Reflections on Ken Wilber's The Religion of Tomorrow
(2017) - Parts
INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
Don Edward Beck
How to use Spiral Dynamics
I often get questions about how to introduce Spiral Dynamics ideas into the mass mind.
Here is a practical example.
I sent out the following in late 1999 to an American audience. First, you will note that
I used a reference to the Life Conditions being faced by Americans at the turn of the
century. We had been plastered with TV commercials from the movie Independence Day. Many
had actually seen the flaky film. Others were genuinely concerned about the potential
threat of Y2K. so, I decided to connect to both of those images.
Second, I had to fashion a specific version of Spiral Dynamics that would be free from
jargon and theory, and would contain local references, names, icons, and issues that
Americans would recognize. Since there was "tongue in cheek," I wanted the article to be
slightly entertaining while deadly serious. You will note the absence of academic
writing. "New Age" would resonate with them, as would the Rush Limbaugh radio broadcasts.
Third, I wanted to stress the importance of the Second Tier (GT-HU, Yellow-Turquoise) way
of thinking. Note how Integrals made use of all of the First Tier systems, but added the
'integral" perspective that would align and synergize them.
As is always the case, when a concept is popularized one has to live with
less-than-precise allusions to illustrate the theory. So, here is the Graves Technology,
contained within Spiral Dynamics extensions and, like the Russian doll, embraced within
the larger Integral package. I believe we should develop our skills in communicating
these basic concepts within all three domains. (Don Beck)
is a teacher, geopolitical advisor, and theorist focusing on applications of large scale psychology, including social psychology, evolutionary psychology, organizational psychology and their effect on human sociocultural systems. He is the co-author of the Spiral Dynamics theory, an evolutionary human development model. He spent many years adapting the work of his mentor and colleague, developmental psychologist Clare W. Graves, Prof. Emeritus in Psychology at Union College in New York.
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An Epoch Tale of Tragedy and Triumph
With tongue in cheek...
Let's play the "what if" game. What if the events fictionalized in the earth-blasting
movie Independence Day of several summers ago actually happened? If that movie
was too far a reach for you, think of something more realistic that does not involve
actor Will Smith knocking out an alien. Extensive global damage from a massive
asteroid hit would do it. The last time the dinosaurs had a bad day. Or consider the
widespread fear and trauma if Ebola-like viruses mutated into air-borne predators,
possessing the codes to negate our immune systems. What if a bioengineered microbe
broke out of control, attacking our wheat fields and food sources, thus destroying
the ecological chain? Chicken Little might have a point about the sky falling.
Or, who knows what Y2K will actually bring when Big Ben strikes 2000 AD. Un-
detected embedded chips may bedevil us yet. Even potential terrorists may be primed to
strike at the stroke of midnight. And, only last week the heads of the American and
British meteorological societies declared that human acts have indeed changed global
weather patterns, contributing to awful scenes of human loss.
Our heroes defeated the alien force in the mythical movie, but only after fifty major
cities had been vaporized. And, none could deny any longer the existence of menacing
extraterrestrial life forms. Perhaps others had the Planet Earth in their sights. Such a
fear would be logical to folks who survived such a terrible experience. Even now
the mysterious Area 51 military base in Nevada creates paranoid chatter from
late night talk shows. Art Bell's Coast to Coast AM radio guests makes eerie claims
that radiate to countless Internet forums.
The Human Tragedy
Then, what would WE do? ("We" meaning all five billion-plus earthlings and surviving
leadership structures.) The movie deals with the events on a July 2, 3 and 4. Global
"independence" was won on that July the 4th from the invading monsters, just as the
Yankees gained ours from the invading Red Coats. (Well, I know, nothing was that simple
since nobody likes to pay taxes but we needed villains. Alas, lots of good British breakfast
tea was dumped in the Boston Harbor in the process!)
But now, on July 5 – "ID4+1" – with major cities in ruins, entire nations in disarray, with
chaos lurking on every street corner, and the future destiny of Homo Sapiens on the line,
the questions begin:
Who will survive? What organizing principle will dominate? Which hands hold
the trump cards? What decision-making system will prevail? Social Democracy?
Rigid Authoritarianism? Global Federalism? A Bill Gates Science/Technical
Oligarchy? (One might ask these same questions in attempts to define current post
Cold War dynamics. I defined such a political space in my State of the World
Forum presentation entitled "In Search for Cohesion in the Age of Fragmentation:
From the New World Order to the Next Global Mesh.")
