Why Isn't Integral More Popular?

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Nearly every Integral Institute seminar involves the same joke. Ken Wilber or another teacher mentions the anecdote, usually during the first day. “ ...and then your friends start to run the other way when you approach them with a stack of books.” hahaha. Everyone laughs because they can relate. We all know that people’s eyes glaze over when the jargon gets laid on thick. But have you ever stopped to wonder why? 

light bulb in a human hand - but lit up!Victor Hugo once remarked: “You can resist an invading army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come.” Many of Integral theory’s supporters (including myself) believe it’s an idea whose time has come. We believe humanity is evolving, albeit slowly, and in fits and starts, toward a more integrating, inclusionary, and loving approach to one another, other species, and the planet.

Among the reasons we as a community embrace integral philosophy, and hope to see it spread, is because it has the potential to change the world. 'Potential' being the key word. Sadly, If the ideas are not embraced and adopted by a significant portion of the population the impact of integral philosophy on humanity’s rise or fall may not register in the history books. The exponential or viral spread of integral ideas would provide ample evidence that consciousness is evolving. We are evolving, right?


With its sophisticated analytical tools and perspective taking, why hasn’t integral theory made more than a dent in our current dystopia? Why isn’t integral popular? This question hit my brain like lead bricks after seeing a 2 min video from the smartest bald man of our generation: Seth Godin of course.



PressPausePlay - Animated Content from Stuart Langfield on Vimeo.

Seth Godin illustrates the spread of memes beautifully. Meme is a term coined by Richard Dawkins that suggests that ideas replicate and spread analogous to genes. “Ideas that Spread Win.” What he doesn’t say is that the best ideas don’t always spread. It’s not a given that integral approaches will win out over fragmented partial ones. If we look at history it is easy to make the case that forward progress sometimes gets arrested and society regresses. So how do we spread the Integral Idea?


If Seth Godin can have 5 million people download a book on marketing, which is really only interesting to people who are into new technology and new entrepreneurism, then why is a field like integral languishing?


Unleashing the Integral Idea Virus.


Integral theory applies to the most elemental of human needs. It helps us understand a complex world and make meaning in our individual lives while grappling with that complexity. Yet, it sometimes seems that the same 25,000 people spread across the globe are participating in the integral conversation since I-I started 10 years ago. I don’t mean to down play the efforts of Ken Wilber in four picturesI-I and Integral Life.


For those who don’t know, Integral institute is the non-profit organization started by Ken Wilber about 10 years ago, while Integral Life is the for-profit company that carries that mission forward. I spent half a decade contributing directly to this mission as a full time employee, so I’m not disparaging the effort. The Integral movement has made some important strides, and I don’t want to minimize them, but the most important step of all -- reaching the everyday person -- has yet to happen.


A highly successful start up can grow 100% per year! A business that grows this fast is obviously an idea or product people are buzzing about. Is there a way to tap into our viral digital culture with an integral idea? If so, we haven’t found it yet. Let’s just say that if the integral movement had investors they wouldn’t be happy with our conversion rates.


The integral vision needs a big upgrade in its approach to fulfilling its mission. In some sense the very strength of the movement is what holds us back. Does over analysis interfere with action? Does our intense interest in spirituality prevent us from seeing the needs in the world?


lighthouse shiningPerhaps the theory buffs will say that one must be at an integral level to grok all the sophisticated perspective taking. Therefore most people are stuck in first tier and can’t perceive this integrating function of consciousness. This leaves them fundamentally at war with other first tier value memes, and stuck in a world of separateness and competition. A second tier individual would be able to see another person’s point of view and can increase their circle of care for all people. This is known as worldcentric consciousness.


Integral Philosophy promotes the idea that 2nd tier has greater depth and therefore less span. More consciousness, with fewer people evolving to that level. Greater depth and less span is the nature of the kosmos. One must accept that not everyone will understand the need for taking the view of others, especially if those people are not in our close circle of family and friends, or don’t have the same religion, race, or class status one does. We could also use developmental language to explain this: If people can’t meet basic survival needs--1 billion people can’t--or have the conditions to evolve to world-centric, then how could they birth the impulse to evolve high enough to get it and to understand integral. (This paragraph has the most unexplained jargon in this article. If you are new to integral and just got confused, then this reinforces my thesis)


This always feels like a stock answer to me. It sounds like a good explanation that supports the idea that there are only a small number of people at an integral level. But I don’t buy it. In my city of Boulder, most people at least know Ken Wilber’s name and many have studied his books. Exposure isn’t the only issue. I’ve concluded that Integral philosophy is a bit like a magnet. For some people they feel drawn deeply, while others feel repelled. Why? I don’t think we can assume the "Jargon" with a cancel sign through itfirst tier/second tier distinction is the only or even primary reason. What if it is mainly the technical psychology terms are a main cause that prevents people from finding the onramp to the integral highway?


I’m not satisfied with stock answers anymore. Why isn’t integral popular? More skillful means and translations are needed. And we need to drop any self-reinforcing arguments that prevent the creation of those means. In short we need to take personal responsibility for formulating integral philosophy in a way that exemplifies simplicity beyond complexity.


Coming from a religious bible thumping family, I know well recursive thinking. One passage in Revelation directly tells the reader that the book must be interpreted literally, and not altered. This gives the impression that the work is divinely inspired cover to cover, and all the material needed to ignore reality and stick to a rigid interpretation is there. It is self-reinforcing.


For people who no longer buy into a dogmatic religious approach, scientific rationalism seems like a good place to hang our hat. I am generalizing here, but most people who see the world this way tend to think that if you can’t measure something then it doesn’t exist. Which is also a self-reinforcing belief. Even though these scientifically minded individuals have in some sense rejected belief for evidence there is still an underlying assumption that could unravel their position if it were examined and approached with a deeper questioning.


There are certain people who for one reason or another find both the dogmatic approach to life, and the rational data based path confining. A reasonable conclusion is that truth is relative. The aboriginals in Australia have a different view of truth than we in the West do. Some people even view gender differently than the heterosexual majority. Since we all have a different view of truth there must be different truths and nothing external to us, like God, could ever dictate a morality that works for us all. Once again: self-validating belief structures that hold water as arguments until a critical shift happens.


the thinker, done with LegosThis is the shift from an aperspectival view to a centauric one…. Um, er. What now? Do you see what happened there? I switched from talking about perspectives in plain language to psychological terms coined by some researcher whose name I forget. And I’m left wondering, is it better to go and research the name of that psychologist on the web so I can validate my point with academic proficiency or can I keep writing in a translation of integral? Let’s forget this paragraph happened and start again.


That shift can occur for a person at any point in adulthood, but it usually involves the ability to see all of these different ways of living in the world as something outside of oneself. If feels a bit like this: I can see myself in that, and that, and this other thing, but none of them encapsulate me.


Maybe someone has an uncle who is a pastor, a business man for a father, and a teacher who encourages them to find their own path in life. These three mentors provides a window into a different way of viewing the world. Each of them have an approach to life that benefits and informs the growing person’s thoughts and experience. Suddenly the thought comes: If I had all three of these men in a room, they would surely disagree with each other, but to me they all seem right!


This is the shift to an integral awareness and could also come about by examining how these three points of view show up in the culture wars within modern society. Once we can see these three differing perspectives, the longing to integrate them starts to tug on us. This project can take a while, and if you find yourself in this place I invite you to give yourself a wide berth and keep coming back to curiosity. I often ask myself: Is there another truth that can inform this conversation?


As we downshift toward the end of this article I want to point out that the openness of curiosity and questioning is the fuel for an evolutionary impulse. The spacious awareness of curiosity is quite different in quality and tone than the stance of the next paragraphs which point back to the purpose of this article. There is no point, or purpose in the curiosity that leads us on. Frankly, it’s just interesting and fun. Back to business!


