebecca Bailin (?), and Chris Dierkes – as folks who have explored the gender topic themselves.

So what is the problem with AQAL and Gender? “A tendency to reduce everything to a simplistic and rigid four-quadrant model. Secondly, a “Kosmological Bias” – integral is epistemologically powerful, but at the same time, “symbolically stuck.” Wow, nice intro.

“The way integral has approached gender is not a match for the depth and scope of its potential.”

Gilles and I are similar in this understanding:

“Each stage… is embedded in a specific symbolic framework, and mostly visible in the myth or mythos of a particular culture. And that is true, all the way up from magic…magic…modern…postmodern…and even integral.” Yes, Gilles is saying that myth is resonant all the way up the structures and stages. “The texture of the mythos… the sacred is what feels deeply true.”

Just as the Kabbalah, or Buddhist scriptures are Mythic, so too is the AQAL framework.

First Gilles wants to take us before the written myths. Way back to our evolutionary origins:

“Human sexuality is quintessentially primate sexuality. We borrow a lot of elements, traits with chimpanzees and bonobos, our two closest genetic cousins. With chimps, we have male dominated societies, female exogamy, ranking among males, dominant males, who monopolize the females.”

With Bonobos, we share being the only species that have pleasurable sex, and even female orgasm.

So, sex precedes human culture.

Males have total control on the most coveted food = meat, which reduced others in the group, and gave males an economical edge in the beginning of human culture.

However… Gilles points out that innate sexual strategies are complex, multi-layered, and even contradictory.
That was the beige meme, now we’re onto the purple meme: the symbolic revolution and the invention of gender (as a subjective concept):

“Purple societies started to attribute the male and female qualities to the external world… Trees, rivers, food, would have a feminine or masculine quality…and they also had a very fluid concept of gender. Everything could change gender. It wasn’t an essence, but a quality that could be acquired, exchanged.”

Gilles shares an image of the prehistoric Venuses to emphasize the role of the feminine in this time.

In this time, interestingly, males have tremendous anxiety about female power (hence the giantess and rotundness of the statue). Male power is, however, considered fragile and passive. Men and women would often be segregated in this time, and sleep separately.

Females were viewed as the “sex-hungry” gender (Check out Catal Huyuk as a great example).

Interestingly, males would engage in warfare with males who were related to their wives. Or, in other words, the gender war has begun!

Then we see another big shift. The agricultural revolution, a “dramatic religious cosmology shift,” the masculinization of the divine. Male dominated pantheons of anthropomorphic power gods.

Gilles gives a good explanation: humans had to get food by hunting. You get what you found, symbolically more like a child. When the agricultural revolution happened, humans began to take what they needed, and this was reminiscent of male qualities of hunting and war. This was also a time where female life was dominated by pregnancies in childbirth, a vulnerability that humans wanted to escape from.

Now to the “Power gods!” First, an observation about the great diversity of archetypes they maintain. He shows us Shiva, Zeus and Hermes. Now for the females: Isis, Aphrodite, Medusa. Any kind of skill was embodied by a god or goddess, the “gifts” of civilization overseen and offered by the gods.

Athena: courage, civilization, justice, just warfare, mathematics, the art, craft and skills.

Females turn into male property, and males have “apparently” won the gender war.

Gilles makes the interesting observation that the “Red” ego saw itself at the mercy of the gods. Puppets of the gods. Take the Odyssey, the almighty warriors who are overtaken by the spells of the gods and goddesses. Very indicative of red consciousness. The image of the universe is one at war- the Gods at war- with humans trapped in the battlefield.

And so this brings us to the Axial age and the Blue Meme.

Buddhism, Judaism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and later, Islam.

It brought us the unification of the divine: Brahman, God, etc., which goes hand in hand with the unified version of the Psyche, the Self—an “I” distinct from the chaos of emotions, desires, impulses, and all the distinguished the red ego.

The fundamental division used to be Us vs. Others. Axial thinkers reorient this so that it crosses through every single human individual “through body, mind and soul.” Humans are free to make moral choices, and that there is such a thing as human nature, a correlate of divine nature, which is morally perfect. In this consciousness, we can choose to enact this higher nature.

