Unearthing New Norms of Conversation Online

Written by 

Building on a recent talk with my good friend Trevor Malkinson, I’ve been wondering how might present and future contributions at Beams & Struts become more process-aware?  Especially in terms of exploring more conscious ways of communicating that may at times inspire experiences of collective intelligence and a more resonant online we-space for readers?  In other words, how might we help conversations evolve here with a greater enacted awareness of our collective consciousness and development?

I’d like to begin by outlining a few principles for engaging such conversations.  The first one that comes to mind is not being afraid to take leadership for whatever conversation we happen to be apart of—whether in an article, essay, or response. Sometimes this happens by making the Untitled3effort to stop and feel into the perspective of the other person in the conversation by attempting to apprehend the fullness of their view or position from their perspective, not simply considering their perspective through ours.  In other moments this may require noticing how we are communicating by listening with careful discernment for our own and other’s authentic voice and building from that. Still on other occasions, this may involve cultivating qualities of mutuality that invite respect—that is, sincerely establishing and building resonance with others for greater generative purposes in and beyond the conversation.

I’ll put the second principle to consider in the form of a question.  Are we willing to accept—particularly when the heat of a good argument is on—that all our existing ideas and views are thoroughly partial (a foundational integral insight from Wilber), no matter how comprehensive, integral or seemingly complete?  What will it take for us to honestly realize that our perspectives are always and thoroughly incomplete?  And what would it mean for a community to think from such a shared body of realization?

Finally, what happens in our communication when we connect with a subtle awareness of the life-world context that contains all our present human and more than human communities?  In the context of conversation, this principle engages a worldcentric awareness that is sorely Untitled2needed to work with the staggering complexity of problems and issues we’re now confronting individually, in communities and collectively as a species.  And when we let go further into an in-the-moment apprehension of the ultimate context that is wanting to live more through each of us, how might this subtler yet even more profound kosmoscentric awareness begin to shape and direct our conversations?  The quieter we become inside, the more presence seems to want to open to contain and enagage with such immensities.

As an avid reader of Beams and Struts, I’ve been inspired by the commitments of the writers and visitors to work towards building a more integral culture in their lives, work and thought.  Particularly one that embodies qualities of being that inspire us further into wanting to contribute to the life of the conversations happening here.  Another question then to contemplate: what are these essential qualities of being in the context of conversations here?  And how might we develop them further, inspiring us to outgrow certain conventional norms of conversation and to work at the project of unearthing new ones?

The aspiration to bring about and help co-evolve new forms of culture is no small undertaking.  But what makes any culture singularly valuable is its ethos—the core, guiding ideals that are actually lived into.  In the context of conversations here, it’s the forms of communication that shape this communities’ ethos and the particular ultimate concerns of its contributors.  Put in another way, it’s crucial to recognize that when inquiry is consciously engaged, the process itself becomes a subtle but powerful form of action.  In more philosophical terms, our ways of being in conversation here or anywhere for that matter, are at least as important as the content of what we're discussing or arguing, which brings me to the topic of debate.

The trouble with adversarial debate is its thoroughly lacking care or reverence for others and the relational context that fundamentally underlies and supports the conversation.  AdversarialUntitled4 debates tend to flare up when we become overly identified with our particular perspective and feel the need to defend it, like we might defend a friend or a family member if attacked.  Good debate on the other hand is to a greater extent freed from this attachment and resulting violence insofar as it abides by highly principled guidelines including supporting one’s own views with a commitment to sound reasoning, making strong compelling arguments and expressing a deep concern for uncovering truth in the world.  If debate becomes highly problematic when it takes an adversarial turn, what are the alternatives?

Untitled6Leaving behind the troubled horizons of adversarial debate involves being ready at any moment to practice being the change we wish to see in the conversation (to recontextualize Gandhi’s wisdom), which for now I will call a generative conversation—particularly one that evokes a shift in our views, a lucid opening of minds, a sharing of a process that may even go so far as to awaken an egoless passion for our ultimate concerns together here.  Take a moment to imagine your part in this.

Though adversarial debate may seem impossible to avoid in certain situations, to catalyze a generative conversation often involves bringing forward and sharing the latent qualities of being that are needed to support the field of conversation.  If for example, the life of a strained conversation suddenly needs humility, hopefully someone is there to provide it!  I have found that it helps if you or I can find a way to authentically connect with this quality of humility from within in real time and try to communicate directly from this experience.  Another example, let’s say you or I are resisting moving into open inquiry when its needed in the conversation.  What would it take to try questioning the need to advocate and argue and all the self-contractions that arise withUntitled5 this old project?  What happens when we challenge our selves instead of the other, as we’re typing?  How does this influence the words that you type?  How does this influence mine?

Moving into such a conversation often asks us to be vulnerable to the needs of the arising truth in the situation, which doesn't require renouncing power or compromising our voice.  That's Wilber’s integral transcend and include paradox working its way into conversation.  By sensing beyond the limited horizon of my intellect, and attempting to discern what is needed--from the point of view of this conversation, from the point of view of my point of view, from the point of view of yours—I try to become meta-aware of different perspectives.  And in so doing, make an in-the-moment contact with a more dynamic set of possible horizons for sharing and unfolding new meaning with you.

The good news is that in striving to enact a field of generative inquiry, the shared qualities of being and relating that make relationship so rewarding can suddenly become tangible again in our conversations.  It is well established that a certain quality of care, warmth and openness is Untitled7needed to support creative discoveries intersubjectively, and the beauty of this experience is that our intelligence depends to a great extent on the quality of how we engage our consciousness relationally.  Put in another way: our brilliance collectively-speaking, depends on how we are showing up together, how we are able to come together, listen, engage, inquire and explore this vital dimension of community in conversation.

Acts of conversational leadership require an entrusting of others--that they too are hungry for a different form of conversation, and a confidence that we can work together and build new intersubjective patterns of engaging one another in conversations that make new meaning, not simply defend our hard-won views and inadvertently hurt each other in the process.

Regarding these desirable intersubjective patterns, it is worth commenting briefly on a couple.

Let's try this from a more first-person perspective.  How are you regarding the person whose ideas you are responding to online?  Are you honoring them existentially in a friendly fashion as brothers and sisters with views and perspectives?  Or are you attacking their thoughts or person, however covertly or subtly?  Another way to put this, what is your interior quality of being--in relation to them--as you write?  Are you defending or selling your view to an abstract audience?  And if so, how aware are you of this as you write?  If you inquire in your response to them, does the person simply answer your question, railroading your gesture to move the conversation forward?  Or do they pause to consider your question and linger a bit in the space it opens for you both and consider possibilities for engaging you?  As you write, are you observing your own thought process-that is, are you witnessing your thoughts, emotions—interior context as it reveals itself in relation to theirs?  And if so, what is that meta-perspective offering the conversation as you articulate your view?  What happens when there is a moment of suspension of your judgment, a sincere second consideration of their view, instead of railing against it and indirectly, them?

In noticing our reflex to defend our views when challenged, and learning how to harness (for the purposes of transmutation) this urge to fight or challenge or spar in real time is necessary to build stronger intersubjective allegiances in order to become more powerful vehicles for uncovering truth together.

In working with these processes, we start living into the change we’d love to see more of in our conversations—an example it seems much of today’s online world is in need of.

Unearthing New Norms of Conversation Online

Related items

Join the Discussion

Commenting Policy

Beams and Struts employs commenting guidelines that we expect all readers to bear in mind when commenting at the site. Please take a moment to read them before posting - Beams and Struts Commenting Policy


  • Comment Link OV Tuesday, 07 December 2010 02:21 posted by OV

    I think that a conversation requires a lot of back and forth. Even more on-line than in real life because of the absence of visual clues and affirmations, etc. Plus you need to be able to take off on tangents, and then regroup relevant ideas to move forward in inquiry. This generates a lot of posts, and I don't think that the comment widget of blogging software is able to accommodate this. Blog comments are more like the public microphone at a a lecture where you stand in line for twenty minutes to get your one and only two minutes out there and hope that the panel that responds is on the same wavelength as yourself. It's not a conversation.

