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".
SEE MORE ESSAY WRITTEN BY MARTY KELLER
Reposted from aqalblog.blogspot.com with permission of the author.
Marty Keller is a native of the Detroit area. Graduated from the University of Michigan in 1973 where along with everybody else he fell in love with socialism, and has had at least ten different careers and political journeys since then. Came to California in 1983 and completed Masters Degree in Consciousness Studies at JFK University in 2004. He has always had a compelling interest in our political system, with a special devotion to the example of Abraham Lincoln as the quintessential American statesman. Recently completed 12 years of state government service, and 14 years in the Unity movement; now works to support disabled veteran business owners. He started writing commentary on Wilberian ideas with the WilberBlog in Jordan Gruber?s now-defunct enlightenment.com web site; has been posting desultorily on AQALBlog for the past eight years. Regularly unwelcome at Boulder-centric events.
Global Warming and
the Cross Currents
“No one knows what the Earth's climate will be at the end of the century. Based on history, it is possible to hazard a prediction of a different kind. Before the end of the century, the Western mind will conceive another environmental crisis necessitating the ending of the modern industrial economy, the only form of economic arrangements that has lifted mankind to undreamt of prosperity.
“The big question is whether the Western mind will be sovereign at the century's end and the West remain the core of the world economy or relegated to its peripherysomething only the passing of the present century can answer.”
Rupert Durwall, The Age of Global Warming
It is a curiosity of current evolution that the determination to "fix" the problem of climate change is so thoroughly the property of a single political faction.
It is a curiosity of current evolution that the determination to “fix” the problem of climate change is so thoroughly the property of a single political faction.
The trained integralist sees at once the first tier food fight that this has, inevitably, become. But since there are actually very few well-trained integralists, it is a worthy exercise to look into the actual dynamics and how they so lawfully reflect evolutionary structures.
The leading edge of consciousness evolution resides in the impulse to what I call “high green”that structure of green striving, without much success so far, to emerge from the immature form that is “Boomeritis.” Green is the first stage of consciousness to become aware of the fundamental and universal equality of all humans, which inspires its desires to create a world that honors and protects that equality. The orange stage which it transcends was, in its turn, the first to create and sanctify individual identity as it emerged from its tribal wave. At orange we explore with abandon our newly found individual identity; at green we explore the universality of this structure.
Green’s emergence as a mass meme in the 1960s was, for better or worse, impregnated by the concomitant rise of postmodernist critiques, starting with literary studies and quickly swarming outward to invade first all fields of study and then all parts of society and culture. Postmodernism’s greatest weakness is its rejection of Reason as a universal method of analysis; without discovering and employing a dialectic that transcends and includes Reason, it has only Emotion to offer in its stead. This supplanting of Reason with Emotion has had all kinds of disastrous consequences, one of which has been to stultify the maturing of green and, in the political realm, regress back to the amber [mythic] days of might makes right.
As it has permeated political consciousness, those in whom Boomeritis first emerged tended to congregate in the New Left, whose war on the Old (orange) Left resulted in the takeover of the American Democratic Party in the period 1968-76. Previous to this transformation, both political parties were centered in orange consciousness, with its right hand structures in nation states and industrial economies. The Democrats had diverged from the Republicans with their formal adoption of a progressive philosophy during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, which they turned into a governing majority when FDR used it to fashion a reasonable response to the exigencies of the Depression.
The Republicans, on the other hand, emerged from the Civil War and the leadership of Abraham Lincoln as the party of modernity that championed individual liberty and the economics that most supported and benefited from it. In 1912, the “progressive” Bull Moose experiment of Teddy Roosevelt provided a “softer” version of state intervention into the economy than the New Deal would, but later on its currents in the GOP couldn’t survive the demands put upon them by the Great Society, and so rather quickly the “liberal Republican” disappeared.
