Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Richard Carlson is a writer/musician and the president of Pacific Weather Inc, a firm which monitors meteorological information at airports throughout the United States. His interests include all matters related to Jazz, Poetry, Integral Yoga, Critical Theory, and Global Climate Change. He holds a Master of Arts degree from Antioch University and currently resides with family on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. His observations on post-Katrina New Orleans, entitled: Louis Armstrong International Airport, will be published as part of the Digital Future series by University of Toronto Press Fall 2008

Integral Ideology

An Ideological Genealogy of
Integral Theory and Practice

Richard Carlson

  1. History and Progress
  2. Fundamentalism
  3. Neo-Liberalism
  4. Neo-Conservatism
  5. The Order of Things
  6. Gebser's Sociology, Systasis, Spatiality
  7. From Integral Theory to Integral Eteology


This paper explores the relationship between integral theory and ideology. I have identified three ideologies specific to a variety of integral theories and practices. In identifying these ideologies with those which influence world events, I refer to them as fundamentalist, neo-liberal, and neo-conservative.

My hope is to provide an in depth analysis of how particular integral theories and practices lend themselves to the three ideological orientations under review. Any attempt to understand the reasons that these ideologies have crept into specific integral theories or practices requires tracing their genealogy. In tracing genealogies I wish to show that the ideological sources particular to specific integral theories and practices are not only to be found in historical figures or events but are to be located through an excavation of their very organizing ideas.

The importance of this study is two-fold. The first of course is to uncover any ideological drivers integral theory brings with it to the table in its socio-political analysis. More importantly however, is to assess how the most well known integral theories have functioned in times of crisis, to comprehend what influence specific ideological orientations may have played in their decision making process, to gather lessons learned, and hopefully to provide future theorist and practitioners with useful information that can be used in refining these integral theories and practices when applying them to social realities.

Since this paper concerns genealogies and Jean Gebser has been identified by many contemporary integral theorist as one of the first sources to use the term “integral” in his work, as a description of a mutation of consciousness looming on the horizon of the future, I will use Gebser's articulation of the integral structure as a point of comparison and contrast with how “integral” is understood in the work of the most renown contemporary integral theorist; Ken Wilber. This comparison will hopefully shed some light on why certain ideological tendencies have emerged in recent constructions of integral models.

In addition to the text there are a series of numbered notes which further elaborate on the terminology, associations, and genealogies identified herein.

Key Words: ideology, genealogy, ontogeny, recapitulates, phylogeny, doxa, systasis, eteology fundamentalism, neo-liberalism, neo-conservatism, perspectival, aperspectival

I) History and Progress

Although the project of integral theory is admirable... the most notable results have been the formation of numerous ideological blind spots.

Integral theories and practices make claims that are far reaching. The most optimistic theories attempt no less than theories of everything. Integral theory grows out of a tradition whose primary goal was cultivation of self-knowledge. The cultivation of self-knowledge or care of the soul has a tradition in the West that is complex. Foucault traces its genealogy through the monastic practices of Christianity to the theology of Gregory of Nyssa, the philosophy of Plotinus, the ancient schools of Epicureanism, Stoicism, Cynicism, back to Socrates and the Delphic Oracle herself (Foucault 1984). This tradition with some variation can also be located within, what is known as, the “Perennial Philosophy” in which self-cultivation and “the Great Chain of Being were central themes” (Wilber 2001 p1).

The Great Chain of Being has been conceived as a sequence of hierarchical links or graduation of life forms, increasing in complexity in an ascent from the terrestrial to the angelic orders. One of the contributions of integral scholarship to the Perennial Philosophy is in grafting narratives of biological and anthropological evolution on to the Great Chain of Being. Integral Theory also contributes to the Western tradition of self-cultivation by entering into a substantial dialog with Eastern paradigms of self knowledge and by adopting many 20th century psychological theories. Additionally, Integral Theory is unique in its attempt to contextualize the entire spectrum of self-development within a narrative it tells of the terrestrial evolution of species.

Theories that order all natural forms in morphological sequences of ascending complexity while combining individual development with species evolution stretch back at least to Haeckel's Biogenetic Law of 1866 commonly known as his: Theory of Recapitulation. It was Haeckel who first brought the Great Chain of Being into evolutionary thought (Gilbert 2003 para 8). A biologist, naturalist, and philosopher, Haeckel's progressive views on evolution were influenced by German Idealism, and Darwinism.

This mixture of idealism and evolutionary theory proved to be troubling for Haeckel who was so caught up in the purity of idealism that his drawings of embryonic evolution, he claimed showed the resemblances between ontogenic and phyletic evolution, that he scandalously substituted the pure morphological images he contrived for accurate empirical observations. Haeckel's primary interest it seems was not so much in verifiable empirical observation, but to perfect a taxonomy in which he could order the world's complexity.

Haeckel's theory that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny claimed that the developing human embryo follows a path of development homologous with the evolution of species in which the repetition of ancestral adult stages are repeated in embryonic or juvenile descendants.

According to Stephen Jay Gould, recapitulation ranks among the most influential ideas of late nineteenth-century science. It provided an “irresistible criterion for any scientist who wanted to rank human groups as higher and lower", (Gould 1981 p. 115). This is because the temptation to attribute differences in race, ethnicity, or nationality, to biological or psychological basis in development, has often been manipulated to further social, ethnic, or political agendas. Haeckel's Recapitulation Theory gradually morphed into a eugenic view of progressive evolution which would certainly not go over well today.

The ordering of different races within the gradations of human evolution as well as racial competition were also parts of Haeckel's theory. Haeckel's idea that politics is applied biology was enthusiastically adopted by the Nazis in an attempt to fulfill their eugenic dreams.

The founder of Social Darwinism, Herbert Spencer adapted recapitulation to his ideas of juvenile development, even prior to Heackel's formal Biogenic theory. He declared “education is a repetition of civilization in little.” (Herbert Spencer 1861 p76).

This is not to say that there were only negative consequences to be drawn from applying Recapitulation Theory to the social sphere, there were others with much better intentions who also were attracted to Haeckel's ideas.

The Austrian founder of Anthroposophy and Waldorf Education, Rudolf Steiner also found many of Haeckel's evolutionary theories compatible with own his vision of species “spiritual” evolution. His ideas on education are organized around the principle of recapitulation in juvenile development. Although distancing himself from Haeckel's more repugnant views on society Steiner's did approve of Haeckel's rejection of natural selection in favor of a Lamarkian view of evolution which best explained recapitulation. He was also attracted to the unifying claims that Hackel's theory made regards the world's interconnections.

“A look at the views of Haeckel, who is certainly the most significant of the natural-scientific theoreticians of the present day, shows us that the objection we are making to the organic natural science of our day is entirely justified: namely, that it does not carry over into organic nature the principle of scientific contemplation in the absolute sense, but only the principle of inorganic nature. When he demands of all scientific striving that the causal interconnections of phenomena become recognized everywhere,” (Steiner 1978 ch1 pt16)

This striving for a theory which seeks to draw interconnections between phenomena everywhere is still a main preoccupation of recent Integral Theory as is a view of juvenile development whose organizing idea is recapitulation.

But even if one can trace certain ideas developed in recent Integral Theory to an ancestry in German Idealism and Darwinism. The first usage of the word integral as applied to the theories and practices under review here can be traced back to the work of Sri Aurobindo and Jean Gebser.

For his part Jean Gebser tells us that the first person to propound in detail the “thought that the fundamental and single event of our time was present day transformation of consciousness” (Gebser 1984 p102) was Sri Aurobindo in an article in the Arya entitled A Life Divine in the years between 1914-16.

Gebser's own focus was not on biological evolution but rather concerned the evolution of culture and consciousness. Gebser's views of cultural evolution are incommeasurable with Haeckel's theories. Although Gebser at times may have used the trope of child as primitive, neither he nor Sri Aurobindo developed or openly traded in Recapitulation Theory.

Perhaps more importantly Gebser's thought is incommeasurable with certain key beliefs of Modernism, that he attributed to the “mental mutation”, such as the progressive values it assigns biological/cultural evolution. Gebser asserted that evolution was not continuous or progressive. Rather, Gebser viewed evolution as discontinuous, characterized by epochs with periodic ruptures and bifurcations in which new mutations of consciousness emerge. In speaking of Teilhard De Chardin, whose work he contrasts with his own because “Teilhard's discussion is centered more on development of mankind then on consciousness itself" (Gebser 1984 p103) he approvingly notes: “even a thinker who is indebted to the teleological principle of evolution, ultimately takes recourse to the concept of discontinuous occurrence that is mutation to explain the decisive events”. (Gebser 1984 p40)

In referencing the beliefs of those who reject spiritually qualified mutation views of evolution in favor of theories of progressive evolution which evidence claims of “technological progress” he is dismissive claiming that “they are giving into a frantic hubris which, judging from past applications of the notion of progress has probably forfeited whatever justification it once may have had” (Gebser 1984 p40)

Gebser considered progress to be “perspectival” or a mental formation and forcefully asserted that “progress” is not a positive concept, “even when mindlessly construed to be one, progress is also a progression away, a distancing and withdrawal from something , namely, from origin”. (Gebser 1984 p41) For Gebser who had lived through two world wars in which the advent of new technologies had unleashed destruction on unprecedented scales, the efficiency or deficiency of evolution was to be measured by its proximity to its Origins not in how it was conceptualized in terms of progress.

Gebser's conclusion that concepts such as progress are proper to the mental rather than the integral structure of consciousness are interesting in that other integral theories and practices are undergirded by ideas of progressive evolution. Sri Aurobindo's integral yoga grafts itself to the Modernist idea of progressive evolution. Although Sri Aurobindo, who was also attempting to reconcile the cyclic view of Yugas in Indian mythology with Darwinian evolution, referred to progress as curiously circular not linear. More recently, Ken Wilber has also voiced acceptance of a directional ordering of evolution. Although he claims its basic building block the holon exerts influence in either direction, the unfolding of evolution follows an arrow of time which is viewed as progressive.

In its original formulation progressive evolution was synonymous with the directionality of history, European cultural expansion, and the advance of both technology and morality. The goals assigned to evolution (or psychological development) were invested with whatever values a specific culture championed. Today claims of progressive evolution because of its association with hegemony and teleology are rejected by biologist.