    Provided that you have the software that can accommodate the complexity there is still a vital component in keeping the conversations civil and productive. The only case that I know of that was able to achieve this with any degree of success was "The Well" which had a major input creating a community that spawned the silicone valley. What made it possible was that there was also a face to face component where the core group and most of the people would regularly meet at potlucks and parties. Without that personal f2f connection all on-line groups I've seen have either stayed trivial or gone toxic.

  • Comment Link Olen Gunnlaugson Thursday, 09 December 2010 02:44 posted by Olen Gunnlaugson

    As I allude to in the piece, the life of a good conversation, whether online or in person, depends much on how we try to serve the unfolding process. As I understand it, one of the core intentions of Beams is to raise the bar on blog comments. This article was written to inspire movement beyond, as you pointed out, the experience of a blog being like “the public microphone at a lecture.”

    I sense a skepticism in your response, that blogs aren't the place for conversations. I’m inclined to agree, but would add, generally or for the most part.

    This site as I understand it, is an experiment, with openings to explore the exception to the norm. And so I think it might be helpful if readers saw my essay as an invitation to reconsider how we might establish a middle path between trivial and toxic.

    Any other Beams members have any wisdom to bear on this?

  • Comment Link Tracy Hauri Tuesday, 14 December 2010 10:16 posted by Tracy Hauri

    I completely agree with you. It is all too easy to flippantly throw our remarks/opinions out there, not knowing who else is reading, or without attempting to fully understand what we are responding to. Especially knowing that we do not need to look anybody in the eye, or truly be accountable for what we write.

    TJ hit on this a bit when he wrote about Eat, Pray, Love. When we can hide behind our computer screens, people tend to Read Judge Hate, purging negative thoughts for no other reason than (it seems to me) being afraid of appearing average, mainstream etc.

    I thoroughly enjoy reading the essays posted here... many of them are above my head philosophically. I have so much to learn. What would make this platform even better would be more of the female perspective. Where are all of the post-modern, articulate women?

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Tuesday, 14 December 2010 18:55 posted by TJ Dawe

    Tracy - Coming right up. Vanessa Fisher has an article that's ready to go and will be posted any day now. It's about porn star/actress Sasha Grey, and the significance of her career and ideas.

    Olen - absolutely. we deliberately changed the wording from "comments" to "discussions" to imply the function of this section is do exactly that: discuss. exchange ideas. What could possibly be served by flinging shit at each other like monkeys?

  • Comment Link Trevor Malkinson Thursday, 16 December 2010 00:49 posted by Trevor Malkinson

    Olen, first off, thanks for your great article. It's a generous gift given your other time commitments, and I think it'll serve for a long time to come as the core document for how we'd like to engage communication here at Beams. I understand OV's concerns- I've seen this too, and the "public microphone" analogy is apt- but my feeling is that it's simply a matter of doing it differently. By which I mean, those old patterns of adversarial debate culture got their hooks in most of us, but it comes down to our intention and willingness in order to change these habits. This is the "being the change" as you put it. And there's already a great momentum in that direction on the site, which I find very encouraging.

    I really liked when you brought the piece into an explicit first person perspective. I could really feel into what those shifts might look like in myself. And I found this question you posed very challenging: "I’ll put the second principle to consider in the form of a question. Are we willing to accept—particularly when the heat of a good argument is on—that all our existing ideas and views are thoroughly partial (a foundational integral insight from Wilber), no matter how comprehensive, integral or seemingly complete?".

    When I sat with this question I could feel a part of myself that hadn't yet fully given over to this foundational insight (you mean I can't ever know it all!! Curses!). It's funny, and revealing, to think about how long this notion has been in my cognitive mind, but not yet fully put into full life action. When I thought about future conversations where I truly took this view seriously, I could feel a certain tension relax immediately. The possibilities for sharing and exchange seemed to open up immediately. Because you don't know it all and never could in any final totality; so now you fundamentally need that exchange with other peoples (and their collective knowledge) to uncover and get closer to something like truth and right relation to reality.

    Thanks again for laying in this important Beam here at the site.

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Monday, 27 December 2010 04:18 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    Great article, Olen!

  • Comment Link Jennifer Grove Thursday, 03 March 2011 22:15 posted by Jennifer Grove

    Will you people please come over to Integral Life and support the effort to create this there? The new site is being constructed as we speak and the software may still be in a plastic enuf state that this can be implemented. Please, please help us!

  • Comment Link Scott Marshall Friday, 04 March 2011 00:00 posted by Scott Marshall

    Yes! Come over to Integrallife.com! New Mode of Discourse! All input is encouraged!

  • Comment Link Bergen Vermette Saturday, 05 March 2011 04:41 posted by Bergen Vermette

    Hi guys, good eye in spotting this one, we all feel it's a bit of a gem on the site.

    This piece is a template and guiding tenet of dialogue here at Beams. It's worked well for us in deepening conversions online. Yet, while site design is important (like I-life's reconstruction), this kind of dialogue is a practice. It's something that contributors have to *do*. And we return here frequently for reminders.

    Maybe we could speak to the author about cross-posting the article on I-life and you too could use it as an ongoing guide for discussions there. Would that be of interest to you?

  • Comment Link Jennifer Grove Saturday, 12 March 2011 20:59 posted by Jennifer Grove

    It's me again.
    Nevermind what I said about Integral Life. It is being Trolled by predators. I gave up. I was just tricked and attacked by one who followed me to my Facebook account in order to get more information out of me to use against me. I'm not going back.

    I need a new place to be.

  • Comment Link Trevor Malkinson Sunday, 13 March 2011 03:45 posted by Trevor Malkinson

    Jennifer, awesome to have you here. I just read your comment on Pussies and Scrots and it was brilliant, so many insights. I'll have lots more to say on all the great comments you've added today. Just wanted to quickly say hi tonight and to acknowledge with a bow your voice here. I look forward to creating a new culture of communication with you! talk soon!

  • Comment Link Trevor Malkinson Wednesday, 16 March 2011 00:21 posted by Trevor Malkinson

    After some communications between the core contributors , we've decided to pull a series of comments from this thread. We felt that they were good examples of what we're not looking for here at this site, and not in line with what's being asked from us all in this very article above by Olen (which doubles as our commenting policy).

    Having said that, there were (trapped within some vitriolic language) some important points being made that we feel should be spoken to. We also agree that dismissing someone because we deem them to be at some particular "level of development" should be rejected. This has been a considerable problem/shadow in integral circles and debates over the years, and has an ugly history that we hope to grow beyond. As it was pointed out, there can indeed a rhetorical violence in these types of maneuvers, and we do not wish to participate in them and thus they will not be accepted here.

    We'd prefer here at Beams to use as little 'integralese' as possible, especially the simplified 'color' schemes. We prefer- in that territory- to speak about broad cultural patterns/identities (such as traditional, modern, postmodern, post-postmodern), while always trying be mindful of the the myriad complexities involved in those concepts.

    None of us here are saints when it comes to "unearthing new norms of conversation on line". We've pretty much all had pasts where we took part vigorously in adversarial style debate. But we also feel the impulse to, as Olen puts it above, "be the change we wish to see in the conversation", as we think it's a crucial part of our future collective evolution together.

    If the folks whose comments were taken down want to engage in the practice called for in the article above and then re-enter a discussion around these important topics or others, they're certainly welcome and encouraged to do so.

  • Comment Link job Wednesday, 16 March 2011 16:50 posted by job

    Trevor now says:
    We also agree that dismissing someone because we deem them to be at some particular "level of development" should be rejected. This has been a considerable problem/shadow in integral circles and debates over the years, and has an ugly history that we hope to grow beyond. As it was pointed out, there can indeed a rhetorical violence in these types of maneuvers, and we do not wish to participate in them and thus they will not be accepted here.