The presidency of Ronald Reagan represented the apotheosis of the political economic outlook of Lincoln, but the rapidly emerging Information Age and the end of the Cold War laid bare new challenges to which neither party has yet to respond effectively and inspirationally.
Thus since the election of that avatar of Boomeritis Bill Clinton in 1992 we have been a 50-50 nation; neither the establishment orange policy assumptions nor postmodern Boomeritis prescriptions have caught the public’s imagination. To many it appears our politics have degenerated into a name-calling, money-drenched, left-right deadlock, with nothing but fear and loathing of the other side to offer.
In the case of the politicization of climate change, we have been barraged with emotional warnings of imminent catastrophe from all the major domos of the pomo left, but almost no rational and thoughtful dialogue which alone would help humanity discern the best response to the currents of our dynamic climate.
Leftist Climate Policy’s Unspoken Assumptions
When one attempts to understand the world that the majority of global warming alarmists see when they agitate for enormous compulsory reductions of CO2, CH4, and other greenhouse gases created in increasing quantities from the fossil fuels used to power the world economy, one notices five fundamental assumptions underscoring their policy prescriptions. (I am referring here to those pushing the particular policy of dramatic and compulsory greenhouse gas emissions reductions, not to those conducting scientific research on the climate.)
- First and foremost, as exemplars of the new emerging “green” consciousness they assume a stance of caring for the well-being of humanity and the planet. They are indeed able to see a bigger picture of how things work together and are interdependent. They can see a disproportionality in the global social order which they believe can and must be set right.
Thus they seek to protect the earth and humanity from the depredations of “the 1%” who, they assert, refuse to take the responsibility that they, the alarmists, do to be stewards of the planet, its environment, and its people. Only the "progressives," they believe, are capable of assuming a global consciousness; everyone else is trapped in his own narcissism and ignorance.
- Secondly, they assume that the current physical environment of the planet, poisoned though it may already be by human carelessness and ignorance, must be permitted to deteriorate no further. Somehow the status quo represents a fixed position that must be defended and returned to at all costs.
All the concern about melting polar ice and rising sea levels, for instance, presumes that the current levels are correct and/or optimum for human civilization. All the anxiety about longer summers and shorter winters presumes that the current ranges are correct and/or appropriate for human survival.
- Thirdly, they assume that the environmental degradation produced by the technologies of the Industrial Age is the result of conscious decisions by morally culpable people who by and large chose personal advantage over community sustainability. The treachery of these people against humanity should sentence them to the ninth level of Dante’s Inferno.
Thus even as the two billion-plus populations of China and India have finally reached the threshold of exponential increases in per capita wealth via industrialization of their economies, our friends on the Left say they must now choose between bettering their own standard of living or deferring this indefinitely to stave off global disaster. They also would like the Advanced Sector to liquidate a vast amount of its wealth to compensate for the impact of the Indian/Chinese economic pause they prefer. Since, they reason, this wealth came at the expense of the global environment, those who have benefited have the responsibility to pay for those depredations. (Exactly how the Indians and Chinese can use this wealth in a carbon-free economy is not discussed.)
- The fourth assumption is that human activity somehow is alien from the earth and its history, as if, rather than being an intrinsic and leading element of evolution, we were mysteriously dropped here from an entirely different place in the universe. This is reflected in the standard practice of applying the words “nature” and “natural” to anything non-human, and to isolate identifiable human influences as “artificial” and thus in some way outside of “nature.”
Somehow, in this view, something about humans divorces us from our source in Mother Earth. Although birthed by the on-going evolutionary imperative of the cosmos, we did something at some point that stripped us of the condition of being embedded in that imperative. We now stand alienated from our environment, both physically and temporally, banished from Eden for eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Industrial Growth. The postmodern god of the communitarian imperative has expelled us from Paradise for the resultant sin of blasphemy.
- The fifth involves a fascinating irony: the conviction that “green technology” will be able to generate sufficient energy throughput to safely and cost-neutrally replace fossil fuels. Ironic because this faith puts humanity back into the picture just after the previous assumption dumped us out.