An Integral zeitgeist begs us to be more than a spiritual club for smart people. It compels us to impact our culture and the systems that support it. If we are to make significant headway in this mission we must jettison the confines of simply integrating all the available perspectives and embrace a perspective that allows us to simplify the integral message without watering it down.


A great way to think about this is simplicity on the other side of complexity and its exemplified by the late Steve Jobs. By keeping the complexity behind sleekly designed closed doors, Apple has managed to get its technology in the hands of millions, while making millions for its stockholders. Steve Jobs was as great an integral leader as there ever was, but I bet he never taught people about the quadrants. He was too busy making things that changed our lives.


The second example of integral translation is a video by Mathias Weitbrecht.



The Way Things Are - The Anatomy of Reality from IntegralInformationArchitecture on Vimeo.

Mathias is a senior student of Thomas Hubl who encourages students in his 3 year training program to complete a project that gives back to the world in a tangible and skillful way. This video attempts to explain integral philosophy in a succinct way and I believe it accomplishes that mission. The 2007 book by Ken Wilber, Integral Vision, also attempts to condense integral to a few key concepts that are easier to understand. These are a good start, but I’m wondering if we can offer the great big philosophy bookworld a map that doesn’t have the jargon that can alienate a significant portion of the population.


As a community, we have to look at current trends with soberness. The culture at large doesn’t read 800 page books about the evolutionary impulse. In most cases they won’t even read a blog post or email fully unless the writer has taken the time to consider the reader’s perspective and tell them what's in it for them to keep reading. This is known among the blogging community as writing Sticky. Marketers are the masters at this, and conscious communities are cluing in. Stay tuned.


I’ll leave you with a challenge to talk about integral to the people around you without the technical terms and without name dropping. See if you can find an integral question to ask the cashier that won’t freak her out. Or better yet, I dare someone to re-write Ken’s Integral Vision with zero jargon or technical terms. I’ll Race Ya.





Jason Digges is a video producer, writer, and small business consultant thinking and growing in Boulder, CO. His online magazine practicalART, uses edutainment to explore creativity, online business, and integral translation. Find him on twitter or facebook.


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  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Monday, 28 November 2011 10:51 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    Excellent Jason! Although in this day and age Ken Wilber's writings seem jargon-laden, I really see him as a pioneer in treating what was usually only accessible in thick academic tomes for western philosophy, or densely mythic narratives and secret injunctions for eastern philosophy -- he was the first to start talking about philosophy in more accessible ways -- a big shift compared to what had come before him. I think a lot of integral theorists have gotten into writing more technical jargon, because they are trying to correct the errors of Wilber's orienting generalizations, whereas he used those as his process of making the work more accessible. As an associate editor of Integral-Review I always ask authors to try to translate their work into 3GE - third grade english, not so much requiring the words to be simple or the ideas to be simplistic, but the sentence structure should be that of 3GE, (not Proustian or Faulknerian). I find european philosophers to have the most difficulty with this. But also, people who are writing at the edge of their own thinking tend to have difficulty disambiguating their concepts from the frothy foam of their nativity. Then there are those, like myself, who actually like to mix metaphors like martinis while tending the metaphysical bar, to engage the right brain along with the wrong. How'd I do?

  • Comment Link John Wagnon Monday, 28 November 2011 18:35 posted by John Wagnon

    Nice challenge! I've been presenting on integral theory in my local MA of Counseling program for a few years now and I'm finding that the more I drop the jargon and present the concepts in as down to earth a manner as I can, the better the notions are received.

    I'm also finding that there are more and more intuitively integral approaches in the world than I would have imagined - not a day goes by in counseling school that we don't discuss bio-psycho-social, for instance. Or even in the DSM-IV the words "appropriate for developmental level" are frequently encountered. Granted there isn't much thoughtful reflection on just what those words imply, but the hooks are there.

    Most recently I've been reading Daniel Siegel who seems to take a very integral view of psyche, though I have to notice that he doesn't seem to appreciate adult development at all and he seems to overprivilege the possible benefits of mindfulness. Still, in terms of a broad approach to knowledge - he's spot on.

    Its worth asking - do we need one meme that will be interpreted constructively across different worldviews? Or do we need several memes tailored for each? Who do we need to reach? In my work, I need to reach the academic and clinical psychological practitioners - and ultimately I may need to reach my clients or potential clients. I have a feeling I can do that with almost no reference to Ken's work at all - at least until I begin to have results I need to explain. "Why is this approach working?" - "Why choose those modalities?" "Why use physical as well as intersubjective interventions?" etc.

  • Comment Link Jeremy Johnson Monday, 28 November 2011 18:40 posted by Jeremy Johnson

    This is a good question. I want to read this more thoroughly and respond more qualitatively, but I have to run (paper writing, final essays and annotations for semester). Will try to be around again tonight or tomorrow.

    For now, I just wanted to say this question has also been on my mind, on and off, as of late. If you see the current cultural transformation as a multifaceted change with many different aspects to it, then it could be Wilberian integral is one amongst many other subcultures that are emerging and attempting to change or articulate a new paradigm. I've had a few conversations with integral peeps about this, and many of them agree. Integralites could benefit from speaking with others outside of their circles and with other circles, like Daniel Pinchbeck (I know he's not the leader, but he's created the hub space) and Reality Sandwich and Evolver, CIIS, B. Alan Wallace's Santa Barbara Institute, Sri Aurobindo's community, Modern Mythology & esoteric movement, and other communities I'm not even aware of. How awesome would it be if we all started to link our dendrites and together and great a larger nexus of counter-cultural thought?

  • Comment Link Jeremy Johnson Monday, 28 November 2011 18:56 posted by Jeremy Johnson

    Addendum: I love this question you ask, "The integral vision needs a big upgrade in its approach to fulfilling its mission. In some sense the very strength of the movement is what holds us back. Does over analysis interfere with action? Does our intense interest in spirituality prevent us from seeing the needs in the world?"

    ~ And I couldn't agree more. How much is integral an insular mapping system that can't see past its own ideas about the world? That's a serious question, not an allegation or attack. There is a tendency for hyper-abstraction and endless categorizing and quantifying in the models themselves. Maybe we need more qualitative expressions, not merely maps or concepts – "Everyone is right, partially" – and we need more direct contact with these evolutionary structures of consciousness. Wilber's strength is his systematizing, but it's also his Achilles Heel that simultaneously attracts and repels outsiders. The language can become insular. We forget there are different ways to express this stuff, and even different definitions of what a more "holistic, integral" society might look like.

    I really am happy you pointed out the problem of jargon in the integral community. I question whether this is really a matter of viral meme spreading. If it's just another idea, is it integral? Or is that still too much embedded in a rational, conceptual structure of consciousness? And whose to say Wilber's version of integral is the only one? There are other scholars out there who beg to differ. Maybe they do not have the charisma or charming (or corny, a little bit) writing style that Wilber does, but it doesn't mean they are wrong. Take Gebser's own magnum opus, Ever Present Origin. He didn't use his structures of consciousness like Wilber's books do. Not at all. They were not developmental. Or even take Wilber's questionable use of the evolutionary map, Spiral Dynamics, which relegates myth and magic consciousness to an inferior rung way down below. Transcend and include? Sure. But according to Gebser, these are not developmental. And integral is not merely "2nd tier," in that it holds paradoxes and simultaneously opposing views. Integral, for Gebser, is a spiritual "waring" or deep wakefulness of the world. It sounds mystical, and it is most likely so. Integral in Gebser's terminology sounds more like 3rd tier.

    All of this is just to say that Wilber's philosophy is, in his own words, true but partial. The way to expand the community and make it more versatile, viable, is not to rely on Wilber as the current lineage holder, or necessarily the only branch on the tree from which future integral thinkers must bloom. There are other branches and whole other sides of this planetary tree we have to remind ourselves of.

    I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about this subject, "Whose cultural transformation?" – http://evolutionarylandscapes.com/whose-cultural-transformation

    Whoops! Looks like I left the comment here after all. Sorry grad school. :-( I'll be back. Apologies for the tone. It's just been on my mind for a while. I loved your article and think it hits the nail on the head in many areas. Would love to talk more with you.