The consequence of having one divine nature is that suddenly, you only have one ethical standard. Only one moral.

“Remember that in the polytheistic societies, you could do whatever you wanted… you just had to find the god to do whatever you wanted… In Axial societies there is only one reflection of the unified divine, and it’s the moral code that’s applied to every human being.”

Axial thinkers, in addition, had an idea of a universal order. “The world was no longer a battlefield… The struggle was our willingness to embrace the universal order.”

They all conceived this universal order in dualistic terms. Nirvana vs. Samsara, Good vs. Evil, Heaven vs. Hell. And these terms, interestingly, were “polarities of complementary opposites… and lower and higher natures.” Gebser writes of this too concerning the mythic structure – polarities and complements, dualistic visions, though not yet splintered.

Harmony, in this time, was in balancing the opposites. Gender played a major role in these polarities.

Axial thinkers pushed gender to an extreme: everything had a gender. Masculine Yang, Feminine Ying. But these balances were biased.

Masculine: “active, creative, hot, dry, bright, aggressive, fast, creative… fire, sky, heaven.”

Feminine: “Passive, receptive, cold, wet, dark, gentle, slow, soft, yielding, diffuse… water, earth, moon, nighttime and death.”

“All that to say… the grand unification was also a grand simplification of our sexuality and gender.” Wow, nice. Brilliant how he puts this all together.

This unification did not favor the feminine: the subliminal message was that the “female divine principle remains subordinate to the male divine principle.” Especially in the West, Gilles tells us, was the “de-sexualization of women,” which meant that female sexuality became denied from fear. This created an incredible impoverishment of female archetypes (they became few and far between.. The Virgin, The Mother, the Whore… etc).

Same-sex desire in this age becomes against nature, because it goes against this “balance” of energy in the cosmos.

The Axial “truths” started a war against same-sex and female sexuality.

Gilles asks us: has anything changed since?

Now onto modernity.

“Because of its denial of mythic realities, and critically assess them and explore them, has basically kept the same symbolic framework of the axial age. If anything, modernity has amplified these same Axial ideas.”

Think of Victorian Age rigid sexualities.

Now postmodernity…

This is a different turn. A rise of interest in female archetypes. Isis and Shiva were a big topic of interest in the intellectual salons of the 19th century. Wilber makes this point: they went backward to look for female archetypes.

Women rights emerge here, gay rights emerge. Postmodernity gets some job done.

And now Integral: each gender gets a part of the Kosmic pie. Gilles quips: “This is fundamentally axial.”

“We can’t help it, we had to match the beautiful models’ geometry right into the gender divide.” Eros is self-transcendence and agency are viewed as masculine qualities, and Agape, communion are viewed as female qualities. Sounds a bit like the Axial thought, huh?

Gilles believes Integral Theory and culture remains severed with the same problems of the Axial Age separation.

“Eros (self-transcendence) and Agape (self-immanence) might be complementary, but are they opposite? Like hot vs. cold? They don’t exclude balance, nor annihilate each other.”

“Shit Integralists Say” – Hilarious anecdotes reiterating these biases, which results in Gilles saying…

“If I had a kid, I’d never give my kid to an integral nanny.”

Now on Wilber: “Wilber has re-integrated the sociobiological, cultural, and spiritual dimension of sex and gender (trans-disciplinarity). He also pulled out women from the victim persona that resulted from the postmodern rhetoric (evolutionary). That being said, the Wilberian model remains largely blind to its mythic character, and some axial ideals have not been re-assessed.”
It’s beautiful hearing all this spoken – Gilles is a sort of mentor for me in my own studies of mythology and their continued relevancy beyond the stereo-typed “blue meme,” and into their recapitulation throughout human consciousness, modern or ancient. A vastly un-tapped and critical blind spot in Integral Theory (an area I hope to contribute to).The only other intellectuals aside from Gilles who tap into this (to my knowledge) are William Irwin Thompson and John David Ebert.