So, as far as I can assess it, these are the foundational assumptions of the majority of the global warming "alarmists" (aka the Left or the “progressive”/rent-seeker axis): the physical structure and condition of Planet Earth must change no further (unless of course we could restore it to the condition is was in at the dawn of the nineteenth century); only non-human terrestrial dynamics are natural and therefore valuable; in spite of that artificial “green technologies” are not only acceptable but game changing; and any impacts we make on the planet that degrade the status quo are the result of greed and obtuseness at best, and of evil at worst, while they have only the best interests of humanity at heart.
That these are foundational for these people offers us some insight into humanity as a whole as we all engage in the endless struggle of existence. After all, that significant numbers of us operate from this perspective at least raises the question its origin and place in our evolutionary psychological structure. Rather than reject or argue with it, it offers us a deeper insight into what’s really going on at the very depth of our existence.
Historical Antecedents of the Warmists’ Assumptions
Before going there, let’s note a few things in response to these assumptions of our friends on the Left.
First, there is nothing new whatsoever in them.
Thomas Robert Malthus
Thomas Malthus warned his fellow Englishman 215 years ago at the beginning of the Industrial Age that we were running out of the resources necessary to sustain life. The conviction that present reality is the only sustainable reality is ancient, and it is tied both to our fundamental requirement for physical securitythe first level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needsand to our underdeveloped capacity to see, understand, and align with long-term evolutionary trends.
Indeed, since Malthus’ day a significant amount of global political strife has been about the presumed need to defend the status quo against the destructive forces of capitalist innovation. A feature of this strife is the not-surprising fact that the champions of the status quo are usually allied with those most invested in it.
The recognition of the impact of the toxic by-products, waste, and carelessness characteristic of the first two centuries of the Industrial Era is a much more recent emergence. We trace its earliest political response only to the middle of the nineteenth century when the British Parliament passed the Alkali Act to curb HCl emissions in London. Various reactions to particularly air pollution caused by unfiltered venting of industrial gasses and smoke from factories across Europe and the United States continued thereafter, along with the creation of wildlife and nature conservancies. But addressing the systemic cause of pollution had to wait until the 1970s when masses of people agitated for mitigation and clean-up.
Until that time, however, the need to deal with these problems was taken in stride and not converted to a spiritual problem. The Left had not yet taken up environmental concerns in its platform, so the application of its particular political method had to await the social upheavals of the 60s. Indeed, the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s muckraking Silent Spring marked the beginning of a mass awareness that certain products and processes might contain toxins that can degrade the physical and social environment.
It was the link between the political Left with its enmeshment in socialist and postmodern categorical thinking and the emergence of environmental awareness that created the crucial association of human industrial and commercial activity with moral culpability. Thus from the start those who owned and benefited from the technologies that produced pollution and other toxic materials as a by-product were now to be associated with the oppressor bourgeoisie class of Marx’s invention.
This compulsion to assign blame and culpability to others is also the ancient and still firmly innate human tendency to project upon The Other our own shadow self-beliefs. That the Left developed its own symbology and nomenclature is merely the latest twist on an ageless element of human psychology.
The truly spectacular innovation was contributed by the postmodernists with their obsession for deconstruction and dethroning Reason from human discourse and social organization. This generated their campaign to denaturalize humanity, to take the blame game an extraordinary step further and erase humanity itself from its role at the leading edge of Kosmic evolution. In quick order it has become commonplace on the Left to assume that somehow “humans” and “nature” are entirely at odds with one another; nature, in their minds, has become yet another ideological victim in the greedy and selfish human drive for hegemony at any cost.
