INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
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(Published in Spirituality & Reality: New Perspectives on Global Issues, Volume II, Number 2: An Emerging Integral Worldview)
that Transform Us and the World
Nancy B. Roof
"A living spirit grows and even outgrows its earlier forms of expression. This living spirit is eternally renewed and pursues its goal in manifold and inconceivable ways throughout the history of mankind. The names and forms which men have given it mean very little; they are the changing leaves and blossoms on the stem of the eternal"
Our sense of space and time has changed radically within the last few decades. New technology has invited us to become globally connected to increase our sense of space from local communities, to nations across the world and to the cosmos. Far from fulfilling the dream of world unity and solidarity, we find ourselves connected from without, but alienated from within. As our space has increased we discover clashing values and different worldviews threatening to divide the world into the elite and the impoverished at a time when global problems require cooperation and alliances to deal with terrorism and international crime. We are faced with the complexity of multiperspectives in diverse cultures in a newly globalized world. We must now enfold egocentric and ethnocentric attitudes into a worldcentric consciousness that aligns with the widening global living space we now inhabit. But how?
Time has speeded up. Adaptation will require flexibility in letting go, coming apart, and coming together again more rapidly. "There is something different about today's changes. The pace of change is somehow faster, the frequency, and amplitiude of restructuring and reforming are significantly greater, and the pathways of emerging futures seem to be less predictable than they were in earlier times," says Ray Kurzweil, author of The Age of Spiritual Machines. Where is this leading us?
New understanding of Reality as a living, evolving system and advances in evolutionary biology and in nanotechnology give rise to the question of what it means to be human. Solutions that worked in the past under different space/time conditions and different views of Reality no longer suffice. History reveals that when humanity is faced with new challenges that cannot be solved with old thinking, new capacities at mental and biological levels will evolve. We are now living at a point in history when changing life conditions are of such a magnitude that a new worldview with a transformative vision is beginning to emerge. We call that Integral.
Western scientific materialism and relativism, offered countless benefits, but their limitations left us barren of feeling and alienated from one another. They left us longing to return to the basic moral intuition of the good, the true and the beautiful in a new holistic embrace. They left us bereft of meaning and passionate purpose in a valueless world. We now need a comprehensive Integral vision that balances the limitations of prior worldviews and that helps us find our way through this dangerous transitional period in human history.
What is an Integral Perspective?
An Integral perspective "honors all dimensions of existence from body to mind to soul to spirit as they unfold in self, culture, social structures and nature thus overcoming partial solutions and putting ourselves in an historical process leading to a wider process of cosmic evolution," says Ken Wilber. It includes the development of new human capacities beyond the rational mind and systems of systems thinking including intuition, subtle knowing, nondual consciousness, and nature attunement available only to the few today, but the hope of the many in future generations. For Wilber the whole evolutionary journey is one of unfolding Spirit in Action. Integral is emerging as the leading edge worldview a grand synthesis that is comprehensive enough to embrace all of life in its many manifestations. In sum, an Integral Worldview includes the benefits and limitations of all worldviews, honors new ways of thinking, embraces increased sensitivity and brings spirituality back into the world. Its rich theory is being refined and expanded by an increasing number of serious practitioners and students. Spiral Dynamics Integral (SDi), strong on practical application, is one integral approach that closely aligns with the seminal work of Ken Wilber.
The two major features of an Integral approach for our purposes include: 1) Quadrants and 2) Stages of Development. Analysis is seriously distorted by partial views without consideration of both quadrants and stages. (For a map of quadrants and stages, the heart of integral approaches, please refer to the last page of the colored insert.)
Shaping a new global civilization that is sustainable involves attending to the four universal perspectives of any living being: intention, behavior, culture and social systems. These perspectives are interdependent and thus arise simultaneously. Conflict will ensue if we mistake Reality or Spirit for only one of its four expressions or if all quadrants are not evolving simultaneously. Interior development must match exterior behavior and social organization if they are to be sustainable and have integrity. All interior spaces have biological and behavioral parallels and all interior life is embedded in social contexts with historical limitations.