Additionally assigning values derived from specific frames of cultural orientation to empirical phenomena is a practice scrupulously avoided in the best science. The overlaying of subjective value judgments upon objective empirical observations is in fact, an ideological construction. Social Darwinism, and eugenics programs are just a few bleak examples of the hazards the scientific enterprise has encountered when particular value judgments have inspired theories of evolution.

Since the mid 19th century when Spencer championed von Bears theory of increasing differentiation, which begins with the observation that “there is a greater variety of dissimilar parts in the higher organism than in the lower, hence the former maybe said to be heterogeneous, while the later is most homogeneous”...(Chambers 1839, Gould 1977 p112) progress as a metaphor for increasing complexity has crept into usage. Recent Integral Theory adopts the complexity trope as a way of validating its catch phrase, “include and transcend” to describes its view of the evolution of consciousness or the ascending orders of the Great Chain of Being.

To assign the valuation of progress to the unfolding of “increasing complexity” is to risk mixing metaphors of biology and morality and these tropes can easily be inverted. Some prefer to see increasing complexity as a drunkard's walk rather than any progressive formation of consciousness.

“Relative to the conventional view of life's history as an at least broadly predictable process of gradually advancing complexity through time, three features of the paleontological record stand out in opposition and shall therefore serve as organizing themes for the rest of this article: the constancy of modal complexity throughout life's history; the concentration of major events in short bursts interspersed with long periods of relative stability; and the role of external impositions, primarily mass extinctions, in disrupting patterns of "normal" times. These three features, combined with more general themes of chaos and contingency, require a new framework for conceptualizing and drawing life's history, and this article therefore closes with suggestions for a different iconography of evolution”. (Gould 1994)

Moreover, through his theories of punctuated equilibrium and spandrals (unintended consequences) the late Stephen Jay Gould has merciless critiqued any association of Darwinian evolution and progress, a view he shared with his colleague geneticist Richard Lewinton, who helped to refine the spandrals trope.

It was Social Darwinist Herbert Spencer who first popularized ideas of progress and evolution of species. Spencer conceptualized progressive evolution by ordering differing species in an ascending scale.

Unfortunately if you were African, Asian, or Irish you were on the lowest rungs of this ladder. The metaphor of an evolutionary ladder was a favorite target for Stephen Jay Gould “Ladders suggest a pinnacle and a single route for reaching it. Natural selection, however, only creates adaptation to ‘local circumstances’, ‘not any global scheme of progress.’ ‘.... notions of progress should be considered as part of the ‘context of discovery’ of late Victorian science.” (Gould in Thurtle para11)

Postmodern critiques of progress largely interrogate it as an ideology of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment conceptualized humanity as progressing from superstition and slavery to reason and freedom. Human history itself is the story of progress. However, irony haunts these “progressive visions” since they were conceived in the time of the French Revolution which along with the values of the Enlightenment, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, brought the indiscriminate violence of the Jacobins.

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author Chris Hedges chides “new atheist” scientists and cultural historians Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, for their views on scientific and secular progress. He believes their outlook coincidentally betrays both scientific and neo-conservative reductionism, reducing progress to scientific truth claims and Islamic culture to hegemonic Western value systems.

His attitude is ironic when equating evolution with the triumph of science:

“You know, there is nothing in human nature or in human history that points to the idea that we are moving anywhere. Technology and science, though they are cumulative and have improved, in many ways, the lives of people within the industrialized nations, have also unleashed the most horrific forms of violence and death, and let's not forget, environmental degradation, in human history. So, there's nothing intrinsically moral about science. Science is morally neutral. It serves the good and the bad. I mean, industrial killing is a product of technological advance, just as is penicillin and modern medicine (Hedges 2008 para 9)”

If progress is an ideology of the Enlightenment and is constitutive of what he called the abstraction of time in the “mental structure” Jean Gebser was optimistic that the interrogation of ideologies was an indication of the deconstruction of the perspectival and so was efficient for facilitating the emergence of aperspectival perception and verition. “The very fact that in the West ideologies are highly suspect today is a further indication that a deperspectivation and derigidification of our “attitude” to the world and its problems has already begun to enter our general awareness”. (Gebser 1984, p547)

It is therefore somewhat ironic that integral theories and practices that often credit Gebser, have in fact spun off ideologies [1] of their own. Although the project of integral theory is admirable in its attempts to transcend cultural and academic disciplinary boundaries, to synthesize desperate ways of comprehending human nature, when some of these have attempted the leap from studies of self-cultivation to assertions of social realities the most notable results have been the formation of numerous ideological blind spots, which seem to recapitulate the same problems that confront us in the current world polity.

In this paper I wish to consider some ideological blind spots of certain theories and practices which can be called “integral”. I have narrowed these integral ideologies to three main thrusts that can be defined as:

  1. Fundamentalist
  2. Neo-liberal
  3. Neo-conservative

Since among other things, I am contesting the very notion of reification, categorization, and stereotyping that are central to the problems associated with integral ideologies, the above categories should not be taken too literally or necessarily as identical with common understanding of these terms in streamed media culture. In other words there may be some leakage here.

II) Fundamentalism

Anyone who has had the experience of an immigrant knows the pressure to conform to the new norms of foreign lands. Immigrants feel pressured by their new environment to adopt all the practices of their new culture even if they do not necessarily comprehend them. When someone adopts a new country or is converted to a new religion often their fervor for patriotism or belief is more intense than others who were born into those countries or religions.

Missionaries often rely on the zeal of the newly converted to help spread the word. Because the understanding of new believers cannot all at once assimilate all the complexities and nuances of their adopted belief system the texts they encounter are often understood in their most literal sense. The specific population I wish to consider under the rubric of fundamentalism are Westerners who adopt Eastern spiritual practices.[2] The fundamentalist tendency can present itself when one adopts a religion or spiritual teacher from the East yet, lacks a sufficient understanding of the broader cultural or political disposition which constitute the “nomos” [2a] (Bourdieu 1977) of its indigenous followers.

What appears to happen to some Westerners who adopt Eastern spiritual practices is that they also assimilate the unstated orthodox assumptions which define the socio-political belief systems of some of their indigenous followers. These indigenous followers however, are themselves a sub-group situated within a larger cultural field. Because the new Western followers are reliant on the subgroup for knowledge of the larger cultural field in which the subgroup is located, they become dependent on the subgroups interpretations of the norms of the greater culture. What follows is that the new Western adherents to the faith invest the subgroups with an authority which they do not necessarily possess within the larger culture field in which they are situated.

The ideological assumptions which some of these indigenous subgroup's followers hold may or may not actually have a direct correspondence with the teachings of the specific spiritual practice or the consensus belief of the wider culture. - e.g. not every Hindu is a Vaishnava - However, the transference of “doxa" [2b] (Bourdieu 1977) from the indigenous followers to their western counterparts is generally sufficient to indoctrinate them into the belief system of the subgroup. Those Western (and Indian) followers of Integral Yoga who have come to share the conservative political views of such militant Hindu organizations of the RAS or Shiv Sena would fall under the category I call fundamentalist.

Although Sri Aurobindo, the founder of Integral Yoga formally eschewed couching his yoga in religion nevertheless, religious practices crept into the practices of its followers. It is in fact the transference of Hindu religious practices on to Integral Yoga which has facilitated a fascination of some of his followers with the fundamentalist rhetoric of today's militant Hindu nationalism (Hinduvta).

Some of his writings from the period in which he was a revolutionary leader of the Indian Independence movement have been been historically decontextualized and appropriated by various fractions of Hindu nationalist in support of their ethnically cleansed view of India. These writings usually referenced by Hinduvta authors, or even Leftist critics of the Hindu Right, are generally those of an early period in his work “between 1901 to 1913” (Heehs 2006 para 7) in which Sri Aurobindo discovered and immersed himself in the text and practices of Hinduism.

In many respects Hinduism for Sri Aurobindo was an indigenous resistance practice to the foreign occupation and value systems of the Raj. In his writings from this early period one finds the identification of the Hindu concept of sanatan dharma -eternal religion- with the self-determination of India itself. Although Sri Aurobindo, as one of the first leaders of the Indian Independence movement, had been put on trail for his life by the British for sedition, his practice of yoga allowed him to view his jailers, judge, and jury as divine actors rather than as enemies. His response to his prosecution was one of equanimity and peace rather than hated and distress. After release he advocated non-violent resistance to colonialist occupation, his yogic practice even reinforcing the secular values of the Enlightenment in which he was schooled at Cambridge.

If there are distinct themes in his socio-political writing, concerning the current epoch, one of the strongest is the call for Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. It can be said that in matters of Liberty, Sri Aurobindo was Jeffersonian, of Equality, he was Marxist, and although certainly not an ardent pacifist, in matters of Fraternity, the author of the Ideal of Human Unity, could even be called a Gandhian.

Sri Aurobindo advocated a secular democratic government which would allow the infinite diversity of the nations voices to be heard. After 1913 until his death in 1950 he renounced sectarian religious practice and no longer associated his yoga with Hinduism, claiming its practice transcended any conventional religion.

In fact a close reading of his major socio-political works such as The Human Cycle and The Ideal of Human Unity demonstrate his abhorrence of theocracy and fundamentalism. In some places he fervently exclaims that it is better to be an atheist than a fanatical follower of religion.

Sri Aurobindo's life was in many way heroic, his knowledge was both complex and encyclopedic. He viewed his own accomplishments as the result of the efforts of a man aspiring for transformation and transparency to the grace received from above. He did however, speak of his yogic consort Mirra Alfassa (the Mother) as an incarnation of the Divine in its form of Shakti. For her part the Mother referred to Sri Aurobindo as an Avatar (divine incarnation). While it can be said that they both did not actively seek worshipers and were kind to their followers, it can also be said that they did not reject the worship and deification of their devotees.

It is one thing to believe that in a universe in which consciousness is delineated by various graduations, that on some planes of consciousness, expressions of devotion through the articulation of feelings (bhakti) are entirely proper, it is quite another not to comprehend - especially when one otherwise advocates for secular polity and eschewing religious dogma - that some followers will become attached to the forms of worship and inevitably confuse levels of consciousness, as well as secular and sacred, subcultural and cultural, theocratic and democratic values.