You can immediately discern the problem with this set of assumptions. If defending the terrestrial climate status quo is the imperative, then the development of a definitive and demonstrably effective policy to ensure that is essential. But since human greed is in the way, then implementation of such a policyeven if sufficient political consensus about its viability can be achievedwill require unprecedented amounts of force to make opposition yield and take its medicine. And since there is nowhere near an actual global agreement to undertake this unprecedented social and economic engineering challenge, those “in the know” must organize politically sufficient strength to subdue the opposition; the application of force is a key weapon in this war against ourselves.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that such a war would make the bloody violence of the 20th century seem a mere skirmish. The suppression of the natural (there’s that word) human desire for an ever-greater standard of living among the billions in Asia who have such an outcome now in their collective sights is probably impossible, even if the Advanced Sector had the unanimous will to attempt it.
Arriving at this conclusion is not particularly difficult; regardless of one’s political orientation one can easily see the impossibility for the success of this course. Yet the climate activists continue to push for global action to maintain the climate status quo as if this were actually achievable. After their abrupt comeuppance at Copenhagen by China and its developing sector allies they, like the Bourbons of post-Napoleonic France, have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.
The fig leaf employed to disguise this unsettling truth is the faith that “sustainable” energy-generating technologies can easily and painlessly replace the fossil fuel regime. Even though no studies exist to verify this, and even though the current “green technology” sector in both the U. S. and Europe is rife with rent-seeking via massive taxpayer subsidies, one cannot in good faith dismiss the possibility out of hand. This potential, on the other hand, is the only factor that the Left offers to counter the charge that their policy is otherwise an emerging nations suppression strategy. If their faith proves to be chimerical, then the only possible result of their policy recommendation is exactly that which they proclaim doing nothing will result in: massive devolution of human civilization.
It is ironic that these people blast their opponents for our faith that technology will be part of the ameliorative adaptation policies that will permit humanity to deal with the impacts of climate change while they themselves have a similar faith in their own technological approach. The difference, of course, lies in the fundamentals of the recommendations.
What drives the Left’s puzzling policy prescriptionsince they are currently unwilling to entertain the possibility of mass adaptation to global warmingis their certainty that refusal to do so can only result in human devolution. This leads to a very uncomfortable conundrum, which so far has been absent from the public debate: if the policy the Left proposes is not viable, but if at the same time they insist that their policy is the only one we can pursue, then are they not asking us, in essence, to choose our method of committing mass suicide? Hemlock or firing squad: are we not damned if we dounprecedented world war to enforce sufficient suppression of greenhouse gas emissionsor damned if we don’tignoring the alarmists’ uncompromising suppression policy and taking our chances with Mother Nature?
Surely, you ask, our friends on the activist Left aren’t so stupid as to be unaware of what they are demanding. Surely they must be uneasy about betting the farm on their hopes for cheap and viable “green technology.”
That is indeed a good question, one to which we are inexorably led in the light of their continuing and unyielding insistence that humanity must, in essence, tear itself apart via an unprecedentedly bloody world war. Must we destroy the globe in order to save it?
Eros v. Thanatos
We will see that the tendency to what looks like self-sabotage is a feature of the universe, although not in the way we apply it to ourselves.
Perhaps this logical absurdity is a reflection of a profound paradox resting not only in the hearts of humankind but in the very nature of the Kosmos. So let us take a seeming detour from our study of the "warmist" perspective to look at human nature and the way it has been shaped by evolution. We will see that the tendency to what looks like self-sabotage is a feature of the universe, although not in the way we apply it to ourselves, and that it plays a role in the dialectics of transformation that we can embrace.
Certainly we can see in the physiosphere the interplay of the forces of creation and of destruction. The universe itself (according to our best theory) was born when the perfect symmetry of Nonexistence was violently and suddenly destroyed by Existence. As this anomalous incubus expanded out of and into Nonexistence, matter and energy began a constant dance of transformation, exchanging form and content nanosecond by nanosecond, energy cooling into matter and matter exploding back into energy endlessly.
Even now, quantum physicists describe the subatomic world as a plasma of virtual reality, where the precise “existence” of anything particular appears with a ghostly mien, perhaps taking on form, but then again perhaps not. The best we can say for certain is that the physical realm is extremely and permanently dynamic. The firm ground we think we stand on is an illusion.