Some examples of the partialness of single perspectives that lead to distortion illustrate the need for an Integral approach that includes all four faces of Spirit. The most obvious example and the most dangerous is the lack of a global ethic to handle modern technological developments including weapons of mass destruction. An ongoing conflict between East and West has focused on whether the individual or the community should take priority. The Integral approach says that both are intrinsically connected not either/or but both/and. Scientific rationalism in the "It" dimension has gained ascendancy in the Western World at the expense of inner development and bonding connections. Relativism, popular in academic circles today has emphasized subjective reality at the expense of objective reality. Spirituality has been relegated to the chain of being in interiors rather than in its full potential for service and social action in the world. Systems theory, developed as a holistic organizing theory, excludes interior realities. All of these partial perspectives are resolved in the Integral Worldview.
At the United Nations emphasis is on demographic factual presentations, which describe reality from an objective perspective at the expense of the subjective impact. Few international leaders are aware of how subjective reality colors objective decisions. Cultures, too, have insides as well as outsides where felt meanings, shared feelings, and mutual resonances are the basis for solidarity, so coveted by the global community. Integral designs offer comprehensive solutions that bring awareness to and facilitate the conditions for change in cultures, institutions, individual intentions and behavior as an interdependent unit.
The United Nations has acted as a pacer for transformation. It has often institutionalized global standards, treaties and laws with an idealism that lacks the political will to implement them. Objective and rational solutions that do not touch interiors with felt meaning and resonance will lack the will necessary for the kind of changes needed in today's global world.
As I write this article the relevance of the United Nations is in question. It has been the organizing principle of the international community since 1945 (LR). The United States is threatening unilateral action which if enacted will change coalitions and alliances between states (LL) as well as the intentions (UL) and behaviors (UR) of other individual states, leading to a different form of global governance (LR). This is a timely example of the importance of taking into consideration the interdependence of the four dimensions of reality in an Integral approach.
There are many ways to utilize the quadrants to understand and find solutions for current world affairs. The reader is invited to test the comprehensiveness of their own ideas by using these perspectives from the Integral model.
Spirit Renews Itself Eternally Through an Ordered Evolutionary Path
The Dialogue Among Civilizations at the UN did not gain the momentum it needed, in my view, because the developmental spectrum of deep values and closed mindsets were not understood in the public debate. Deep values lie below the surface and are penetrated only by a series of "Why" questions designed to contact the essential motivation. The Clash of Civilizations, Samuel Huntington, is based on the horizontal diversity of civilizations such as Islamic, Christian etc., and does not address the critical difference between deep values and mindsets within civilizations, which are at the heart of today's global crisis. Osama Bin Laden frames the crisis as a civilization war between Islam and Christianity. An Integral interprets the crisis as a clash between radical fundamentalist and moderate worldviews.
The underlying motives for dialogue at Beige to Green are based on fear and are often closed to other perspectives. These motives can be simplistically articulated as follows:
Integral levels (Yellow/Turquoise) are free from subsistence needs, they understand and value diverse perspectives, and therefore, can engage in genuine dialogue. The essential evolutionary order of deep value structures through which individuals and cultures unfold reveals why dialogue often ends in frustrating value clashes rather than in empathic resonance.
Survival and safety are fundamental. Human rights (Green) will not be a major concern if survival and safety needs are not satisfied. Failed states breed terrorists, the strong and strategic exploit the weak, personal freedoms are sacrificed for safety and security, the growth into violence and fixed absolutist belief systems close the debate. Meet the 21st century challenge. The First World style of life cannot be sustained without meeting the more fundamental needs of the Third and Fourth Worlds (see Stratified Democracy Table page 6). Developed countries must facilitate the fulfillment of the basic needs of survival, safety, self-esteem and education to help avoid closed mindsets that lead to the violence now emerging as the central threat to international peace and civilization as we know it.
Integral views (Yellow/Turquoise) transcend and include all the other deep value structures. Holism replaces the partial, dualistic and alienating thinking of right/wrong, good/evil at subsistence levels. It endeavors to satisfy the evolving needs of individuals and groups within the context of the common good. A spectrum of worldviews and global care and concern are now available to build integral sustainable global structures and authentic global solidarity.