While claiming to disassociate his yoga from Hinduism many of the practices of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram during his lifetime (and certainly today) in fact mimic traditional forms of Hinduism. These practices include performance of an audience with the Guru (darshan) and prostration at the feet of the Guru. Moreover, it appears that these practices were deliberately cultivated to satisfy the psychological needs of Indian followers by preserving their religious traditions, because in the words of the Mother : “it gave them the fullness they needed”. (Heehs 2008 p356). Even if uttered with the best of intention this statement is absolutely patronizing. The fact that the Mother was French makes matters somewhat more problematic. Couldn't Indian followers also adapt to a yoga that eschewed religious practice or were they too unsophisticated”

In short, while the rituals cultivated in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram are indeed indigenous religious practices of India they seem out of place in a yoga which claims to renounce religion and sectarianism. Although a genealogy tracing Integral Yoga to today's Hindu nationalist politics can not be established, one can certainly find certain affinities with Hindu religious practices. It is this allegiance to Hinduism and the transference of its sectarian values system on to political discourse, that no doubt facilitates the embrace of some Integral Yogis of reactionary Hindu nationalism.

In general fundamentalism of any kind may also include fascistic orientations, chief among these is blind allegiance to a charismatic leader. Participation in an authoritarian culture also involves certain psychological orientations which favor hierarchical structures, linear paradigms of causality, and hegemonic gradients of power which are often expressed militantly.

III) Neo-Liberalism

The philosopher Slavoj Zizek alleges that new age and eastern religious practices such as Buddhism facilitate the hegemony of neo-liberalist globalization. If these associations seem strange I will quote at length from Zizek, who makes the charge:

“The ultimate postmodern irony is today's strange exchange between the West and the East. At the very moment when, at the level of “economic infrastructure,” Western technology and capitalism are triumphing worldwide, at the level of “ideological superstructure,” the Judeo-Christian legacy is threatened in the West itself by the onslaught of New Age “Asiatic” thought. Such Eastern wisdom, from “Western Buddhism” to Taoism, is establishing itself as the hegemonic ideology of global capitalism. But while Western Buddhism presents itself as the remedy against the stress of capitalism's dynamics-by allowing us to uncouple and retain some inner peace-it actually functions as the perfect ideological supplement

Consider the phenomenon of “future shock”—the popular term for how people today can no longer psychologically cope with the dazzling rhythm of technological development and the accompanying social change. Before one can become accustomed to the newest invention, another arrives to take its place, so that increasingly one lacks the most elementary “cognitive mapping.” Eastern thought offers a way out that is far superior to the desperate attempt to escape into old traditions. The way to cope with this dizzying change, such wisdom suggests, is to renounce any attempts to retain control over what goes on, rejecting such efforts as expressions of the modern logic of domination. Instead, one should “let oneself go,” drift along, while retaining an inner distance and indifference toward the mad dance of the accelerated process. Such distance is based on the insight that all of the upheaval is ultimately just a non-substantial proliferation of semblances that do not really concern the innermost kernel of our being.

Here one is almost tempted to resuscitate the old, infamous Marxist cliché of religion as “the opium of the people,” as the imaginary supplement of real-life misery. The “Western Buddhist” meditative stance is arguably the most efficient way for us to fully participate in the capitalist economy while retaining the appearance of sanity. If Max Weber were alive today, he would definitely write a second, supplementary volume to his Protestant Ethic, titled The Taoist Ethic and the Spirit of Global Capitalism.” (Zizek 2005 para 10-12)

Zizek's critique is not of the small is beautiful economic model of E.F. Schumacher, which is embedded in a cultural context in which cottage industries are central. Rather he is arguing that Buddhism as a hybrid religion appropriated by global culture because its emphasis on quiescence and withdrawal from the world stifles resistance and facilitates the frictionless flow of capital.

What Zizek is stating is that these “new age” practices, many of which can be called “integral” practices, facilitate the conditioning of a neo-liberalist subject no longer concerned with matters of social justice but with simply feeling good and gaining a competitive edge.

Zizek's critique could also be extended to the many “enlightened “leadership practices which support the Global Corporatist agenda. Examples of these enlightened leadership practices would be programs taught at the Society for Organizational Learning (M.I.T), The Integral Institute, Omega Institute, and other retreat centers coast to coast in which Eastern esoteric practices are grafted to Western management techniques or, are simply taught as a stress reduction technique so people can happily go about doing business as usual.

One need not dismiss all of the programs and seminars which fit the above descriptions nor, regulate them to the wastebasket of post-Marxist critique. Although often priced at substantial fees, the intentions of these programs are most often well meaning. But here the age old adage is apt: “the road to hell being paved with good intentions.”

For example at M.I.T's Society for Organizational Learning when Otto Scharmer and Peter Senge teach the theory of presencing or U theory to their corporate audiences, to my knowledge they do not first try to discern the executives emotional intelligence to determine their commitment to social responsibility nor, do they first perform environmental impact studies on their respective corporation's global footprints in an effort to understand how their instruction will be applied. Rather these programs are offered to one and all regardless if the participants are representatives of non-profits, executives of major multinational companies, or major defense contractors interested in more efficient ways to wage neo-cortical warfare through advance applications of technology.

Although Otto Scharmer may not refer to his work as Integral Theory, his early education in Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy grounds him in a tradition not only inspired by Theosophic mysticism but also by Germanic Idealism and Naturphilosophie, whose origins stretch back through Haeckel to Schelling and Goethe. As an absolutist strand of German Idealism, Naturphilosophie sought an understanding of the world, which closely aligns with Integral Theory's unifying themes of organism and cosmos, nature and spirit.

Both Otto Scharmer and his partner Peter Senge are two of the most brilliant 2nd & 3rd order organizational systems theorist working today. By applying knowledge of systems and fields to organizations they seek to mitigate the damage done by earlier cause and effect thinking and positivist paradigms. Their hope appears to be that in the transition from linear ways of knowing to systems thinking and intuitive sensing that corporations will become more sensitive to the interconnections of events, structures and the fields from which they emerge. Corporatist concern for people and the environment it is reasoned will naturally follow.

In the context it was presented U theory appears to be a technique to facilitate strategic thinking in the Knowledge Economy. Scharmer introduced his first models in a paper with Joseph Jaworski. Their five stage model was introduced at a project funded by MIT and the McKinsey Institute. In its later iterations which Scharmer develops there are essentially seven stages of this model although outcomes remain essentially the same.

Process of accessing strategic vision outlined by Society for Organizational Learning (Scharmer&Jaworski 2000 part 17)
  1. Observing: seeing reality with fresh eyes
  2. Sensing: Tuning in to the emerging patterns that inform future possibilities
  3. Presencing: Accessing one's inner source of Creativity and turning toward the world
  4. Envisioning: Crystallizing Vision and Intent
  5. Executing: Acting in an instant to capitalize on new opportunities.
Steps in Jungian Active Imagination (Von Franz 1983)
  1. One must empty ones mind from the train of thoughts of ego
  2. This phase is of letting an unconscious image enter into the field of imagination
  3. Giving the image some form of expression: writing it down, painting, sculpting etc
  4. This is the ethical confrontation with whatever one has previously produced.

Steps 1-4 discussed by Scharmer and Jaworski are curiously similar to Jungian Active Imagination. It is at Jung's step four, however, where an ethical conflict with step five (executing) as in Schamer/Jaworski model may arise. “Step 4 is the decisive step, here Jung warns against a most frequent and fatal error; namely that one enters the inner play with a fictitious ego and not in service to one's true ego” (Von Franz 1983 p126/127)

In fact, almost every spiritual discipline which engages in imaginative practice or shifting ones consciousness from a representational to a extensional mode of awareness does so inside a wider ethical and lifestyle context. In Jungian practice there is an ethical confrontation with the figures which emerge from ones active imagination. In Dzogchen Buddhism the prescription is quite clear when activating a shift from representational thinking to existential awareness, the process also involves:

  1. devotion
  2. awareness of identity of self and other
  3. maturation of the autonomy of an individuals existential awareness as an undivided whole and in terms of dynamic application of the various transcending functions that open up new dimensions of being
  4. elimination of all obscurations intellectual thematizing-representaional as well as emotional system pollution (Guenther 1989 p139)

While the sentiments of Senge and Scharmer are perfectly intact no one has yet measured what happens to such corporate leadership enlightenment programs during times of economic downturns? What happens in times of economic crisis? What happens with the enlightened leadership of corporations who practice “disaster capitalism”? (Klein 2007). Has there been a metric developed to measure the social and environmental impact those corporations whose leadership seeks enlightenment as a way to hone cunning?

Lifting meditative techniques from their original context is itself problematic. For meditative practices are concerned not only with learning new skills or strategic thinking but require a deep commitment for immersion in a whole system of practice which is most often backgrounded in a culturally specific field. When excavated from the field which backgrounds such esoteric practice, these inner technologies can be grafted onto other technological practices of multinational corporations to facilitate the frictionless flow of capital through the “integrated” virtual networks of global markets. Although this may not be problematic in itself, given the history of ethical problems associated with free market capitalism, that esoteric meditative and imaginative practices are being conveyed to powerful leaders of corporations which can facilitate honing new strategies of deception is alarming.

One of the most influential economist of the 20th century was Friedrich Hayek whose free market school of economics has been the ideological driver of neo-liberal globalization. Hayek's student the Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman has stated that the responsible corporate citizen is one who presents a facade, “who is insincere” (Bakan 2005 p34). Friedman's advice to corporations wanting to be socially responsible is to profess nostalgic sentiments for saving environments and caring for people while continuing on their errant ways, even if environmental or social damage results, because the raison d'etre for corporations is to create wealth for shareholders.

The question this raises for leadership practices such as U Theory or U presencing, is how many newly enlightened corporate leaders are putting their enlightenment to use by creating new deceptions and ruses?

U theory facilitates a kind of knowing especially sought in the knowledge economy which requires the ability to sense emerging futures while doing business at the edge of chaos. Through the cultivation and articulation of deep tacit knowledge the goal for corporate leadership is to be able to master the ambiguity of rapidly changing global markets and then to seize opportunities “in an instant” (Arthur 1999 part 12).

