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
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Giorgio Piacenza is a sociologist student in the Certificate program leading to a Master's degree in Integral Theory at JFK University.
Integral People - Where?
So where are we really going, collectively speaking?
I'm worried that Ken Wilber's expectation that an influential percentage of the population (at least in the U.S. and Europe) is becoming Integral Stage will not materialize in the world at large. After the green baby boomers mature (and some, expectedly, become first stage Integral) how will the rest of the population evolve? Will new cohorts like the boomers arise under the circumstances materializing today?
As said by Ken and other thinkers the boomers' children seem to be more narcissistic than their already narcissistic fathers. I also say (along with psychologist Sergio Sinay, author of “La Sociedad Que No Quiere Crecer” which translates as “The Society Which Doesn't Want to Grow”) that a great influential percentage of kids born in the 1980's and after (even as children of baby boomers) do not share the depth of ideals of their parents and crave short term entertainment. They are the children of postmodernity, of internet, of instant gratification. they are light, they are videocrats and I think that the life style this first stage of post modernity imparts tends to be developmentally confused (within the minds of newly developing individuals) with Red Level quick gratification and rebelliousness implicit or explicit values, therefore holding back further psychological development into the stage that psychologist Robert Kegan says people need to develop in order to operate in the demands of today's world.
While Derrida and other post modern philosophers may have been Green at heart in an ethical way and their criticisms of modernity, the logos, structures, traditions and reason may have been well intended in order to generate horizontality, their generally convincing questioning of the logoic structures that held our world together may be misinterpreted and, for the most part, assist Red level individuals to remain red. It may even assist Amber level individuals to question modernity in an attempt to return to how things were in the not too distant past of the Middle Ages. In fact, postmodern thinking can be so much misunderstood…it is dangerous.
In some universities here in Perú there is a small but growing movement of Catholic religious, neo conservatives that question, humanism and the modern, scientific invasion of most spheres of life and they do it by using the tools of Deconstructionism to deconstruct the rational scientific premises of modernity in order to re establish as more valid the a religious-based way of life. This in essence is like the "Radical Orthodoxy" also proposed in the U.K. and other places.
While the Greens (which originated from a long and complex process in advanced Western Societies under unique intellectual and democratic circumstances) appeared in the political scene questioning traditionally rigid modern and mythic society after the Second World War, we must see that the time was ripe for them. But their utopian expectations soon gave way (in a majority of cases) to the task of making a living and becoming more realistically settled. They are hard working, still sufficiently idealistic to strive for a universal cause, but also individualistic…in a certain way they conform the last of a cohort that believed in Meta Narratives and the first of a way of being which is more Postmodern. They handed in the economic and technological basis for the next generation (some of them being their children) but -perhaps- their openness and more approachable educational style failed to transmit to the new generation some of the structures, limits and values they had dearly strove to live by. When their children grew in red and amber stages, they required authoritarian or at least structured Father and Mother figures that their Boomer parents could not represent or weren't willing to represent anymore. Moreover, also the mores of the culture they helped to change didn't either clearly transmit values of 'right' and 'wrong' in the stages when the new generation needed them the most.
The result of all these is a Generation Y which is immature, superficial, intolerant to frustration, seeks immediate gratification and may not sufficiently care about Principles and humanistic values, all the while assisted in the entrenchment of these characteristics by the influences of descentering, relativist Post Modern thinkers. So what will happen when the adults die? Will the Green-becoming-Integral 'cultural creatives' create the sufficient conditions to promote Green and Integral stages of development in the new generations absorbed by instant connection, clicking, downloading and dragging (as Alan Kirby in his ideas about "Digimodernism" proposes)? I don't know but I don't see an inevitable development or, rather, a strong enough path being carved towards Integral Level individual and cultural development in any of this.
Then, we must also think about incorporating hordes of ever multiplying young, poor people into the political processes of developing countries. The situation is varied. Some go into blind commercialism as a life referent. Some go into informality and trying to beat the system at any cost, pretending to be (or being when convenient) formal or accepting of the (now weakened but still general) values of officialdom. Some become religious fundamentalists. Some still belief in absolutist political systems like Marxism.
