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.


Social and Intrasocial Tools for Establishing a Global Commons

Joseph Dillard

John Heron, a facilitator and trainer in co-operative enquiry and an early contributor to Integral World, presents in "Notes on Spiritual Leadership and Relational Spirituality", an interesting discussion of the problematic nature of spiritual relationships and what can be done to improve them. This essay builds on Heron's foundation by discussing the importance of generating an interior, intrasocial democracy in order to strengthen, on a personal level, fundamental characteristics of respect, reciprocity, trustworthiness, and empathy, in order to support the development of a collective commons.

Problematic features of guru-chela relationships in the four quadrants

What is actually being transmitted from guru to chela? In the upper left quadrant, it is an experience of expanded and “higher” consciousness, enlightenment, about which much has been written. One classical formulation is “being, consciousness, bliss (satcitananda). Another is non-duality, which is a version of either “both-and” integration of the spiritual and the secular in their transcendence in a state of “one taste,” as Wilber has put it, or of “neti-neti,” “not this-not this” negation, as a movement toward total ineffability, or even neither “both-and” nor “neti-neti,” as a way of moving non-duality beyond all possible conceptualizations. The experience and transmission of non-duality is filtered through the other three quadrants, often without any conscious awareness by guru, chela or the teaching tradition. Culture, values, world views, society, and personal behavior, thoughts and feelings in the UL about practice and enlightenment, as well as unrecognized cognitive and emotional biases and various psychological defenses, all condition enlightenment. These conditioning influences are in addition to the inherent ambiguity of spirituality, with Wilber delineating five different definitions in Integral Spirituality.

We have Wilber to thank for making us aware of all of these conditioning factors, but not so much for thinking through their implications. With many caveats, Wilber comes down on the side of interior quadrant teleology, the trustworthiness of UL perception of mystical experience, and the priority of such experiences over other experiences and values, such as ethics. We know this by his defense of a metaphysical, non-falsifiable Eros, his commitment to the truth of mystical perception throughout his writings, and his ability to rationalize and justify the moral turpitude of favored gurus in multiple ways, on multiple occasions.

Wilber does not ignore the importance of ethics; far from it. It is a practice in his Integral Life Practice and a theme in his “wake up, grow up, clean up, and show up” regime, which he discusses in some detail in The Religion of Tomorrow. Still, spirituality, intentionality, and consciousness, all primarily UL quadrant characteristics, are arguably the core foundational realities for Wilber that no amount of scientific data or rational argument has changed. Wilber has the ability to intellectually argue for a four-quadrant balance, but in practice, his impressive reasoning ability appears to be in the service of strong personal mystical experiences and is used to support and validate them.

The question is whether reason is in support of the transpersonal or the pre-personal; that is, whether or not Wilber himself is committing his own famous pre-trans fallacy and lacks the objectivity from his own subjective experience, beliefs, and emotional preferences to recognize it. Due to the Law of Parsimony, or Occam's razor, this is always the theory to rule out, as self-deception is always the most likely explanation for extraordinary claims since, as Carl Sagan said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” and such extraordinary evidence is, on the whole, lacking for claims of evolution as Eros or transpersonal states as transpersonal developmental levels. That does not mean those claims will not finally be shown to be true, but only that other outcomes are far more likely. We do not have to dismiss their possibility and move into the camp of dogmatists in order to doubt their possibility, based on a review of the evidence available and how it is interpreted. Fortunately, in the case of the former, this has largely been done for us by the citations in the writings of Frank Visser. In the case of the latter, the uneven development of those who have highly developed lines of spiritual development strongly implies that we are looking at state access within one line rather than at stabilized levels of transpersonal overall development.

In the lower left quadrant, the consequence of enlightenment is epistemological certainty. Direct experience of overwhelming reality generates absolutist truth claims when one can only talk about their own experiences and compare them with others who report similar ones. The problem with absolutist claims is that they are intrinsically exceptionalistic and elitist, regardless of how much they are wrapped in the warm and fuzzy embrace of all encompassing, infinite love. They say, “I know what is true, what is real. If you are wise, you will listen to me. If you aren't you are stupid, delusional, or perhaps merely ignorant.” It is difficult to perpetually hide the fundamental arrogance, grandiosity, and narcissism inherent in such a position.

In the upper right quadrant, the consequence of enlightenment is undoubtedly an extreme endorphin high, something that is highly addictive, leading to purifying behaviors and disciplines, like meditation, designed to replicate the experience.