    "They will not be accepted here?" Clearly this is false.

    There was exactly zero objection to Jennifer's blatant invocation of dismissive color-mapping--her self-pitying characterization of dissent at her site as "predators and bullies," inferior "green-allergic" myopics who "can't see the difference" of her superior turquoise. On the contrary, Trevor welcomed her with open arms and did not find anything about her mean-green namecalling that would compromise her role as a full participant, indeed a leader, in the brave new world of building an integral open dialogue.

    Integral has had plenty of time to exorcize this nasty little demon. I think the jury is in: it has no sincere interest in doing so. Fumbling self-criticism like Trevor's above is always post-hoc, after the community been caught yet again indulging and encouraging the practice. Stated policy never jibes with actual practice. Yuppies confuse their class-based aversion to strong emotion in debate with spiritual superiority.

    Censorship follows for those who point out that the emperor has no clothes-- particularly when they point out that the "anger" for which they are banished is deliberately baited by the hierarchical practice itself.

    Censor away, Trevor. The repressed always returns, and more violently with each iteration.

  • Comment Link Scott Payne Wednesday, 16 March 2011 17:30 posted by Scott Payne

    job, it seems worth pointing out that both the comments by "satan" and the comments by Jennifer were deleted in an attempt to avoid an overly polarized interaction and continue what seemed to be a grudge that extended beyond the walls of this site. Further, Trevor explicitly acknowledged some of the points made by "satan" and provided criticism of arguments put forward by Jennifer. So I'm not sure how one comes to the conclusion that Jennifer has been welcomed with open arms while commenter "satan" has been cast aside.

    There was general agreement among most of the contributors to the site that this is, in fact, a pretty important discussion. But how we go about having important discussions has an impact on the outcome of those discussions.

    As the saying goes: anything worth doing is worth doing right.

    It seemed like the tone and cast of the discussion that was playing out between Jennifer and commenter "satan" was headed in a pretty unproductive direction. It seemed to have gotten personal and largely focused on undermining one another rather than exploring the topic.

    The fact that this is an important discussion makes the efforts to have it in a productive fashion all the more important. Rather than simply trading barbs, we might rather learn a great deal and realize on both sides of the coin where we have some good points and where some of our assumptions deserve to be questioned and re-examined.

    Now, you might not like that comments have been deleted, people rarely do. But I wonder if you might not be willing to come at this conversation from a slightly less reactively combative place because, in all honesty, there is a good deal of sympathy for and interest in the points you're making here. But it's tough to get into a substantive discussion with you on those points when it feels like all you're interested in doing is throwing punches.

  • Comment Link the holy ghost Wednesday, 16 March 2011 20:13 posted by the holy ghost

    So I'm not sure how one comes to the conclusion that Jennifer has been welcomed with open arms while commenter "satan" has been cast aside.

    Here's how: Trevor's 12 March 2011 18:45 comment above, which has been preserved from the censorship, is a direct response to Jennifer's claim that the mean-green, rabid rationalists cannot understand her turquoise superiority and that a space needs to be created which excludes them. He does in fact welcome her with open arms: he praises past comments and "all the great comments you've added today," he "acknowledge[s] with a bow her voice[here]," and designates her as a co-creator of a new culture of communication. The fact that she has just indulged in color-map trumping DOES NOT EVEN REGISTER. Indeed, Trevor seems to endorse these comments and takes them as embodying the ethos of communication outlined in the main post, the one that I violated with my nasty tone.

    It took my vitriol to get you to even notice what she'd done. This raises a legitimate question: are you really trying to exorcize the color-map language, or only exercising PR when caught enabling it?

    I confess that I hadn't noticed you'd deleted Jennifer's comment because you left all the others which bear its trace: the complaints about predators and trolls, etc. Trevor's praise also bears the trace of her objectionable comments. It's like deleting a racist comment but leaving up the editor's effusive praise of it. I now appreciate that you deleted both sides of the conflict, but it's not quite the good faith and even-handed gesture you seem to think.

    For the record, I had no part in the discussions at Jennifer's site or integral life, so this isn't the extension of a personal grudge or flamewar elsewhere. I simply have no patience with the I'm-turquoise-you're-not gambit and its enablers, especially when they pretend to be engineering new open forms of dialogue.

  • Comment Link Scott Payne Wednesday, 16 March 2011 20:25 posted by Scott Payne

    Jennifer's initial comment didn't make any references to colour-mapping and it is certainly the case that sites can become troll infested. Anyone who spends any time online can attest to that fact.

    Trevor was acknowledging Jennifer's presence on the site and made references to other worthwhile comments she'd made around the site, which she has.

    When Jennifer did frame her criticism in terms of simplistic colour-scheming, Trevor came back with a criticism of it. It maybe have taken a follow up comment to provoke that criticism, granted. But there are a lot of comments on a lot of different pieces up on the site. I couldn't, offhand, tell you what even a quarter of all the comments that have been left on this site in the last 24 hours say. It's a lot to keep up with.

    You assume that the criticism is just a matter of hindsight defence, but it's been noted that your comments were acknowledged to have some good points to them. All that we've asked is that you make those points in a less polemic and vitriolic fashion.

    That seems like a pretty sincere invitation to me. Is it one that you're willing to take up?

    How far down does your critique of the notion of developmental levels go? Are you proposing that any such system is inherently bogus and simply a means of oppression or are you pushing back against what you see as an inappropriate use of such a system?

  • Comment Link jwood Wednesday, 16 March 2011 20:50 posted by jwood

    Ok dude, are you for real?

    This is not a game of gotcha. Perhaps Trevor was too effusive in his initial praise. It sounded over-the-top to me when I first read it. If I had to guess, it was a demonstration of enthusiasm because of the reasons that Jennifer started commenting on this site. As one of the primary architects of this project, Trevor has a personal stake in its growth.

    A majority of the core contributors on this site enjoy a good dustup. Truth be told, many of us have a real-time practice of suspending the urge to attack at the slightest cause. I'm exhibit A. Doesn't always work so well, but I'll see if I can get through this mail with the centre held.

    For this site, there is just no logic to skinning a visitor at the first off note. (or for producing mixed metaphors for that matter). That would create an environment of distrust that doesn't jibe with the slow momentum we are attempting to generate. (and by slow, I mean slow. We have 500 freakin' facebook followers and are lucky to get double-digit comments on a post).

    Before you charged like Zeus from on high, there had already been a conversation that Jennifer's particular use of language was wanting. Now, it's far more likely that she will contract away from this point, rather than learn from it, like she might have had she been gently directed to other articles on this site, or engaged over time in a way that promoted expansion.

    You just rushed in too fast and too hard. You were a bully. Am I to guess this isn't the first time that charge has been laid? I suspect all previous charges were wrong too, no?

    It takes one to know one. I can maul someone for little to no reason. On the other hand, some people simply deserve it. Sometimes, polemics are the only way to go. And frankly not enough people in the 'integral' community have the marbles to do it, or if they do it's ever charged with exactly the sentiment you are upset about.

    In this case, Jennifer didn't deserve it. Not yet, at least. Who knows, had she engaged more people over time, perhaps a confrontation would have been necessary. But we'll never know that because you've kind of poisoned the water.

    Which is neither here nor there. Life goes on, and too much time has been wasted on this already. Feel free to engage on this site, and even feel free to post your name. You certainly would win some credibility that way.

    Or you can go about your pattern so far: deconstructing everything said before; slinging mud; making assumptions; acting superior as you rant against people who act superior.

    This conversation has not made the world a better place. Maybe it's served you in some wierd way, but otherwise, it's all been a little creepy (your chosen names increasing the creepy metre by quite a bit).

  • Comment Link eschaton Thursday, 17 March 2011 19:14 posted by eschaton

    Here’s my exasperation with this post.