This future scenario may appear to be foolish speculation since it begins with a story
full of fiction and mindless fantasy. But remember, we are playing "what if." Perhaps
the raised awareness will enable us to probe more deeply into the dynamics at work
in our real worlds. We may discover the forces that continue to stir the sands in the Middle
East, or why Africa remains in such horrible conditions, or even what lurks in the shadows
in our urban blight. Who knows. Maybe humans will succumb to our darkest natures.
Red in tooth and claw may glisten everywhere. The slope is indeed slippery that descends to
fear, greed and Dante's Inferno. Or, have we evolved into better natures? Is there hope for us
On Independence Day Plus One -- the day after -- six powerful human value systems
and worldviews compete for command and control. Each has its own cultural code, set
of "what matters most" priorities, operating assumptions, organizational life-forms,
and leadership models. Each is convinced it has "the answer."
Since we are now blasted back into the stone age-like conditions, our SURVIVALIST
instincts turn many of us into 21st Century hunters and gatherers. If you and your children
are starving, private property will not matter, nor will our modern day dietary constraints.
Golden Arches will be a sign of free food just ahead. History is full of sordid examples
of this "hand to mouth, anything goes" ethic, and they are not pretty. But, when pushed
to shove, what's a human to do?
TRIBAL ORDERS form as individuals rally around zones of safety and security.
Only the "in" people are protected; the "outs" have to fend for themselves. Boundaries
harden, even between previous mates. Here we have the Hatfields vs. the McCoys,
or the Crips vs. the Bloods. The various diaspora gather to protect their respective
genetic and memetic seedbeds, or their cultural beliefs, languages, sacred places and
rituals. As in the Balkans and large parts of Africa, only blood and soil matter.
Identity and ethnicity define one's daily bread and future survival No wonder
Lord of the Flies-type tribe/gangs flourish in times of great uncertainty and high stress.
A new Attila the Hun appears at the top of a feudal age EMPIRE on what was left of CNN,
rattling nuclear-tipped weapons secured from scientists needing bread. Mad Max and a whole
generation of road warriors race along our interstates in a new rampage of rape, pillage, and
plunder. They make ancient Viking raids look like docile tourists. The law of the jungle
becomes the name of everybody's game, both predator and prey. Strong-armed edicts replace
any semblance of the rule of law. Power and exploitation reign supreme. Thugocracies roam
freely. It becomes a dog-eats-dog time and place, virtually everywhere. If you think humans
are incapable of such behaviors in the "civilized" 20th Century, think of Rwanda and Kosovo.
HOLY FORCES assert themselves with their militant ideologies and conformist
commands. Millions of people gladly ride into the Valley of Death, searching for
the meaning of life and guarantees after death. Ancient Holy Christian Crusades
resurface in modern clothing. A malignant Jihad responds in like kind, spreading its
influence over landmasses and thought waves. A former calypso singer from Chicago
takes charge through his Nation of Islam and disciplined storm troopers. Rule Britannia or
Pax Americana-type nationalism raise flags to defend boundaries and keep out the infidels.
China finally wakes up its teeming billions with a malignant mix of Confucianism and Marxism
as the Pacific Rim fractures in a gigantic War for National Liberation.
Holy wars flare on every continent, raising the specter of Armageddons-for-real, making
the violence in Northern Ireland or Indonesia look like the frontier conflict between farmers and
ranchers in the stage play Oklahoma. In such a dreadful scenario there are no over-arching
goals or values, and no call that "territory folks should get together." Conflicts that are abstracted
into struggles between "good" and "evil" are not amenable to rational dialogue. No doubt
Jerusalem and most of the Middle East simply implode back into the mores of ancient
Babylon, with the same dire consequences.
Powerful élites, under the control of Adam Smith's invisible hand, launch a major
counter strategy. They have a great deal to lose of material value. Like old-style radio
decoder rings, insiders pick up marching instructions in the voices of Rush Limbaugh
and other FREE MARKETEERS. "To the successful, smarter, or more skillful belong
the perks and privileges" their commercials exclaim. Science and technology will win out.