In the lower right quadrant, the consequence of enlightenment tends to be escapism, not interaction, on the one hand, or proselytizing, designed to surround oneself with an echo chamber of those who help us stay focused on the pursuit of such experiences, on the other. People can spend the rest of their lives in a quest to duplicate a transformative near death or mystical experience, or they can sink into depression, turning sour on life, and longing to be somewhere else, experiencing something else. Enlightenment experiences do not need to be escapist, but in fact, the historical record shows that they often are.

Enlightenment experiences can lead to massive line imbalances that manifest in all quadrants: spiritual intelligence, not morality, and massive relationship exchange imbalances: soul and spirit exchanges, not foundational food, labor, sex, safety, or status exchanges. Functionally, the lower relational exchanges are denied in pursuit of the higher ones, creating not only psychological but social imbalances. The result of such imbalances means uneven holon development, resulting in a failure to tetra-mesh from one level of development to the next.

Due to these issues, it might be important to carefully re-think our personal and socially-conditioned pursuit of excellence. Excellence in any line builds our self-esteem and gains us the praise of respected others. As a result, we tend to pour more energy into what we are good at and neglect those areas that we aren't. The result is imbalance. Balance is required for tetra-mesh, and tetra-mesh of holonic quadrants for lines and levels to advance, according to Wilber. The implication is that balance is far more important, as a pre-requisite for development, than is excellence.

Problems with ego ideals

John Heron
John Heron

Because human learning is largely a matter of imitation of role models, gurus, as well as pandits like Wilber, almost necessarily become “ego ideals.” The student or chela needs to imitate and internalize not only the behaviors (methods of meditation and purifications) of the guru, but his or her value system as well. To the extent that he does so, he increases his chances of enlightenment. If enlightenment has not been accomplished, the failure is also his, not the guru's. The mantra has not been said properly or enough; the right purifications have not been undertaken; the frame of mind is not dedicated and obedient enough. This valuing of modeling beyond common sense and morality is equally true for the ambitious young worker who wants to advance in his company. He needs to imitate and internalize both those behaviors and those values that his superiors personify. If he does so he will be rewarded in the relational exchanges of wealth, labor, status, safety, and power. If he does not, he will be punished in these exchanges. To imitate gurus, teachers, bosses, and leaders, we focus on what we want to become and ignore the rest, thereby creating a distorted and unrealistic mental image of gurus, pandits, bosses, and leaders. We see what we want and need to see and ignore what we don't.

While finding and following ego ideals is almost required for learning and growth, a rendezvous with cognitive dissonance, when the guru does not live up to our unrealistic expectations, is also close to inevitable, at least for those who are not so encapsulated by dogmatism that they have neither interest in or the ability to move out of subjective delusion and into objectivity. The desire to reduce cognitive dissonance is extremely strong when it threatens our sense of self, and if ignoring and denial do not work we will quickly move into character assassination and abuse to defend ourselves.

Heron (1995) outlines four phases of the guru phenomena in the West:

In the late decades of the nineteenth century and early decades of the twentieth century, there was just a small guru-invasion from the East with key players like Vivekananda and the spread of the Vedanta movement in the West.
Then post-war from 1945 with the publication of Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy, there started a major guru-invasion from the East including the dramatic spread through the 60s and the 70s of Zen and Tibetan Buddhism in the USA and Europe.

Alan Watts, Chögyam Trungpa, Rajneesh, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi are major figures from this phase.

In the third phase, over the last thirty years or so, alongside the guru-invasion from the East there has been the growing phenomenon of home-grown Western gurus and spiritual teachers claiming the special status of 'enlightenment'.

Wilber belongs to this phase, as does his teacher, Adi Da, Andrew Cohen, and various others.

The fourth phase is just getting under way. It seems to be distinguished by four features.

1) The erosion of guru status as a result of a continuous stream of sexual and financial abuse and bullying scandals among both Eastern and home-grown Western gurus and spiritual teachers.

Indeed, it is difficult to find a guru who remains untouched from such embarrassments that have the fundamental consequence of eroding not only their authority as ego ideals, but of spirituality and enlightenment in general.

2) The erosion of 'enlightenment' claims by the proliferation of the number of people, especially in the West, making the claim: the more people who make the claim, the more its narcissistic inflation stands revealed. For the 'enlightenment' claim is also an authority-claim to have followers, a recruiting drive to gather in spiritual projections. The more claims that are made, the stronger the competition among claimants in the market-place for attention.