The intelligence being cultivated here is not unlike the tacit epistemology Aristotle called Metis, or cunning intelligence. Metis is particularly useful in formulating strategy when faced with complexity or chaos which thwart the explicit decision making process.

“There is no doubt that mêtis is a way of knowing; it implies a complex but very coherent body of mental attitudes and intellectual behavior which combine flair, wisdom, forethought, subtlety of mind, deception, resourcefulness, vigilance, opportunism, various skills, and experience acquired over the years. It is applied to situations which are transient, shifting, disconcerting and ambiguous, situations which do not lend themselves to precise measurement, exact calculation or rigorous logic.... Metis is intelligence which operates in the world of becoming, in circumstances of conflict... takes the form of an ability to deal with whatever comes up, drawing on certain intellectual qualities: forethought perspicacity, quickness and acuteness of understanding, trickery, and even deceit” (Detienne, Vernant 1991).

This brings up the problems with the application of Metis, namely by itself Metis serves no values or ethics. In this sense Metis can also be Machiavellian.

What happens when meditative and imaginative practices useful in cultivating “truth consciousness” become the inner technologies which serve “false consciousness”? (Marcuse 1964) [3]

IV) Neo-Conservatism

After the contentious debate over Florida in the 2000 election that left George W. Bush the presidency, at a time when American electoral system was in crisis and its citizens were sharply divided along partisan lines into red and blue states, Don Beck made some very promising observations about the ability of president of George W. Bush to reconcile national differences. Beck coined the term transpartisan politics as a positive alternative for those who had an integrative vision that embraced a diversity of perspective to replace the bipartison gridlock of Washington. Beck stated:

“transpartisanship transcends but includes them all. Everybody is invited to the table...” he then exclaimed “Actually, Bush's natural style fits this transpartisan mode, which is why he is so confusing to so many.” (Beck 2001 para 10)

Here Beck seems to be confusing lack of competence with the edge of chaos! If anything what is not confusing about Bush's presidential legacy is that it is one defined by a militant ideology that avoided compromise, excluded others with different viewpoints from the negotiating table, and expressed a disastrous wish to act unilaterally in the world.

The book Spiral Dynamics by Beck and co-authored by Christopher Cowan begins by accepting uncritically the notion of meme as it is defined by biologist Richard Dawkins. Meme is usually described as a unit of cultural selection; much like a gene is a unit of biological selection. Ideas are selected, mutate, and are passed on through culture, much as genes are selected, mutate, and are passed on through genetic inheritance.

H Allen Orr, the Shirley Cox Kearns Professor of Biology at the University of Rochester, notes the problems with the use of the meme metaphor:

“unlike the selfish gene view, the selfish meme view hasn't led anywhere. Where are the puzzling phenomena that have been explained by memes? Dawkins provides no examples and I suspect there aren't any. The truth is that the meme idea, though a quarter-century old, has inspired next to no serious research and has failed to establish a place for itself in mainstream cognitive science, psychology, or sociology. Though laymen often have the impression that scientific ideas die in decisive experiments, far more often they die because they didn't suggest many experiments. They failed, that is, to inspire a rich research program. Though I could obviously be proved wrong, and while I have no problem with the notion that some science of cultural change may be possible, I'm far less confident than Dawkins that memes will play an important role in any such enterprise. “ (Orr 2004)

Adopting a metaphor that so far has played little or no role in any scientific enterprise begins the project of Beck and Cowan's in Spiral Dynamics (2005). In their work memes represent differing value systems which are articulated at various developmental stages of individual and human histories. The ordering of memes are arranged along a spectrum of values systems constructed by Beck and Cowan after the pioneering work of Clare Graves. Their project is ambitious and seeks no less than reducing the complexity of all human value systems to a series of memes encoded in an ascending spiral of colors.

Those who manage to climb to the top of the spiral are considered “spiral masters”. Spiral masters are those individual who include yet transcend all previous stages of memetic development and therefore have a achieved a certain mastery of the world which enable them to serve in roles of leadership. For example, the authors of Spiral Dynamics considered Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf, who were in charge of the international coalition waging battle against Iraq in the first Gulf war as “spiral masters”. It seems such spiral mastery is achieved not only by including and transcending memes but, by the use of smart bombs and collateral damage as well!

The neo-conservatism of Spiral Dynamics or Integral Theory is not specifically an orientation that aligns with the views of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfield but rather express certain affinities in its way of thinking about the worlds populations on a grand scale and its couch assumptions about their value systems.

In a manner akin to neo-conservatism, Spiral Dynamics method of handling diversity precedes by categorizing broad spectrums of populations according to generalized stereotypes. Once categorized, practitioners of Spiral Dynamics reason about the value systems of folks based on assumptions of their developmental dispositions as compared to what the theory considers is an idealized world order.

Moreover, just as neo-conservatism deflects its critics into simplistic categories of black or white, with us or against us, Spiral Dynamics has simplified a method of deflecting any serious critiques of itself. Having designed its own taxonomy of memes, it resists critique by deflecting the arguments of those who interrogate it into the jargon of colors and value systems it has stereotyped. In doing this resistance is easily dismissed; tautologies abound. If “ideologies construct the imaginary relationship between a subject and his/her real conditions of existence” (Althusser 1965 p241), then Spiral Dynamics literally colors the imagination of the subjective view it constructs.

But grand political visions fall both on the left and right spectrum of politics, that is why it is interesting to watch Ken Wilber reasoning before the Iraq War. At first glance Wilber's reasoning seems quite complex in comparing and contrasting the nature of those traits and dispositions in populations he codes as blue-orange, red-blue, green et al. Wilber's integrative vision seems so intent on balancing the multi-dimensional memes of visual global harmony, that one can not help but be disappointed at his myopia when he ultimately chooses a leader who embodies his integral visions. His choice of Tony Blair as that leader might even signal a bit of integral naivety, because we now know, through such sources as the “Downing Street Memo” and numerous testimonies, books, and declassified documents that have come out since the Iraq War, that the war was initiated through the deception of Anglo-American leaders. The very same leaders whose values were heralded by the integral psychology of Ken Wilber and the Spiral Dynamics of Don Beck as integral or trans-political.

There are of course many folks who were fooled by the Bush and Blair administration in the run up to war, my purpose is not to condemn Wilber or Beck for the choices they made rather, I seek to inquire into the organizing ideas of Integral Theory which may sway beliefs in times of crisis.

What is troubling is that both Wilber and Beck seemed to express admiration for a range of suspects including George W. Bush, Tony Blair, and Colin Powell, who while popular at the time when praises were showered upon them, have now all proven to have systematically pursued courses of deception and aggression which inflicted severe trauma on millions of people.

For his part at the time of war in Iraq in the April of 2003, after the bombs had already started to fall on Iraq, Ken Wilber referenced the transcendent values of his "integral" meta-physical system to champion one of the war's most ardent supporters. Interestingly, just as Beck references Bush's transpartisan politics, Wilber declares a third way politics run by Blair who is a 2nd tiered thinker to boot. He writes:

“That Blair has also been an authentic pioneer in "third way" politics (cf. A Theory of Everything), which is one of the first serious moves toward an integral politics that unites the best of liberal and conservative, is perhaps no surprise. Given the actual world situation as it is now, Blair's general position seems to be the best that can pragmatically be offered, like a pan-Atlantic colossus at Rhodes, Blair has one foot in America and one foot in Europe, and heroically seems the only world leader attempting to keep that integration in existence. “ (Wilber 2003 para 31-32)

Tony Blair a colossus straddling both sides of the Atlantic? The real colossus never actually straddled the harbor of Rhodes, it, just like Blair's Atlantic diplomacy, were myths. Blair never caucused in good faith with his European allies who wanted a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Early on Blair knew that there was no turning back the Anglo-American desiring machine of war.

Now that Shock and Awe has worn off into the routinization of horror, now that hundreds of thousands have perished, now that millions are refugees, Tony Blair's policy is judged a colossal failure. The Faustian poodle rather than the Greek god Helios is the image of Blair which lives in the popular imagination of England today.

If we interrogate further Wilber's colossal vision of an “integral” leader in which he invokes images of Greek mythology, should we be surprised, that in a theory which lobbies for “2nd tiered” control of ordering “1st tiered” populations, that Wilber chooses a Nietzschean image to portray “integral” leadership”

Wilber's view of the anti-war movement is even more puzzling given that agape is associated almost universally with traditions of self-cultivation and transcendence. Wilber voiced no support for anti-war demonstrators who feared for the grave consequences of an illegal war of aggression that would inflict pain on an entire nation. Instead, conveniently ignoring the sanctions that were in place against Iraq at the time, he critiqued the protesters, in a manner not unlike Fox News political commentators, accusing them of not also protesting Saddam.

“I personally believe that any protest movement that does not equally protest both America's invasion and Saddam's murder of 400,000 people is a protest movement that does not truly represent peace or non-aggression or worldcentric values. ”(Wilber 2003 para 30)

Wilber's conception of integral political analysis seem as confusing as the reasons for going to war in the first place. After claiming that the baby boomer generation of antiwar protesters, which he labels green, can do nothing but protest he states:

“But as long as green can see itself protesting aggression, it is relatively content. The worst that can be said of these protesters is that they are essentially "Saddam enablers" (in exactly the same way that Neville Chamberlain was a Hitler enabler). The best that can be said is that these individuals serve the larger Spiral by sensitizing more people to the horrors of aggression.” (Wilber 2003 para 30)

What Wilber calls Green is commonly referred to as the Left in other political discourse. To suggest that Green protesters were like Neville Chamberlain in anyway is straight out of the Karl Rove play book for pre-war propaganda. Wilber's claims that the best war protesters can do is sensitize people he relegates to the lower memes, is to ignore the actions they were trying to facilitate namely: to end the war!

Ironically, Wilber's critique of the values of the “baby boom” generation he calls “boomeritis” (Wilber 2002) seems to have boomeranged on him. Having savagely critiqued the values of his own generation, suddenly in time of crisis, Ken Wilber salutes Tony Blair, as the man of the hour whom we should place our faith in. At a crucial moment in world history Wilber defers to Tony Blair, the very political leader who represents the votes and values of baby boomers, and who “has lived a quintessential Baby Boomer's life” (Brooks 03 para 4)

The fact that Wilber's Integral Institute claims to have consulted with both Democratic and Republican administrations, may be reason to pause and reflect on what role Integral Theory should play in future government policy, especially in times of crisis.