  • Comment Link Tana Monday, 28 November 2011 19:48 posted by Tana

    This was a fascinating read. Thank you.

  • Comment Link Manny Otto Tuesday, 29 November 2011 04:55 posted by Manny Otto

    Integral is a tool that is useful as a resource to individuals and organizations who have a more direct impact on "the public". I offer the example of Joseph Campbell and how he impacted the arts and specifically filmmaking with his insights into the mythic structure underlying all storytelling as well as the shamanic role artists serve in our global community. Most people would glaze over very quickly if exposed directly to his writings and lectures (with the possible exception of The Power of Myth interviews with Bill Moyers). But, I'm sure that most of the public have been deeply impacted by his work if you take into account the influence of Star Wars, The Matrix, Avatar, and many other films. Integral doesn't have to be "popular" with the public, but I would bet that it has carried much more of an impact than is acknowledged in this posting.

  • Comment Link Joseph Camosy Tuesday, 29 November 2011 09:11 posted by Joseph Camosy

    Integral will "take off" when someone uses it to create effective solutions to perceived problems. The theorists have done their part. Now it's time for the engineers to come forward. Maybe Ken's organization can sponsor a contest like the "X Prize" foundation. Offer a $100,000 prize and marketing campaign for the best Integral Application.

  • Comment Link Mushin Tuesday, 29 November 2011 12:50 posted by Mushin

    Rather then the language being the main challenge, it is just the consequence of a basic design-flaw and cultural internal development of the movement.

    The basic design-flaw seems to be the very cognitive nature of the theory/meme and map. Integration is regarded as a cognitive activity. Life, obviously, is much more and people are hardly ever moved by their cognitive understandings.
    Cognition, as used in the "integral sphere", is 'imperialistic' as it basically sorts all experience into quadrants, levels, lines and regards itself as the Supreme Order of AQAL, in a very real sense a "Theory of Everything".
    But, "Who wants a beautiful sunrise explained?" Actually, there is the experience by most that the sunrise loses 'all' when it is explained. The cognitive bias of Integral only appeals to people who can - potentially - still enjoy a sunrise or sunset in spite of the explanation, forgetting the explanation, saying the explanation is irrelevant to the experience.... whatever.

    The cultural field around "Boulder-Integral" is elitist, mostly masculine gender, intellectual etc. Remember the Wyatt Earp happening? That was one of the major cultural navigtional feat; now altitude, shown through being able to show a jargonized intellectual grip of the Wilber-verse, was the place to be to be 'leader' in the movement.

    Basically it's like this in my eyes: as long as "Integral" in all its incarnations doesn't really inhabit the lower left Q - the messy paradoxes of relating to others, which are not helped by putting an other into developmental or attitudinal boxes - it won't be attractive as a way of life and doing things.

  • Comment Link Mushin Tuesday, 29 November 2011 12:55 posted by Mushin

    The very short response (as on FB)

    It's not the jargon - it's why the jargon is so attractive for those in the movement in the first place. And that is because the culture of Integral gives high esteem to those who use it to show how far they've already developed.

  • Comment Link Chris Dierkes Tuesday, 29 November 2011 20:53 posted by Chris Dierkes


    Great piece. Thanks to everyone for all the comments. I really appreciate the nuance coming out in this thread.

    I love this 'graf:

    "This is the shift from an aperspectival view to a centauric one…. Um, er. What now? Do you see what happened there? I switched from talking about perspectives in plain language to psychological terms coined by some researcher whose name I forget. And I’m left wondering, is it better to go and research the name of that psychologist on the web so I can validate my point with academic proficiency or can I keep writing in a translation of integral? Let’s forget this paragraph happened and start again."

    The ability to talk in plain language--or at least explain concepts in plain language--is I think really crucial and thanks to Jason for clarifying and embodying the distinction.

  • Comment Link Seth Wednesday, 30 November 2011 05:14 posted by Seth

    jason... once I saw people in ER departments using integral theory to solve proactical problems... once I saw med students using integral concepts to relate to each other better... when I saw executive level training include integral theory as a way to build bridges... that is when I got excited about the theory. before then, it was mental masturbation to me... but once I saw how much usefulness is inherent in the theory when leaders step up and implement... whew... chills and goose bumps...now the parallel of Buddhist psychology is an interesting one. There aren't a growing number of Buddhists in America (according to surveys on religion) but Buddhist psychology permeates all of western psych, whether they know it or not. Many Christian ministers are using Buddhist psychology... they just don't know it. Likewise, as stated, and as you know, many people are operating with the ability to hold many different maps, ways of being and attitudes to function efficiently and effectively in the world. Notwithstanding, I'd like to see the theory taught to a more people for the simple practical benefit of the map. (And we know the map is not the territory but it helps if you want to drive to Vegas)

  • Comment Link Michael Ray Thursday, 01 December 2011 18:47 posted by Michael Ray

    I think integral theory is not more popular, because it challenges the fundamental belief that there is a "right way" of living and it does not make clear its practical benefits. I also think that we should not try to make integral theory popular! We can enjoy a rainbow without understanding the science behind it. But for those who are curious…like me…bring it on!

    A simple summary of integral theory that I might use to explain to the public follows.

    Imagine a system that has great depth to explain how we are all uniquely individual, yet fundamentally the same.

    The latter can be summed up by saying we are all human beings. One challenge with this is that it then assumes that there is a "right way" to live as a human being. Integral theory claims that certain of our differences can have a large impact on how people live. Further more it claims that each of us integrate these various differences in ways that are as unique as snow flakes.

    One of the concepts that challenges the "right way", is that of levels of development. While we accept that children are not as developed (mentally, emotionally, physically, etc) as adults, we must be careful when we say that one adult or group, is not as developed as another. The key here is that each of us is more or less developed in many areas of our lives and generally being more developed means more complex and more complex is NOT necessarily better. Further, approaching each moment of our lives with an appropriate level of complexity means that if I have to figure out how much change to give for parking, then it is easier if I use basic math instead of calculus. So how is this concept useful in your life? For me, I found that I could explain situations, people, concepts etc that did not "fit" into structures that were part of the "right way". It also helped me to be curious about "Who people in my life REALLY are?" instead of trying to fit them into boxes that I and those around me had already defined. Bottom line, I have more friends and fewer enemies.

    Another aspect of integral theory that can challenge the status quo, is that information, knowledge, experience, etc comes in at least three different ways. We can tell if it is raining, by going outside by not by thought alone. We can teach and use nouns and verbs, but without our mental creation and agreement of words and their meaning, no where in nature can we find a noun. Similarly, we can KNOW something without every having experienced it, thought of it, or have had it taught to us. While "science" does not always agree with this, many people would agree based on their personal experience. I believe that the phrase "If you cannot measure it, it does not exist" limits the possibilities we have to thrive as humans. Again, how does this help you? This has reinforced for me, that besides my mind and my senses , there are other ways of knowing that might be my most important way of knowing and that by developing my intuition and related skills, I can be more clear, less stressed and happier.

    Another important realization I gained from integral theory is that our interior point of view, or our first person point of view, is equally as valid as our exterior; or another's objective, third person view of us. To be more complete, our relationship with others, our shared second point of view, must be included as well. My example for this is that while I can go to a doctor to diagnose and possibly cure an illness I have, it is more true that having a competent doctor that I trust and that I have a good attitude, together will be a more effective cure that just taking my prescribed medicine. Bottom line, your attitude and how you think and feel are vital to you and the human race.

    Michael Ray

  • Comment Link J Perez Thursday, 01 December 2011 22:37 posted by J Perez

    Great article, Jason.

    One quick note for now. You wrote: "Let’s just say that if the integral movement had investors they wouldn’t be happy with our conversion rates."

    But the integral movement DOES have investors. Funders of integral organizations. How happy are they with the growth rates of their membership and activism? How happy are they with progress towards the organizations' goals?

