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An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Joseph DillardDr. Joseph Dillard is a psychotherapist with over forty year's clinical experience treating individual, couple, and family issues. Dr. Dillard also has extensive experience with pain management and meditation training. The creator of Integral Deep Listening (IDL), Dr. Dillard is the author of over ten books on IDL, dreaming, nightmares, and meditation. He lives in Berlin, Germany. See: and his YouTube channel.


As Integralists, Can We Agree On This?

Joseph Dillard

A schema that does not insist on the moral line as core allows us to vastly inflate our sense of self, based on identification with various other core lines.

Can we agree that the moral line is a core line? A “core” line is one that is required for tetra-mesh. Tetra-mesh, the balancing of all four quadrants, is required to move from one level of overall development to the next. Within a particular line, such as cognitive, self-system, or proprioceptive, Wilber assumes that tetra-mesh is also required for the development of a line from one level to the next. I agree.

These assumptions are important, because if they are correct, then what we conclude is higher level overall development, in the absence of the development of the core moral line, actually line development mistaken for overall development. We have developed this or that aptitude or intelligence, or several of them, and confused that with the development of our overall identity.

For example, the cognitive line leads. Because we normally identify with our thoughts, it is easy to assume that because we understand AQAL, which is a form of cognitive multi-perspectivalism reflective of vision-logic, that our development is at vision-logic, or teal. However, this is incorrect if other lines, such as self-system and moral, are required for overall development. All we can conclude is that our cognitive line has attained vision-logic or teal, which is entirely different from concluding that our overall development is at teal.

Once we see through this delusion, we can recognize that people can be stuck at mid-prepersonal and attain vision-logic in their cognitive development, and further conclude that they have attained vision-logic. For example, Saul on the road to Damascus got knocked off his horse and struck blind by a bright light which he took to be Jesus asking him why he was persecuting his people. While this experience changed Saul's life and even his chosen identity, did it change his overall level of development? Probably not, because overall development is a gradual process, like learning to walk and talk. State openings tend to be transformational but impermanent and notoriously difficult to duplicate.

The best refutation of the assumption that our overall level of development is determined by our cognitive line or by our mystical experiences is the private lives of contemporary gurus, such as Adi Da, Marc Gafni, Andrew Cohen, Rajneesh, and Ken Wilber. We may agree that these people have attained to vision-logic, if not far beyond, on not only cognitive, but self-system and spiritual intelligence lines. We can agree to that and still conclude that in their overall development they are still at mid-prepersonal. Why? There may exist overwhelming evidence that is where their moral line is stuck in its development. And, if it is true that the moral line is a core line, then the necessary conclusion is that despite extraordinary mystical insights, enlightenment, and cognitive brilliance, their overall development lags far behind.

This conclusion is a direct assault on the ego, self, or psychological geocentrism, not only of spiritual leaders, but of spiritual aspirants of every persuasion, including integralists. Beyond that, it is a direct assault on the Self, or psychological heliocentrism, of Vedantists, closet or otherwise.

The case for requiring morality as a core line

Morality is more wisely and correctly determined by the assessments of out-groups, including unborn future generations.

Clearly, on a practical level, we do require morality, in the form of trustworthiness and mutual respect in our relationships. Without them relationships disintegrate. That appears to be the basic reason for the implosion of Integral Life, Integral Multiplex, Integral University, and the resigning or drifting away of multiple outrageous talents from Integral AQAL. Brilliance on the cognitive line did not compensate for a failure to treat others as we would have us treat us, ground zero for morality for most of us since we were four.

While we can debate the utility and wisdom of that formulation, or prefer Wilber's Prime Directive of the greatest breadth at the greatest depth, either the Prime Directive or the Golden Rule were not being followed or were irrelevant for those sincere, motivated, and talented True Believers who became disillusioned with Integral AQAL and abandoned it.

The basic problem was the assumption that Kohlberg's schema for the development of moral judgment was a reliable predictor of moral development itself. It isn't. This is because one can have excellent moral judgment (constitutional scholar Barack Obama, for example), and not use it (drone assassinate women, children, and US citizens). This assumption is what is called “The Kohlberg-Wilber Fallacy.”[1]

This is non-congruence in the external quadrants of behavior and relationships, which destroys respect and trust. The result is a disconnect between interior quadrant intent and exterior quadrant behavior. For the moral line to tetra-mesh, these have to come into some degree of congruence. If they do not, the moral line does not tetra-mesh. If the moral line does not tetra-mesh, then overall development cannot tetra-mesh, assuming that the moral line is indeed a core line.

A schema that does not insist on the moral line as core allows us to vastly inflate our sense of self, based on identification with various other core lines, such as the cognitive and spiritual intelligence, as well as various auxiliary lines, such as charisma or this or that talent. In fact, these are exactly the sorts of competencies that most of us build our identities around: our reputation as academics, business persons, politicians, scientists, specialists, musicians, adventurers, mystics, or athletes. But none of these lines require any development on the moral line. What they do require is that we play by the rules for advancement on that particular line, including abiding by the moral rules of that particular social role.

Lawrence Kohlberg and Ken Wilber
Lawrence Kohlberg and Ken Wilber

This is a completely different issue from having moral integrity, that is, earning the trust and respect of those who see us or depend on us beyond the boundaries of the requirements for excellence on this or that line. I would submit to you that this is precisely why many talented people have fallen away from Integral AQAL - not because it is not brilliant; it is. Not because Wilber himself is not brilliant; he is. It is because of fundamental issues of the moral line: integrity, trust, and respect that are broader than intellectual brilliance, the self-system, or any combination of core or auxiliary lines.

To the extent that how we view Ken Wilber and other authority figures is how we view ourselves, if we make the moral line a non core line then we are saying that moral integrity and earning the trust and respect of others are not fundamental values required for our development. We can do so, but only if we are willing to say that we no longer require moral integrity and trustworthiness of others and that we no longer want, need, or desire the respect of others. I am not prepared to say that. Are you?

If not, then we are required to re-think some basic assumptions of Integral AQAL. If morality is indeed a core line, and morality includes behavior and relationships in the external quadrants, then the breaking of trust, disrespect, or lawlessness is going to negate any higher level of development in the eyes of those affected by our behavior. We may not care, perhaps because we base our morality on alignment with dharma, conscience, intuition, nationalism, selfishness, or countless other factors. However, morality is at least partially a creation of social relationship, and is only as important as credibility in the eyes of others may or may not be to us. If we do not care how others view us, morality need not be of any concern whatsoever. While we may defiantly insist on our own moral autonomy, for most of us the trust others place in us and our own credibility is our most valuable possession. This is because once it is lost, only those who must deal with us, or relate to us in perfunctory ways, like sales clerks, protected by their roles, will do so.

It also means that our level of development will be determined by two different audiences, our in-groups, and everyone else. While we tend to judge our level of development by the echo chamber of our in-groups, which mutually reinforce a high level of development, morality is more wisely and correctly determined by the assessments of out-groups, including unborn future generations. The corollary is that behavior, as assessed by others, not by our intent or moral judgment, as determined by ourselves, is the primary criteria by which we need to determine our level of moral development. The Kohlberg-Wilber scale of moral judgement does not do this.

I am not claiming this line of reasoning is correct; I am broadcasting it here for you to challenge it and show me where and how it is mistaken. This needs to be done, because if it is not incorrect, the implications are vast not only for integral and all sorts of models of human development, but for our perception of leaders, gurus, politicians, and most importantly, ourselves.


[1] See Dillard, J. "The Kohlberg-Wilber Fallacy Part 2: Why your level of moral judgment does not predict your morality", IntegralWorld.Net

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