But there are other things Integral Theory should perhaps reflect upon namely, how they integrate Eastern meditative practices within a Western theoretical model. Wilber's work like many other theorists who purport to integrate Eastern philosophical theories into their work, often do so by a form of intellectual imperialism. One could refer to recent subaltern theory which takes issue with the attempts of euro-centric scholarship to appropriate the voice of the subaltern through imposing interpretations which speak to their own concerns and in so doing silence the indigenous peoples right to speak for themselves.

To deny the voice of the “other” by forcing the socially constructed signifiers of a euro-centric language regime upon other cultural traditions is to do them violence. For example, Wilber submits all traditions, theories, practices, to the categorical constraints of his “transcendental signified” [4] the AQAL model; a self-referential metaphysical construction that fixes all meaning in itself.

Wilber's method of colonializing cultural alterity is by its very nature hegemonic, and even predatory. He does this with a number of Eastern thinkers and mystics. As an instance of this practice, I will provide an example of how he treats the Indian revolutionary and founder of Integral Yoga, Sri Aurobindo.

Sri Aurobindo came to prominence as one of the first leaders of the Indian independence movement that sought to overthrow the colonialist empire of Great Britain on the subcontinent. His first writings which came to public scrutiny were those advocating resistance to the colonialist rule of the Raj. Apart from these political writings he also wrote several major treatises on culture and social and political history, including The Foundations of Indian Culture, The Ideal of Human Unity, The Human Cycle, War and Self Determination.

In his appropriation of Sri Aurobindo, Ken Wilber collapses the entirety of his work into a single quadrant (upper left) of his AQAL model, totally ignoring his cultural and socio-political texts or his life as a revolutionary leader of an independence struggle. Wilber's exclusive emphasis of Sri Aurobindo the yogi, fails to contextualize him also as an important cultural figure in India who has written extensively on society and history. Wilber overlooks the genealogy of Sri Aurobindo's works are rooted in the Indic Darshan discourses. Rarely, if ever does Wilber ever highlight Sri Aurobindo's meditations on the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Gita which background his writing and provide important interpretive keys which contextualize his voice against the history of the subcontinent.

An integral theory which valorizes its own epistemology by denying other traditions, theories, practices their own voice, or by simply reducing them to mere coordinates on a quaternary grid segregates rather than integrates. Any theory which asserts itself ideologically by cannibalizing other traditions and appropriating the voice of alterity as a function of its integral model while discarding the ten thousand nuances, subtleties, traces of culture which are essential to indigenous identity, fails at the level of integration itself. These theoretical practices are not integral but imperialist, such discourses do not achieve cultural hybridity but rather cultural hegemony. Such an integral theory is colonialist at its worst and patronizing at its best.

V) The Order of Things

The ideological blind spots of recent integral theories and practices explored here are three fold. The first, or fundamentalism, is melded to religion, the second, neo-liberalism, is appropriated by the power structures of free market economics, the third, which I refer to as neo-conservatism, is not so much a consequence of hegemonic desire as it is a consequence of its ordering (systemization) strategies. Facilitating problems with the ordering strategy of recent integral theory are its acceptance of progressive evolution, ontogenic recapitulation of phylogeny, and its spatial orientated thinking.

Since I have already touched on problems associated with progressive evolution [5], I will turn now to the recapitulation of problems inherited from Haeckel's – albeit modified – thesis. The uncritical acceptance of recapitulation as a premise for psychological development poses problems for Wilber's integral theory. Recent remarks by Wilber however, lead one to believe that he may not wholly eschew recapitulation in other areas such as biology [6] in his reference below to “all domains” :

“For AQAL, most of the deep features (or self-regulating codes) of holons [7] (in all domains) [my emphasis] are not given ahistorically but rather are laid down in the process of evolution and development itself (i.e. all present synchronic codes were laid down diachronically). However, once laid down as evolutionary memory, they tend to become fixed Kosmic habits (or a priori structures) in their developmental domains, acting as teleonomic omega points for all future members of the class, which is why, in very general terms, ontogeny does recapitulate phylogeny.” (Wilber para 40)

Although some clarification is required on exactly what domains Wilber is referring to here, what is clear is that Wilber certainly applies the idea of recapitulation in psychological development.

The idea of recapitulation has a long history in the field of psychology in its view of juvenile development, Freud said,

“Each individual... recapitulates in an abbreviated form the entire development of the human race” and “ontogenesis may be regarded as a recapitulation of phylogenesis... ” (1916, in 1961, p. 199).

Jung also strongly supported recapitulationism as it applied to the state of the developing child's mind: “the state of infantile thinking in the child's psychic life... is nothing but a re-echo of the prehistoric and ancient” (1916, pp. 27-28).

Piaget's theory, that Wilber mines exhaustively, has many similarities with juvenile recapitulation, although he denies any comparison is valid. Rather than recapitulation, in which ontogeny and phylogeny follow the same sequences in succession. Piaget suggest “parallel sequences” in which ontogenic and phyletic evolution follow two independent sequences, but share common histories of development, because both are influenced by a common constraint—the structure of the mind itself. Rather than phylogeny explaining ontogeny, Piaget states, the child explains the adult more than the reverse”.(Gould 1977 p146,147)

Wilber seems to have borrowed many of his early ideas on psychological recapitulation from Erich Neumann, a student of Jung whose central thesis in his book The Origin and History of Consciousness is the ego's recapitulation of prior stages of the archetypal history of human consciousness.

Although Jean Gebser did not make a formal case for recapitulation, Wilber often uses his delineations of the mutations of consciousness to describe the psychological development of the child. For example, a developing child would pass through the archaic, magic, mythic, stages before winding up at mental level. Wilber's own specific theory of recapitulation however, has not gone unchallenged. [8]

In Up from Eden Wilber states:

“ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, that is if the child and primitive share at least a few general characteristics even though radically different in context it makes our case clearer (Wilber 1996, p29)

Historically there have been strong dissenters to any thesis that a child has an intelligence equal to a primitive:

“Meanwhile, others were challenging these analogies between ontogeny and phylogeny. Bouman (1918) in an article on "The biogenetic law and the psychology of primitive figurative art" attacked parallels between the development of culture and the child in light of the amazing realism evidenced by early cave drawings. Franz Boas (1927), in his book on Primitive Art cited Vierkandt's (1912), distinction of three types of representation, namely suggestive (andeutend), descriptive (beschreibend) and perspective (anschaulich), claiming that (80): "The perspective type does not develop from the former two as the result of an evolution; it is based on a distinct mental attitude, the early presence of which is manifested by the realistic, perspective paintings of a number of primitive tribes" ”(Veltman part 5 para 12)

Drawing an equivalence between the child and the primitive is couched with hidden dangers:

“For anyone who wishes to affirm the innate inequality of races, few biological arguments can have more appeal than recapitulation, with its insistence that children of higher races (invariably one's own) are passing through and beyond the permanent conditions of adults in lower races. If adults of lower races are like white children, then they may be treated as such—subdued, disciplined, and managed (or, in the paternalistic tradition, educated but equally subdued). The "primitive-as-child" argument stood second to none in the arsenal of racist arguments supplied by science to justify slavery and imperialism. I do not think that most scientists who upheld the primitive-as-child argument consciously intended to promote racism. They merely expressed their allegiance to the prevailing views of white intellectuals and leaders of European society. Still, the arguments were used by politicians and I can find no evidence that any recapitulationist ever objected.(Gould 1977 p126)"


“Criminal anthropology and racist ideology used the primitive-as-child argument to reinforce their claims about adults—atavistic deviants or members of lower races, respectively. But the argument could be reversed, usually with more benevolence, to ask what comparative anatomy and evolutionary history had to say about the nature of children. Recapitulation supplied an obvious general answer: we understand children only when we recognize that their behavior replays a phyletic past. (Gould 1977 p135)

In drawing comparison between children and indigenous peoples it is no surprise that Recapitulation Theory has also been a justification for colonialist intent:

“The evolution in character which the race has undergone has been northwards from the tropics. The first step to the solution of the problem before us is to simply acquire the principle we are dealing with peoples who represent the same stage in development of the race as the child does in the history of the development of the individual. The tropics therefore will not be developed by native themselves (Kidd 1998 p51 in Gould 1977)

Recapitulation Theory even inspired Kipling to write one of the anthems of colonialism:

Take up the White Man's Burden
Send forth best ye breed
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve the captives need
To wait in heavy harness
On fluttered folk and wild-
Your new caught sullen peoples
Half Devil and Half Child

(Kipling 1899)

What Stephen Jay Gould makes crystal clear in his landmark study Ontogeny and Phylogeny is that the history of Recapitulation Theory provides both scientist and poets with sufficient reason to order human groups as either higher or lower.

That both Wilber's AQAL and Spiral Dynamics have defined a very distinct hierarchical ordering system for human individuals and groups based on evolutionary premises that draw from recapitulation theory is not surprising. I certainly do not intend to accuse Wilber or Beck of intentionally drawing up the ordering sequence of their models to further any racist doctrine associated with the history of Recapitulation. In fact they have both added augmentations and nuances to their models to avoid charges of racism or hierarchical ordering of specific groups.

We should certainly take Wilber and Beck at their word when they voice abhorrence of racism and colonialism. However, it is also true that some of the conclusions they have drawn in times of crisis have been poorly reasoned by referencing a model whose process attractor is a hierarchical ordering of individuals and groups:

  • Placing Tony Blair at the top of an ascending order of world leaders in the run up to the Iraq war,
  • the cynical dismissal of anti-war demonstrators protesting an illegal unprovoked war as a consequence of the green meme,
  • the christening of Generals Schwartzkopf and Powell as spiral masters in their prosecution of a war which gave tacit approval to the use of the term collateral damage as a way to dehumanize civilian casualties,
  • the claim that George W Bush transcended the lower memetic stages of bipartisan politics,
  • the stereotyping of whole aboriginal and indigenous populations as constituting the lower rungs of the evolutionary ladder...

...these all unfortunate consequences of ranking individuals and groups with reference to theories that measure values on scales whose graduations progress from lower to higher, less to more inclusive.