    When Integral Naked was axed in favor of Integral Life, paid subscriptions are said to have declined by 50% or more over 4 years. What kind of financial performance has there been, and are the leaders of Integral organizations taking responsibility?

    I like Robb Smith personally a great deal, but honestly I have no idea how to assess his performance as a CEO of Integral Institute and Integral Life based on publicly available information. There aren't even any archives on the News page of integralinstitute.org, so I can see press releases of the organization's accomplishments over his tenure. It may very well be that he's done a great job in ways that I know nothing about. I only have the rumor mill and his decision to decline to interview with me, and some of what I hear on the rumor mill is harsh.

    I'm disappointed that few people are willing to take the discussion of Integral's popularity to the next level and ask, how do we assess the job performance of the leaders of integral organizations?

  • Comment Link Skip Shuda Friday, 02 December 2011 00:03 posted by Skip Shuda

    Bravo Jason! This is a topic that I have recently taken a deep interest in. I'm with you - we need to find ways to bring the Integral map to a broader audience. The jargon is a huge turnoff to many people. I belong to one spirituality/consciousness study group who now has a running joke, "We'd better find a good book to study or we'll end up with Ken Wilber (from Skip)".
    My hope is that we can (1) remove the jargon to invite in more of those in the emerging "consciousness movement" and (2) we translate important concepts to those who aren't participating in such movements (including many of my clients). Everyone can benefit from these perspectives, even if the only "see it" initially.
    The video you shared from from Mathias Weitbrecht is a great example for #1, I think.
    As I've mentioned in my circles who study "Holacracy", we've got to rebrand and re-market our language. Instead of Holacracy, how about "Dynamic Steering"? Instead of Integral, how about "Perspective taking" - or some such alternative.
    Lots of great nuances raised here - and count me in for continuing this important conversation.

  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Friday, 02 December 2011 12:06 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    I think that the evolution/devolution of II would make a great case study for sure! It seems to me that the integral brand was having a bit of trouble before Robb stepped in -- in fact, the whole reason why they restructured II is because Wilber was making a mess of it himself, with the Wyatt Earpy episodes and the subsequent mass exodus of many of his core people - at the time of this exodus, Ken put out a public letter talking about the need for male energy to revolt against him, and yet the need to keep the hyper-active pace to forge II into the future -- you may have seen that letter, it gives a really good insight into the culture/environment/chaos that was happening then. There was a huge amount of criticism against II for creating the illusion of a mega-organization through this notion of the multiplex, but in reality it was by no means sustainable. I think Robb in many ways came into the thing like Obama came into the economy thing, and people forget that the processes of unravelling were already well underway. I know for example, that one of the first things Robb had to do was separate the non-profit II from its profit-making sector(s) -- that's not a sexy task, but it had to be done for tax and revenue purposes. I do not agree with all the decisions that Robb made, and I have never thought that IL reflected the culture or values of the integral community when it came out -- but the aesthetic they built I think was limited by the technology that was chosen -- which was a widely popular platform at the time. I think Robb has made this explicit (at least on FB) many times -- that IL is unhappy with the platform, but has no quick fixes and very little resource to make a giant leap. I agree that IN was sexy and edgy, but even so many of the broadcasts started feeling repetitious and the people started feeling too "clubby" for the general public to feel a part of. This I think is what drove IL in the other direction.The great misfortune of using a platform where hundreds of people could post/engage, is the low level/quality of discourse you see there, and all kinds of annoying trolls. I don't know of any social network site that started with this kind of platform that survived. FB completely changed the game so much so that even google, google wave, google+ finds it cannot compete. I also know several people who work with companies who are developing interfaces for long distance/ online learning -- and they have the same problem, finding the right feel for engagement. It is a really big challenge! Finally, I think the economy has hurt IL like it has hurt everything else that needs revenue stream. I don't know if this answers all the questions, but I thought I would share what I have been seeing/experiencing over the years.

  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Friday, 02 December 2011 14:23 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    Also remember, at the time they were dismantling IN, they built kenwilber.com, i think to migrate some of this edgy stuff there, with ken as the centering attraction. THe early IS material was hosted here, too, and the look/feel of kenwilber.com was much like IN and the multiplex. But that venue has gone nowhere, really. I check in from time to time, but its not a happenin place at all. I think that kenwilber.com is a reflection of how IN would have eventually devolved. Finally, a crucial thing to consider, is that Robb Smith will NEVER publically tell this story, because he will NEVER devalue Wilber in the public or private sphere. I think that says a lot.

  • Comment Link Jason Digges Friday, 02 December 2011 17:13 posted by Jason Digges

    Thank you for all the comments. I'm loving all the energy around this conversation. There is talk in other threads about an integral 'killer app'. This would be an application that has the traction to spread rapidly and widely in our culture. The purpose would be to give people an outcome or solve a problem in an integral fashion.

    If I was to go a bit further in my editorial I would say that there are plenty of integral killer apps out there, we just aren't looking with a lens that lets us see them, and in a sense the technical approach that the integral core takes comes out of our intense love of psychology and spirituality.

    This separates us from the culture at large and what they are struggling with. 80% of people in a america hate their job. Or economic system has created this culture and the problem is being chipped away at by bloggers and authors from every angle.

    This meme has been in operation for at least 5 years and its gaining a lot of steam. In a sense it is a re-formulation of the Joseph campbell's heroes journey... So Im glad Manny mentioned that.

    Our culture is starved for meaning, and we as a community have the ability to create that meaning, (SOUL FOOD) there just needs to be a translator.

  • Comment Link Jason Digges Friday, 02 December 2011 17:26 posted by Jason Digges

    Bonnitta and Joe,

    Im really glad to see Bonnitta defending Robb, because I think he deserves it. I agree with everything she says about the situation and I was part of the core from 2004-2008. (Robb didnt arrive till Dec 2006)

    I don't want to in anyway devalue Ken in the public sphere either, but I will give my perspective about working with visionary leaders. I have seen this with others as well, but Ken's vision was essentially too expansive and too big for the resources available. His style of leadership was to get out in front like a pioneer and charge into the future.

    He formed an organization of 30 young people, we were smart, enthusiastic, willing to work for cheap but inexperienced. There were problems that caused a rapid change to 12 employees, and Robb stepped in and stabilized the organization.

    summery: hindsight is 20-20, and leadership is hard.

    Joe, if you want a story you would interview all the employees from that era. Not the leaders.

  • Comment Link Jason Digges Friday, 02 December 2011 18:15 posted by Jason Digges

    Here's a great example for debate. Is Richard Branson's new book an example of integral business? Watch this 1min30sec video and give your opinion...


    My vote is yes. He is talking about multiple bottom lines in very plain language.

  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Saturday, 03 December 2011 13:06 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    OK, Jason,
    First, when someone asks a question like this, I want to separate the idea of "integral" from the normative associations many assign to "integral." For example, a CEO can operate from an action-logics at Alchemist or Ironist, which would in one sense of the word classify her as "integral level" -- but be the CEO of a company whose business is seen to be morally corrupt from the normative perspective of many people in the integral community. Then there is the question of how people show up in the world, which is context-dependent. If integral leaders are strategizing their message by packing their artifacts (like this video or the Ted video of The Human Project) -- then the question is, are we evaluating the artifact or the person/intention/mind/strategy behind it? Third, there is the sense of integral as integrating orange of green values -- which is what I think Branson is pointing to here -- for me Branson shows up as Red bullying through business as usual to integrate green and orange. I would definitely say that he is comfortable surfing the memes! But that might not be everyone's definition of integral.

    So when people respond yay or nay here, I suggest they first frame what their definition of integral is, in this context, and why branson does or does not fit the deal.

    PS. I think Branson is a good example of yang energy that integral community needs, in any case. I like his stuff (I originally wrote "stiff" -- that would have been such a freudian typo!) But hellyeah... screw them and stiff them too.