Gilles reveals a complex chart of interrelated variables that all play into gender identity. Mythos, cosmological model, gender concepts, archetypes, subjectivity, bio-genetics, innate behaviors, experiences and opportunities, learned behaviors, customs and rituals.

“This is more like a constellation… that will vary from culture to culture, and even individual to individual.”

“Subjectivity is not a state, it’s a conversation.”

Gilles says the AQAL model is “great when it forces us to expand our perspective,” but not when it conforms us to a simple 4-quadrant model. A little more complexity wouldn’t hurt (I’m sensing that Gilles has really been able to digest and work with postmodern thought’s messiness and complexity while not losing an evolutionary and “big picture” framework. He’s doing what Mark Forman and Sean were arguing about yesterday).

Gilles gives the example of light. White. And the opposite is black. Yet, light is actually a spectrum.

“Light is a tiny little fragment of a vibrational spectrum… of photons vibrating from infinitely short to infinitely long wave-lengths. Most of what we call light is not able to be seen, it is darkness.”

Polarities aren’t wrong, Gilles suggests, but polarities seen as polar complementary opposites, are inevitably limited. “A narrow epistemological filter.”

The kind of reality we face? More like clouds. He gives an image of clouds and asks us how many there are. You can’t tell. There are so many overlapping clouds. “We are dealing with a reality that is complex, because our consciousness is complex, individually and collectively.”

Gilles offers a few concepts to use to replace systematic use of polarities:

• To replace polarities: local tensions, creative tension, relationship.
• Spectrum and constellation rather than categories
• Bio-Psycho-Cultural continuum. We can tease apart as much as we can, but we’ll never be able to systemically understand the whole reality. From a distance things look really clear, but when you get closer, you can’t define it so well.
• Fuzzy realities, clouds, ecosystems, and context dependent identities.
• Archetype, mythic reality, symbolic framework, episteme.

“We don’t understand symbolic realities in the Integral community.” Big yes to this. I highly recommend Gilles books and the work Trevor Malkinson, Chris Dierkes, and myself did on Beams and Struts concerning the relevancy of myth in understanding cultural consciousness.

Gilles suggests you should have a look on the data you cite. He gives examples of gender and statistical studies (spectrums of different skills and abilities).

“We cannot do simple integral. We cannot do simple science.”

• Virtues and skills-just like trees, rivers, body parts-don’t have a gender unless you project a gender upon them.
• At the same time, the we-spaced generated can have a specific gender.
• The concept of polarity can be occasionally useful, but we can’t have polarities as the building blocks of our Kosmos.
• Consider the possibility if your model can’t integrate homos, then your model does not work, for it fails to reveal something important about all human beings.

“If you keep having simplistic models on masculine and feminine… you keep ignoring that part of you that needs to be revealed, which is that part of you you’re still seeking and trying to find.

Wow Gilles, what a presentation. Thank you!

Read The Missing Myth.

Sean Esbjorn-Hargens Keynote – #ITC2013

by Jeremy Johnson

A Kosmopolitan Chrysalis – The Meta-Praxis of Defining and Developing Integral Theory

photo (10)

So here we go. This was it folks, the big talk that put it all into context. I’ll try to capture as much as I can in this post, but really, you’ll have to watch the recording (which will hopefully be available. I encourage MetaIntegral to at least make it free, as it really belongs to the whole integral community). We had Mark Forman begin the night with a general introduction to this year’s theme and goings-on – new publications, upcoming events, new adaptations of Integral Theory (like a South Korean organization adopting I.T. thanks to Japanese Integral writer Norio Suzuki. Who is this guy? I am an avid enthusiast of Japanese culture and philosophy, especially contemporary literature. So I’ll have to get my hands on his work!).