    You want to establish a more open and vulnerable and authentic dialogue.

    So you adopt a developmental philosophy that tells you that you occupy a higher intellectual and spiritual level than almost everyone you engage. (Everyone who reads SD thinks they're at LEAST green—yeah, I believe in women’s rights and ecology--and if they "get" the "mean green" critique then ipso facto they're at a higher level yet, even if they need to genuflect to gurus in order to secure their position there.) So now you believe that you have 'transcended and included' the worldview of every person you engage who is not an integral dogmatist. You can understand them, but they can't understand you. You can see how their gears work, but they can’t fathom yours.

    Therefore, your “dialogue”with any other person will have the following characteristics: unless the person is part of the integral tribe, you will keep secret your judgment that he is inferior to you, and you will refrain from saying things that are developmentally “over his head”; you will think about how you can talk to him “at his level,” which means that instead of openly sharing your values you will pretend to “lower-level” values that he can comprehend which you judge as adequate analogies of your actual values, with all the room for self-deception entailed by that choice. Your engagement will be secretive, manipulative, and patronizing, even as you constantly preach the need for vulnerable and honest self-disclosure (for the other, as it turns out, but not for you: a kind of unilateral disarmament.) You argue for the need to eschew adversarial engagement and self-protected investments, but this is not reciprocal: these exhortations are for those at the lower levels of altitude more than the higher. They, being more contracted, need to relax and listen to you, who are already more relaxed and free-ranging by definition. You argue that everyone needs to engage a question from multiple perspectives, but of course the lower altitudes are incapable of doing this; only you can. So this is really an exhortation to yourself, to think on behalf of both parties and interpret for the other what he really needs, despite what he says. You take up both roles in the dialogue. You must be skillful enough not to allow the other to realize you are doing this. Indeed, you must be stealthy and cunning, but you think of this as your “openness” and your concern for humanity’s future.

    In order to progress to higher levels of realization, your interlocutor must accept the truths of spiral dynamics, which for you are axiomatic and cannot be questioned. You may or may not broach this philosophical point, preferring to “leave him at his level” or “bring him up to yours,” but either way that is your call. You possess the truth that he requires in order to advance, yet sadly he may not be in a position to see this. You are always in the position of power; it is your job to teach, not learn, though you know you must disguise this in order not to offend. If your interlocutor discerns your judgment of his inferiority, he cannot object to the judgment in any way that would be legitimate for you; you may patronize his objection and say that what he believes is true “for his level.” But you will not really be challenged to change your own views by any argument he might make. Even if he is educated enough to critique the foundational assumptions of spiral dynamics itself you need not listen. By definition, if he refuses the insight it is because he is trapped in an inferior level. Your dogma is always protected by your superior “altitude.”

    People do not like being patronized, and they especially do not like to see the proliferation of ideologies which pronounce them inherently inferior. So if they discern in your “authentic dialogue” the covert, patronizing, and inescapable judgment of their inferiority, they are likely to become angry. Perhaps very angry--since the judgment has been earned by little more than reading a couple of books by a pop philosopher. For you, this anger is proof that they occupy an inferior altitude. Red and blue, certainly, are characterized by violent emotion; orange by the anger of injustice; and of course “mean” green. Higher levels—your level--are supposed to be characterized by something like Buddhist equanimity, though often they are not. You become angry, but only when provoked by inferior altitudes. And here, integral philosophy offers an exciting and counterintuitive teaching that you like: contrary to stereotype, you should not be a peacenik pushover for the violence of inferior altitudes. Actually, they need to be ruled with an iron hand, whether through imperial warfare or justified rhetorical counterviolence. You have a cool video of Wilber trashing nonviolent resistance to help you clarify the point. So your anger is always validated, since your altitude is superior. But the anger of those beneath you is proof of their inferiority and has no cause or content which it is your responsibility to discern and address, even though you assume and ventriloquize both sides in any putative dialogic relation, erasing the other in his actual lived experience.

    That’s spiral dynamics. It’s monologic and nonreciprocal. It acknowledges “partial views” only on the part of inferiors. It’s New Age yuppie narcissism for the business class. It’s a form of domination. It’s nothing but will-to-power. It’s the exact opposite of genuine communion. It can’t be the basis of an authentic dialogue. It hasn’t made the world a better place. Its ugly politics have stood revealed since the beginning of the Iraq war. Its promotion can, for some, cause genuine anger that’s far more than inauthentic trolling. Those trapped in its cartoon assumptions don’t have much grasp of other people’s inner lives, values, or motivations, and don’t have much authority when it comes to improving dialogic relations among suffering human beings.

    Those who promote reactionary white-man’s-burden ideologies with a grotesque body count have no standing when they call those who push back against such ideologies “bullies.” Those who abrogate for themselves the unquestionable superiority of the “turquoise” thinker become laughable when they criticize others for their arrogance and presumption.

  • Comment Link Scott Payne Thursday, 17 March 2011 19:26 posted by Scott Payne

    This is quite an involved response. Thanks for it.

    As with any substantial comment, I'd like personally to take some time to sit with various points you offer before responding. I hope that you'll stick around and not take my interim silence as a dismissal.

  • Comment Link jwood Thursday, 17 March 2011 20:10 posted by jwood

    What Scott said.

    A few questions:
    1. Who is the 'you' you refer to? Me? Olen? Jennifer? The whole of this website's contributors? Anyone who reads and isn't as hateful about integral theory as you are? Who is you?
    2.Please point out all of the places on this website where Spiral Dynamics is trumpeted as the cats meow. And you can't point at Jennifer because this website is a year old, and she has been commenting here for a week. I will in turn point out several places where the assumptions of SD have been questioned.
    3. Please answer Scott's question re. development. Are you pushing back at these particular systems, the particular expressions as have arisen of the integral strand of Western - mostly North American - culture, or all notions of development and the catalogue of theories and research? Is all developmental theory pop psychology?

    Without these clarifications, I don't find your points compelling, though other might. With these clarifications, a conversation might be possible, which I assume given you're time attention you are wanting to have.

    Thanks, by the way, for a substantial response and for choosing maturity over the other possible responses.

  • Comment Link OlenG Thursday, 17 March 2011 20:51 posted by OlenG

    I also wanted to clarify that nowhere in my article did I advocate for developmental frameworks as a basis for unearthing new norms of communication online.

    Developmental awareness is one dimension or aspect of a sound integral sensibility. However, in the context of communication, models like Spiral Dynamics or Wilber’s altitude scale have to date not proven to be very useful.

  • Comment Link OlenG Thursday, 17 March 2011 22:54 posted by OlenG

    Perhaps a more obvious point that I neglected to address with Satan, eschaton et. al is that the very adversarial means and processes by which you are taking up your arguments is at the very heart of the cyber issue my article attempts to address.

    So far your posts have been antithetical to the aims of this article—to work collectively towards practicing more enlightened processes of conversation online.

    As I read, I find myself listening for a shift in the place your communicating from--perhaps something that is connected with the authentic dialogue process ideals you would like to see more of online?

  • Comment Link eschaton Friday, 18 March 2011 01:41 posted by eschaton


    That’s a *remarkably* arch and passive-aggressive post, and it serves to tilt the direction of exchange back toward interpersonal polemic just when it had shifted to something else.

  • Comment Link eschaton Friday, 18 March 2011 04:15 posted by eschaton

    Further thoughts.

    I think SD is essentially an esoteric and secretive practice: it requires that you NOT be honest with people you regard as inferiors. It is also central to integral culture and you bear its ugly legacy whether you like it or not. It’s your problem, not the problem of critics and outsiders like me.