Rocking the thermometer at 4 trillion degrees Celsius, a subatomic soup that might reflect the state of matter shortly after the Big Bang has set a new world record: It's the hottest substance ever created in a lab. (discovermagazine.com
From the perspective of the physical universe this must appear “natural,” i.e., it is the very order of things. From [the first nano] seconds from the moment of the Big Bang, expansion and transformation has been a signal constant, and although the current configuration of the universe appears vastly different from what it was at the beginning, in fact we could say that, since nothing has been added or subtracted in the interim, it’s just the current version of the original pattern.
However, until the emergence of humanity in the form of Homo sapiens some 100,000 years ago, the universe was conscious of none of this. Self-awareness only emerged with the differentiation of the human species from the rest of the world; and even this has undergone various stages of expansion and transformation. Like the universe that gave birth to it, consciousness necessarily is one with the laws of universal nature established at the Big Bang.
In our evolution we can discern a handful of distinct stages, and we can further observe that the emergence of new stages seems to be accelerating. From the beginning we survived with a level of consciousness conducive to the maintenance of our hunter-gatherer social ecology. After humans survived the last Great Ice Age we developed agriculture in earnest, and a new structure of consciousness emerged to support this social innovation. This was around 12,000 years ago; it was tribal in identity, oral in communication, imperial in social structure, linear in economic structure, and mythical in spiritual and intellectual matters.
Although here and there, apparently starting in the last half of the first millennium BC, individuality in the modern sense began to arise, it wasn’t until the Renaissance had given birth to the Protestant Reformation in Europe that an entirely new level of consciousness began to supplant the tribal. This was individual in identity, literary in communication, egalitarian in social structure, nonlinear in economic structure, and rational in spiritual and intellectual matters. This stage of consciousness accompanied and supported the rise of modern science and of the Industrial Age.
Even as the Modern era expanded outward from Europe, first to America and then to the rest of the globe, the seeds of the next stage of consciousness did not take long to sprout. By the middle of the nineteenth century, well before the zenith of the industrial mode, what would become postmodern consciousness began to arise. This was best symbolized by the discoveries of relativity by Einstein and of quantum physics by Bohr, Mach, Heisenberg, and the rest in the early twentieth century. (We could also point to its presence in the arts via geniuses like Picasso in painting, Schonberg in music, and Proust in literature.)
As a mass phenomenon this postmodern stage began to emergence only 50 years ago. Its relative youth means that it hasn’t settled into a stable structure yet, so our characterization of it is still tentative: it is transpersonal in identity, video-based in communication, leveling in social structure, democratic in economic structure, and emotional in spiritual and intellectual matters. This stage of consciousness supports the rise of the Information Age.
Even as each stage of awareness features topographies that are uniquely different and expansive compared to earlier stages, they have several things in common. (For a comprehensive review of these stages of consciousness and their role in Kosmic evolution, see Ken Wilber’s great Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality.) First, they are extremely partial in their understanding of the great questions of humanity: life, death, purpose. Second, they are extremely time-bound; their capacity to see and identify with the vast scope of the world and its evolution is limited. Thirdly, each is utterly convinced that its worldview is the only valid one. Fourthly, they have no capacity to live with and embrace either paradox or ambiguity. We pursue certainty under the assumption that it is a necessary element of security and stabilityin spite of history’s evidence that while neither security nor stability exist in any sustainable way, nonetheless we have figured out a way to host and provide for more and more humans with an ever-increasing standard of living.
The evolution of human consciousness is characterized by ever greater degrees of freedom for the human being. As Maslow so skillfully demonstrated with his Hierarchy of Needs, our growth starts with freedom from the need to survive, proceeding to freedom from the need for security, then from the need for belonging and validation, and so on. As we move up the hierarchy, we experience exponentially greater degrees of freedom.