Mark was proud to announce swath of new publications, saying that “Literature is the best way we can grow community.” A huge yes to that. After all, think of the Transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and the many others that congregated in that New England Home (Heck, that was a house, this is a Marriott Hotel with fancy $14 wine cups. Aside from size, I can’t say fancy hotels are better about much else. Except people. Of course. Lots more people can congregate here!). Literature produces culture, and in the age of New Media, media itself produces culture. Don’t under-estimate McLuhan’s axiom that the “medium is the message,” because it is the sea in which we swim, after all. If we can produce good literature – academic and otherwise – can produce the backbone of a thriving culture. The Transcendentalists, I think, are a good metaphor here of “Kosmopolitan” erm, “Kollaborators,” in that they were able to stand-alone in their own work, yet decisively be defined as a holistic movement. They influenced each other and, in turn (and without dominating each other), influenced the American culture. Can we do that now? Can Integral culture become a kind of philosophical-spiritual movement of our nascent planetary culture? Can it do that kind of work – the kind that moves beyond syncretism, into a genuine “meta-theoretical” (as Sean remarked tonight) framework?

It’s a tight-rope walk, meta-theory making is. It can make and break movements. I’m thinking also of the Beats of the 50′s, the psychedelic and counter-cultural spiritual writers of the 60′s who really started a movement, but I wonder if any one of them can claim to be the founders. Sure, there are originators. Catalysts. Wilber himself is certainly one in a contemporary sense. What they did was find the right catalysts to let the whole burn up in a social metanoia. I do hope that the Integral community can be one of these major catalysts. Perhaps the way San Francisco itself was during the 50′s and 60′s (the Beats moved here after Columbia, doing their thing. Alan Watts had a radio show and taught at what would become CIIS. There’s a history here of that kind of thought. And here is Integral, continuing that tradition).

And you know, I was happy to hear Mark tell everyone that Gilles Herrada, a friend of mine from NYC and one of the founders of the iNYC salon, is a shining example of how to take integral theory forward. His book, The Missing Myth, Mark said, “was the single best book I’ve ever read, applying Integral Theory to anything.” That’s saying something, considering Mark himself is an integral author. Gilles addresses gender, sexuality and culture from an integral framework. I have a copy myself and have to say, it is well worth the praise. Probably the single most comprehensive and applied integral book I’ve encountered myself. Anywho- Mark’s point is that there are more integral publications this year than ever. The body of work is expanding, and as he points out, this is hugely important. Integral is a “meta” approach, but it needs, more so than really any other kind of theoretical framework, specific applications. So the fact that there are more and more now makes it easier to demonstrate its application in “down” in reality. Or at least academic reality. But there’s more to this “engaged” topic.


Mark explained to us the meaning of this image: a series of overlapping circles – clearly, a series of different worlds. Prior to the conference, Sean was deeply working through “the concern for intersubjectivity and community issues,” which were raised by the integral community after 2010′s conference. After JFK’s Integral Theory program shut down, perhaps it was a wake-up call: a movement to action and the need to push for integral theory’s relevancy – not only that, but it’s own growth into a matured field capable of self-reflectivity and engagement with other meta-theories. Could it share the space? Share the room? Even I was critical of I.T.’s community circa 2010. It seemed like it was on its way out at the time.

As Mark puts it: “Wilberian theory often seems to be located in the upper left quadrant. People wanted more to be said about the larger social and cultural fields we engage.” Aptly put. And, especially considering the collective experience we had with the Occupy Movement, and prior to that, the Arab Spring. Yes, there was something stirring in the collective consciousness of the world, a new movement towards transparency and empowerment, and it wasn’t merely some “green meme” upsurge, but a valuable development, dare we say? At the “leading edge.” People started to realize the movements of consciousness happened here, in the inter-subjective, the social, the collective space of human societies. And for some, this was already a given. I would say the idea is already present in integral’s foundational thinkers – like Jean Gebser and his commentary on political movements of his time, or Sri Aurobindo being an Indian independence activist before he became the mystic yogi. Now, there’s Edgar Morin, a Marxist himself and a radical, engaged political thinker. There’s something to this. Integral is being called to step up to the plate.

As Trevor Malkinson said in conversation with me after the keynote, “how can you not become politically engaged?” If you plan on being a movement about changing society, it’s a no-brainer. As the artist Janelle Monae says, “This is a Cold War, do you know what you’re fighting for?”