The undemocratic structure of the United Nations Security Council has limited its role in global peace and security. In addition states' interactions have been primarily based on strategic interest (Orange). The UN will continue to play an important humanitarian role, especially as it encourages partnerships with NGOs. However, for world transformation, we need self-aware integral leaders committed to the global common good, who are familiar with the steps and stages of natural evolution in its four universal perspectives. They can design global economic and political structures (LR), facilitate inter-group processes for global solidarity (LL), provide space for individuals to grow and flourish (UL) and to practice right action (UR).
The Direction o f Evolution: The Hope of the World
There appears to be an intelligent design in the universe evolving within us towards greater complexity, and wider care and concern. As we evolve we experience less fear, less narcissism, less attachment to habitual habits, more inclusiveness, more capacity for love and compassion, transcendence of cultural traditions, reduction of need for approval and access to inspiration and revelation. We are urged from within to grow from a merged state at birth into individualism and autonomy and then to connect with the whole, now self-actualized to be co-creators in the evolution of Spirit. The collective evolves from family to community, to nation to global to cosmic while the economic base moves from agrarian, to industrial to information and beyond. Currently we are transitioning to a global information culture experiencing all the pains and struggles inherent in transformative change when a new worldview is emerging.
For those who have eyes to see beyond the chaos of the global crisis, humanity has progressed both mentally and empathically in its global concern. In most places slavery is no longer accepted, environmental concerns and citizen activism is increasing, women's rights and children's rights have taken a great leap forward. Anti-war protests are international in scope for the first time, designed to prevent war rather than to stop one already in progress. Intermarriage between different cultures and curiosity to learn and celebrate cultural differences is common. Many have spent long hours practicing disciplines to overcome learned destructive habits and to manage emotions and conflict. Despite the many twists and turns and breakdowns that precede radical change, a moral trajectory is being forged in alignment with an innate urge of humanity for Inner Unity in Outer diversity.
Integral is a step on the way, but not the ultimate destiny. After Integral (Yellow/Turquoise) we enter the transpersonal realms where intuitive knowing and impressions from higher sources and beings begin to be experienced and lived within, not as a single peak experience but as the center of gravity transcending and including all other ways of knowing. Blockages to growth are removed freeing us to flow with the needs of the moment as we cycle in and out of all the levels responding appropriately to whatever life offers.
Integral Practices: Dynamic Silence and Self-Awareness
In the past global leaders studied world affairs from a third person perspective with little involvement of their own person or relations with others. Effective Integral leadership will require proficiency in all three areas.
Future leaders are currently training in self-awareness and in evoking inner sources of wisdom, formerly available only to religious communities. Businessmen, lawyers, doctors, and other professional groups are practicing contemplation as a method for deconstructing habitual perspectives and freeing blocks to creativity. The value of silence and the value of being present in awareness to both one's interior and exterior life will soon become a normal way of knowing and being in the world. Daniel Goleman's newly acclaimed approach to leadership involves training in self-awareness, self-management (emotional and mental), group awareness (sensitivity to group emotions) and group management (skills to increase morale and positive emotions). Successful businessmen are known for their intellectual acuity, but now emotional acuity is making the difference between average and superior performance.
The McKinsey Company, consultants to leading businesses and institutions, is offering training in accessing higher dimensions of creativity and inspiration through the practice of silencing interior mental and emotional chatter. The process educates in self-awareness, letting go of control and listening complimentary skills to strategic thinking that businessmen have developed to an art. CEOs are now being exposed to Ken Wilber's Integral Worldview through the World Economic Forum in Davos. Business usually leads the pack on group innovations. Social entrepreneurs working for the welfare of humanity and United Nations Departments and Agencies would do well to follow their lead in developing Integral approaches and trainings.
The Spiritual Caucus at the United Nations is serving as a model for the future as it practices the use of silence for global transformation. Conversations following extended periods of silence are more alive with wisdom and inspiration for action than most ordinary discussions at the United Nations. Aligned with our highest will, our motivation increases and the political will we need to move the world is more accessible. We eternally renew our Spirit through silence. Shared silence enhances that renewal.
Perhaps as we develop, apply, and live an Integral Worldview Perhaps as we change ourselves and our relationships Perhaps as our sensitivity becomes more acute and our compassion wider Perhaps in deep silence we might discover some of the answers we need to transform us and the world.
Beyond the realms of right and wrong there is a field.