The "can do" philosophy emerges to elevate levels of optimism as win:win leaders seek to
replace privation with progress. New political alliances form involving tribal chiefs,
enterprising war lords and self-serving authoritarian, all desiring pay-offs for their
"cooperation." A whole new category of case-studies are written for Harvard MBAs
to sort out and imitate. Yet, when the FREE MARKETEERS are successful, the
rising tides lift a full asortment of different boats.
Finally, the voices of the EGALITARIANS are heard on behalf of the human family.
The banners and bumper stickers read: Peace and Understanding, Human Rights Come
First and Share and Share Alike. Jean Houston and other "New Age" gurus lead the
march on the United Nations. Leaders from the Scandinavian cultures offer to help.
We are all asked to join hands in a human ring around the planet, to demonstrate
and symbolize our common heritage. The memory of the naïve souls who climbed on
top of a building in Los Angeles to await the Great Convergence (in the movie ID4)
only to be transformed into ashes, is still fresh in "the community." Yet, their appeals
are heard by many, and begin to soften the hard edges of racism and prejudice while
many unbridled, random acts of kindness are observable on every front. Many
dear souls have not forgotten the hard lessons from counter-cultural revolts in the
l960s and l970s.
Take tongue out of cheek!
THE HUMAN TRIUMPH
So, what organizing principle would actually carry the ID4+l day? Which worldview
would "make it" in the time of shrinking niches within a hostile, topsy-turvy world?
SURVIVALISTS,TRIBAL ORDERS, EMPIRES, HOLY FORCES, FREE
MARKETEERS, and EGALITARIANS all lock into a life or death struggle.
Just imagine a global Tower of Babel where all of the world's historic grudges,
guilt, greed, -isms, power grabs, and zealotry reappear at the same time. Imagine
going back to the future and forward to the past all at the same time. What a horrible
human tragedy could await us all if we allow ourselves to descend into animalistic
swamps of the past. Yet what a golden opportunity for human triumph hovers just
over the sunlit uplands. Is such a triumph of the human spirit actually possible?
Can we find the courage and vision to explore new horizons? Is there a Land of
Oz at the end of the yellow brick road?
(If you think about it for a moment these identical worldviews clash on a daily basis in
our current society. Like deep tectonic plates that rub together and collide, they create
surface level explosions and forms of human turbulence. These invisible fractals define
the primary conflicts between 1st and 3rd World mindsets, growth vs. quality of life goals,
and even combatants from "the left" and from "the right.")
Suppose new forms of human intelligence rise out of the Phoenix-like ID4 ashes, ones that
have not appeared on the planet before. Call the advocates of this new complex
adaptive system the INTEGRALS. They are forged in the crucibles of conflict and despair,
and tempered by the realities that human nature consists of many different alloys. They sense
a new perspective on human diversities, recognizing the worth of different "bottom-lines." They
are neither overwhelmed by the chaos-of-the-day, nor are they intimidated by attacks from other
worldviews. Without question this new INTEGRAL human complexity and temperament is
bewildering if not threatening to many. One only sees them, today, around the peripheries
and perimeters of power. They are waiting in the wings to be summoned forth by the
sound of the trumphet call to action.
These INTEGRALS thrive on the Power of The Third Win, a way of thinking beyond the classic
win:win gamesmanship. At the top of their priority stacks is an acceptance of natural flows,
a respect for the past-present-future time lines. Rather than force a single car-wash solution
on everybody, everywhere, they respect the essential human strata of evolutionary development.
They are tough-minded but warm-hearted. Their tool kits are full of practical solutions while their
souls dream dreams and see visions. They are not better people, or happier people, or more
But, they are different people.
And what would they do if empowered in the wake of ID4? How could they assist
the transformation of Towers of Babel into Spirals of Hope? What practical, new
processes and protocols could they offer to humanity?
To start, they would form variations of Margaret Mead's "sapient circles," the
gathering of the wise ones who could participate in a series of intelligent design
initiatives. Mead reported that humans have done that historically whenever the
complexity of problems overwhelmed the available solutions. Like now.
MeshWORKS projects would be born over night, a process that mobilizes all of the
elements, stakeholders, participants, and interests in a community, company, or country.
A meshwork activity involves much more than simply "coming together." It represents
a new way of making complex decisions, always in search of The Third Win. While late
20th Century politicians continue their quest for "The Third Way," INTEGRAL thinkers
have already discovered and mapped out these pathways. They utilize Ken Wilber's
formula of all quadrants/all levels initiatives in societal upliftment. They are aware of
Ichak Adizes' concept of CAPI – the coalescing of people with the authority, those
with the power, and the individuals with the influence around the same table. No more
fragmented, ad hoc, territorial, or piecemeal solutions to complex problems.