“The basic idea to be integral,” Mark said, “is to be able to see the world,” and there are many worlds. Not only that, but there are multiple integral worlds. Yes, guys, there’s more than one meta-thinker to contend with. And as Mark notes, “multiple integral philosophies overlap.” Hence the image of the Kosmopolitan in the image – of multiple worlds overlapping each other as they attempt to grapple with a “meta” synthetic vision. The poster makes sense now. Apparently Sean drafted this up right after the 2010 conference.

Sean apparently has a way of saying this: “More than one, less than many.”

Mark then made my night when he said “This goes to where we feel the state of the integral field is moving… Away from being Americo-centric, towards this more global vision.”

So, this weekend Integral Theory Conference will be hosting the second symposium between Roy Bhaskar, Critical Realism and Integral Theory – and I suspect it’s the first real mingling of I.T. and Edgar Morin’s work.

Integral is also emphasizing its political engagement through Terry Patten’s engagement in the Occupy Movement (Occupy Integral coming out later this year? Or next year. I’ll have to double check that), and his tremendously successful fundraiser for Obama’s last campaign (apparently, the Integral fundraiser was hugely successful. Mark says it was the largest well-funded grassroots campaign in the country for Obama). Terry is trying to use this to gain leverage in wielding the “integral voice” in government. I’m interested, though cautious to see where this can go. As exciting as this sounds, we also want to know how the integral community will represent itself and what it will stand for, politically. I suppose we’ll get a better sense of that during this conference.

Before I move onto Sean’s presentation, Mark had a moment towards the end of the introduction that really set the stage for the conference. Perhaps recognizing the “self-congratulatory” attitude Integral has been leveled with before, he said:

“We’re really here… to continue, to generate change. We’re here both to have a good time, and in a sens, to work: with each other, challenge each other, ask questions, think about what’s being offered, and hear where people are coming from. So that we are inclusive in our circle of concern and visions we would take to address those concerns.”

MetaPraxis and Integral Theory Catching the Collaborative Zeitgeist

photo (10) photo (9)

Sean’s talk got my brain cooking. Almost literally. If it weren’t for me being so busy note-taking, my brain would definitely be frying (or buzzing) with the subject material, which was a meta-meta-meta perspective on 3 different “integral” oriented philosophies. Yes, this was a heady talk. Quite a dazzling intellectual show of neuronal fireworks, if that makes sense. But it wasn’t all about pretty lights and big booms. The way Sean put Critical Realism, Integral Theory, and Complexity Thought together into an elegant synthesis must have taken years of work. His excitement was definitely showing through the whole thing and I commend him for it.

He began with an interesting chant – maybe? I don’t know what it was exactly, but it raised, and then relieved tension. Sean came across to me as a deeply passionate thinker who was totally connected with is community. I really felt his concern and thoughtfulness in wishing to move integral forward and save it from a potential cul-de-sac it was about to enter these past few years. He’s got such a brilliant mind, and with a sensitive heart like that, I can’t think of a better organizer to push Integral forward.

“This is a really powerful moment for us as a community,” he began. He considered the 2008 conference to be an integral “love fest,” while the 2010 ITC was a “moment of distinction.” Or in other words, a moment of critical reflection. A means to figure out how to relate to I.T.’s foundational thinker, Ken Wilber. Ultimately, it meant that I.T. distinguish itself from Ken Wilber, the man, the philosopher. Sean says it helped them “shift from a Wilber-centric possibility to a Wilber-based possibility.” And, of course, this conference, 2013, is an “Integral Meta-Dialogue.”

Sean begins by saying that this is his “pitch,” or his attempt to really provide a way forward for integral theory as a communal and inter-subjective endeavor. Holding the strengths up of I.T. while allowing for inter-communal dialogue to reveal its shadows and weaknesses as well.

So it begins – and it starts with saying that Integral Theory may not be as integral as it says it is. The audience laughed along with him here – perhaps in good faith and in good humor. A good display, in my mind anyway, of self-awareness. The application is where the rubber hits the road, though.