Ultimately, Wilber's AQAL and Beck's Spiral Dynamics are ways of ordering phenomena. The ordering of things has a long history of its own which Foucault has brilliantly traced in his book The Order of Things. Foucault informs us that ordering sequences are peculiar to particular thought systems and time periods, which he calls “epistemes”. These ways of ordering things provide us with insight into the corresponding discourse practices of certain historical periods. For example, here Foucault instances the importance of the ordering of things into “tables” that was a fundamental aspect of both 18th century epistemology as well as its disciplinary techniques:

“The drawing up of “tables” was one of the great problems of the scientific, political, economic technology of the eighteenth century, how one was to arrange botanical and zoological gardens, and construct at the same time a classification system for all living beings, how one was to observe, supervise, regularize the circulation of commodities and money and thus build up an economic table that might serve as the principle for the increase in wealth, how one was to inspect men, observe their presence and absence.... how one was to distribute patients, separate them from one another, divide up hospital space, and make a systematic classification of diseases: these were all twin operations distribution, analysis, supervision and intelligibility. In the eighteenth century the table was both a technique of power and a procedure of knowledge. It was a question of organizing the multiple of providing oneself with and instrument to cover it and master it, it was a question of imposing upon it order..... Like the Army general,..the naturalist, the physician, the economist was blinded by the immensity , dazed by the multitude.... the innumerable combinations that result from the multiplicity of object so many concerns together form a burden..... This attempt to order the multiplicity of objects resulted in, Tactic, the spatial ordering of men, taxonomy, the disciplinary space of natural beings; the economic table, the regulated movement of wealth. (Foucault p148/149)”

Integral Theory has evolved its own unique ordering system which fetishes maps, levels, quadrants, numbers, weaving the complexity of consciousness into a hyper-mentalized grid of multi-dimensions that ironically flatten experiential reality. But there is no reason for us to assume that this ordering system that springs from a European theoretical orientation applies universally.

Borges for one, has made it clear that ordering sequences and definitions of things are cross-culturally sensitive. Cross-cultural epistemologies may not be easy to comprehend within our modernist European associations of order. Below Borges humorously relates the obtuse definitions that a Chinese Encyclopedia applies to the word animal:

(a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camel hair brush, (1) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.

And Foucault replies “In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that.” (in Foucault 1994 p1)

The ordering of reality according to a theory which rest on recapitulation with its euro-centric valuations of development presents numerous problems that Integral Theory has yet to think through. Although Wilber is continually refining his model to adapt it to the ten thousand nuances that one encounters in any attempt to order reality, given the ideological blind spots, it seems that for all the talk of spiral colors, the vision is still monochromatic.

VI) Gebser's Sociology, Systasis, Spatiality

Before concluding it would be helpful to review Gebser's socio-political vision and to provide a synopsis of how he distinguishes the integral from mental structures.

Although Gebser lived in the drama of Europe during the wars in Spain and Germany, in which he was forced to flee Fascism in both countries, his sociological, economic, and political analysis of the 20th century only comprises a short sub chapter or about 14 of the 562 pages in The Ever Present Origin. It is not surprising given his emphasis that the transition from the mental to the integral “structure” is dependent on the transition from abstract time to the “concretion of time”, that consideration of time is central to his sociological analysis. Gebser refers to the new manifest (integrality) in sociology as:

  1. in the consideration of time
  2. in the supersession of dualism
  3. in a tendency toward arationality (Gebser 1984 p427)

1) In his consideration of sociological time Gebser turns to Marx “before oriental-tyrannical Bolshevism turned into slavery” as the first economist who went from a quantitative to a qualitative consideration of time in his writings. Gebser writes:

“Marx in his qualitative analysis of time in the new evaluation of labor is the sociological form of the irruption of time as the sole criterion of wage measure transcend the purely quantitative measurement of time spans”... (Gebser 1984 p428).

Here Gebser is reacting to the alienation of labor at the mercy of clock time:

“Life and Labor should not only be “ruled by meter – the metrical beats of time divided into equal measure” or clock time, but the qualitative characteristics of time are ruled by rhythm.” (Gebser 1984 p428)

2) In considering the supersession of dualism his focus is on the overcoming of dualism between individual and the collective. Although there are other esoteric association to be made, more concretely he appears to be referencing the dualism of polities dividing the world. At the time he was writing this was concretely represented in the governments of the United States and the Soviet Union.

3) On the tendency toward arationality in socio-economic systems he makes the following observation:

“integral or arational sociology is distinguished by it sense of interconnections between events and people. “The increasing attention to interconnections is arational making possible an integrating mode of realization and liberation from mere systemization. As well as lending perceptibility to an “open" world..... perceiving these interconnections takes us outside of national forms of identity to a universalized view or integral humanism. (Gebser 1984 p434)

Gebser quotes the work of another sociologist Lecomte du Nouy, who also argues that freedom is dependent on eliminating barriers of space time “Man will at last be able to think universally”.... He has gained centuries by eliminating space and time which separated him from the suffering of his brother and erected isolating barriers around him. (du Nouy in Gebser 1984 p436)

For Gebser eliminating space and time results from the concretion of time, the integrative act (praxis or yoga) by which otherwise merely abstract proposition are anchored in actual life and embodied. In the concretion of time the energies of the individual also gain efficiency for the mutation of an integral reality. Time concretion itself however is dependent on the process he calls systasis:

“The concept which makes possible the "comprehension" or, more exactly, the perception of the "temporal elements" is that of systasis. (Gebser 1984 p334)

“Systasis is the conjoining or fitting together of parts into integrality. Its acategorical element is the integrating dimension by which the three- dimensional spatial world, which is always a world of parts, is integrated into a whole in such a way that it can be stated. This already implies that it is not an ordering schema paralleling that of system”.. (Gebser 1984 p310)

As Feuerstein phrases it,

"Systasis, in contrast to systematization, deals with the proper 'arrangement' of intensities (rather than quantified 'extensities').(Feuerstein in Mahood para 31-37)"

Gebser speaks of the problems in treating systasis when one tries to represent it as a system:

“Intensities unless we mistake them for pressure and tension are not measurable. When we measure them we fragment them; and even such fragmented, residual intensities like the concept of time are sufficiently virulent to disintegrate the spatial edifice whenever we incorporate them as a misunderstood forth dimension in our three dimensional world system. Such deeds are only a negative response to the task placed upon consciousness” (Gebser 1984 p311).

Systasis, deals with the 'arrangement' of intensities (temporal) and energies (individual). Its concerns are for the qualitative concretion of time rather than its quantitative spatial abstraction.

Ed Mahood Jr., who has given an excellent overview of Jean Gebser's work, summarizes:

“abstraction becomes a key word to describe mental activity and we find man using his mind to overcome and "master" the world around him. With abstraction comes philosophizing, hence the philosopheme is the primary form of expression....

He then links perspective, perhaps Gebser's most powerful trope for distinguishing cultural mutations with time perception which is abstract in the mental structure.

“Perspective has come to be a major part and aspect of our mental functioning. Perspective is the life blood of reasoning and the Rational structure of consciousness, which Gebser considers to be only a deficient form of the Mental structure. We should remember, however, that this is also the time of philosophy. The mental ordering and systematization of thought becomes the real dominant mode of expression.” (Mahood Jr para 31 -37)
"Also... time itself was conceptualized (spatialized) as an "arrow" that points from the past to the future by way of the present.” (Feuerstein in Mahood Jr para 31-37)

Spatial, perspectival, representational thinking with an arrow of time pointing from the past to present to future is characteristic of Wilber's AQAL model. In the images below (Wilber 1995) one sees this clearly:

Wilber's model attempts to order phenomena; namely everything, which of course does not normally lend itself easily to categorization. Gebser makes the following observation about such an ordering schema:

“Even assuming that we were to discover an “ordering Schema” for those “Quantities” and Magnitudes” which are not amendable to categorization, this schema can be neither one of relationships or relativizes systematic points of view would merely be a magic postulate; one which merely relativizes systematic points of view would be merely a mythical concept according to which the factor of movement and the “other” point of view would be mentalized. “

“We are speaking advisably of forms of statement (integral) here and not forms of representation. Only our concept of time is a representational form bound like all forms – to representation – to space. The search for the new form of representation would give rise to the error of establishing a new philospheme at the very moment when philosophy is coming to its end. And this must be emphasized ; the age of systematic philosophy of an individual stamp is over. “ (Gebser 1984 p310)

Although Ken Wilber is a brilliant theorist, his entire opus is an attempt to create a systematic philosophy which attempts to represent and order all forms of individual, social, biological, and universal reality into a spatial model in which evolution moves progressively according to the arrows of time. It is just this manner of philosophizing that Gebser refers to as proper to the “mental” mutation.

The AQAL is a dense system of multi-dimensional quadrants, grids, waves, streams, states, structures, spirals; a Glass Bead Game (Hesse 1943/2002) for “Spiral Masters” who play at perfecting a simularca of Enlightenment. Given its implicit infinite series of holonic signifiers, its constant deferral of meaning to a multiplicity of cross references and notes, it is a perfect hyper-text theory. In the intensification of space of a model which attempts to represents literally everything the phenomenology of lived experience collapses into a complex simulation or reality.

Such a theory seems well suited to an era in which we must constantly sort and order multiple streams of information, in which space and time have been compressed into the ten thousand executable commands of code that discloses the world to us through desk top metaphors and hyper-text links. Rather than an integral theory Ken Wilber's efforts would perhaps better be referred to as hyper-mental or hyper-modern. and if so, his philosophy would be well suited for our times.

Ronald Purser's "The Limits of Cyberspace: hyper-modernist detours in the evolution of consciousness" posits that any integral mutation Gebser may have thought was heralded by certain scientific and artistic movements of late Modernism has rather morphed into a Hyper-Modernity. Through the exponential growth of information technologies we increasingly live in simulated environments that collapse space not as a function of time concretion but as an implosion of real space into cyberspace. The result is a hyperperspectival rather than aperspectival mutation.

