Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
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.


Re-Imagining our Evolutionary Future

Placing Self Development in the Context of Overall Development

Joseph Dillard

The following is an overview of a series of essays that I plan to publish on Integral World and also in book form. I invite your critique.
Overall development is a hypothetical inclusive and transcendent holon with its own linear progression. Overall development focuses on creativity.

Ken Wilber's AQAL, as well as developmental psychology in general, approach development as self development, whether prepersonal, personal, or transpersonal. From the perspective of AQAL, the holon of self development exists within broader holons, which we can collectively consider “overall development,” since they are yet to be differentiated. What can we discover about self development when it is approached from the perspectives of transcendent holons?

We have mistaken self development for overall development

In twentieth century psychology since Freud, the “self” has usually referred to the “ego,” or the “social self” which develops through ego stages, described by Loevinger, Cook-Greuter, Kegan, Erikson, and Wade, among others, as well as various lines, including cognitive (Piaget), moral, (Kohlberg, Peck, Rawls, Buel, Howe, Gilligan), socio-emotional (Blanchard-Fields), social-cognitive (Kramer), social role taking (Selman, Turner & Powell) and needs (Maslow). Some, such as Maslow, Assagioli, and Jung, expand the definition of self to include stages of development that transcend the social or “personal” self. Classical and traditional religious sources and their interpreters add trans-egoic stages as well, such as Hindu samadhis (savikalpa, luminosity, deity and archetypal form, nirvikalpa, mental cessation, jnana nirodh, cessation, sahaja), Hindu chakras (ajna, or psychic-mind, sahasrara, or transcendental consciousness, shabd), Buddhism (manas, or higher mind, alayavijnana, or archetypal mind, and non-dual “suchness), Plotinus (world soul, nous, and absolute one), Aurobindo (illumined, intuitive, over, and supermind, and satcitananda—being, consciousness, bliss), Underhill (nature, metaphysical, and divine mysticism), and Smith (celestial soul and infinite spirit). Traditional and contemporary psychologies address either a personal, egoic self or a trans-personal, trans-egoic self, or both. In addition, pre-egoic and post-trans egoic stages (non-dual) and states may be addressed. All of these approaches share some definition of self or the absence of same as the reference point for development. This is the fundamental meaning of self development.

Wilber divides self development into three stages, prepersonal, personal, and transpersonal and differentiates early, mid, and late stages for each of these. Self development is composed of a number of lines, including the self-system, the climber of the ladder or ascender of the spiral of development, the cognitive line, which leads, because objectification of distinction is a pre-requisite to self-awareness, the moral line, and various auxiliary lines. In Integral psychology, Wilber notes that the self-system line is the locus of identification (“I” vs. “not-I”); gives (or attempts to give) organization or unity to the mind; is the center of will and free choice; is the center of defense mechanisms; metabolizes experience; and is the center of navigation or the holding on versus letting go of identification. Wilber's “overall self” references self development, not the holon of overall development, and is not to be confused with it.

Overall development is a hypothetical inclusive and transcendent holon with its own linear progression. While self development focuses on self-control, self-esteem, and self-actualization, overall development focuses on creativity. Instead of being centered on ontological selves (linguistically, nouns and pronouns), overall development is centered on processes (verbs, adverbs) and their connections (prepositions). Overall development is not a “thing,” or archetype, but a diffuse cloud of emerging potentials that precipitate out of near-entropic chaotic randomness. We can extrapolate some of those possibilities from the structure of the holonic subset of self development. Although overall development contains selves, the self is not the locus of evolution within that holon. Instead, what is unfolding from the perspective of overall development is multi-perspectival, not a self.

Self development becomes cognitively multi-perspectival subsequent to late personal and prior to transpersonal. Wilber calls this stage “integral-aperspectival” or “vision-logic. The multi-perspectivalism of overall development is fundamentally experiential, but contains cognitive multi-perpsectivalism as a sub-level of development within it. This difference is significant. Cognitive multi-perspectivalism understands, can tolerate, and finds value in the ambiguity and contradictions among multiple perspectives. Experiential multi-perspectivalisms can also do so, but in addition, they disidentify with any and all selves in order to fully embody, or identify with, alternative perspectives as alternative identities, world views, and framings of experience. For cognitive multi-perspectivalisms the perceiver, who remains a stable referent, is the locus of identification, while for experiential multi-perspectivalisms, multiple perceivers, who are not stable referents, collectively yield the context of overall development. An analogy is between the dreamer, or experiencer of any dream, lucid or otherwise, who is the self, and the multiple perspectives of the other characters in the dream which together disclose the perspective of “dream consciousness,” or the perspective which precipitated the dream in its entirety.