At least here in Perú I see that their lifestyle is quite chameleonic or based in short term convenience accepting informality and delinquency while –when convenient- playing the game of the minimally credible economic-legal-political system. Many stages of development seem to be combined by a pragmatism in which artificially created needs also rule. The influence of these majority is felt everywhere now with an increase in transit, crime, crowds, and a loss of idealism and calm places to enjoy a humane quality of life. Semi delinquent human communities adapting to cahotic, sprawling urban environments would not seem to propitiate the development of hordes of youths (whether children of baby boomers or not) into Integral levels. All kinds of maffias, re-tribelizations, a strong push toward ambiguity, an excessively congested indigestion of information leading to superficiality and indifference do not seem propitious to assist these hordes into their eventual Integral levels. What these people need is a meaningful sense of things in the levels they can understand and that seems to include Win-Lose structure, Myth and clear Reasons adapted to our current living conditions. Maffias, tribes and fundamentalisms are multiplying under a primitive effort to maintain a sense of meaning and control and unless Integral Theory recognized the ontological status of the subtle worlds of good and bad spiritual forces, the worlds spirits, the worlds of saints and other more evolved, non physical conscious entities, it will still speak too dimly and too distantly to these hordes of people seeking to live and -perhaps uncosnciously- seeking to become more and more inclusive in their own right.
So where are we really going, collectively speaking? Can the ways human development are measured apply to individuals whose social systems combine the expectations and ways of being of pre modern, modern and post modern cultures? If the orthodox arm of the Integral Movement doesn't stop trying to fit well into the academic world by catering to the expectations of Modern and Post Modern scholars I think that the cogent and coherent message for the world at large will be insufficient in the long run. For instance, I still sense that many of the discoveries of pre modern stages of cultural development have not been really Integrally acknowledged. I also think that the "Post Metaphysical" stance of not considering ontological levels as pre existing needs to be corrected and qualified from its current simplism. In this matter, while I take into consideration that Kantian idea of subjective interpretation but my correction will entail adding that pre existence may not be of static, eternal ontological levels. I think that the change or evolve. Ontological levels may be sufficiently independent but evolving and in relation to subjectivity and to exterior objetivity. as already said, they may not static as KW seems to have emphasized (and correctly criticised). As participatory, human conscious beings I think that we interpret any thing that appears to our awareness. Thus I do think that we also interpret the subtle and causal ontological levels as they appear to us through our subtle and causal conecting links or senses. I'll add that, the more subtle they are, the more we interpret them through subjective means, because, the more subtle they are, the more of a share of Interiority they posses.
So I think that while not acknowledging the INTEGRAL ROLE of interactive ontogical levels (interactive with our subjectivity and with the exterior quadratic aspects of the Gross level), we will not truly go beyond the post modern level of understanding and disclosure. If we don't, Integral Theory will falter and seem to cater to the limits set by Post Modern thinking (and therefore also to a developmentally confused way of understanding of the new generations). It will cater to the fixation of Red stages of development due to a not-too-easily-perceived post-trans of fallacy.
To rescue Principles and values (even while taking into consideration the Post Modern criticisms), or a better sense of the structures that once gave coherence to societies, Integral Theory needs to grow beyond its current Kantian-into-Post-Modern 'Post Metaphysics' and to embrace not only the reality of partially independent and partially related Subtle and Causal Ontological Realms interacting with our interpreting subjectivities but also with the exteriors of the Gross Realm. Only then we can take seriously what these realms in their full dimension entail in relation to what we are in a living Kosmos. While not needing to return to intolerance and superstition but seeking a more complete understanding and knowledge, only then we'll be able to rescue an Integral understanding of the meaningful importance that Men and Women of previous cultural stages had found in relation to “Otherworldly Realities” besides their technologically limited lives in the Gross Physical World. Perhaps only then, will Integral Theory serve not to cater to “relativism as an option against superstition” or to the impending growth of systemic relativism and to misunderstood radical horizontality. All the talk about holons and the goodness of hierarchies may not be sufficient without clearly incoporating all of the essential discoveries of the shamanic, amber-mythic and modern stages in accordance to what we know and need today.