But, as his use of the pyramid to illustrate this progression implies, the farther up the hierarchy we travel, the fewer people we meet who have experienced the same degree of transcendence.
Thus all of these features result for almost of all us in a sense of constant conflict. "Life is difficult," the famous opening line of Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled, is universally apt. Many of us still struggle even for basic survival. Even when we master that struggle we next fight for safety and stability, and so on up the pyramid. Further, we soon learn at each stage that there is no “right way,” no guaranteed method by which we can secure our needs. We are subject to not only everyone else’s opinions and advice, but to our own inner voices that criticize and undermine our every decision.
All of it, all of these conflicts, simply reflect the universal structures set in motion 13.7 billion years ago.
All of it, all of these conflicts, simply reflect the universal structures set in motion 13.7 billion years ago. They are our own version of the constant dance of transformation. Everything in our worldindeed everything within each of usis relentlessly changing. Yet our consciousness has not yet evolved so as to be at peace with this fact. And so at our deepest levels we fear the worst: that all of this struggle is for nothing, and that at the end death and oblivion are all we can expect.
Plato identified deep currents underlying the world as Eros (love) and Thanatos (death). From the beginning, Eros was seen in every combination that created something new, whileThanatos was found in every collapse and dissolution. New forms continuously come into (Eros) and out of (Thanatos) existence. From the perspective of the evolution of consciousness, Eros calls us to greater and deeper awareness and identity, while Thanatos seduces us into stasis and reaction.
Humanity, in whom consciousness is such a young and tender thing relative to the history of the universe, is naturally subject to the whiplash of Eros and Thanatos. We can see it in our own history, as we have struggled to develop ever greater capacities to live and to live well, resisted by our fears that innovations will either prove fleeting or destructive.
Until the widespread growth of Reason with the rise of the Modern in Europe after the sixteenth century, premodern cultures were organized to address little beyond Maslow’s first two levels of needs. Things progressed so slowly as to be invisible to all but the most visionary. The impulse of Eros was difficult to see beyond the local level (at best), and so we projected it onto the various deities that our different cultures invented. It was said that the one God of Judeo-Christian mythology loves us unconditionally, but we will experience that fully only once we affirmatively accept His love and only after we slough off this mortal coil. The Christian myth explicitly incorporates the love v. death theme with the centrality of its crucifixion-resurrection story.
The innovation of Reason permitted us a strange new metric by which to apprehend evolution, and the invention of the natural sciences unbridled by the claims of religion and orthodoxy spurred an exponential number of discoveries about ourselves and our world. For the first time in Kosmic history, tools to analyze the world around us became available, and humans applied them with relish.
Ultimately we attempted to apply to the study of the world within our hearts and minds the same scientific principles we discovered in the study of the physical realm. And although this will ultimately be inadequatethe inner realm has different metricswe nonetheless have learned a lot about psychology and the evolution of the inner life of the individual.
Throughout all of it, the fundamental dynamics of creation and destruction, of form and energy, of love and death remain visible and available to experience. But for most of us these are distant, almost imperceptible forces, surviving in a neo-mythical realm of archetypes and fundamental dynamics that seem to have little impact on our daily lives. Even at the leading edge of the evolution of consciousnesshigh greenwe still see the world in formal and egocentric terms. We do not yet identify with the universals; we still experience ourselves as drops of water separate from the ocean.
It is the hope of many integralists that we are living on the threshold of the mass emergence of second tier consciousness, something for which the evidence speculative at best. In the meantime, it’s a thoroughly first tier world convulsed by the Trimemetic War, of which the great climate change debate is a thoroughly quintessential artifact.
Integral Approaches to the Climate Change “Debate”
McIntosh and Phipps take for granted the superiority of their perspective and so do not subject it to rigorous analysis.