“Since the emergence of linear perspective, we have progressively intensified our ability—especially through electronic and digital technologies—to distance ourselves from the world. Cyberspace has taken root in a period where the subject is “already virtualized, volatized and fragmented” (Simpson, 1995, p.159). This technologically mediated detachment has provided the cultural infrastructure for the postmodern ironic subject (Simpson, 1995). Indeed, viewing the world from a distance becomes the habitual posture of the disengaged, self-as-bystander.

What we are witnessing today is the extreme manifestation of the rational-mental structure operating in what Gebser referred to as a "deficient phase.” In this phase, rationality takes center stage, disallowing all other structures of consciousness from coming into awareness. In a sense, rationality becomes hyper-rational, deficient, and imbalanced, its mentality proliferates into collective consciousness, dividing and segmenting the world to such a degree that the result is fragmentation, anomie, and a decline in meaning. In effect, the rational-mental structure has imploded in on itself—not into a mutation, not into aperspectival consciousness, but into a hyper-extension of the perspectival world.

Hyper-perspectivism, in conjunction with cyberspace, has created a new epistemic order based on non-referentiality or depthlessness, collapsing the distinction between signified and signifier. The result is a cultural fascination with surfaces, images, and a restless energy intent on gratifying arbitrary and ephemeral desires. Simpson (1995) maintains that this detached stance, especially as it is mediated by information technologies, is actually "a way of anesthetizing oneself to loss," reflecting an existential dread of being in linear time (p.136). In a hyperperspectival world, the postmodern subject takes up a cynical and ironic stance, keeping the world at arms length.

That the dominant mode of consciousness in digital culture is hyperperspectival (and not aperspectival) can be ascertained simply from the fact that cyberspace is founded on a spatial metaphor. Gebser (1985), in numerous passages, associates perspectival consciousness with spatialization and concretion of space. "Perspectival thinking spatializes and then employs what it has spatialized" (p.258). The psychic experience of our period, according to cultural critic Frederic Jameson (1997), is that of being dominated by categories of space (rather than of time), of being immersed in the synchronic rather than the diachronic (p.16). Hyperperspectival thinking is an extreme form of spatial fixation and attachment, manifesting in the technological conquest of the globe....

A troubling inconsistency arises between the functional limits and the hype/hyper-potentiality of cyberspace. Unfortunately, as we can see from this discussion, the current trajectory of the digital age is not a fundamental break from the past; cyberspace is not catapulting us into integral consciousness. Instead, we are taking a hypermodern detour. “[9] (Purser 1999 para 21-25 & 68).

VII) From Integral Theory to Integral Eteology

The practice of Integral Theory attempts to integrate many disparate cultural theories and practices to obtain a global perspective. Integral Theory itself however, is geographically specific. The overwhelming majority of integral theorist are from North America and Western Europe, and certainly a much higher percentages are male theorist. This in itself is not a reason for condemnation, because in the course of history, philosophy has mostly been a man's game and many philosophical schools have been defined by the particular geographical regions of their origin: a British school, a Continental school, the Frankfurt school. However, one of the chief concerns of critical theory over the past forty or so years are the numerous problems demonstrated with bias rooted in patriarchy or in a specific geographical, cultural, or academic orientation. In the interest of self-disclosure shouldn't integral theory consider a qualifier to a prefix itself as North American or European Integral Theory?

Other questions which can be asked are whether we actually need integral political and social theories when politics and social histories are by their very nature fractious? The histories of different ethnic communities are often discontinuities, if we are to honor their voices we must allow them to speak through the authenticity of the fissures, gaps, and ruptures on which we stand on the other side. This is especially true in a liberal democracies where theories of integration are problematic because these system of government grant multiple competing interest groups the right to speak most forcefully out of differences rather than by similarities and consensus. How can integral theories be of service to social integration when such integration has historically often occurred through the obliteration of differences of indigenous cultures, which are seen as more primitive (less evolved memes) by colonializing regimes?

If the genealogy of Integral Theory and its practices of inner technologies lead back to what in the Western esoteric tradition is known as: “know thyself” or “care of the self” then the primary concern of integral theory seems properly to be with the development and integration of the individual. This paper began with a synopsis of the genealogy of self-knowledge or care of self in the Western tradition which Foucault traces back to the Delphic Oracle. But, whereas integral theory treats self-cultivation as unproblematic and primary to its model of human development, Foucault in excavating social histories uncovers some interesting unintended consequences of self-cultivation practices.

In Discipline and Punish (1994) Foucault traces the ways in which inner technologies employed in monastic self-cultivation prior to the Enlightenment were later appropriated in the 18th and 19th centuries by industrial, educational, and military sources as techniques that could be altered to impose disciplinary regimes. “The time table is an old inheritance. The strict model was no doubt suggested by monastic communities. It soon spread. Its three great methods—establish rhythms, impose particular occupations regulate cycles of repetition—were soon to be found in schools, workshops, hospitals.” (Foucault p149)

Integral theory advances self-cultivation practices such as Integral Transformative Practice, U Theory of presencing, or Integral Yoga which aim at stress reduction, improved health, creativity or self-knowledge by integrating and transcending the multiple fractures of being which interrupt time concretion in our daily lives with competing desires, moods, thoughts, feelings which attempt to decenter us. Apart from the obvious good that these practices can do us all, if the inner technologies suggested by integral practices are grafted on to socio-economic practices, what forms of disciple or control may result?

One method of imposing order has been suggested in Spiral Dynamics but, is the proper prescription for imposing order that the next higher up in a series of ascending memes be the disciplinary agent for its immediate predecessor, with Blue policing Red, and Orange imposing order on Blue?

Who is qualified to be the omniscient observer, the Spiral Master to mete out justice? Who is that special individual who has included and transcended all other memes to breathe the rarefied air of a transcendental signified and partake of the pure objectivity of observation? One does not have to be a 2nd order cybernetician to figure out the problems with that scenario.

Moreover, how does the move toward unification and self cultivation in integral theories color its socio-political orientation toward dissident communities which forcefully assert their right of self-determination? How does integral theory react to threats to the center, for example, from weapons of mass destruction? How successful have integral theorist been at predicting the emergent futures of conflicts? How has the leadership practices advanced by integral theorist faired in times of crisis?

Then there are some fundamental questions about integral theory itself. The contemporary definition of “theory” Merriam Webster says is:

  1. the analysis of a set of facts in their relation to one another,
  2. abstract thought :speculation
  3. the general or abstract principles of a body of fact, a science, or an art [music theory],
  4. a belief, policy, or procedure proposed or followed as the basis of action [her method is based on the theory that all children want to learn] b: an ideal or hypothetical set of facts, principles, or circumstances “often used in the phrase in theory [in theory, we have always advocated freedom for all],
  5. a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena [the wave theory of light],
  6. a hypothesis assumed for the sake of argument or investigation b: an unproved assumption (Merriam Webster)

If one of Integral Theory's first sources can be traced back to Jean Gebser there must have been a rupture somewhere along the way that has yet to be charted, because he just might call integral theory an oxymoron! Is it not time to take Gebser a bit more seriously here and move from systemization to systasis, from Integral Theory to Integral Eteology” [10]

If one of the numerous genealogies that I have tried to trace here weaves a rhizomc path toward Delphi, and self-knowledge, aletheia, the unconcealment of truth, the uncovering of what is hidden, shouldn't the first move of integral sociology and politics be to unveil its own blind spots?

And who if anyone can see into that spectrum of invisible light?


[1] The classic definition of ideology is given by Louis Althusser, I'd like to emphasis the first definition.

  1. Ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence
  2. Ideology is omnipresent, trans-historical, and immutable in form: it is inescapable and inevitable.
  3. Ideology has a material existence. That is, it has a material existence within an apparatus and its practices. An ideology reaches a material existence through the practice, ideas, and actions of individuals.
  4. Ideology describes and makes possible systems and structures that allow us to have a self. They allow us to exist as subjects.
  5. Ideology makes possible all practice.

[2] I refer to Pierre Bourdieu's ideas on how social fields are constituted. Bourdieu's believed that what he refers to as doxa differs from Althussers ideology in that whereas an individual is educated into the ideology of state apparatus, doxa permeates the cultural unconscious through language, symbols, experience, feelings, opinions, and norming behavior. “We are educated in ideology but we are born into doxa.” (Mendoza 2007),

[2a] Nomos: Bourdieu defines nomos as the fundamental organizing laws of experience that govern practices and knowledge within a field. (Munjal para 2)

[2b] Doxa: A society's, unquestioned beliefs, tacit assumption, from which self-evident truths are constructed which could otherwise be called opinions

“Habitus: The concept of habit or habitus is used by Bourdieu to refer to daily practices of individuals, groups, societies and nations. It includes the totality of learned habits, bodily skills, styles, tastes, and other non-discursive knowledges that are often 'taken for granted' for a specific group. He sees habitus as the key to social reproduction because it is central to generating and regulating the practices that make up social life. Habitus thus, helps to define both the place of the self, and by implication, of the other.

[3] I use the definition given to False Consciousness by Herbert Marcuse in his book One Dimensional Man. Marcuse, argues “that the ideology of advanced industrial society produces false needs, false consciousness and one-dimensional mass consciousness; outlines categories such as liberation, technology, culture and democracy as dialectical ones, dialectic of liberation: liberation from the existing, false society could be achieved because the material conditions have reached a level where an immediate jump into the realm of freedom would be possible, but ideological manipulations forestall radical social change” (Marcuse 1964)

[4] I use Derrida's definition of a transcendental signified; an external point of reference (God, Self, Metaphysical) upon which one may build a concept of philosophy. A “transcendental signified” is a signified which transcends all signifiers, and is a meaning which transcends all signs. A “transcendental signified” is also a signified concept or thought which transcends any single signifier, but which is implied by all determinations of meaning. (Derrida 1974),

[5] Ken Wilber often cites Habermas as an eminent philosopher who champions progressive values of the Enlightenment which he believes aligns with his own views on cultural evolution. But critiques of Habermas's work are numerous and well argued. Here is an excellent summary of critiques of Habermas which relate to themes examined here:

“Ironically, there are two modernistic yet sociological grounds that Habermas fails to incorporate or appreciate in his analysis: gender and racial inequality. We may ask: Is Habermas' theorizing built on a conception of the world in which, surreptitiously, essentialist characteristics (e.g., 'middle class' 'white' 'males') dominate? It is a fact that the entire 'project of modernity' and associated discourses of rationality and progress have historically sided with men over women (Stanley and Pateman, 1991). The enlightenment philosophizing was a language-based project that presumed women in an inferior position to that of men. Whilst Stanley and Pateman (1991) do acknowledge that Habermas' notion of emancipation is influential for feminists seeking a normative theory of consciousness and liberation, they reserve judgment on Habermas' theory of communicative action. They see it as gender blind, thereby perpetuating an enlightenment tradition of malestreaming mainstream analysis by reconstituting the project of modernity. On the other hand, feminist philosopher Selya Benhabib (1986) has found in Habermas certain valuable elements that can provide the basis for a wide-ranging normative critique of contemporary society

Secondly, to compound the adverse androcentric effects of the 'project of modernity', one could raise the question of eurocentricism. According to Gilroy (1992) European culture was heterogeneous during and after the enlightenment. He claims social theory can no longer understand and interpret the project of the enlightenment without understanding the periphery: that is, the world beyond Europe. For example, the legacies of slavery, colonialism and imperialism must serve as a challenge to the over-ambitiousness of universalist hopes and aspirations for social life, including Habermas' own grand theory.