Gurus need students to validate their world view. If a guru succeeds in collecting enough adherents, a sect, cult, or even a religion is born. Historically, in the absence of both knowledge and available alternatives, it was relatively easy for gurus and teachers to attract adherents. For instance, the Schofield Bible, extraordinarily influential in fueling apocryphal evangelical Christianity, Christian Zionism, and neoconservative politics in the United States, was created by a corrupt and disbarred lawyer with no background in theology but who had a “conversion experience” and, with the financial backing of mysterious funding sources, became an overnight expert on the “real” and “true” interpretations of scripture. However, today, with comparative assessments available, knowledge about the background and personal lives of teachers and gurus readily at hand, and many self-anointed “experts” competing for attention, it is much more difficult to gather and hold a flock of dedicated followers.

3) A growing awareness that spiritual authority is within and that to project it outward onto teacher, tradition or text is an early, adolescent phase of spiritual development in the one projecting, and counter-spiritual manipulative abuse in any guru/teacher who seeks to elicit, to appropriate and to sustain the projection.

While this is certainly true, we all have to go through developmental stages based on imitation and internalization before we can develop the objectivity to question our scripted assumptions and injunctions. Therefore, imitation and its vicissitudes is a problem and human vulnerability that is not going to go away, and to believe that it will, or that we ourselves are immune to it, is most likely naïve.

4) The emergence of peer to peer spirituality, which democratizes charismatic, enlightened leadership, and realizes that it is a role which different persons assume at different times, either in the initiation of a peer group or in the continuous unfolding of its process.

The development of social and intrasocial democracies for the support of collective commons

“Intrasocial” refers to the interactional dynamics of interviewed perspectives. The intrasocial is a LL reality while social realities are LR and intrapsychic ones are UL. The mesocosmic or socio-cultural realization (macrocosmic being trans-human and microcosmic being intrapsychic) of the interior nature of spiritual authority, combined with our realization of how we delegate that authority to others on specific occasions in the fulfillment of designated roles, is an example of how exterior quadrant advances precipitate interior quadrant advances, and vice-versa. The realization of democratic, peer-to-peer spirituality creates contexts for the realization of an interior and subjective form of objectivity, through peer-to-peer and democratic relationships and interactions with interviewed emerging potentials of indeterminant ontology.

These largely fall into two categories: the interviewing of personifications of life issues, such as a broken heart, personified as a broken heart, or an intestinal pain personified as a rat chewing on meat; and the interviewing of dream characters and objects, such as monsters and toilet brushes. Methodologies now exist that collect patterns of preferences of interviewed perspectives, called “Dream Sociomatrices,”

and that then numerically depict the relationships among the preferences of such interviewed perspectives in diagrams called “Dream Sociograms.”

These reveal “intrasocial” dynamics, or peer-to-peer interactions in ad hoc intrapsychic democracies. This methodology is described in two books, Dream Sociometry, and Understanding the Dream Sociogram.

The importance of such investigations lie in the areas of reductions of personal barriers to balance and creativity, as well as the withdrawal of projections onto others in democratic processes, a common occurrence that is often at the root of the sabotage of promising efforts toward forging a global commons.

What is spirituality?

Heron defines spirituality as “about multi-line integral development explored by persons in relation.” While I applaud the efforts of Heron and countless others to rehabilitate the concept of spirituality, I agree with Wilber, in that due to its multiple meanings, the term “spirituality” is hopelessly over-determined and therefore ambiguous, inevitably leading to misunderstanding and confusion. As a concept, “spirituality” produces far more smoke than it does fire. While all terms, through the normal evolution of language, can suffer the same fate, in its present state of usage, the term, the “sacred,” is far less over-determined than “spirituality,” pointing much more to an experience than to a line, level, or idealized state. With this caveat, I can endorse Heron's definition, of the sacred, not spirituality, as about multi-line integral development explored by persons in relation.

However, I would also change “persons” to “perspectives,” in that intrasocial relationships can and do reveal the sacred without having to evoke either persons or entities. In addition, “persons” implies ontological selves, anchoring the sacred to self development instead of overall development.

Lines not only unfold through engagement with other people, but with other ideas and perspectives. We can therefore move away from an UL “spiritual” and LR “interactive” dualism, which appears to be a basic dynamic of Wilber and Heron's positions, to experiencing the sacred in interactions within and among all four quadrants.

The foundations of all healthy mutual co-enquiry

I strongly agree with Heron's assessment that some lines, such as interpersonal skills, communicative competence, and morality, unfold primarily through engagement with other people. While it is true that “a person cannot develop these lines on their own but through mutual co-enquiry,” what Wilber refers to as “intersubjectivity,” the interviewing of emerging potentials, that is, of alternative perspectives, is mutual co-enquiry of an intrasocial, LL variety. Such interviewing, a form of Socratic Elenchus, is a resource for the advancement of personal balance, creativity, and stable access to experiences of the sacred. While it is true that “the spirituality of persons is developed and revealed primarily in their relationships with other persons,” the sacred dimension both of life and individuals is developed and revealed through both relationships with other persons and relationships with alternative perspectives in general.