Why focus on overall development?

A psychologically geocentric framing works until it doesn't. For example, Adam Smith's “Invisible Hand,” based on the concept of everyone looking out for their own interest, generates successful economies until they collapse. A focus on self-interest results in a reciprocity based on relational exchanges until the ability to reciprocate breaks down. While a self-centered focus is generally effective, authentic, and practical, it is also inherently exploitative because the self identifies with its needs, not the relational exchanges of paramount importance for “not-self,” whomever or whatever that might be. At some point either exploitation breaks down or mutual exploitation breaks down. The consequences can be merely disruptive, as in an economic depression, or they can be fatal, as in the collapse of a civilization or personal death.

The appropriate response to this dilemma is not to deny its reality or to give up on self development, but to contextualize it so that there exist alternatives to psychological geocentrism. We can then focus on self development when we want or need to, but not become trapped in either-or dilemmas of self vs. others, with no options. The context of overall development allows us to step back from self development and gain objectivity about our assumptions regarding who we are, what we are doing, and where we are going. Doing so every now and then, as a form of cybernetic, or self-correcting feedback, is wise, and it not only can reduce personal and interpersonal suffering and misery; it can reduce the likelihood of ecological and civilizational collapse.

While self development races ahead, human overall development remains largely stuck in an emotional context most closely analogous to the mid-prepersonal

As a holon, overall development contains developmental lines in each quadrant, just like self development does. Unlike self development, human overall development, which is the evolutionary spearhead, at least on planet Earth, normally has trouble getting beyond its equivalent of the mid-prepersonal level, due to a number of critical factors that act as a sea anchor on overall development. The mid-prepersonal stage of overall development is characterized by prepersonal relational exchanges: food, labor, sex, safety, and an emerging locus of power; by addiction, which is primarily a combination of physiological and emotional dependency largely built around prepersonal relational exchanges; by an emphasis on imagery, best seen in our non-integrated relationship with our dreams; with rationality in the service of emotions, addictions, and prepersonal relational exchanges, and an amoral and preconventionally moral approach to relationships in the LR, the quadrant of interpersonal interaction, society, and systemic relationships. To repeat, fixation occurs due to a failure of the core moral line and relational exchange to tetra-mesh; entrainment of “rationality” in the service of pre-rational and prepersonal intentions, preferences, and emotions; addiction; strong survival adaptations that deter the self from de-centralizing its perspective; and a failure to integrate self development and the dream state.

Overall development cannot evolve because of an over-emphasis on self development. The development of the self is psychologically geocentric, because like the Ptolemaic world view, everything orbits around the self as “Earth,” the center of the universe. The self is the locus of control, of perception, and of experience. Developmental psychology assumes this position and doubts that another could exist. For example, if I take the role of another, that is, assume another perspective, is that not simply my identity expanding and including another perspective? Is there any perspective that cannot be seen as a self-aspect, sub-personality, “part,” or as a component of my unconscious, collective unconscious, or superconscious?

Evidence that overall development remains largely stuck at mid-prepersonal includes self-centeredness, pervasive amorality and pre-conventional morality, widespread failure of empathy, emotionally-entrained reasoning, self-development lines racing far ahead of morality, personal over-reach leading to imbalances and self-destruction, and patterns of repeated societal and civilizational collapse.

The mid-prepersonal tends to be depicted as pathological by both Wilber and developmental psychology

The mid-prepersonal evokes personality disorder, narcissism, and Donald Trump, on the one hand, and Rousseauean romanticized regression on the other. In Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, Wilber writes,

If we were simply, merely, actually reactivating the lower worldview itself, this would be wholesale regression to de-differentiated structures (borderline and psychotic, which indeed sometimes occurs).