    If trust is central to dialogue, you have a big problem so long as SD is the elephant in the middle of the room. It would take a lot for me to believe that you aren’t covertly assigning me a color at this very moment. It would take a lot for me to believe that Olen and his tone-policing really intends to engage me in genuine reciprocity. It would take a lot for me to believe that your repeated demands to know where I stand on developmental theory is anything other than a pre-emptive attempt to find an excuse to label me postmodern relativist/mean green and dismiss anything I say. If your worldview is shaped by SD, I don’t trust that you will actually listen to me, or that you can.

    It’s not enough to reassure me that you aren’t assigning me a color, because you would lie about that even if you were. You’d consider it a “noble lie.” SD requires you to dissemble in just this way, and so often that eventually you’ll lie to yourself. Maybe you even think you’re being open at this stage in your development--when it’s utterly obvious to an outsider that you’re not.

    If I believe that everything you say to me is dishonest and strategic, then I don’t feel much urge to be dialogically open and civil to you. Is that unfair? Only if I’m mistaken about you. But remember: if I know you orient yourself by an esoteric, elitist philosophy I have no way of knowing whether you’re acting in good faith and it is reasonable to assume, as a default position, that you are not. Your politeness may be a genuine invitation to dialogue. But it is more likely a passive-aggressive game: I have equanimity, I am superior, why are so angry and inferior? In that case, it’s a fun game to break you, get you mad or drive you into ever more haughty postures of elitism, to make you reveal what you actually are rather than what your pretense claims. Forcing a revelation in that way actually serves the interests of truth and transparency more than a phony pseudo-dialogue on your tone-police terms. Remember: you freely chose a philosophy that told you everyone else were untermenschen. You don’t get to have hurt feelings when they’re rude about your patronizing attempts to civilize them.

    Like I said, this is your problem, not your critics’, and it’s fair to judge you by how you deal with it. I do think there is one real, concrete step you could take. If you’re really serious about open dialogue, you could make clear that you reject spiral dynamics for the reasons I’ve outlined. That would show that you’re serious, and that, at an emotional level, you find SD repellent for the same reasons that normal people outside the Wilber cult would.

    Notice that I say reject. Not that you have “criticized” SD, or that you don’t exactly “trumpet” it, or that you “see its limitations.” Dropping a sprinkle of “criticism” is an easy way to inoculate a toxic investment and preserve it, with a falsely salved conscience. This, for example, is not adequate:
    Developmental awareness is one dimension or aspect of a sound integral sensibility. However, in the context of communication, models like Spiral Dynamics or Wilber’s altitude scale have to date not proven to be very useful.

    This is very weaselly. It appears to say that spiral dynamics is true (“developmental awareness” is an ambiguous proxy), but pragmatically not “useful” in “the context of communication.” In other words, the assumptions of SD remain ideologically active, shaping your view of other people, with all the elitist and non-reciprocal effects I’ve mentioned. You just keep silent about it, keep it off the table. So we’re back to the inauthentic deception posing as authenticity. Nor am I particularly reassured when told that the site contributors prefer to reference not colors but historical movements from modernism to post-postmodernity. So what? Substituting periods or movements for colors does not change the hierarchical and non-reciprocal structure or the ethos that flows from it. If that’s the best you can do with your critique, don’t expect flowers.

    Dialogue requires trust. SD prevents trust. If you’re serious about dialogue with people outside of “integral”—in other words, if you don’t want to be a cult—then you have to get serious about discarding those ideological props which make it impossible to trust you. Why not just be very clear and uncompromising about your rejection?

    If you’re reluctant to really step up and reject SD, if you won’t go further than a tepid muttering about ‘excesses’ and ‘shadows,’ then you need to ask why you’re so reluctant. What needs does it serve for you? People on the outside are certainly going to be asking that, and their answers won’t be flattering. They’re not going to take your calls to dialogue seriously, and they’re actually quite right not to.

  • Comment Link eschaton Friday, 18 March 2011 04:57 posted by eschaton

    PS I'm not trying to flood your site with long posts or dominate, I'm just running out of my window of free time and wanted to finish trying to articulate this. That was my last contribution.

    Thanks for indulging me. I'll come back to read your responses when I'm able.

  • Comment Link jwood Friday, 18 March 2011 05:28 posted by jwood

    Dear E,

    You and I don't share common definitions of key terms and I don't believe we will find necessary common ground to continue a meaningful conversation.

    If this is an elitist position, so be it. In my experience, trust and authenticity are responses to life born of among other things curiosity and vulnerability. I don't sense either of these in any of your words. Perhaps your experience tells you differently, and because of this, I don't believe we have much to say to one another.

    Your entire presence on this thread from your anonymity to the painfully person attacks to the performative contradictions are in opposition to trust and authenticity. If you in no way see yourself as disingenuous after writing this last piece, then there is nothing more to say.

    Good luck out there. It's confusing, this life on this planet. I hope it works out for you.

  • Comment Link final judgment Friday, 18 March 2011 07:58 posted by final judgment


    That's fine. As I said, I was skeptical that the "internal critique" of SD was very sincere or honest, so I'm content that everyone throws up their hands and shrieks that I'm a disingenuous troll again when I press the point about trust and moral responsibility a little and ask that you make a clear stand. Whatever.

    I am sincere when I say that it's amazing and amusing to me that Wilberians don't really get the moral problem with SD's hierarchical valuing of people's worth and its relation to dialogue. Analogy: If you promote a pseudo-scientific ideology of white supremacy, then you should expect that non-whites are not going to trust you, EVEN IF YOU ARE VERY NICE AND POLITE TO THEM. The hierarchical ideology is an absolute impediment to dialogue. The unequal power relation is contained in the ideology, NOT THE TONE OF THE EXCHANGE. It would be foolish for a nonwhite to be seduced by the tone, because eventually they would get burned by the racial ideology. The nonwhites who are smart enough to see that ideology trumps tone will predictably be dismissed as "angry troublemakers" because the racist ideology doesn't have any place for their dissent. It is part of the functioning of the ideology to insist that TONE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT OF GENUINE DIALOGUE, precisely because this is the lie that allows the power relation embedded in the ideology to go unchallenged. The possibility of true dialogue would begin when the racist ideology was unambiguously renounced. This would be the necessary but not sufficient condition of dialogue. Tone is secondary--and IRRELEVANT so long as the solution to the primary ideological problem is stubbornly resisted.

    This is very, very, very simple to understand. It's Ideology 101. It was the analogy about SD I originally made that you censored because you deemed it inflammatory. It's not.

    It's really just too clear and threatening for you.

    And I'll laugh when you delete this too, dudes.

    Anyway, I really am done now.

  • Comment Link Anonymous Coward Saturday, 19 March 2011 03:21 posted by Anonymous Coward

    Eschaton, I really enjoyed reading your posts (and aliases), I think it's a shame that no one seems to want to seriously respond to your comments. I think they're just outclassed - and they know it.

    I would love to be proven wrong about that, but that would require serious consideration and thought in responses to your points. I think if your posts do get deleted (the ones that haven't already been) it's a good sign that this is a walled community that isn't really interested in being challenged, only in in-authentically congratulating each other on how 'clever' they are.

    You raise some interesting points and questions. It looks like jwood isn't up to addressing them, and it's hard to get a sense of how this discussion truly evolved since the BS staff apparently erased a number of comments they didn't like, but I hope others are willing to respond and that jwood's refusal reflected only his position and not the position of the entire BS community.

    What's interesting is the censorship and refusal to address your points only lends credibility to your statements and seems to be contrary to the ideas suggested in the original article of how they want to respond to debate.

    I hope the remaining commenters follow some of Olen's suggestions such as "pause to consider your question and linger a bit in the space it opens for you both and consider possibilities for engaging you?", which I think could be further reduced to "think more before you post".

    Personally, while your position is obviously in opposition to some of those here I'd like to see BS invite you to write some pieces on these issues and solutions to them. Is the BS staff open to that? They claim they want to be inclusive, let's see if their actions follow their words.