Relational exchanges of all types, whether material, emotional, mental, “soul,” or “spiritual,” (to use Wilber's categorizations), are thereby grounded in relationship, and those relationships are not limited to human interactions but involve relationships with any encountered alternative perspective, in any state. In addition, those relationships, and therefore all relational exchanges, are grounded in a pragmatic definition of morality as reciprocity, trustworthiness, and empathy. Therefore, primary attention is not given to spirituality, meditation, or even self development, but to respect, as demonstrated by the practicing of these three aspects of morality, as the common currency of all healthy relational exchanges.


The interviewing of alternative perspectives, collectively referred to as “emerging potentials,” is not a theoretical abstraction but an integral life practice or yoga, in the sense of a psychospiritual discipline that follows the three lines of empiricism: injunctions, application, and peer verification. However, it differs from other ILPs in that it is not determined by self-chosen priorities, but rather by priorities arrived at through “mutual co-enquiry,” to use Heron's phrase. Life priorities, to be enacted via an ILP, are determined through a process of triangulation, not simply by our personal desire to work on this or that shadow, physical, mental, spiritual, or interpersonal practice. The three strands of triangulation are personal priorities chosen on the basis of common sense, in consultation with respected others (experts or peers), as well as in consultation with emerging potentials, that is, interviewed perspectives, whether derived from life issues of importance to us, from dreams or some other experience, such as reverie, history, mythologies, fiction, or global crises.

This structure of triangulation produces an approach to the sacred that is somewhat different from those of Wilber and Heron. It emphasizes respectful interaction as fundamental to morality, not just with persons in the LR, but with perspectives in the LL, by involving reciprocity, trustworthiness, and empathy. It assumes that this provides a moral foundation for all relational exchanges. Instead of focusing on line, level, or world view development, this model sees these as downstream developmental openings that occur naturally and largely on their own, if we only tend to the foundational ethical elements of all relational exchanges.

The differentiations between agency and communion, “top down” “intentional” and teleologically-driven approaches to the sacred and embodied, subjective, enmeshed aspects of the sacred, can then be viewed as distractions and sources of conflict, gender identity travails, and various varieties of culture wars. While such distinctions are important in that they help us understand varieties of human pathology and possible avenues of escape from them, a far shorter route is to focus on the quality of the fundamental relational exchange—respect—in all interactions with others, self, and whatever alternative perspectives we encounter.

Unhealthy and healthy interpretations

Interactions, both social and intrasocial, are fundamentally dialogic. Instead of interpreting and drawing conclusions, we ask questions to encourage the “other” to provide their interpretations. Clearly, we at some point will form our own interpretations. The question is whether they will be the result of respect—reciprocity in dialog, demonstrations of trustworthiness, and in the checking out of interpretations, which is the acid test of empathy. Interpretations devoid of such respect are simple and simply projections. They are a form of abuse. Interpretations that follow the above guidelines for the advance of respect reveal the sacred in whatever relational exchange is at hand, regardless of level or line of oneself or the other.

A phenomenological approach to epistemology

This approach to epistemology, called Integral Deep Listening (IDL) is fundamentally and thoroughly phenomenological, in that it drops assumptions and interpretations in order to listen in a deep and integral way. However, it is not limited to the UL classical phenomenology of Husserl or extended only to the LR domain, as Merleau-Ponty and other existential phenomenologists do, but also to the LL, through suspending interpretations and assumptions in phenomenological encounter with interviewed perspectives of indeterminant ontology—figures and objects from day dreams, fiction, reverie, near death and mystical experiences, dreams and nightmares, whether lucid or otherwise.

Subsequently, IDL suspends assumptions about ontology. It does not assume a reality status for selves. For instance, if a screwdriver is interviewed, it does not assume it is a self-aspect. Instead, it asks the screwdriver. The screwdriver may say it is indeed a self-aspect, or it may say it is a self-aspect and an independent perspective in its own right, or it may say it is only an independent perspective, or it may deny any of these possibilities. We do not know until we ask. Therefore, the interviewing of multiple perspectives, at least by IDL, assumes indeterminant ontology.