Adults don't walk around fixated at mid-prepersonal because multiple self development lines, including cognition, the self-system, and various auxiliary line talents and competencies have raced ahead. What we find instead in such individuals are imbalanced individual lines with critical elements of the self-system fixated at mid-prepersonal, leading to poor decision-making, a rigid persona on the one hand and a deconstructed, non-differentiated chaotic self on the other.

In fact, as a level of overall development, the mid-prepersonal is extraordinarily positive, and humanity is yet to fully grow into its potential

Positive characteristics of the mid-prepersonal include simplicity, sensory identification, immersion in nature, emotional spontaneity, authenticity, absence of embarrassment, awe and fascination, traditional shamanism, and on occasion, altruism. These positive characteristics of the mid-prepersonal carry over into the mid-prepersonal as a stage of overall development. Because it includes the various lines of self development, which normally race ahead of the mid-prepersonal as a stage of self development, we might also find within it the ability to have a strong and healthy, addiction-free sensory identity; a strong and healthy, drama-free emotional identity; an ability to differentiate authentic threats from imaginary ones, thereby moving beyond fear-based awareness; to experience self-control in the context of sensory and emotional spontaneity; to own our selfishness, our wants, our needs, as a way to assertively and honestly negotiate collective collaboration; to own our drama and the reality that while we can minimize drama we can never escape it, because our choices will always be colored both by our emotional preferences and our identification with them; to assume that the reasons that we give and the logic that we use is in the service of mid-prepersonal emotional preferences until proven otherwise; to assume that we lack empathy and therefore to demand proof that we are empathetic by requiring validation by the other; to reciprocate; and to be reliable and trustworthy. We may also experience an identity that is free of the cognitive distortions and biases associated with language; and to own our preferences but not identify with them. At mid-prepersonal in self development, when we were two or three, we did not identify with our preferences because there was yet no cognitive self; now, with developed cognitive and self-system lines, at healthy mid-prepersonal in overall development, we will not identify with our preferences because they no longer define who we are and because we have the ability to identify with multiple contradictory preferences at the same time.

While self development is largely based on the advance of cognitive, self-system, and auxiliary lines, overall development is limited by the ability of the core moral line to tetra-mesh

Wilber states that we move from level to level both within lines and between levels. In both cases, what determines advancement is what Wilber calls “tetra-mesh”; some degree of balance or equilibrium among all four quadrants of the human holon. At Integral+Life, the official AQAL website, Corey deVos defines “tetra-mesh” as

The act whereby a holon meshes or fits with the selection pressures (i.e., the validity claims) of all four quadrants. In order to tetra-mesh, each holon must, to some degree, be able to register its own exterior accurately enough (truth), its own interior accurately enough (truthfulness), understand its cultural milieu (mutual understanding), and fit within its social system (functional fit). Also referred to as tetra-enactment or tetra-evolution, meaning that all four selection pressures must be dealt with adequately in order for a holon to evolve.

According to the concept of tetra-mesh, behavior, self-awareness, values, and relationships have to grow together in some sort of equilibrium to maintain a higher level of development; otherwise, we fail to attain a lasting synthesis and cannot maintain the next higher level. While tetra-mesh of the four quadrants is relatively easy within this or that line, occurring almost automatically on the cognitive and self-system lines throughout our youth and adolescence, level-to-level development is obviously much more difficult if it is dependent on the tetra-mesh of several core lines. The cognitive and self-system lines advance because they are largely pre-programmed by both hereditary and socio-cultural factors, while auxiliary lines race ahead because of aptitude, interest, or social pressure. Typically, the cognitive, self-system, and one or more auxiliary line race ahead while the moral line stagnates, which means tetra-mesh does not occur because morality is a core line. This point is obscured by the fact that interior quadrant aspects of the moral line normally advance to conventional or post-conventional stages, as Kohlberg has demonstrated. But to tetra-mesh, the LR quadrant of the moral line must advance, and it often does not, based on important criteria unique to the LR quadrant. The criteria of lower right (LR) interobjective functional fit is critical, as morality in this quadrant involves justice, as manifested in the consequences of how we treat one another as well as the codification of cultural norms as policies or laws as interpersonal and collective criteria for acceptable and non-acceptable behavior. This is not Wilber's definition of justice, which he considers a value, rather than an interactional objective behavior, and so he places justice in the lower left (LL), not the LR, or both. The moral line tends to stagnate because non-reciprocity, distrust, and non-empathy possess adaptive advantages and because we do not meet the moral criteria of relational exchanges important to others.