  • Comment Link Charles Dudas Saturday, 03 December 2011 22:59 posted by Charles Dudas

    Hi Bonnita,e
    You finish by asking "How'd I do?" Well, beautiful sister, you did incredibly well in your defense of Ken's "generalizations". 3GE integral is one thing, and undoubtedly useful, yet I beg to remain tentaive along these lines. While we do want the cashiers and the cabdrives and the burger-flippers, what incites and perhaps even mesmerizies sometimes are the integral idioms themselves. Everyone, of course, may choose to flee, but those with little dust in their eyes will take on "the heat" (tapas)of explorations and change. I say, keep pushing the integral lingo with compassion, not with simplification. Love, charles

  • Comment Link Gail Hochachka Sunday, 04 December 2011 05:31 posted by Gail Hochachka


    Love it. Thanks for putting your time and heart into this.

    Some people think integral needs money to fund its apps and get more uptake.

    I believe it needs some grace.

    And, I love how you've manifested that grace here.

    Big hugs and hope to see you again sometime soon,


  • Comment Link Don Edward Beck Sunday, 04 December 2011 08:09 posted by Don Edward Beck

    Interesting conversation. The first in depth, comprehensive model of what is called the "Integral Approach" can be found in the work of Clare W. Graves, as reflected in Spiral Dynamics. This predates Wilber and enjoys the most substantial academic/scientific research found any where. Unlike other evolutionary models, this work identifies "the Master Code" that explaisn why some people get it; others don't. Graves once teased me with the question: "How can I describe a theory which, itself, predicts that the people I am speaking to won't get it."

    This conceptual system has stood the test of decades of applications in some of the most difficult places on the planet, and you will notice how much of it Wilber uses. I think you are looking in the wrong place to find an answer to your question.

    Check the website www.buildpalestine.org to see how Elza Maalouf has developed it. Wilber deserves his just due,but he, like all of us, has conceptual feet of clay. Sad he never engages, in person, other points of view, other than from a distance. Health is no longer a factor. This whole discipline desperately needs vigorous debate rather than "true believers." Otherwise, it will never reach a level of credibility in this world. I am making all of you a personal challenge in case your missed it!

  • Comment Link J Perez Sunday, 04 December 2011 09:47 posted by J Perez


    Your comments are really helpful, particular for those readers of this blog who do not know some of the difficult challenges faced by I-I/IL leadership in recent years. But let's face it, these are subjective impressions, partial, made without a really wide context including divergent views. I have heard tales told which point fingers of blame in certain other areas -- including some directly questioning aspects of Robb Smith's style of leadership -- which are at least as compelling as accounts of the difficulties as any points you raise. What's more, precisely what those difficulties are is not really public information, owing largely to a culture of opaqueness which makes it difficult for outsiders to assess the health of I-I/IL and its progress towards its goals, whatever those may be. (For example, there are no historical press releases on the website.) I simply don't have enough public information to judge Smith's performance, and the private information I have really would require in-depth investigation and reporting to assess. And reportedly, Robb Smith has in the past issued a gag order on I-I/IL staff to not talk to at least one blogger who he regarded as a muckraker. So I don't know what sort of journalism is really possible here, even as I am convinced that there are political stories in the evolution of the Integral movement that have never been publicly told and if they were this could have a significant impact on the inquiry about what steps ought to be taken in the future.

    Thanks again for filling in some of the gaps with your own helpful anecdotes.

  • Comment Link J Perez Sunday, 04 December 2011 09:54 posted by J Perez


    "Joe, if you want a story you would interview all the employees from that era. Not the leaders."

    The story is in the works, probably with interviews starting right after the holiday season. I'd love to speak to you.

  • Comment Link Jason Digges Sunday, 04 December 2011 17:38 posted by Jason Digges


    Thanks so much for the encouragement!


    Thanks for offering your thoughts. My article doesn't address the correctness, or completeness of integral theory, spiral dynamics, or other holistic systems of thought.

    It addresses the NEED to effectively portray the value of these systems in the words and modes that non-academic people can relate to and will respond to.

    I would guess that at least 75-80% of the people operating at a yellow vMeme don't know Wilber, and don't know Graves. Why?

    Its partly true that people stuck at first tier can't 'get it'. But its also true that the majority of people who have the capacity don't really care about the field of psychology as much as we do. This is an appeal for a non-academic formulation of integral theory.

    As someone pointed out in an earlier comment, Wilber studied all the integral thinkers (including Graves) and effectively synchronized the language and this galvanized the fledgling integral culture.

    Im pointing to a next step that I would like to see. Yours and Elza's work on application in the Mid East is a great example of this. Especially the metaphor of the Kaleidoscope.

    Another article on The Simplicity of Complexity by Laura Frey:


  • Comment Link Jeremy Johnson Monday, 05 December 2011 18:37 posted by Jeremy Johnson

    Mentioned this elsewhere on Facebook, but I think it's appropriate to say here.

    Integral is a spiritual waring, a divine consciousness participating in the physical body and time and space. For both Gebser & Aurobindo, "integral" is spiritual in nature. Not merely cognitive, or even psychological. There is a heavy psychological bent in Wilber's integral theory, which is fine, but there are other approaches to the subject. There is a certain humility we must yield to with the spiritual nature of this shift in human orientation. It is a spiritual orientation, one both uplifting and also to be embraced with little thought to one's self-preservation. It is a multifaceted subject.

    What concerns me is that this subject is too often approached from a heavy, cognitive and psychological disposition. Not necessarily one that speaks from, as Gebser used even if ambiguously, the Spiritual. To speak from the spiritual, the "higher" or "illumined" mind, is to speak from gnosis. Integral is about participation. But it must be direct, not merely as Trevor aptly put, "anemic" descriptions in charts and lines. There is a quality and flavor to experiencing the varying structures of consciousness. And most of all, there is a "waring" that characterizes the integral structure of consciousness, truly a presence of the Spiritual in all things. Hence the terms Gebser used, such as diaphanous and transparent.

    Just something to keep in mind as we continue this brilliant discussion: there is a brilliancy but it is not merely of the complex rational intellect or even the imaginal consciousness (mental & mythical structure). This is the brilliancy of gnosis, of Spirit, of "clear light" awareness that Gebser began to allude to towards end of his life.

    Thanks guys,


  • Comment Link Gilles Herrada Wednesday, 07 December 2011 14:05 posted by Gilles Herrada

    Hi Jason,
    Nice article, and in many ways I agree with your comments, but honestly, I don't think the theoretical aspect of Integral and Ken's work in general is the real problem. Have you tried to read Freud? Awful. Yet, his work spread like wildfire. Have you tried to read Michel Foucault? SES is a children's book in comparison. Yet, Foucault's work became the inevitable postmodern academic standard in a decade. I think the problem of Integral is elsewhere.

  • Comment Link Chris Dierkes Wednesday, 07 December 2011 20:42 posted by Chris Dierkes


    thanks for dropping by. I agree with your comment--I've always thought it weird that people say Wilber is hard to read. By philosopher standards he is like reading a children's book.

    So what then do you think is the problem? I'd be really interested to hear your take on that question.

  • Comment Link Gilles Herrada Thursday, 08 December 2011 15:19 posted by Gilles Herrada

    (Hi Chris! how are you?)

    .... hard to tell. Jason had the courage to dive in the issue. I'm still pondering it :) but if I were to offer a few leads, I'd say:

    - Integral lacks applications. That's why it occurs as being so abstract. Freud invented a therapeutic method, Foucault's discovered the hidden power dynamics that undergird the culture-individual relationship, providing a much deeper understanding of cultural history. Integral remains, at this point, a conglomerate (a meta-vision) of other people's work, but has yet to prove itself as a source of discovery. That issue is linked to the following one:

    - "King" Wilber reigns over an intellectual desert. By that I mean that Integral lacks other thinkers of Wilber's caliber. None has emerged yet, as far as I can tell. As a consequence, that gives Wilber too much authority (not because of his power, but only because of the absence of any real alternative), which gives my 3rd and last point an importance that it shouldn't have:

    - Wilber's work, despite its amazing insights, lacks rigor. It is polluted with far too many inaccurate statements and false claims. I think that IS the main reason academia ignores his work. Nobody who's a true expert in his/her field can read Wilber without raising his/her eyebrows every other 10 pages. Again, the problem is not Wilber but the lack of good reviewers/editors that could challenge the validity of his claims. In the process, Wilber/Integral has alienated social and natural scientists. What we are left with is a minority of psychotherapists and an another minority of spiritual thinkers, which altogether compose the bulk of the Integral community.