Integral theory derives from the insight that “everyone is partially right.” Whatever our particular worldview, as long as it is in the first tier we assume that it is absolutely valid and therefore superior to others. This is the dynamic that characterizes the Trimemetic War, in which we each battle furiously to defeat what the other stages of consciousness champion. This “win-lose” dynamic is how the Eros/Thanatos duality expresses in first tier terms.
So thoroughly embedded are we in first tier that it is a significant challenge to find methods by which we can become aware of how its dynamics influence our thinking and then find equanimity with everyone else’s mystification about this strange and weird new perspective.
An example of the difficulty of this can be seen in philanthropist Steve McIntosh’s initial steps toward an integral view of the global warming debate in his founding of the Institute for Cultural Evolution. McIntosh and his collaborators have set for themselves “the goal of applying groundbreaking insights taken from Integral philosophy, developmental psychology, evolutionary theory, and the social sciences to help create significant forward movement in the evolution of the American cultural and political landscape.” They have faith in the possibility of both a “transpartisan synthesis,” and the forthright ability “to positively influence the evolution of American culture in realistic and measurable ways.”
A mighty big goal, yes? The question of the viability of conscious evolution is certainly a tantalizing one; why waste all the wisdom generated by humanity over the millennia if we could focus it consciously to improve the lot of not only ourselves but the Prime Directive itself? And to McIntosh’s credit, there’s nothing like just doing it to discover what, if anything, works in this noble endeavor.
The challenge will be, however, to develop rigorous means of transcending and including our first tier experiences and structures, all of which rebel against the “momentous leap” into the second tier. (To be clear, Spirit itself generates both each wave of consciousness and the drive toward transcendence of and by each wave.)
Thus the ICE appropriately uses climate change as a useful exemplar of how we might develop a “transpartisan” approach.
In a wide-ranging interview with Integral Institute co-founder and “Daily Evolver” host Jeff Salzman, McIntosh and collaborator Carter Phipps (alumnus of Andrew Cohen’s EnlightenNext project) appropriately acknowledge their own leftist bias and perspectiveowning our own perspectives is a critical element in any integral analysis.
Depolarizing the American Mind, The Integral Center, Jun 2 2014
Stating one’s own viewpoint, however, is just the first step to an integral perspective. One must subsequently be able at least formally to describe the other perspectives involved, and this is where it can become tricky, since one has to be able to be aware of how one’s own biases can color the understanding of these other biases.
McIntosh and Phipps authored an essay, “Depolarizing the American Mind,” that proposes a methodology to encourage the transpartisan synthesis. It starts out well by asserting that the leading edge of evolution bears the greater responsibility for dealing with the junior waves by virtue of its greater depth. Thus they assert, albeit grudgingly, that “the responsibility for overcoming the gridlock [i.e., in Washington] rests mainly with progressives and liberals.”
In the practical world of politics, however, this is making the unsupportable assumption that “progressive” and “liberal” = “green wave” consciousness; from the very start of their analysis they reveal first tier blind spots that greatly weaken their case.
It is not my intention to examine in detail the flaws of the approach laid out in “Depolarizing”; that will be the topic of another post. Suffice it to say that even the most adventurous Boulder-based attempts to fashion second tier analyses suffer from the Boomeritis origins of their perspectives. It is necessary to constantly point out that green is not integral; good intentions are simply irrelevant to transcendence.
Given that the New Left and its “progressive”/rent-seeker axis have solely generated agitation for globally-imposed “solutions” to the global warming “problem,” necessarily integral approaches to climate change policy must start by looking unsentimentally at both the content and context of these recommendations. McIntosh and Phipps, being embedded in the Left, take for granted the superiority of their perspective and so do not subject it to rigorous analysis. That is one of the limits of first tier memes. Thus they do not see how the leftist prescription has its historical roots in amber’s reaction to orange. They fail to appreciate the reactionary roots of socialism as a political movement, and thus simply misconstrue orange and non-Boomeritis green suspicions of the motives of the climate activists. For sure, they point out that these people have failed in their mission to get the globe to exchange its wealth for drastic greenhouse gas reductions through their adherence to postmodern deindustrialization and dismantling of capitalism.