For contemporary humanity, the moral line largely functions at a preconventional level associated with the mid-prepersonal level of overall development.

Self development tends to view moral development from an interior quadrant perspective while overall development, because it is collective, tends to view moral development from an exterior quadrant perspective, while including interior quadrant assumptions. While moral intention and judgment can be and often are highly developed, morality is determined socially and interpersonally not by interior quadrant values and intentions but by exterior quadrant behaviors and their impact on others. Morality in the exterior quadrants has been difficult for both developmental psychology and AQAL in particular to conceptualize because in the LR quadrant it functions far more as a fundamental relational exchange governing all other relational exchanges than as an evolving line. This is why there is no correlation between Kohlberg's stages of the development of moral judgment, which is an interior quadrant assessment of moral intent, and moral action. This is true as well for Wilber's conception of “moral span,” or “those deemed worthy of moral consideration.” Those with a post-post conventional grasp of morality, with high levels of cognitive, self-system, and spiritual intelligence lines, can and do act immorally. From a LR perspective, abuse by those deemed highly developed and to whom we proffer status, such as the rich, famous, talented, titled, and “spiritual,” is neither “shadow” nor regression, but significant moral violation indicative of prepersonal overall development.

Morality in the LR is not so much a core line as a core relational exchange that governs all other relational exchanges, whether material (food, labor), emotional (sex, safety/power, belongingness/care), mental (membership/discourse, self-reflective, autonomous), soul (psychic vision, God communion, God union), or spiritual (Godhead identity, sahaja). For all types and levels of relational exchange the underlying considerations are moral: “Is there reciprocity?” “Is there trustworthiness?” “Is there empathy?” “How much of each?” “When?” “How?” Any level of relational exchange, no matter how advanced, can fail in one or more of these LR moral criteria, while any level of relational exchange, no matter how basic, such as food or safety, can succeed in all three. Anyone can tetra-mesh in interior measurements of morality and be morally adequate in this or that relational exchange, but if they do not prove morally adequate in one or more relational exchange that is critical to the well-being of this or that significant out-group, a group with which they do not identify, that is enough to torpedo the tetra-mesh of overall development. This is why intelligent and mature individuals can prefer those who we find reprehensible; the fundamental moral exchange is adequate for that exchange or those exchanges that are most important to them. While Trump violates moral exchange for those exchanges of major significance for liberals, such as belongingness/care, self-reflectivity, and autonomy, he meets moral criteria for exchanges of importance to conservatives and some libertarians, such as safety/power and status. To argue about which developmental level transcends and includes the other misses the critical point, which is that Trump meets or doesn't meet the moral criteria for this or that key relational exchange for certain core constituencies.

This also helps us understand Wilber's support of Adi Da, Andrew Cohen, and Marc Gafni long after many people were convinced of their moral turpitude. Instead of concluding that Wilber is therefore immoral, which some want to do, this framing allows us to recognize that these people met moral criteria for relational exchanges of primary importance to Wilber, for example, soul and spiritual exchanges, while they failed to meet moral criteria for relational exchanges of primary importance to some disciples and out-groups, such as belongingness/care. It also helps us to understand how Wilber can be so developed on the cognitive, self-system, and spiritual intelligence lines and still dismiss mainstream scientific consensus regarding evolution. He is interested in meeting moral criteria for soul and spiritual exchanges while meeting moral criteria for self-reflective relational exchange important to scientific enquiry has a lower priority, when there is a clash between these exchanges. Therefore, a more realistic and adequate analysis of Wilber's morality would be to say that it is adequate for some relational exchanges and not for others. The overall conclusion would be that there is no tetra-mesh beyond some prepersonal level in overall development, since that requires moral adequacy in the LR for all socially relevant relational exchanges. This is because while the cognitive line leads for self development, the moral line leads for overall development.