    My 2 cents

  • Comment Link Jeremy Johnson Thursday, 08 December 2011 15:58 posted by Jeremy Johnson

    @Gilles, that's probably the most succinct assessment I've seen. Thank you.

  • Comment Link Jason Gregory Hansen Saturday, 10 December 2011 00:50 posted by Jason Gregory Hansen

    In the tradition of not reading 800 page books about the evolutionary impulse -- I skipped all of the other reader's comments so hopefully I'm not only rabbiting what others have said.

    I found this post well worth reading and will read it again. I definitely think we need to consider this. Sometimes I think, in regards to jargon and the integral academic flavouring that Integral is still a bit too hot off the oven for people to start consuming. I'm definitely in agreement with what you've written and felt an article like this was due. I find the language-games often give people an out for not taking responsibility of their own outlooks (not always but often.)

    If you think about the world as it is and you think about the kinds of people who happily live their lives below a level of development that is the centre-of-gravity of their social systems (I'm trying not to do the jargon thing) -- then, you notice their lives are otherwise enriched unbeknownst to the workings of how their society works.

    I think the best idea is to lay something deeper down for people so they needn't worry about the 'how.' In regard to the whole 1st Tier/2nd Tier -- you have to be at integral to understand integral -- I sometimes have trouble with this as a cul de sac. I guess, it's self-evidently true but if you consider the amount of university kids who might have a formalistic capacity learning post-formal ideas and being able to spit them back out in exams and do exceedingly well -- then I wonder if something similar might actually be a benefit here -- an intellectualised understanding is better than no understanding if criticisms are going to be chucked out anyway.

    Want to say more but I'm really just talking out my ass as I clean my room. Appreciate, this article.



  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Tuesday, 13 December 2011 12:18 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    One of the reasons I see (and this expands a bit on Giles' comment) is that Integral Theory is a meta-theory, which means that it contextualizes other theories. And one of the consequences of meta-theory is that it "exits is own domain" -- so for example, Sean Hargens and Michael Zimmerman wrote a comprehensive book Integral Ecology which conextualizes hundreds of approaches across domains, worldviews, altitudes, quadrants and quadrivia ... but it doesn't actually do any ecology. Or imagine a council on education, getting together to discuss different educational approaches -- at the end of the day, no student has been taught anything. To make integral meta-theory useful, you have to return to the playing field. Inside that playing field, it is really really hard to identify what advantage one has gained, *really* through integral meta-theory. There seems to be a disconnect. Furthermore, if relying on meta-theorizing creates action-paralysis, then you have a real problem, stuck in trying to parse the situation, rather than living into one's inquiry. But here's the interesting thing. In the early 1800's, very few people took up reading Kant, and set out to map his philosophy onto their daily lives. However, almost all of us today in the great white western world (GW3) operate under the principles that Kant set forth -- principles that were previously unknown. In this respect, philosophers, like other artists, are seers who articulate the latent view that is emerging, below the threshold of ordinary consciousness. So if this is also true of integral, then the fact that it has been codified by a generation of theorists, means that it is already well underway in transforming our consciousness(es). For most of us, below our ordinary threshold, the view from integral is functional (we are operating from that view) but we have not yet made an object out of it. Wilber comes along and names that "thing" -- and a generation of people immediately recognize it as already true -- that is why it is *psycho-active* ... because what was latent in us already, have been given a super-highway to race forward! But here is the crux of my comment. For those who have made integral theory their "object" -- this means that in effect they are functionally operating from an even deeper(higher) *view* -- and so what it interesting to me, is to try to tease out what this view is, instead of trying to reify the tenets of integral theory.... and then to continue to live there, at the edge, where the latent new perspectival elements are emerging from an aperspectival view. Its the edge of where being(in-becoming) crystallizes into knowing.

  • Comment Link Philip Corkill Thursday, 15 December 2011 15:16 posted by Philip Corkill

    Bonnitta, I'm virtually touching your feet (and glad this means you can't actually kick me in the head;-)

  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Thursday, 15 December 2011 16:49 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    Phillip! that tickles!

  • Comment Link Paul P Friday, 16 December 2011 08:24 posted by Paul P

    Nice article!

    I have been pondering this for a while too and I think Giles’ 2 cents are worth more than that.

    Sean E-Hargens told me a couple years ago that he felt Integral Coaching was the best application he had come across for Integral theory. I think this speaks to the super-highway for development that Bonitta mentions.

    What I wonder is what would other good real world applications of Integral Theory even look like? Is the growth of “interdisciplinary” work in the academic world evidence of “integral” theory playing out, even without being called “integral”?

    Here’s a thought from left field: there is a mathematical theorem known as Godel’s theorem which basically says that any formal system cannot be both consistent and complete. That is to say if you aim for consistency, then you miss some of the truths; and conversely if you aim for completeness then you lose consistency of the theorems.

    Godel’s was the nightmare theorem for Whitehead and Russell’s Principia Mathematica.

    Anyway, perhaps the scientific/academic enterprise aims for consistency and thus is incomplete, missing some of the truths (ie. some things are known to be true but not proveable scientifically).

    Whereas, perhaps Integral theory, especially a la Wilber, aims for completeness (ie. “Theory of Everything”) and thus loses its consistency. When you paint with a brush as wide as Wilber’s trying to fit partial truths/views together, some of the details may get lost and not add up…

  • Comment Link Seth Sunday, 18 December 2011 02:14 posted by Seth

    Digges, wanted to comment to the thread here. For those of you interested in real world application of Integral Theory, check out these two examples.
    In business, Stagen Consulting... I think Brett actually commented on this thread. Lovely use of the maps with executives in mid size business with an operational component as well.
    In church... UNITY of Omaha.. they are the rubber meets the road laboratory for applied integral in a church.
    Tony Robbins is successfully using integral concepts with major cross sections of the globe, as I mention in this recent blog post, http://sethbraun.com/2011/12/seth-at-tony-robbins-date-with-destiny/
    Love seeing this conversation.

  • Comment Link Gerard Bruitzman Monday, 19 December 2011 03:07 posted by Gerard Bruitzman

    The question is not about Integral Theory and Practice becoming popular; it is about Integral Theory and Practice being authentic.

    In his book Integral Sustainable Design, Mark DeKay discusses the 16 prospects of integral sustainable design, which arises from crossing 4 levels of complexity (traditional, modern, postmodern, and integral) with the four quadrants (experiences, cultures, behaviours and systems).

    A problem with this neat concept of 16 prospects and similar integral models like Sean Esbjorn-Hargens and Michael Zimmerman's 12 niches is the simplistic assumption that traditional ideas and practices are less complex than modern, postmodern and integral ideas and practices.

    Anyone who takes the trouble to read and comprehend the writings of the masters of traditional ideas and practices such as Plato, Plotinus, Thomas Aquinas, Nagarjuna, William Shakespeare, Ananda Coomaraswamy, Frithjof Schuon, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Huston Smith, Brian Keeble, et al., however will come to see the levels of complex understanding in various lines of development operating within various traditional civilisations.

    Indeed, many of the aforementioned proponents of traditional civilisation condemn various modern and postmodern reductionisms that result in a decline into the reign of quantity or various flatlands where traditional attention to incarnating divine qualities of truth, goodness and beauty in human form is at best marginalised and more often completely forgotten. In fact, many traditionalists like Rene Guenon, Eric Gill, Black Elk, et al., condemned the modern environmental crisis decades before the birth of modern environmental campaigns in the 1960s.