But a serious flaw is their uncritical acceptance of the leftist analysis of the issues of climate change as a “wicked problem,” even though they recognize that it is “too multidimensional to be simply 'solved.’” Even as they attempt to envision an integral approach to the issue, they reject those who disagree with their major premise as duped by “a consortium of think tanks associated with the Tea Party movement [which] have indeed achieved astonishing success in decreasing concern for global warming” [italics in the original].
But they see none of the five unspoken assumptions I examined at the beginning of this essay. By assuming as given the policy thrust generated by these very important beliefs, they unconsciously block the possibility of an actually integralor more preciselyan integrally informed approach. (This is doubly ironic because one of the gifts of the Postmodern is the rejection of "givens" in understanding Kosmic evolution.)
The closest they can come is “to seek to use and include all the valid perspectives” of the three environmental “policy camps” on the left which they have distinguished.
At the same time, they also recognize that resistance to these group’s insistence on the dire nature of the threat is in large part culturally determined, i.e., in the Lower Left. Thus they realistically recognize that imposing “warmist” solutions will not occur until and unless they can persuade a sustainable majority to support both their position and their assumptions.
This, at least, is a legitimate attempt at four-quadrant analysis. If they could get the stages correct, they might actually approximate an integral analysis.
All this is not to say that their long-term determination to initiate an inquiry into the possibility of conscious evolution is a waste of time; far from it. But if they are to use successfully the climate issue as the vehicle of this inquiry, they have a lot more work to do.
The Integral Imperative
From my perspective, the imperative remains, as the case of McIntosh and ICE demonstrates, the de-Boomerization of green. Our political polarities have been colonized by Boomeritis; the New Left has adopted the environment as the wedge issue to achieve its original goals of undermining orange with its commitment to individual autonomy, industrial economy, and Reason. The “community” it champions is just amber tribalism all gussied up with pomo rhetoric. The right, on the other hand, has by and large abandoned its championing of the spiritual and material advances of the modern world and fallen back on amber/orange traditionalism a defense against the postmodern assault on the achievements of orange. In its confusion it has developed an unhealthy Stockholm syndrome that the Tea Party was founded to challenge.
It is highly ironic that both these factions do not acknowledge their common amber ancestry, although we should probably be very grateful that they do not.
It would be of greater value if the Institute for Cultural Evolution and the other Boulder-based organizations would focus on the imperative to encourage healthy green; second tier’s emergence is probably being delayed by green’s occupation by its Boomeritis variant. Perhaps ICE has started this with its critique of leftist approaches to climate activism.
At the same time, integral analysis notes that the dynamics in play are yet another version of the endless dance of Eros andThanatos in the unfolding Kosmic drama. As the American mystic Thomas Merton wrote in his classic New Seeds of Contemplation,
For the world and time are the dance of the Lord in emptiness. The silence of the spheres is the music of a wedding feast. The more we persist in misunderstanding the phenomena of life, the more we analyze them out into strange finalities and complex purposes of our own, the more we involve ourselves in sadness, absurdity and despair. But it does not matter much, because no despair of our can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there. Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it to or not.
Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance.
If the Left is correct in its assessment of the dangers facing humanity because of the way the climate is changing, then it does indeed bear the responsibility to devise generally acceptable policies to responsibly deal with it. But as long as it remains bound in the first tier, it must fail spectacularly at the challenge. Perhaps the crisis is presenting humanity with the impetus for discovering transcendence, for only by recognizing its own limits and blind spots can the Left actually become willing to cut a deal that rationally prepares us to accommodate both the changing climate and the accelerating drive in India and China (and shortly thereafter in Africa and the rest of Asia) for a modern standard of living.
Our own perspectives are subject to the Sturm und Drang of Eros and Thanatos. This is, in fact, a source of optimism and joy as Spirit expresses Itself in its evolution.