  • Comment Link Bergen Vermette Saturday, 19 March 2011 03:35 posted by Bergen Vermette

    Thanks for your patience, Anonymous Coward (there's a lot of those on this thread apparently). It takes some time to craft considered responses, as Scott has said above. In the meantime do you have any thoughts on the subject at hand?

    As well, let it be said here (again) that "censorship" occurred because of comments that were offensive, not because of content. Even on these grounds the comments were deleted after a split-decision vote by the admin. There are many sites online that users are free to comment in any type of offensive language or discourse they desire. If that kind of commenting is your cup of tea, we'll kindly direct you there. Thanks.

  • Comment Link Anonymous Coward Saturday, 19 March 2011 06:40 posted by Anonymous Coward

    Hi Bergen,

    I do, in fact, have some thoughts on the subject at hand, thanks for asking.

    I would comment that the best place to start when "Unearthing New Norms of Conversations Online" would be to first try to research and understand existing standards of conversations online. Something that, if done, might have had you understand the self deprecating humor and decades old cultural reference in my chosen alias.

    Have moderators be transparent, this will create trust. Don't erase comments. Move or hide them if you must and give people who choose a way to see them and the reasons they were deleted (if not self evident). Replace "censored" comments with a link to that area. Trust people to judge for themselves. Or even better, leave them and respond as you would, allowing the contrast between comments you view as offensive and your own words to demonstrate your position and values.

    Have clear rules and guidelines for comments that everyone has to abide by, so there isn't back-room voting or split-decisions on what stays and what goes.

    >There are many sites online that users are free to comment in any
    >type of offensive language or discourse they desire. If that kind
    >of commenting is your cup of tea, we'll kindly direct you there. Thanks.

    I'm not sure quite what you mean by that. It kind of just seems like a straw man attack and a dodge. But sure, let me take you at your word and ask what these sites are that you would like to kindly direct me to?

    Also, last comment, talk as individuals, not "we" (we'll kindly...) Is BS a collective having a conversation with the unwashed public outside of itself, or the collective having a conversation with itself?

  • Comment Link Bergen Vermette Sunday, 20 March 2011 03:44 posted by Bergen Vermette

    Hey Anonymous Coward,

    Cool, you have some good thoughts here, thanks for adding them.

    I'm aware the usage of your screen name and was directing a poke towards the 'Satan' coward; at least you're up-front about it.

    I don't see any straw men here. If the moderation of this comment section isn't to someone's liking, then they should go to a place where they can comment in the way they want to. Don't let the "censorship" here limit when there's plenty of places to play online.

    I don't see it as any different from other sites that prevent foul language or offensive commenting. In fact, in that regard, though we may have "censored" here in a way that someone is dissatisfied with, we still allow vocabulary that other sites don't, like fuck, shit, ass, etc. This again points to the fact that there's a range of commenting styles out there and B&S doesn't fall at either end of the spectrum. There are different norms in different places.

    I think your two suggestions tie in well here.

    1. "Or even better, leave them and respond as you would, allowing the contrast between comments you view as offensive and your own words to demonstrate your position and values. "

    2. "Have clear rules and guidelines for comments that everyone has to abide by, so there isn't back-room voting or split-decisions on what stays and what goes."

    As for #1, in an ideal world I think that's how we should always be thinking, even in one-on-one dialogue. I think this point captures the sentiment of Olen's piece actually and I'd say that it's a practice I endeavour to do more of and believe I can improve at.

    The second is a bit of a no brainer, but believe it or not the issue hasn't come up until now. We'll have to get on that, thanks for the push.

    And when I say "*we'll* have to get on that" I mean the admin. As I did when I used the word "we" last time. But you're right, the others may not share my opinion here, good catch there. Either way, here's the first site that comes to mind for me, though I'm sure you're familiar with it http://boards.4chan.org/b/

    Are you also familiar with Spiral Dynamics and do you have any thoughts on this issue re: the tread above?

  • Comment Link Oleng Sunday, 20 March 2011 05:58 posted by Oleng

    Eschaton, as a review, I'm going to go over a number of key points at hand. The most basic of these are that you are choosing for whatever reasons not to communicate with the folks your engaging here.

    To date, your rants have been nearly completely self-serving of your own private hidden political and intellectual agendas with only passing glimmers of interest in what folks have said in response to you. Or you twist the hell out of what they or I have to say. Again, for largely non-disclosed political and self-serving motivations. More strikingly, much of your thinking has proceeded mainly on assumptions that are not held or shared in the present conversation in this particular blog article or for that matter the blog as a whole. If you continue in this vein, your posts are going to generate a case study on remedial forms of online communication.

    Now to be fair, this isn’t to say that there isn’t merit to some of your views, its more that you blatantly and hard headedly ignore the intersubjective contextual realities of conversation and community here, for which you judge at the turn of each paragraph.

    For whatever reasons, you are unwilling to engage in any form of mutual inquiry or conversation that suggests something contrary to your obsessive need to deconstruct Spiral Dynamics or integral culture. So far there has yet to be any accountability for how you conduct yourself, reinforced by your anonymous presence. Why so mistrustful, so concealed, and so tortured?

    You also seem incapable of understanding or practicing basic respect. It leaves me wondering, will eschaton have the basic decency to change up his (I’ll assume you’re a guy) mode of engagement here or if its more important to you to remain fused to your own hidden ideologies that you can’t for whatever reasons of pride or self aggrandizement, reveal or see?

    Perhaps you’ve abstracted yourself from the living day to day world to such an extent that your intellect is sadly the only place left that you feel at home in, at work anonymously in the cyber world as some kind of tortured blog freedom fighter. Forgive me for trying out your method there, of conflating inferences about who you are with facts—a practice you've been religiously committed to.

    In your posting, you have remained essentially invisible, sharing little to nothing of your location, situatedness and history. Yet from whatever warped basis of entitlement, you feel obliged to empty your opinions here like you are doing us all some great service.

    I won’t speak for Beams, but my impression so far is your arguments don’t amount to much more than a charming pre-packaged critical theory rant that you’ve probably deposited different versions of on a number of sites and a few term papers.

    I can't help but picture a kind of twisted pastime in wandering from blog to blog, attacking and polarizing against the life of other perceived to be insufficient ideologies. A sad version of this game is played within many social justice circles, particularly in academia. Sad mainly because the folks possessed by such missions arrogantly assume they’re intellectual process is truth-making and truth-illuminating to the parties they seek out to level and attack.

    Though again, while you may have some reasonable arguments on the perimeter of the conversation here, the foulness and pathological resiliancy of your process prevents them from being heard. I mean sure, I and others can hear what your saying when I/they bracket all your crap, but it gets a bit tiring.

    Yawn symbol.

    When you enter a conversation and you suspect everyone is deluded and needs your critical theory to reveal truth, your operating from an evangelical context (athetistic or theistic, it doesn’t matter). You entered this space swinging. Your approach was loaded, mistrustful and polarized to hell and back again.

    You don’t seem willing or able to discern whether the comments in response to your monologues are constructive or not, for your assuming they’ll be counter-attacks.

    However, for those readers who are reading the posts, they may be puzzled as to why most of the folks are not swinging back? Is it because they are out-classed, as tongue in cheek anoymous coward suggests—or is it because this cyber context holds a committed passion for wisdom, compassion and an investment and interest in service of something larger than ourselves?

    This leaves me wondering: how do we make it more safe and inviting for others here? Folks here have given you a space to rant about issues that are quite unrelated to the context of this article. They and I have been reasonably tolerant of your beligerant monologues. But times nearly up. Exercise some basic decency and take the time to respect the intersubjective processes at work here or bugger off.

  • Comment Link Trevor Malkinson Monday, 21 March 2011 02:53 posted by Trevor Malkinson

    I’m going to jump in here while I have an open moment. I think this discussion, despite its tenor, has brought forth some very important points, and key philosophical issues, for which I’m grateful.