    With the best of traditional civilisations not appreciated and embodied, one struggles to see evidence of integral authenticity in people.

    What is needed is not integral populism but integral authenticity in which the best of traditional, modern and postmodern ideas and practices are integrated in individuals and their communities.

    This is an elitism to which all are invited that puts the often prevailing egalitarianism into a deeper and wider context.

    Some food for thought.

  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Monday, 19 December 2011 11:18 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    I would agree with you that the developmental bias in IT is monological and the inability to see how/that it is monological represents a huge flaw/blind spot in integral theory. However, this is not true if you do not equate integral theory with "developmental theory." unfortunately, I think the "branding" that Wilber has solidified that equation in people's mind. therefore, people like myself are loathe to be called "integral theorist" - I actually pulled out of writing a chapter for a Routeledge book, because it was heavily biasing "core wilberian thinking" -- and i was finding i was making very strong anti-wilber statements to distance myself from the rest of the book -- and then i realized the better course of action was merely to withdraw. good points.

  • Comment Link Gerard Bruitzman Tuesday, 20 December 2011 00:44 posted by Gerard Bruitzman


    Thank you for your response.

    One of the indicators of integrality is a well developed capacity for perspective-taking. In my view, an integralist is more able to take egocentric 1st-person, ethnocentric 2nd-person, worldcentric 3rd-person, planetcentric 4th-person, kosmocentric 5th-person, and divine nth-person perspectives into qualitative account and enlivening practice in an ongoing appreciation of and inquiry into the whole nature of divine experience and reality than people with more bounded 1st-, 2nd-, 3rd-, 4th-, and 5th-person views.

    I suggest that there are egocentric 1st-person, ethnocentric 2nd-person, worldcentric 3rd-person, planetcentric 4th-person, kosmocentric 5th-person, and divine nth-person readings of traditional, modern, postmodern and integral civilisations, providing plenty of scope for significant disagreements as seen today on CNN and Al Jazeera, and recorded in the annals of human history.

    I object to seeing traditional civilisations being treated as exclusive ethnocentricisms, modern civilisations being treated as objective worldcentricisms, postmodern civilisations being treated as intersubjective planetcentricisms, and integral civilisations being treated as developmental kosmocentricisms. All of these reductionisms lack truth, goodness and beauty in their affirmations of their views.

    In the words of Emily Dickinson, "tell the truth, but tell it slant."

    Perhaps Dogen Zenji said it best:

    "To study the Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things of the universe. To be enlightened by all things of the universe is to cast off the body and mind of the self as well as those of others. Even the traces of enlightenment are wiped out, and life with traceless enlightenment goes on forever and ever."

    One last point I doubt that Wilber believes in his "core Wilberian thinking" as the right way to think. I believe he is playing lila as well as he can.

    Perhaps that is a good understanding of an integralist, playing lila, the divine game, as well as you can.

  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Tuesday, 20 December 2011 12:14 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    yup. you can be authentic and deeply flawed at the same time. its beautiful, really, once you get the hang of looking at that in a certain way. and cutting yourself the same break. thanks for pointing this out. bests,

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Wednesday, 21 December 2011 20:38 posted by TJ Dawe

    Gerard, your comment reminded me of this passage from Guns, Germs and Steel:

    "For the last 33 years, while conducting biological exploration in New Guinea, I have been spending my field time there constantly in the company of New Guineans who still use wild plants and animals extensively. One day, when my companions of the Fore tribe and I were starving in the jungle because another tribe was blocking our return to our supply base, a Fore man returned to camp with a large rucksack full of mushrooms he had found, and started to roast them. Dinner at last! But then I had an unsettling thought: what if the mushrooms were poisonous?

    I patiently explained to my Fore companions that I had read about some mushrooms being poisonous, that I had heard of even expert American mushroom collectors' dying because of the difficulty of distinguishing safe from dangerous mushrooms, and that although we were all hungry, it just wasn't worth the risk. At that point my companions got angry and told me to shut up and listen while they explained some things to me. After I had been quizzing them for years about names of hundreds of trees and birds, how could I insult them by assuming they didn't have names for different mushrooms? Only Americans could be so stupid as to confuse poisonous mushrooms with safe ones. They went on to lecture me about 29 types of edible mushroom species, each species' name in the Fore language, and where in the forest one should look for it. The one, the tanti, grew on trees, and it was delicious and perfectly edible.

    Whenever I have taken New Guineans with me to other parts of their island, they regularly talk about local plants and animals with other New Guineans whom they meet, and they gather potentially useful plants and bring them back to their home villages to try planting them. My experiences with New Guineans are paralleled by those of ethnobiologists studying traditional peoples elsewhere. However, all such peoples either practice at least some food production or are the partly acculturated last remnants of the world's former hunter-gatherer societies. Knowledge of wild species was presumably even more detailed before the rise of food production, when everyone on Earth still depended entirely on wild species for food. The first farmers were heirs to that knowledge, accumulated through tens of thousands of years of nature observation by biologically modern humans living in intimate dependence on the natural world.

  • Comment Link Gerard Bruitzman Thursday, 22 December 2011 00:23 posted by Gerard Bruitzman

    Thank you TJ Dawe for your example of the level of complexity of knowledge of food sources exhibited by tribes in New Guinea.

    However, I suggest there are at least two ways to understand "tradition". To use Huston Smith's terms, there are exoteric and esoteric traditions. The example you provide is a case of a time and place bound exoteric tradition, where certain forms of knowledge are passed along from generation to generation.

    Esoteric traditions are more interesting. In esoteric traditions all things are related to the Divine Presence or Timeless Now. From Benedictine monasticism in the West to Zen lineages in the East, the most precious value is being centred in Divine Presence.

    Exotericists however do not necessarily get along with esotericists. Thomas Keating, a master of Centering Prayer, in many texts describes how esoteric Christian contemplative schools have been treated not so well in recent centuries. Titus Burckhardt, a master of traditional esoteric art, provides many accounts of how the sacred presence has become decentred and needs to be recentred in traditional and modern civilisations.

    In general, within modernity and postmodernity divine centredness is not highly appreciated and is evidently not the most precious value of many people. Therefore, esoteric traditionalists have plenty of scope to criticise modern and postmodern collapses into various flatlands decentred from Divine Presence.

    My question is: is divine centredness the most precious value of people with integral sensibilities? If so, where does popularity fit into a scheme of things based on divine centredness? I suggest not very importantly.

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Thursday, 05 January 2012 19:52 posted by TJ Dawe

    Gerard - I'd agree. Divine centredness deserves more focus to anyone purporting to have an Integral level of awareness. Many if not all Integral thinkers and writers recommend a regular spiritual practice, but how many of us engage in them, and commit ourselves to them? This is certainly a challenge for me.

    And I do believe if we can spread Integral ideas through more accessible language it can help more people explore the world through this lens, which is much friendlier to authentic spirituality in general than any of the dominant worldviews now. Not everyone will wind up meditating their way into a genuine mystical state, but has that ever been the dominant form of spirituality in any level of development? Not being an expert, I'd guess it's been the minority path in all of human civilization.

  • Comment Link Giorgio Piacenza Friday, 27 January 2012 18:24 posted by Giorgio Piacenza

    At CORE people have simple needs. For them to recognize the importance of IT and to interiorize it there's they need to understand some of the ideas, values and sentiments which led to the cultural impasse that IT answers to. It's like an (linear) addition problem.
    In my case I learned from my grandpah's classic mythic modern XIX Century understanding of what Perú was like and where it was heading. I also learned from my dad's modern European, WWI experience with its humanist ideals. Then, in my adolescence I contacted the hippie and the human potential movement with Guru's from India coming to Perú. Then I connected with Theosophy, the Perennial Philosophy and with Koestler books...and Wilber appeared! ONE THING LED TO ANOTHER and I had the cultural wherewithall to recognize Integral Theory. Most people don't have the cultural background to connect the dots. Moreover, I see that the a great percentage of youths in the latest generations live their lives through immediate gratification and electronic symbolic representation means; thus their First Person attachments tend to be very "light" to say the least. Furthermore, even in today's 'Information (or rather 'Communication') Age' the culturtasl lessons from generations past are not being retransmitted. How are they going to connect the dots?