There’s a Wilber from the early 2000′s: “all our attempts a more integral theory are very preliminary and sketchy… decades of work among hundreds of scholars to truly flesh out an integral theory with any sort of compelling veracity… Until that time, What I try to offer are suggestions for making our existing theories and practices just a little more integral than they are now.”

And, obviously, while this work has been hugely significant, its high-time the community of integral stories enacted their part to “truly flesh out an integral theory with any sort of compelling veracity.” We’re up to this point in our history, basically.

“Life is more messy than we often like to acknowledge in our crisp and clean beautiful theory,” Sean says in front of an image of spaghetti splattered on the floor. He asks everyone why we’re afraid of blind-spots, pegs (putting square pegs in round holes), and messiness. Yes, messiness is a big theme for my own approach. And here, I don’t really relate. I never gravitated towards clean beautiful theories. Perhaps it was a mistake for me to be drawn towards Wilber – but I bet there’s something beyond the clean harmony of the theory that is actually more integral than elegance and harmony and well-crafted and polished meta-narratives. I do believe there really is.

Sean’s response to this question is to place Integral Theory in conversation with other integral-oriented styles of thinking, because “theories can do shadow work, too.” How couldn’t they? Isn’t this postmodern thought 101? Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions? Sean remarks that it is through shadow-work that Integral’s “golden shadow” – its unique strengths – can also be recognized and encouraged.

Then he gets into some heavy stuff. Well, heavy for me right now anyway. It’s 5:02 AM. Erm well, 2:02 in California, but I’m still running by my biological clock.

“What’s required is a balance between integrated synthesis and the balance for plural perspectives.” And Sean distinguishes these approaches with a new chart, showing “Integrative Monism vs. Integrative Pluralism.”

Integral Monism “searches for super-theories that supplant and marginalize other views,” yup. Meanwhile, though, “pluralism… supports the on-going proliferation and disconnection of theories.” Then there is “multi-disciplinarity,” which “allows for temporary links” but has no sustainable linking effect between theories. Lastly, there is “integrative pluralism,” which is my favorite term from this conference so far. Sean says it’s not a theory of everything, but a “theory of anything.” Instead of assimilating other worlds like a Borg Cube, it “retains and connects the diversity of theories and enables a meta-level research.” Which is cool.

So at this point, Sean goes onto bring Bhaskar, Wilber, and Morin together into an enactment of this “meta-level research.” Another juicy word pops up here: “epistemic reflexivity” which is a result of theories being able to bounce off one another.

He starts by offering us a definition of Integral Theory, or perhaps it’s better to use lower case:

integral theory: a postformal integrative metatheory that explores the dynamic and stratified relationships within and between subjective, intersubjective, and (inter) objective aspects of reality.

There’s still a lot of assumptions and theoretical “givens” there, yet, I think it’s a good start. A major movement towards more ecumenical ideas for the Integral community.

Sean raises the concept of “Unit Theories,” which are nice, segmented and fragmented disciplines commonly found in academia: Sociology, Anthropology, etc etc. Then there’s Integrative Theories, which are compilations (or combinations) of unite theories themselves. I’m gonna need the slides in order to explain this.

Another important orientation was Sean placing Wilber’s work in a narrower context. He interprets Wilber’s primary strength in Integral Psychology (the Upper Left), which I tend to agree with. It makes sense. He really helped develop the Transpersonal Psychology tradition and that was always his strong suite (I’ve always, on an intuitive level, appreciated Wilber’s pre-SES writings. Somehow they are more timeless). If Wilber is in the “I” domain, then Roy’s work is primarily in the “We” domain of philosophy and cultural critique with Critical Realism. And finally Edgar Morin’s work is pre-dominantly a “systems” approach of cybernetics, life sciences, and human societies (Lower Right).

What’s interesting here is that Sean is actually suggesting that Integral Theory become displaced from its position at the center of the geocentric universe to a planet in orbit of integral theory, lower-cased, and claimed by no singular conceptual framework.