    One of the main problems for me with the view that Eschaton has been putting forth is that it’s too crude; it’s target is some big monolithic entity, while the reality on the ground (both here at this site, and in the broader integral community) is much more multifaceted and nuanced, yet there’s been little inquiry to find that out. Spiral Dynamics, at the heart of Eschaton’s ire, is only but one competing model of development, with several others out there with substantial differences in viewpoint.

    However, there’s some important philosophical work that needs to be done here before we could approach those issues, because what seems to be at the heart of the debate here is a fundamental rejection by Eschaton of any sort of a developmental worldview at all. The problem, however, is that this rejection is working as a suppressed premise in his thinking, and a wholesale philosophical and ethical critique is being built off of this primary (but unstated) principle. But it’s not a premise that’s been earned. Eschaton has stolen a base here. As it stands, Eschaton is asking those of us who hold a developmental view to reject it before he’s willing to start a discussion; but this assertion is based on an assumed a-priori starting point that needs to be backed up and defended by argument, not simply stated as a-priori fact that we must follow or adhere to.

    I’m personally not willing to reject a development worldview because I think it’s real; it has ontological status. There’s a wide body of research and evidence from many disciplines showing that development and evolution are happening at all levels of reality, and this includes human consciousness and culture. Again, I’m not willing to reject this worldview because I think it’s valid. It’s happening within both you and I whether we like it or not. Thus what I’m proposing Eschaton, is that you and I engage in a good old fashioned public debate to be published here on Beams. I’ll be defending a developmental worldview, which includes individual human development, and I assume you’ll be critiquing it. Maybe not, we’ll see I guess. We can do this by email exchange- or we have a podcast option- but the written word would probably better serve this large a topic.

    In this process of debate you will also be asked to move from your primarily critical stance so far, to actually putting forth your view of the world. What is your cosmology, your psychology, your ontology and your politics? What is the reality-frame you are working with basically, the one that you are proposing is more adequate that an integral-developmental view. This fundamental and core theoretical issue needs to addressed before any of the further issues at play here can be viewed within their proper overall context (ie. that development is real). And just to be clear, I spent years in both rational-analytic and Continental postmodern philosophy departments, both of whom were generally either indifferent or hostile to the developmental view (except for the odd Hegelian). So I realize it’s still a school of thought that’s not yet been accepted or embraced in many corners, and I won’t be presenting it as some received wisdom or assumed truth. I do however think it can be validly defended against both of those camps and in general, and I look forward to that opportunity. If done right, it could be of some value to a wider audience, so if you’re up for it Eschaton, the offer is on the table.


    Having put that core issue out there, there’s one more issue in this thread that needs to be addressed, which is the problem of people using a developmental awareness to judge people to be at certain ‘levels’ and to dismiss their views outright as being ‘lower’. This practice is lame, lazy, and real. It was a statement to this effect by a commenter that set Eschaton off in the first place. Eschaton interpreted those events and our lack of immediate response to her et al. in a certain way, one not true to the actual experience of myself or others taking part, but there’s no use getting back into an argument on the specifics of that course of events. Juma in his first long comment spoke well to what our process was, and overall this has served as a valuable learning experience.

    At any rate, to the main point in question, Eschaton claims that there’s nothing happening in the extended integral community to critique this practice. Or in Eschaton’s language- “Integral has had plenty of time to exorcize this nasty little demon. I think the jury is in: it has no sincere interest in doing so”. This is just simply not true, which again shows that Eshcaton’s view lacks nuance when it comes to the phenomena he’s critiquing. The truth is much more complex and interesting in my view. What I’m about to offer here is as much for other general readers of this thread who are interested in the overall discussion happening here; I would guess that Eschaton will view it as retreating apologetics or something of the like. I’m just saying let’s look at the true reality of the situation on the ground. Here are some resources in that regard.

    Integral blogger William Harryman wrote about the Development and Ethics Panel that he was covering at this past summer’s Integral Theory Conference. Here’s his report of what the philosopher Roger Walsh had to say in his opening remarks:

    “i) We need to watch issues of specialness - seeing ourselves as a stage/color - comparing mind is a big trap, as well as elevationism
    ii) Uncomfortable with efforts to map groups or cultures as any stage
    iii) Trap of pigeon-holing - intolerance of ambiguity - results in stereotyping”.

    The full post can be read here: http://integral-options.blogspot.com/2010/08/panel-development-and-ethics-katie.html

    Zak Stein and Katie Heikinnen, two young scholars from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, have been putting out a steady stream of critical work on this topic. This is from a paper by Katie, drawing off of one by Zak Stein also published in the same issue of the Integral Review:

    “One point made by Stein in his paper (this volume) is of such great importance that I wish to restate it here: “disqualifying” certain arguments as coming from a lower developmental position is both illogical—because this stance uses the “truth” of a theory to negate critiques of that supposed truth—and unethical—because this stance devalues and marginalizes voices of opposition. But I’d like to extend his point to note that while “developmental disqualification” is a rather egregious sin, using developmental theory to label colleagues, even if in good fun, is nearly as egregious”.

    http://integral-review.org/back_issues/backissue9/index.asp (p.368)

    I think Katie’s point about this kind of argument being illogical is an important one. Several philosophers have pulled a similar stunt in the past. For instance, Heidegger once argued that there were two kinds of thinking, meditative thinking and calculative thinking, and if you didn’t know what meditative thinking was or rejected it, you were using calculative thinking. This kind of argument is a complete non-starter, not to mention being unethical as in the way Katie mentions.

    Here’s Stein from an article posted on I-Life called “Myth Busting & Metric Making: Refashioning the Discourse about Development in the Integral Community”:

    “Now, the way I see development (i.e. Fischer's Neo-Piagetian perspective) suggests that we roam up and down these levels all the time, depending on context and support, etc. No one is at a level; we inhabit levels only for certain periods of time and in certain company. Moreover, you may be more developed in your reasoning about the quadrants than you are in your reasoning about levels, or more developed in you reasoning about important interpersonal issues then you are in your reasoning about Integral Theory (again, see Stein and Heikkinen, 2008 in JITP). Generally, where you are is not my concern (in part because you are all over the place)”.

    This was a recent exchange by Jeremy Johnson (who has since written here at Beams) and Will Harryman after this year’s ITC:

    Jeremy- After having attended the Integral Theory Conference - what is your overall impression of Integral Philosophy, a few years on? Has it grown for the better? Are there issues that need to be addressed or is there something you would like to see further developed?

    Harryman- One of the big issues I see is something many people at the conference, including Roger Walsh, call state or stage chasing - an unhealthy craving for higher developmental stages or state experiences (Genpo Roshi's Big Mind is used in this way by some people I suspect). This can be very destructive to development, according to Walsh. But I see it also leading to integral elitism - the "I'm 2nd tier and you simply can't understand" line of thinking”.


    Here at Beams and Struts Scott published an interview with integral philosopher Steve McIntosh, and integral scholar Bonnitta Roy left these remarks in the comment section:

    “Nice interview. At the core of "integral evolutionary theory" McIntosh and the EnlightenNext group's belief-system are some highly problematic concerns raised by some highly respected integral thinkers.

    Thomas Murray, for one example, gave an award-winning presentation at ITC 2010 about the distinction between teaching integral skills versus promoting beliefs, and identified McIntosh and Andrew Cohen's systems as belief systems, not cognitive skill teaching systems.

    Zak Stein, for another example, gave and award-winning presentation at ITC 2010 on the growth-to-goodness fallacy and the problem with being less than transparent about appropriating moral assumptions onto morally-neutral metrics (i.e. integral cognitive performance).

    Secondly, this version of "integral evolution", based on the linear transcend-and-include dynamics of the perennial philosophy is completely inconsistent with evolutionary dynamics, in several fundamental ways”


    In response to those comments, we asked Bonnitta to write an essay for the site fleshing out this view. That essay finishes with this paragraph:

    “There are several more, equally important epistemic challenges facing integral theory today, including the sloppy conflation of developmental processes with evolutionary ones, such as Spiral Dynamic’s (inappropriate) appropriation of Graves’ theory of individual cognitive development onto a narrative of socio-cultural evolution. Once again, the post postmodern scientists and naturalistic philosophers are leading the way forward, and integral is lagging behind. But that story awaits another invitation”.