Our formal and post-formal reasoning functions largely in the service of vaguely perceived beliefs, preferences, world views, emotional, and cognitive biases, in a type of emotional cognitive entrainment functioning out of the mid-prepersonal level of overall development. We maintain our denial of this reality by a sophisticated series of self-validating rationalizations.

There are over 120 decision-making, belief, and behavioral biases, about thirty social biases, and about forty memory and recall related biases that have been discovered to this point, with more assuredly to be discovered in the future. While all cognitive biases serve adaptational purposes, such as providing mental shortcuts, all are pre-rational delusions which color and warp not only our perception but our decision-making. There is no evidence they diminish in either quantity or influence with the development of the cognitive line. Until recognized and neutralized, they continue to color our judgment regardless of our level of advance on this or that line.

Cognitive biases function similar to the “they” in Edgar Morin's meta integral theory of complex thought. Morin says,

…when “I” speak, it is also a “we” that speaks, the we of that warm collectivity of which we are a part. But there is not only the “we”; “They” also speak when “I” speak, a “they” which is the voice of a more cold and anonymous collectivity. In every human “I” there is a “we” and a “they.” The I, therefore, is not something pure, nor is it alone. The I could not speak were it not for “they.”

Cognitive biases function as the unrecognized “they” that has its say in everything we perceive, say, or do. Their influence is as pervasive as it is delusional, and their effect is to ground or anchor reasoning in prepersonal and pre-rational perception and emotion, because they are inherited aspects of human nature. Our cognitive biases can make us believe we are doing what we want to do, of our own free will, when in fact we are arriving at conclusions and choices that reflect prepersonal interests, whether commercial, political, familial, or religious. Similarly, we generally believe we are making completely rational judgments when we are in fact oblivious to how pre-rationally grounded biases are shaping our decisions. The result is that we know we are rational, awake individuals when we are in fact walking in pre-rational, mid-prepersonally mediated dreams. Those who recognize and know how to manipulate our cognitive biases can make us sleepwalk within their manufactured socio-cultural nightmares. A review of several representative cognitive biases provides some sense of how significant is the pre-rational and emotional grounding of cognition that they generate:

We typically believe we are less biased or blind than others and are better at spotting cognitive biases in others than ourselves. This is the bias blind spot. When we judge our morality by our intent instead of by the judgments of those in out-groups we are victims of this cognitive bias. The semmelweis reflex is a bias near and dear to integralists: the tendency to reject new evidence that contradicts a paradigm. When we try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints while actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating ourselves from sources that might disagree, we are victims of groupthink. This powerful and pervasive cognitive bias is grounded in the mid-prepersonal because it bends reason to a clan or tribe-like loyalty. When we find descriptions of our personality to be highly accurate that supposedly are tailored specifically for us, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people, we are victims of the Barnum Effect. This cognitive bias provides a partial explanation for the widespread acceptance of astrology, fortune telling, channeling, spiritualism, graphology, and some types of personality tests. The curse of knowledge bias is a form of elitism that occurs among well-informed people who find it extremely difficult to think about problems from the perspective of less-informed people. Think Davos or some “2nd Tier” integralists. The continued influence effect is the tendency to believe previously learned information even after it has been proved to be incorrect. We want or perhaps even need to believe in soul mates long after we know it is a secular mythology. Believing in evolutionary eros long after a preponderance of evidence points elsewhere is another example. Due to the confirmation bias, we have a strong tendency to search for, interpret, focus on, and remember information that confirms our preconceptions. If we believe in souls, karma, or eros, we are likely to see as credible information that supports those beliefs.

Such cognitive biases strongly imply that reason is largely in the service of pre-rational and emotional preferences and beliefs rather than, as we presume, that our cognition, by objectifying emotionality, includes and transcends emotion. That is unlikely to the extent that pre-rational elements of cognition, that is, cognitive biases, logical fallacies, and cognitive distortions, are not identified and neutralized. If the entrainment of our reason by over a hundred cognitive biases were not bad enough, more than fifty logical fallacies also have the effect of grounding our reason in the service of pre-rational agendas. Here are sixteen of them:

  • Ad hominem—Latin for “to the man,” attacking the arguer and not the argument
  • Argument from authority (“Einstein is smart so he must be right about politics.”)
  • Dogmatism (An unwillingness to even consider an opponent's argument.)
  • Either/Or or Black/White, False Dilemma, or Excluded Middle Fallacy (Presenting a false choice.)
  • Emotional appeals (“If you like me you'll agree with me.”)
  • Argument from adverse consequences
  • Appeal to ignorance (the claim that whatever has not been proved false must be true, and vice versa). (Applies to non-falsifiable assertions.)
  • Ignoring Occam's Razor (Refusing to favor the simplest explanation that covers the most relevant data.)
  • Band Wagon (Popular ideas are necessarily right)
  • Begging the question (Assuming the answer; often found in dogmatic assertions.)
  • Observational selection (Counting the hits and forgetting the misses.)
  • Strawman (defeating a misrepresented argument)
  • Non sequitur (“It doesn't follow”) and Slippery slope (“If you loved me you'd sleep with me.”)
  • Weasel words (for example, “spirit,” and “God”)

To these Wilber has added his famous Pre-Trans Fallacy as well as emphasized the Performative fallacy, as when we fail to recognize that we have made ourselves exceptions to our own rules. Wilber's example is for late personal egalitarianism and pluralism, which insists on the same while making an exception of itself—there are no other viewpoints that have validity equal to egalitarianism and pluralism. As if a multitude of cognitive biases and logical fallacies were not enough, we have a third inherent source of cognitive delusion, largely unrecognized emotional cognitive distortions, which also anchor our reason in pre-rationality and emotional preferences. Most logical fallacies and cognitive biases are examples of a powerful and fundamental emotional cognitive distortion called emotional reasoning. “I feel it; therefore it must be true.” “I believe it; therefore it must be true.” “Because this feels stupid and boring it must be stupid and boring.” Personalization is perhaps the core emotional cognitive distortion. Whatever happens, it's about you, which is a pretty good definition of psychological geocentrism. “She looks angry. It must have been something I did.” “The audience is staring at me. I must have screwed up.” “This patient is getting sicker. I must have done something wrong.” In global labeling we make a generalization about ourselves, others, or life, generally in order to dismiss the significant as unimportant or meaningless. “You're a real jerk.” “Because people don't treat me fairly, the world is a bad, evil place.” “Because you are stuck at red you are a deplorable.” AQAL color jargon is often global labeling.

The evidence that our cognition is to a very great extent in the service of pre-rational beliefs and that our sense of rational, objective cognition is largely a survival-based delusion, is overwhelming. We don't recognize our true motivations most of the time, how our environment is skewing our perception, and how we construct reality to sustain a sense of self that is largely a misrepresentation and figment of our imagination. This is not meant to say that all reasoning lacks objectivity. For example, problem-solving itself can be highly rational, but it still exists within a context of cognitive biases. Therefore, humility and the premise that our reason is in the service of pre-rational interests need to be our default approaches rather than to assume that we have somehow beaten the odds and actually are objective, clear, and know what we are talking about. Our addictions, and particularly our addiction to drama, further anchor our overall development to the mid-prepersonal

Psychological drama, or manipulative, pre-rational emotionality, is rooted in the mid-prepersonal because it has strong emotional and physiological components. The physiological roots are the powerful neurotransmitter reinforcers, such as dopamine and endorphins, that drama generates; its emotional foundation has to do with the intense swings between pleasure and pain that occur with shifts among the three fundamental roles of Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer. Most addiction can best be framed as some form of self-rescuing within the Drama Triangle. In its own right, addiction is commonly viewed as anchored in the early prepersonal and mid-prepersonal. The most fundamental varieties of addiction within the Drama Triangle are addictions to the fundamental relational exchanges: food, labor, sex, safety, power, and status. When determining causation this is the first domain to rule out: an attempt to satisfy an addiction to some relational exchange via the Drama Triangle. Higher cognitive, self-system, and auxiliary lines are typically the noospheric human equivalent of peacock plumage: attractive distractions from what is really going on.

Our night-time dreams are largely low to mid-prepersonal in origin and content, although understood by selves from their particular level of development. Because dreaming remains, in many respects, a misunderstood alien world, it is not integrated into our overall development. That lack is another important factor that defeats our ability to tetra-mesh to late prepersonal in our overall development.