INTEGRALS legitimize the healthy expression of the Six dominant worldviews,
recognizing each must play a significant role in global recovery and renewal. From the
SURVIVALIST comes the capacity to make do with very little. TRIBAL ORDER
adds strong, protective "nests" and families that offer chicken soup and supportive
spirits. The African term "ubuntu" expresses this feeling better than any other language.
EMPIRES contribute the strength, hubris, energy, and "damn the torpedoes," "full speed
ahead" resolve to perform heroic deeds and challenge repressive warlords; HOLY
FORCES supply a sense of meaning and purpose in life to rekindle hope. This, coupled
with a moral compass and a respect for good authority, would be essential.
Without such a capacity Russia continues to suffer from Mafia-type gangsters.
FREE MARKET, with its creative imagination and risk-taking ability, provide
the uplift, the technology, the pragmatism, and the drive "to be successful" to the
core value systems codes. And, the warm, human concern from EGALITARIANS will
keep a focus on human needs, so no one will fall beneath the cracks of human existence,
even during perilous times.
This integrative thinking protocol would nest the various worldviews like the Russian
dolls, systems within systems within systems until the Human Spiral itself is balanced
and functioning. This would not be a time of all sweetness and light, but of discipline,
accountability, collective action to meet the basic needs of people, and individual initiatives
to create and innovate. The ultimate focus would be on the continuation of life – all life –
on the Planet Earth. They would enhance our AQ (adversity quotient) intelligence.
INTEGRALS, then, bring this unique capacity for intelligent design to the table. This ability
to integrate and synergize human differences, resolve the great paradoxes of the age, and
promote the "never ending quest" for new life forms yet unborn, are marks of a world
view that could well appear during the crucibles of fear, conflict, and human tragedy.
INTEGRALS are not naïve globalists, nor do they spawn any given ideology, self-interest,
world order, or Flatlander view. They are realists first and foremost, and recognize that Life
Conditions as well as internal human scripts (genetic and memetic) impact human choices
and possibilities. These minds search for the next global mesh. Much of this thinking is
expressed in Barbara Marx Hubbard's notion of "conscious evolution." And, Howard Bloom's
insightful concept of evolutionary emergence describes the interactive roles of diversity
generators, conformity regulators, resource distributors, and competitive tournaments
in ratcheting human groupings along the evolutionary trajectory.
This explains the INTEGRALS' initial preoccupation with getting systems set right–
personal, family, community, organizational and societal. Further, they recognize that
each culture or human grouping consists of levels, layers, whorls, and strata of rich
histories, traditions, myths, and formative experiences. This unique stratification of
the human destiny must be respected, facilitated, and expressed in healthy variations.
All of the interior Russian dolls (the smaller ones within the larger ones) must be robust
and contribute to the emergence of new Russian dolls that, in Ken Wilber's language,
can "transcend and include" them all.
So, as you think about the transition we are witnessing to a new decade, century,
and millennium, pause for a moment and ask yourself what you would do following
the defeat of the external alien force as in the ID4 scenario. What action would you
take on the +l day? And, as you raise your toast to the end of l999 and the launch of 2000
next Friday night, at least ponder the idea that we humans have a momentous choice
and challenge before us. Are we up to the task?
As the voice of Akash (Lawrence Olivier) observes in Dave Clark's rock opera Time --
"If you want to change your world, my friend, you must change your thinking."
Will 2000+1 set the tone for Human Tragedy or Triumph?
What a wonderful and yeasty time to be alive.
Don Edward Beck
Dr. Beck can be reached at 940.383.1209, or at DEB@SpiralDynamics.Com
, and Box 797, Denton, Texas 76202 USA. Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership & Change
(Blackwell, l996) was co-authored with Christopher C. Cowan The Crucible: Forging South Africa's Future
(New Paradigm Press, 1991) was co-authored with Graham Linscott. For a description of the All Quadrants/All Levels as designed by Ken Wilber, see his Introduction to Volume 7 of the Collected Works of Ken Wilber
, Shambhala, 1999. For additional information regarding Spiral Dynamics and various applications and learning opportunities world-wide, consult www.spiraldynamics.net