    Last I knew, Beams has extended that offer and we’re eagerly awaiting that essay when it arrives. Eschaton and others might wanna stay tuned for that one, could be interesting.

    So I’ll let readers decide for themselves what’s happening within the broader integral community when it comes to this issue, which I don’t see as a ‘dirty secret’ but as a developmental challenge. It’s not the first shadow/pathology to emerge during the long process of human development, and it won’t be the last. The hard work to grow through it needs to be done, and I’m glad it’s been brought to the fore here.

    It’s been my experience that the ‘integral movement’ is becoming increasingly multifaceted and now has many pockets of difference and disagreement (theoretical and otherwise), with still too many whose work is not yet included or is underappreciated in the ‘mainstream’ dialogue (which could further expand this diversity). I think the future will only see a broadening of this kind of differentiation.

    Simplistic or simplified views of development (and their unethical use) should be questioned to be sure, and that's happening and needs to continue to happen. On that score, I applaud Eschaton’s passionate critique. But as I said, I’m not prepared to reject a developmental worldview altogether, because I think it’s real and valid. But as always, those views are in process and in flux, and I’m willing to discuss or debate the foundations or validity of any of it.

  • Comment Link OV Monday, 21 March 2011 05:27 posted by OV

    I dropped into B&S to read Bruce's essay and noticed that there were comments in this thread. This is the first discussion I've seen on this site, though I haven't been here for awhile so maybe things have picked up the pace. I've seen some articles where the administrators post a few comments and I wonder if this is just to show other people how it's done, because otherwise why not just talk about it when they get together face to face. It is a lot like listening to a sock puppet conversation.

    I thought Eschaton et al made some good points. I haven't read Don Beck's book yet but I did read his Integral solutions for the middle east over at integralism.com and I thought it reeked of western chauvinism and if I was an arab I wouldn't even sit down at the table with the guy. I think there is a strong possibility that spiral dynamics may have some value but it is the way in which it is used by Beck that is the problem. I'll have a more legitimate opinion after I've read the book and some of the cross references.

    I would really like to see a discussion/debate between Trevor and Eschaton on some of the points that Trevor has mentioned in the previous comment. I have a few suggestions: 1)break it up into manageable bites with a single point per article and a few articles 2) Keep the article text to a minimum and let the comments carry the discussion. It creates a greater equality between participants.

  • Comment Link Anonymous Coward Monday, 21 March 2011 07:04 posted by Anonymous Coward

    Olen, I reread your article and then your latest comment and think there is some hypocrisy. Quotes like this sounds pretty personal "Perhaps you've abstracted yourself from the living day to day world to such an extent that your intellect is sadly the only place left that you feel at home in, at work anonymously in the cyber world as some kind of tortured blog freedom fighter." If it's ok for you to make the occasional (or frequent jab) let's have some space for others to do the same before telling them to bugger off. Emotions aside, some interesting points were raised and I want to hear both sides.

    Bergen, wow, you've likened me to a 4chan user. I'm impressed and amused. I think the comment rules should be something along these lines: Avoid personal attacks, try to be respectful, avoid profanity, avoid logical fallacies, and avoid writing such a wall of text that no one can possibly respond (argumentum verbosium). Helping people avoid being derailed will only improve the content of the site. Maybe create a post on comment rules and guidelines and let people comment on it? What I'd personally find most engaging is a focus on the ideas and not the personalities or rhetoric that, while sometimes entertaining, detracts from the discussion.

    Trevor, I very much enjoyed reading your post. I think you've bested all of us with the most reasonable response yet, not to mention your invitation to engage in debate. I think OV's suggestions are to the structure are good ideas. I really hope that it happens as I would enjoy reading it.

  • Comment Link Paul Paddon Monday, 21 March 2011 20:08 posted by Paul Paddon

    Hey there Eschaton and FJ,

    I’ve been intrigued by reading your posts. You’ve prodded me to think a bit more deeply about these issues of what sense is SD hierarchical and its relation to dialogue. So thanks!

    I think there is some partial truth to what you say.

    I also think you may be conflating the concept of psychological development, SD levels, Wilberian altitudes, or whatever you want to call it with the people’s worth. You use words like superior, elitist, … to describe those aspiring to an integral worldview and words like inferior, untermenschen, … to describe any other worldview, assuming to take an integral point of view for this judgment.

    Personally I fundamentally believe in sameness. I believe people are equally valuable intrinsically. I don’t think this view of sameness is incompatible with the integral worldview at all.

    Also, you state you are very distrustful of those aspiring to an integral worldview. For you “SD prevents trust.” The main point I have here is that this distrust actually lives in you, and is not actually evidence for the untrustworthiness of anyone. Trust is actually a free choice and you are free to not trust the people in this community or on this site. Of course, your choice to not trust does not make this community’s attempt to engender an open, authentic and vulnerable dialogue in any way tainted by “hierarchical ideology.”

    I don’t consider myself superior to you because I choose to dialogue here. You can choose to believe me or not. In fact, as I said earlier, I am glad you have challenged what is going on here. It helps bring clarity.

    Lastly, I don’t think it makes sense for this site to “step up and reject” SD. That would be wholly against the tenet of recognizing partial truths. It does make sense, however, for the dialogue to continue around how this community can remain open to varying perspectives for online conversations.

  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Tuesday, 22 March 2011 07:38 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    Hello everyone. Kudos to beams&struts for excavating this thread. I want to comment here on the original theme which is "generative dialogue"... as it occurs to me, watching this scene unfold, that how dialogue is *received* is a crucial factor in whether it can be shaped into something generative -- whatever "raw material" arises. To this extent, there are some commentaries that shine, generatively, despite the load that the receiver is carrying, while carrying the discourse forward. I am not talking about some kind of back-stepping enabling (I don't see that here)-- I am witnessing in this thread some honest risk taking, thought, and skill -- I can feel in your voices, the time/focus/effort it takes to develop a narrative voice that might carry the conversation forward, excavate it from the shadowy depths and into the light. Because I often find myself as the dinstinction-making "critical eye" of mainstream integral, I struggle with this myself. When the issues seem *terribly important* I want to be authentic to the intensity within me -- but I also want my speech to be an effective speech *act* -- which means, in this case, to be generative of something -- perhaps it generates more thought, more inquiry, a trip to wikipedia, a second look at a writers words, or a personal reflection about assumptions, pride, and prejudice. Of course, at the same time all those are also operating in me. We all have shadows and blind spots. The interesting thing is that shadows and blind spots are not invisible at all -- actually they are rather obvious -- to other people -- and that is why we need their help in discerning ourselves. What it means to be generative, what it looks like as text to be a *useful* mirror to someone has a fairly wide range of voices and shapes, and must fetch the bones tossed at the occassion. The skillful ways that B&S shapes this container to receive contributions and comments, makes a huge difference. And we all know it is an experiment, that is generative, which is to say, without end. This might seem like it places more burden on the B&S family, than on the audience at large, but that is the burden of leadership. And therefore this is our benefit -- the opportunity to shape our own leadership, as we experiment with forms of discourse. Deep gratitude for what arises here.


  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Tuesday, 22 March 2011 08:29 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    It would be interesting to see to what extent you think the discussion in this video is generative, or where/how you see that it is insufficient to the task


    (Don Beck interviewed by Jeff Salzman at Integral Life)

  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Tuesday, 22 March 2011 09:17 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    ... and to compare that with this


    (Suzanne Cook-Greuter interviewed by Jeff Salzman at Integral Life)

Login to post comments

Search Beams

Most Popular Discussions