Frank Visser, CLIMBING THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN: Reflections on Ken Wilber's “The Religion of Tomorrow”
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".
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.
The Trumpet Shall Sound
Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Until someone demonstrates otherwise, I will continue to insist that levels of consciousness are not political platforms.
Integralites have spilled gallons of ink (literally and figuratively) on the Donald Trump phenomenon; I am no exception (although my spillage is perhaps somewhat more modest in quantity). Last summer I penned “Integral Trump, or the Center Cannot Hold” in an attempt to apply an integral lens to this weird, unsettling, and unexpected dynamic. At the time I was less interested in Mr. Trump the human being and more in both what he had tapped into in the United States and how that fit into an obvious global dynamic that includes the election of Narendra Modi as Indian prime minister, the depredations of ISIL and Bashar al-Assad, Brexit, the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the reconsolidation of dictatorships in Russia and China, and other political disruptions. Further, I was and am most interested in answering the question, what then must we (integralites) do?
Additionally, I have been skeptical about attempts to “colorize” political leaders, starting with Ken Wilber’s boasts that Al Gore and Bill Clinton were reading his works and leading up to current integralite labeling of people like Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, or Bernie Sanders as “integral leaders.” It is unclear to me how, without a rigorous analysis of our own wishes and beliefs, we can avoid projecting onto folks like these our own worldviews. I took a close look at this phenomenon during the last American presidential election when Boulderite Terry Patten claimed Mr. Obama “the best hope we have for more integral politics and policies” in urging all of us to vote for his re-election.
There is also the evergreen assumption among many integralites that waves of consciousness, including this first transpersonal one, generate a particular and specific political economic policy perspective, a belief rife with the mythic amber worldview that integralites have presumably transcended, included, and integrated.
Until someone demonstrates otherwise, I will continue to insist that levels of consciousness are not political platforms. I tend to agree with Ken Wilber’s long-held assertion that “left” and “right” are types—the fifth element of the Integral Model. That means that within each level folks can skew “liberal” and “conservative” and remain consistent with the contours of each stage of consciousness. Even in Spiral Dynamics, an integral model I find inadequate for understanding the evolutionary phenomenon, many caution against the tendency to assign specifics to the SD levels.
We can demonstrate this by making the case that Donald Trump and many of his faction offer a non-left Boomeritis green perspective, rather than the orange (or earlier) version that most integralites presume.
Finally, and most importantly, any integral analysis of Mr. Trump—or of any particular phenomenon of current history—must in fact apply the entire AQAL lens. It must look at exteriors and interiors in both individual and collective expressions. It must account for the Trimemetic War resulting from the clash of three major distinct mass perspectives. It must account for the variations in individual and mass behavior that emanate from various altitudes in our lines of development. It should appreciate the way the types flavor human leanings and activities. Finally it must at least make a nod towards the role the three major states of consciousness play in Kosmic unfolding’s present (at least in our little corner of it) condition.
It is of course extremely difficult to resist the temptation to take people and events as we perceive them in our first tier experience and go to town offering critiques of them as if they exist in no other context than the feeling of the moment. This is, after all, what we have been trained to do and what we have habituated ourselves to accept as absolutely real. That is the gift and trap of first tier waves: the presumption that my perspective is absolute and therefore all others are relative to mine. Evolutionarily this feature was necessary to not only individual and tribal survival, but to the process of transcend-and-include. Without consolidation of the levels of consciousness into predictably reliable probability waves, there would be no foundation from which transcendence could occur. How can we transcend a loose and shifting level? We would keep falling back into the dynamics of the earlier, not-yet-firm stage, as if we were dancing on psychospiritual quicksand.
But the reality of the challenge notwithstanding, integralites face the challenge of developing a method for seeing the world integrally, opening the Eye of Spirit, as Wilber might put it, which takes in all earlier ways of seeing without discarding or minimizing them.
When we accomplish this—which I believe cannot fully occur without our center of gravity actually making the momentous leap into second tier—we experience an astonishing empathy for ourselves and our world. We become less enamored of the specifics and more of the generality. We identify more with what we as humanity are up to as a whole than with what any of us individually may be doing, while appreciating these contributions (positive or negative) nonetheless. We cherish our own individual reactions to the Sturm und Drang of daily life. We cherish centers of gravity in first tier waves. We cherish our enmeshment with the hierarchy of needs, and enjoy how we all are necessarily directed by it.
So with these notions in mind, how then shall we talk about Donald Trump, the disruptor magnus who has come to play such a large part in our personal and collective discourse?
Current Elements of Global Transformation
My own bias is looking at the world through the Narrative of the Atman Project: that the story we are writing is how the Kosmos created consciousness of itself through the mechanism of human beings, and that this involves a particular trajectory requiring the invention of the mature, self-actualized individual human to act as the springboard to a self-actualized humanity acting as an agent of Spirit to inaugurate an era of self-consciousness evolution.
If we are willing to not only tell but participate in this story, then we recognize the essential value in developing the capacity to distance ourselves from what we are doing, thinking, and feeling in any given moment, for otherwise we are writing the story blindly. Thus: integral.