There was so much here that was covered. Charts and maps and ideas all squished down into a mere hour or so. And yet I’ve found myself writing for hours about it. I think I’ll let the keyboard cool off for now with a few final remarks.

Towards the end of the talk, Sean calls Wilber, Morin and Bhaskar as the “Three Meta-Kings.” I don’t follow him here, but I get the idea. I wrote a poem a few years ago about Wilber as this corrupted “Ice King” and, yeah, not a good association for me. Sean also remarks here that these three guys have the “best meta-views on the planet.” I really disagree with that and think the Kosmopolitan is so much wider – why alienate other communities after only finding three? But he quickly recounts this, with good humor. Sean spends the rest of the time comparing the three theories around the equivalent of AQAL. This part is very interesting, but I won’t write about it here. Suffice to say, it’s a really great starting ground for collaborative work. He says towards the end of this talk that “MetaTheories will need to be different from the monistic, grand theories of the past.” And I think, if this is the direction of Integral Theory, then we can expect to see some very interesting developments in the near future. Making inter-theoretical babies!

So, real quick sum up: integral is moving in leaps and bounds, trying to really get a foothold in the culture-at-large. Part of that is relevancy. Another part of it is literature (and starting a movement that isn’t about assimilation, but synthesis and collaboration. Networks of associative ideas that share common zeitgeists but are unique fruitions of that inner “spirit” themselves. If that makes sense). Integral is moving towards trying to actualize this. They’ve extended a hand to two very different thinkers – Roy Bhaskar is a fascinating dude, and certainly “analytical” in his philosophical style (arguably, Wilberian AQAL theory is a very, very Anglo-American kind of theory. It strikes me as heavily Analytic). Meanwhile, Morin is a beautiful continental philosopher. Sean remarked several times that Morin’s work does something different to his “integral landscape” than Wilber or Bhaskar.

Morin’s style of “complex thought” seems to sync up with how I view William Irwin Thompson’s version of this, “Mind Jazz,” and his colleague Ralph Abraham’s “complex-dynamical” mentality (synonymous perhaps with Jean Gebser’s structures of consciousness). See? They’re all mingling now.

And so, what do I think of all this? There’s a lot here. I think that Integral Theory is actually catching up with the zeitgeist of our times. The participatory turn of collaborative communities and networks who work together for some common, yet nearly invisible “trace” of universal goals. A meta-narrative without singular articulations. The kind of understanding that moved us into the Age of Enlightenment in the West, with the rise of perspectival thought and the artistic and socio-economic developments that ushered in the modern world. These were all different ideas, yet they shared some kind of “meta-reality” without collapsing one another into each other like some kind of theoretical black hole. I think Integral Theory, consciously or not, has embraced the collaborative spirit of the Networked Age, where theories work together and communities are learning to collaborate. There is a movement, a shift in the consciousness of our times. It is clear from Occupy and the Arab Spring, to name two big recent events, that this Zeitgeist is happening.

I feared for Integral’s relevancy in its aloofness to these movements in consciousness (after all, it’s supposed to be about the “interiors” of our world, the consciousness structures of our world, no?) Now it seems that even integral has been moved by the efficacy of the collaborative spirit. I think this is still larger than the meta-theories themselves. Perhaps the closest, ironically, to this understanding is Edgar Morin’s work (I don’t know, I just get that impression, that intuition). The “spirit of the depths” has ached its tectonic body into odd and new alignments, and even the meta-theories are enacting the kind of “combinatorial creativity” I described in my first blog. This is a very good thing. And there is now so much work to do – so much more awareness to raise. Including the topics I’ve brought up here on being aware of these movements of consciousness, engaging with them and contextualizing them. And for the first time perhaps, Integral Theory will not only engage with what Mark called the “intersubjective” and communal sphere, but really, at the heart of those terms is the world, the people of this world, and our consciousness. And that’s what it’s all about to begin with.

Day 1 is over. I’m going to crawl back up to my room to sleep. See you all tomorrow!




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,249 other followers