  • Comment Link Philip Corkill Friday, 27 January 2012 20:34 posted by Philip Corkill

    One of the main reasons I was attracted to integral in this life, was "can't we all just get along?". I was deeply unconsciously afraid of the things that happened in my house before I was able to understand that it wasn't going to cost me my life. This really cost me in life! Conflict, house shaking rage, potential separations, that sort of thing. I'm scared of that. I realise that integral is not about avoiding conflict - at least not for many of the integralites I know - but that is honestly what it appealed to in me. "everybody is right" means we can find a way to get along without all these threatening divisions, this terrifying rage.

    From my current inquiry it's interesting to ask in relation to this popularity of integral question, why is Jesus Christ so popular? Maybe the deeper reasons for both trends are related? Ever read this statement by JC?:

    “…I’m not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama.”

    Sound pretty intergral to a newbe like me. But my attraction to Jesus Christ comes from a much deeper place than my initial attraction to integral. Now I want to know how conflict creates transformation. I'm no longer afraid of the rage in my family, don't think everyone is right or need them to be, and I don't want us to get along, unless we are actually providing something of deep value for one another. If we're not, it is better that we choose other families and drop all this tense and fruitless bullshit.

    So Jesus, IMHO, doesn't care for getting everyone agreeing or finding a partial truth in everyone's view and convincing me that this will be enough to resolve the wars, if we only know how to honour it, and map it to the right stage of development, and talk to it in its own language. And Jesus doesn't talk in the high intellectual language used by integral at all. He speaks the language a reader of a tabloid like the SUN (British) can understand. This is a high art. The Sun uses this language, of the common folk, to manipulate the public to a very comlex - and frankly completely criminal - capitalist political agenda.

    Jesus uses the same language to bring about the most complex of all structual unfoldings. Heaven on earth.

    He's talking in that language, not because he has a low IQ or hasn't reached second tier yet, but because it is the highest of languages in terms of the percentage of people who will get the massage. In my words: because of his outlandish genius for supra-integral communication. Beams and Struts in the language of the Sun (the Son of Man;-) would rock the world! Right now it operates with low language, in terms of how many people will get it. Though it is learning. Don't get me wrong friends, I love this language, personally. But an ordinary spiritual genius like my psychiatric nurse, won't like it or get it.

    To this day JC is popular. Either devotionally loved or devoutly hated, with little in between. That is true popularity! And it seems to come about by telling the whole truth in the language that most people understand, and judging things in terms of their whole truth. Not little parts, that contain little truths and trying to get them all to get along. No, Either you are serving the whole, and I am whole, or your not. period.

    “…rejecting me is the same as rejecting God, who sent me.”

    “This is war, and there is no neutral ground. If you’re not on my side, your the enemy; if you’re not helping, your making things worse.”

    Jesus could easily have chosen integral language or the language of the Finacial Times or The Guardian. But its as good as useless to his agenda. In terms of the fear of conflict that attracted me to integral, he is facing into it with great courage. If it leads to division hatred and death, so be it. It is wholey and true, creating heaven on earth, so who gives a fuck if it excludes people with no interest in Go(o)d!?

    I don't think integral has the guts to get into this kind of trouble. Has the guts to face the rage and division of the family. Or the guts to look intellectually common.

    Until integral grows that courage and decides to talk in more commonly understandable language, it won't be so popular. People can't really hate it and people can't really love it. Hmm... well, arart from you guys;-)

    "My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble."

    Come on integral:

    “…Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’”

    If you want to be more popular, take a real interest in me, speak to me in our common language about what you want from me, and don't mind the sparks.

  • Comment Link Philip Corkill Saturday, 28 January 2012 13:31 posted by Philip Corkill

    ...Like this for example:


  • Comment Link Rev. Alia "OM" Aurami Sunday, 02 December 2012 06:00 posted by Rev. Alia OM Aurami

    Hi Jason, thanks for your wonderful thoughts and for sparking this conversation. Just discovering it, a year later, and feeling moved to engage!

    I've had this conversation with so many different people so many different times, and I've enjoyed reading all the comments here. Have been expanded by each, and enjoyed all.

    I have a few ponderings to share, based on all my previous versions of this conversation. First, the role of jargon, which is an issue which comes up often. Jargon exists because new concepts are formed which means new words come into being or new use. New concepts being formed, which are new ways of seeing the world, new distinctions and new similarities-seen, which expands the scope and power of the consciousness of anyone who "gets" them and can use them.

    So jargon is good. It uniquely enables conversations about and using the new concepts, with those who understand them. This advances humanity's understanding, embodied in the few who know the meaning of the jargon terms/new concepts/new ways of seeing the world.

    However, it makes no sense whatsoever to use the terms with those who do not "get" their referents. (Subject to the caveat I make below, about intellectual-leading of embodied learning.) Why would one do that? That's when jargon is bad. It ends up being showing off, it can be a means of distancing, it's alienating, it's worse than useless.

    Those who understand the contexts in which jargon is useful and useless (like many of the good teachers in the world) are thereby "integral" in some way, and lots of people do understand this (writers of marketing copy, for example, haha) and a lot of folks in the "integral" sub-culture, DON'T understand this.

    The other point I'd like to say has been implied or stated above, but perhaps my 3GE (jargon term, haha) way of saying it will be helpful.

    "Integral THEORY" is a set of ideas. Integral as a worldview is not a set of ideas. As has been said, it is a way of living, of being, of acting, of relating. It appears to me that one of the best ways for me to help the world BE more integral, is for me to BE more "integral." I'd rather 1 person was inspired by my example of the perspective-taking I am showing in my living, than 10 people understood intellectually the concept of "perspective-taking" because I explained it to them in language.

    (And of course, ideally, both would happen in helping the world become more integral, because some folks work into being via intellectual understanding.)

    To your original purpose, Jason: The implication I got was that you wished to see the world become a better place, (let's leave the specifics out for now, and implications of ideas of better) and that if Integral Theory were more popularly understood, that would contribute to such a world.

    My view, articulated also by some above, is that the world is changing, dramatically, in the consciousness sphere, and the existence of Ken Wilber and all these other thinkers is IMO evidence and example of that, not a primary driver of it. Each "node" of influence on the world has its sphere of influence, but the change doesn't seem to be depending on any one of them.

    Thus, those of us who are attracted to this "node" of influence, and wish to see it used more widely and effectively, ponder your question together, and try to come up with some useful insights.

    But if "Integral Theory" never seems to spread as we think it might, then either it is spreading more subliminally or non-verbally than we are aware of, as some previous commenters have talked about, or its role in the world-changing is not so necessary as we believed. That last view kinda requires a deep breath, to accept as likely valid, but I find it comforting to take that deep breath.

    It's also been my VERY hard-won personal learning in life, that my passion for improving people's lives is not very well accomplished by any TELLING. Of course learning is important, but story-telling and living models are also crucially important. And as was said, development, if that's what we are after for people, is a matter of 'one thing leads to another' in life conditions making someone receptive to new ideas, new views, new ways.

    So TELLING people ideas, concepts, theory, is OK but of limited usefulness for my purpose. It might or might not be hard to empathize with how hard-won that insight has been for me, LOL!

    Thus, I don't get overly-exercised about how popular "Integral Theory" is.

    I've resonated with a lot of things others have said previously in this conversation, and am really glad to discover it. I think it will be very useful for those who read the whole conversation.

    And it ain't over til the fat lady sings, and I don't hear her yet. There is more to be said on this really fundamental topic. I'd be interested in how things have evolved in your ponderings on this topic since you wrote this blog entry, Jason!!

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