Considerable evidence anchors dreaming to the mid-prepersonal, including its emotionality, imagery-based nature, pre-rationality, its disregard of both physical laws of time and space and cultural norms, and its tendency to replay early scripted dramas and reinforce those emotions elicited by them. There is little doubt that we have not integrated the dream state. Dream theories and dream interpretation are like playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey in a black room with no donkey. Dream analysis is like corpse dissection. However, dreaming remains not only our most misunderstood but our most under-utilized inherent resource. Forgetting about overall development for the moment, for those who seek self-integration, how is that possible without integration of the dream state, in which we spend, on average, five years of our life span? Regarding overall development, if we are either unwilling or unable to integrate a major component of our experience that anchors us in the mid-prepersonal by its nature, how can we ever expect to evolve beyond the mid-prepersonal as a species? Is that a realistic expectation?

How and why dreaming remains a non-integrated state

The integration of dreaming requires a disidentification with the self as climber of the developmental ladder, and identification with multiple alternative perspectives, in an experiential, not simply a cognitive identification. On the whole, humanity is not interested in doing so, as our survival and adaptation is geared toward self-control, self-esteem, and self-actualization. To access and advance overall development we have to allow disidentification with “who we think we are” and instead practice identification with relatively autonomous perspectives in order to differentiate a multi-perspectival and collective perspective from self development. Anyone, including children, can do so by aligning themselves with their life compass and evolutionary autopoiesis by “becoming” and interviewing various dream characters and personifications of life issues important to them. One method is to use the Integral Deep Listening (IDL) interviewing protocols. (For examples of the interviewing protocols, see IntegralDeepListening.Com.) It is not necessary for one to first evolve their cognitive and self-system lines past the personal in order to do so. IDL interviewing with children and all sorts of people with low development in cognitive and self-system lines has demonstrated that this is the case.

How the non-integration of dreaming prevents tetra-mesh at mid-prepersonal

Because the dream state not only personifies core characteristics of the mid-prepersonal but offers a primary means of access to the perspective of overall development, its non-integration means that the very idea of overall development, as a holon that transcends and includes that of self development, remains a foreign and bizarre concept, with little relevance to who we are and our priorities. Until we learn to identify with the priorities of interviewed emerging potentials, and through doing so, with the priorities of a life compass that transcends and includes self development, we will continue to undertake Integral Life Practices from the priorities of self. This not only impedes the birth of overall development into its next, post-self development stage, but fixates humanity in a consciousness that is cut off from evolutionary autopoiesis.

Strategies for Advancement in Overall Development

As is true for any delusion or addiction, it is first necessary to recognize that we are dreaming and sleepwalking. Emerging lucidity involves a recognition of our own toxic investment in a highly inflated, grandiose, psychologically geocentric self-assessment based on models that centralize self development.

Recognize that while the cognitive line leads for self development that the moral line leads for overall development

For most of us, most of the time, our life scripts and socio-culturally defined role expectations determine our morality. Such criteria are inadequate to develop morality beyond amorality and pre-conventional levels, regardless of our level of moral judgment. To tetra-mesh morality to evolve overall development beyond the mid-prepersonal, these “normal” sources of morality need to be contextualized within morality as viewed from the perspective of overall development. Doing so requires some form of experiential multi-perspectivalism in which we identify with emerging potentials in order to experience how a wide variety of others view morality.

Recognize that because we determine our morality by our intentions while the world does so by what we do and don't do, that our assessment of our morality is likely to be greatly over-inflated

If you want a realistic evaluation of your authentic level of morality, seek out and listen to the criticisms of your enemies, adversaries, or those with whom you are in conflict. Consider how they assess your ability to reciprocate, your truthfulness, and your empathy. Do not assume they are correct, but deeply consider what it would imply about you if they were. If you don't want to do that (who does?) then how is that not a statement that you choose to stay stuck in what others may very well perceive as amoral and/or pre-conventional morality?

Relinquish the fantasy that we represent the moral high ground. Justice requires alleged victims to receive preferential consideration under the law

The way we maintain elitist and exceptionalistic fantasies regarding our morality is by not consulting out-groups, those who are adversaries or with whom we have disagreements. The ultimate out-groups are people we label as “foreign,” or “not-self,” the environment, and interviewed emerging potentials that we access in the LL intrasocial realm. “Intrasocial” refers to interior collectives comprised of dream characters and the personifications of our life issues.