I have developed at length in posts on AQALBlog the story of the Trimemetic War, the clash of three mass waves of consciousness that create the world we have today: amber, orange, and Boomeritis green. One of the great failures of most integralite analyses has been the insufficient appreciation of the decisive role of the emergence of orange modernity in our evolution. The rise of individual identity in a world long habituated to tribal identity is a disruptor as powerful and earth-shaking as what we are undergoing today; in fact, everything happening now is the result of this merely five centuries old Kosmic temblor.
The first consequence of its emergence was the immediate push-back by people and institutions still centered in amber; that push-back has continued unabated although in different forms since the sixteenth century. It is not only seen in external struggles, including the great wars of the twentieth century, but also in the ongoing struggle of individuation to mature on a mass basis.
A major driver of the Trimemetic War is the specific amber nature of Islam, whose 1.6 billion adherents across the globe constitute (in general) a well-developed and –entrenched center of the premodern simultaneous resistance and attraction to modernity. The identification of the ummah as the tribe of Allah (dar al-Islam) makes it difficult for most Muslims to accede to the modern call to individuation, and thus the institutions of the modern world have by-and-large spectacularly failed to gain even a foothold in most Muslim societies.
The second consequence of orange’s emergence was the unleashing of rationality and the scientific method as a powerful dynamic in human thought and relationships. Again, it is difficult for us who have benefited from their existence and centuries-long deepening to appreciate what a radical shift these methods of inquiry and dialectic have engendered. Difficult, that is, until we go inside and look at our challenges for self-actualization on a personal level.
This also makes it hard for those of us living in the Advanced Sector to appreciate and understand premodern societies like the Arab world and Africa. As the implications of Moore’s Law result in an exponential increase in computational power, speed, and bandwidth, the Advanced Sector citizenry is best equipped to assimilate new technologies and adapt ourselves to the new social geometry they are inviting. In this way the gap between amber- and orange-centric societies will only widen, and the friction between them increase.
The third consequence of the radical shift created by modernity has been a serious, on-going spiritual crisis that arose from effective rational attacks on mythological religion, particularly on Christianity in Europe. It’s now been 135 years since Nietzsche pronounced God dead and identified his killers:
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?
We in the West have been struggling to find satisfactory answers to Nietzsche’s fundamental and disturbing questions. For the most part, we modernists have merely (and usually unconsciously) switched our allegiance to new gods adorned most carefully in rational raiment and make-up. The unfolding of modernity is besmirched with post-Christian creeds whose adherents were as bloody-minded in enforcing conformity with their beliefs as anybody in Tomás de Torquemada’s cabinet.
The soi-disant rationalists of the French Revolution led the way with their Cult of Reason. In their longing for a rationalism that could slake the human thirst for identification with the divine (or the transrational, if you prefer), Jacques Hébert, Antoine-François Momoro, Joseph Fouché, and their fellow rationalists failed to grasp the transcend-and-include dynamic necessary to solving their dilemma. Across the channel Edmund Burke was accurately diagnosing their failure and prescribing an alternative method for the rational to co-exist with the divine. In the Trimemetic War to date Burke has yet to defeat Robespierre (except in U. S. which benefited—until the rise of the Progressives—from little opposition to the goals and methods of its revolutionaries as agents of the Scottish Enlightenment).
Much like Barack Obama did eight years ago, Mr. Trump has attracted a wide variety of projections from supporters and opponents alike.
Into this cauldron of evolutionary chaos steps Donald Trump, a leader reflecting in many ways the Boomeritis tendency to supplant Reason with Emotion and to believe in his own truth. In the “Integral Trump” post I posited that Trump (and Brexit) represent an orange-centric counter-counterrevolution against the arrogance and inevitable errors of postmodernism and its Boomeritis followers.
Much like Barack Obama did eight years ago, Mr. Trump has attracted a wide variety of projections from supporters and opponents alike, all reading into his public persona the version of the world they most believe in. The speculation about his motives, his philosophy, his intentions, and his character have naturally increased dramatically since his surprise victory last November. It is difficult to get a satisfactory conventional-style reading on him for many reasons, not least because of his entirely unconventional path to the White House. In this unlikely achievement, he has overthrown many verities that used to prevail in American politics, and in such a way as to leave most of us mystified.
Because he is anti-establishment, many of us have succumbed to a species of the pre/trans fallacy: is he hell-bent on re-establishing a supposed previous regime of, say, Reaganite government, or is he a truly revolutionary character seeking to establish a brand-new, truly postmodern, system?
Ah, we mostly don’t know, and if Trump has his center of gravity in a rightwing version of Boomeritis green we probably will not soon be gratified.
The case of Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor of California might be instructive. (I spent five years in his administration.) In many ways he was a lot like Trump—much verbal braggadocio, puzzling off-the-cuff remarks, not a small touch of narcissism, and a registered Republican. And when one looks back at his seven years in office, it is impossible to discern a consistent governing philosophy that informed his decisions and public policy prescriptions. (My personal assessment was that his lodestar was approval from his left-leaning Hollywood cronies.) This pattern suggests a Boomeritis green orientation.