The central tenets of the 'project of modernity' are the ideals of rationality and progress which Habermas (1981) attempts to formalize as practical achievements. Yet these ideals must be put into a darker context, a context expressed by James Joyce's remark that “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” As the predecessors at the Frankfurt school in 1949 saw, and as Adorno and Horkheimer and Zygmunt Bauman (1989) powerfully narrate, the Holocaust provides a devastating critique of enlightenment legacy and thought and highlights the danger of slipping into a barbarism anticipated by Nietzchean nightmares. For example, on one level, Hitler's regime in Germany merely refined and perfected 19th century techniques of social discipline. But, on yet another level, Hitler's regime was a deliberate throwback to an archaic 'society of blood', a society of savagery and a society with a lust for domination, control and power; a society which raises further disturbing questions about the enlightenment project. More recently, there have been periodic episodes of inhumanity which have ranged from genocide in Rwanda to 'ethnic cleansing' in the former states of Yugoslavia. A spectacular recent example might be the terrorist events of September 11 and their aftermath in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Recent history suggests that it is difficult to implement Habermas' (1984) universalized narratives of communicative action in a world with so many differences between states, cultures and ideologies. It seems it is difficult to provide a modern solution to characteristically postmodern problems: for example, diversity of fundamentalist beliefs and consequent actions based on impassioned beliefs. Inspired by the dreams of reason, the ideal of communicative action is a slender reed with which to overcome the powerful forces of dehumanization increasingly evident all around us.(Powell and Moody 2003)”

[6] The current view in Biology which relates development of the genotype to evolution of phenotype is Evo-Devo, an excellent overview of Evo-Devo is found in an article and book review written by Israel Rosenfield and Edward Ziff.

“Surprising discoveries in the 1980s have begun to tell us how an embryo develops into a mature animal, and these discoveries have radically altered our views of evolution and of the relation of human beings to all other animals. The new field of study in which these breakthroughs have been made is called Evo Devo, short for evolution and development, "development" referring to both how an embryo grows and how the newborn infant matures into an adult...

In 1894, the English biologist William Bateson challenged Darwin's view that evolution was gradual. He published Materials for the Study of Variation, a catalog of abnormalities he had observed in insects and animals in which one body part was replaced with another. He described, for example, a mutant fly with a leg instead of an antenna on its head, and mutant frogs and humans with extra vertebrae. The abnormalities Bateson discovered resisted explanation for much of the twentieth century. But in the late 1970s, studies by Edward Lewis at the California Institute of Technology, Christiana Nüsslein-Vollhard and Eric Wieschaus in Germany, and others began to reveal that the abnormalities were caused by mutations of a special set of genes in fruit fly embryos that controlled development of the fly's body and the distribution of its attached appendages. Very similar genes, exercising similar controls, were subsequently found in nematodes, flies, fish, mice, and human beings.

What they and others discovered were genes that regulate the development of the embryo and exert control over other genes by mechanisms analogous to that of the repressor molecule studied by Monod and Jacob. Eight of these controlling genes, called Hox genes, are found in virtually all animals—worms, mice, and human beings—and they have existed for more than half a billion years. Fruit flies and worms have only one set of eight Hox genes; fish and mammals (including mice, elephants, and humans) have four sets. Each set of Hox genes in fish and mammals is remarkably similar to the eight Hox genes found in fruit flies and worms. This discovery showed that very similar genes control both embryological and later development in virtually all insects and animals...

While Carroll argues—a claim that is at the heart of Evo Devo—that embryological development gives us the deepest clues to the mechanisms of evolution, Kirschner and Gerhart move beyond embryology to show that metabolic and physiological processes are also critical to evolutionary change. Their approach, which they call the theory of “facilitated variation,” attempts to show how the regulation of genes inside the embryo, as described by Carroll, is part of a larger set of processes that allow organisms to experiment with evolution in a tightly controlled way. According to this theory, the mutations, or variations, needed to drive evolutionary change can occur with little disruption either to the basic organization of an organism or to the core processes that make its cells function.” (Rosenfield Ziff 2006)

[7] Wilber adopts the holon as his central building block of evolution a term he adopted from Arthur Koestler. What follows is a short selection from an exhaustive list that Koestler gives in The Ghost in the Machine:

“Organisms and societies are multi-leveled hierarchies of semi-autonomous sub-wholes branching into sub-wholes into sub-wholes of a lower order, and so on. The term holon has been introduced to refer to these intermediary entities which, relative to their subordinates in the hierarchy functions as self-contained wholes; relative to their superordinates as dependent parts

Hierarchies are dissectible into their constituent branches on which holons forms their nodes The number of levels which a hierarchy comprises is called its depth and the number of holons its span.

Holons are governed by fixed sets of rules and display more or less flexible strategies. The rules and conduct of a social holon are not reducible to the rules of conduct of its member.

Consciousness appears as an emergent quality in phylogeny and ontogeny, which, from primitive beginnings, evolves towards more complex and precise states. It is the highest manifestation of the integrative tendency to extract order out of disorder and information out of noise

Phylogeny and ontogeny are developmental hierarchies in which the tree branches along the axis of time the different levels represent different stages of development and the holons reflect intermediate structures. ” (Koestler 1967)

Born in Budapest Koestler who is not associated with Integral Theory other than his holon citation, was a resistance fighter against Franco in Spain and was to be executed in prison except for intervention of the British Foreign Service. His profoundly anti-communist novel Darkness at Noon of 1941 won him the Nobel prize. His primary interest however, seems to be in the paranormal and he founded an Institute for Paranormal Research, whose endowment after his death by suicide went to Edinburgh University.

His trilogy of the History of Science is a gem, because his approach is not of an academic, but of one of the worlds great storytellers. However, his concluding Utopian vision in his final book of the trilogy, The Act of Creation, which envisages that the “new society” could all begin by pouring some LSD like substance into drinking water, first in the Cantons of Switzerland and then gradually in other places until the whole world is turned on to the new consciousness is disappointing, as it is reductive.

Recently it has come to light that in addition to being a Nobel prize winning author Koestler was something of a serial rapist as well (Barwick1998) Unfortunately, misogyny and insanity have been all too often associated with philosophy and theory. This was the case with Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.

Both men contribute to Integral Theory, Schopenhauer was the first Western philosopher to systematically incorporate Indian philosophy into European theory. His theory of the will became the will to power of Nietzsche 's Overman, which to varying degrees is the historical predecessor of both Sri Aurobindo' Superman and Wilber's 2nd tiered man. (The first reference in literature however, to trans-personal or super-humanity was Dante in Paradiso who refers to Beatrice as “transhumana”)

Another examples of philosophical insanity is Louis Althusser who murdered his wife during a time while he was undergoing psycho-analysis with Jacques Lacan.

[8] Although I have not found specific critiques akin to this one, of the soundness of integrating Recapitulation theories into Integral Theory itself, Steven Taylor critiques the accuracy of the parallels Wilber draws between individual development and species evolution. "Primal Spirituality and the onto/phylo fallacy"

[9] Purser continues with a quote from Gebser who viewed the deficient function of spatiality in the mental mutation as:

“The over-emphasis on space and spatiality that increases with every century since 1500 is at once the greatness as well as the weakness of perspectival man. His over-emphasis on "objectivitely" external, a consequence of an excessively visual orientation, leads not only to rationalization and haptification but to an unavoidable hypertrophy of the "I," which is in confrontation with the external world. “what we may call an ego-hypertrophy: the "I" must be increasingly emphasized, indeed over-emphasized in order for it to be adequate the ever-expanding discovery of space" (Gebser, 1984, p.22).


“The new structure of consciousness to which we are transitioning demands new means, new processes, and new methods. It should be repeated that this ushering in of the new in no way indicates or dictates a discarding of what has come before, far from it. We must keep in mind that it is the activity and presence of the past that distinguishes Gebser's approach from others. Supercession does not mean invalidating; replacement in this context intimates an intensification rather than a nullification. Nevertheless, the inevitability of this transition should be recognized as well. This particular term best illustrates this new way of understanding. Eteology is then a new form of statement.” (Mahood Jr para 39)

“What is necessary today to turn the tide of our situation are not new philosophemes like the phenomenological, ontological, or existential, but eteologemes. Eteology must replace philosophy just as philosophy once replaced the myths..... Eteology, then, is neither a mere ontology, that is, theory of being, nor is it a theory of existence. The dualistic question of being versus non-being which is commensurate only with the mental structure is superseded by eteology, together with the secularized question as to being, whose content—or more exactly whose vacuity—is nothing more than existence.” (Gebser 1984 p361, 362)

Another important term in Gebser is Synairesis. Synairesis fullfils the aperspectival integrative perception of systasis and system. The synairectic perception is a precondition of diaphany:

“Synairetic perception, or “verition,” occurs on the basis of the integration of archaic presentiment, magical attunement (or what Gebser calls “symbiosis”), mythical symbolization, and mental-rational systematization in the integrative act of arational systasis. Here it is important to remember that all structures are co-present (and co-active) in us and hence need not be invoked through historical imagination.”[26] (Feurstein in Mahood Jr)


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