Start identifying the multiple chronic rationalizations that serve the purpose of reducing our cognitive dissonance and keep cognition in the service of mid-prepersonal emotionally-based beliefs and preferences, in order to maintain the centrality of self development

A realistic starting assumption is that everything we think is a rationalization to justify some feeling or addiction, until proven otherwise. This approach follows the law of parsimony. It is not a denial that you have higher and indeed noble motivations, it is not a supposition that all higher development is mere sublimation, and it is not questioning your motives but questioning their completeness by looking at what you are leaving out or overlooking, and why you might want to do so. Assume you ignore the mid-prepersonal roots of your rationalizations because you want to reduce cognitive dissonance regarding who you think you are, and looking at how your identity is shaped and controlled by the mid-prepersonal increases cognitive dissonance instead of reducing it.

Remember that we remain apes with language, clothes, tools, and guns. Focus on building a healthy mid-prepersonal life and strive for balance there, instead of focusing on impressive but largely unhealthy and unsustainable huge advances in line development

Thinking of ourselves as apes with guns is not only not flattering; it is a threat to our sense of who we are. However, to the extent that we are apes with guns we have to address that reality if we want to evolve. Ignoring it or pretending that we are our highly developed cognitive, self-system, and auxiliary lines is not going to support our evolution. Instead, it will slow it down or block it by throwing overall development out of balance and preventing tetra-mesh. That is a main reason why humanity is in its present predicament and is unable/unwilling to move beyond it, but instead prefers to sleepwalk into a full-scale civilizational and environmental collapse.

Use dreaming as a vehicle to develop experiential multi-perspectivalism as a pre-requisite for accessing an integrated mid-prepersonal overall level of development, required to tetra-mesh to stabilized late prepersonal overall development

The reason dreaming is so beneficial is that it has not yet been successfully colonized by waking identity via lucid dreaming or some other extension of self-control. Although our waking sense of who we are is the perceiver and agent in our dreams, even when we are in a passive role, that identity is generally not in control of either dream content or context. It also is not privy to the world views, preferences, and intentions of other perspectives embedded in the dream in the form of other characters and dream objects. As a result, these serve as sources of radical objectivity in the form of emerging potentials. This radical objectivity is a multi-perspectival contextualizing of the entirety of self development. As such, they provide perspectives indicative of overall development. These perspectives bubble up out of a chaotic entropic plenum in ways that have their own structuring that quite transcends our own.

You are encouraged to view that conclusion with skepticism, since the prevailing take on dreaming is that it is either regressive or some sort of shamanistic escapism. Both views are reflections of psychological geocentrism and largely dead ends. As a phenomenalistically-based empirical methodology, experiential multi-perspectivalism can be evaluated by anyone, enabling you to draw your own conclusions.

What might the next stage of overall development, the late prepersonal, look like?

What distinguishes balanced overall development at mid-prepersonal, ready to move to late prepersonal, is consistent reciprocity, or respect for the needs and wants of others, emotional stability or non-reactivity, and experiential multi-perspectivalism, the ability to accurately and authentically shift locus of identity, and a fluid integration with the dream state. In addition, morality needs to meet out-group criteria of reciprocity, trustworthiness, and empathy across those relational exchanges that are significant to out-groups. The late prepersonal itself will be a centered, balanced, collective or multi-perspectival identity that uses the identity of self development as a functional structure for grounding. This is similar to the way we use sunrise and sunset for sensory orientation although we know that the earth revolves around the sun and the sun is but one star in a non-focal universe. Overall development is also analogous to dream consciousness, or that perspective that precipitates dream collectives quite independently of our own understanding or creative preferences.


Self development is absolutely essential, and one cannot over-emphasize the immense and astounding contributions to our understanding of same that have been bequeathed to us by the hard work and dedication of many psychologists and Ken Wilber. By contextualizing self-development as one stage of overall development we begin to consider a collective holon that generates emerging potentials which, if we discover ways of accessing them, may succeed in saving mankind from its self-destructive self-absorption.

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