In general, what characterizes this orientation is its endearing determination to end what it views as the social, political, and economic oppression of have-nots combined with its uncritical and emotion-driven belief that government is the only and an effective instrument of achieving this goal. It should escape no one’s notice that Mr. Trump, in his victory speech in the early hours of November 9, made two explicit promises:
We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We're going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it. We will also finally take care of our great veterans who have been so loyal, and I've gotten to know so many over this 18-month journey. The time I've spent with them during this campaign has been among my greatest honors.
Government (aka taxpayers) to the rescue!
Of course, at the same time he has promised to repeal Obamacare and an unspecified number of regulatory roadblocks to business success promulgated by Mr. Obama’s team (among other things), thereby establishing that his Boomeritis is not of the leftwing variant.
His cabinet appointments—to the extent that I have studied them—appear in the main to be fairly mainstream conservatives, by which I mean that their political philosophy tends to support lesser government and more freedom in civil society at as an orienting direction to proposing public policy and managing federal affairs.
His assault on the left establishment and its MSM clerisy can also be seen as coming from a Boomeritis green lens, a green civil war if you like. The flaw that Boomeritis mars mature green with is its rejection of orange’s gift of Reason as a method of human mentation and relationship (see “Transcend and Exclude,” below). One of our challenges in analyzing Mr. Trump’s political philosophy—if any—is his habit of eschewing dissemination of a consistent platform in favor of a scattershot Tweetstorm of seeming disconnected fulminations, bon mots, and witticisms. This has much in common with the left’s consistent inability to mount reasoned defenses of its own policy prescriptions in favor of denigrating its opponents’ alleged moral failures instead. Perhaps this is why Mr. Trump generates such over-the-top denunciations from these folks.
(This is why shadow work is so essential to transcendence and escaping the Trimemetic War, and why its non-adoption by most of us continues to fuel this first tier food fight. Projections all the way up, all the way down.)
Momentous Change is Upon Us
Regardless of Mr. Trump’s personal center of gravity, his election has more to do with world dynamics and the accelerating breakdown of the institutions of the Industrial Age that beset the globe than with his person. He may or may not contribute something of value in the way of proposing and establishing new institutions to stabilize our post-industrial, Information Age political economy, but he is in power because a decisive group of American voters—like Brexit voters in Great Britain earlier in the year—no longer had faith in the left establishment’s prescriptions for stability.
The shattering of the presumed authority of the clerisy in the US and London to offer a supposed disinterested version of “the truth” represents an obvious turning point in the global political economy. The recent Buzzfeed “leaking” of documents purporting to show Mr. Trump as a willing stooge of the Kremlin and the bizarre defense by its editor-in-chief Ben Smith merely underscores the radical nature of the devolution unfolding before our eyes—and in which we are all participating. The Guardian quotes Mr. Smith, to whom we should give credit for honesty:
We are now in an era when you have to engage in false statements. It’s an environment where you no longer have the luxury and where the legacy media has at times turned away from saying there’s all the crazy stuff on the internet and said we’re not going to touch it, we’re going to stay out of it, we’re just going to let it spread. I think this is a place where sunlight is a disinfectant.
In this little example we can see that the disruption is neither of the right nor the left, but of a far deeper and more profound universal movement.
As I have written in earlier posts, the Trump/Brexit dynamic seems more a revolt against the (leftwing) postmodernist counterrevolution against modernity than a call to a better and more relevant program to promote an authentic postmodernity.
It is entirely possible that the new crop of leaders coming onto the scene as a result of this current round of turmoil will fail as dismally as the previous group; after all, it took centuries of struggle for orange industrial governing structures to become firmly planted in human societies. The irony is how brief its moment in the sun turned out to be!
Momentous change is upon us, whether we would risk it or not. It remains to be seen whether Trump’s accession to the presidency will signal the open reconfiguration of RH geometry of political economic structures that toward which the dynamics of Kosmic evolution have been building, like pressure on our slowly moving tectonic plates, to disrupt the unsustainable status quo and force something new into being.
We integralites might do well to heed the suggestion in the quotation from Corinthians that heads this post. The trumpet of the new world has sounded, and we shall be changed. The question is, what will it take for the dead to be raised incorruptible, for transcendence to lift us all up to the next level of human (and Kosmic) possibility?
Peace will come in the Trimemetic War only when two major shifts are completed: first, orange has to get its act together to permit mature individuation among a critical mass of us; and second, amber has to give way to orange among a critical mass of us globally.
Integralites may dream, like the lotus-eaters in Tennyson’s great poem, of “our island home . . . far beyond the wave,” but I suggest a rather more mundane task that keeps us, in spite of all odds, sailing “through wandering fields of barren foam.” The maturing of orange is our great task, promoting a society that comprises genuinely self-actualized human beings.
There will be opportunities to reinvigorate this noble work in the emerging counter-counterrevolution that Mr. Trump and others are leading against those committed to killing off modernity and individuation in a vain belief that the tribe is a better guarantee of security. It may be a cliché to say it, but we cannot go back; the only way is forward.