An injunctive, transrational methodology

The purpose of such a triangulated dialogic approach, which considers authority, interviewed perspectives, and common sense, is to generate applications that are pragmatically and operationally defined so that they can be made falsifiable and tested. Therefore, such a methodology is fundamentally an injunctive, rather than a via affirmativa or via negativa approach to development and the sacred. It is designed to generate measurable increases in balance, creativity, and problem solving in individuals and collectives; it is not designed to be a theoretical adventure into the far reaches of the noosphere.

However, because it deals with pre-rational fantasy, dream, and fictive elements in the context of a rational methodology, it claims that the interpretations produced are typically rational, not pre-rational, and sometimes transrational, in that they include but transcend the rational. After all, it is not rational to talk to a screwdriver. But when and if you do, you can ask, “Are its answers rational?” Beyond that, you can ask, “Are they testable?” “When I apply recommendations from such interviews in my life do if move into measurably more or less balance?” “Are the perspectives of this interviewed screwdriver creative; that is, do they point me to helpful alternative perspectives on issues of importance to me?” “Do the remarks, interpretations, and recommendations of the screwdriver awaken the sacred in me or not?” To the extent that these questions can be answered in the affirmative, the implication is that such mutual co-enquiry is indeed not a prepersonal or rational, but a transpersonal practice.

Implications for social collectives

Such a practice can also be viewed as the cultivation of respectful relationships on a deep interior level which then is likely to be projected outwardly into the mesocosm of relationships with other humans, for instance when problem solving in order to advance our collective commons.

When one learns to give respect to interviewed screwdrivers, toilet brushes, and warthogs, hierarchy has a way of breaking down, while higher order absurdity has a way of creeping in through the cracks in our carefully developed edifice of self-control. “Higher order absurdity” is defined as post-rational absurdity, as opposed to pre-rational absurdity, or even rational absurdities, which sound like a contradiction, but are not, when they are understood as absurdities in the service of rational ends. A pre-rational absurdity is to think three impossible thoughts before breakfast. A rational absurdity is to declare same to make the point that the possibility of creativity is always available to us. A post-rational absurdity is to think such thoughts and experience the resulting creativity. An example of an impossible thought would be to interview a screwdriver or the breakfast or some personification of “impossibility.” When we take such thoughts and act on them, we move into higher order, or trans-rational absurdity, which, in my experience, has many markings of the sacred.

One of the advantages of this framing is that it largely bypasses all the relatively useless discussions of the relative merits and disadvantages of this line or level over that line or level. Such framings are essentially elitist and generate inevitable blow-back from those individuals deemed less highly developed. Even more fundamentally, from both an epistemological and ethical perspective, such discussions tend to be discounting, dismissive, and experienced as disrespectful ad hominem attacks that do little besides inflate the grandiosity of the presenter. This is the broader context. Within that framing, I can definitely make the case that line-level distinctions are indeed helpful. However, because they lack the necessity of a respectful moral foundation, I am skeptical of their ability to advance the development of any relational exchanges or generate the balance required for advances in overall development.

Relational forms of practice

Heron notes that Wilber's account of levels “has no clear place for relational forms of spiritual practice.” While I think this was partially remedied by Integral Life Practice, the closest thing Wilber proposes to a LL experiential multi-perspectivalism is his 3-2-1 Shadow process, which I have critiqued in some detail elsewhere. It is intrapsychic, not intrasocial, in that it deals with the interviewing and internalization of self-aspects, not perspectives of indeterminant ontology; it is in the service of self development, not self development and overall development; it does not address the challenges of incorporating these perspectives on an ongoing basis; it provides no concrete process for gathering, applying, and testing recommendations from the identifications.

Heron says,

I prefer to think of the spiritual development of human culture as rooted in degrees of relational, moral insight and not in an evolutionary logic. Evolution as a concept seems best left to natural processes. Otherwise intellectual bids to know what evolution is up to and what is coming next culturally, rapidly convert into hegemonic arrogance and attempts at social and intellectual control. The developing of the human spirit in cultural forms is a different category and is very close in my view to the way in which our realization of an extended doctrine of rights, in theory and practice, unfolds.

From the above account, it hopefully clear that I share with Heron his sense that human culture is rooted in degrees of relational, moral insight. However, because humans are a part of nature and noospheric evolution is still an attribute of a broader evolutionary process, concepts from evolution can and should be applied to humanity. However, I also agree with Heron that these are largely conjectural, at least in terms of the future evolution of humanity, and that it is far more useful to focus on the development of humanity within the context of cultural and social forms. In fact, these are exactly the areas in which humanity, since the development of language, has most advanced. I am thinking of the consistent and massive reductions in human violence and abuse, as documented in detail by Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature, as an example of human noospheric evolution mediated by cultural and social, not biological forms.

Life compass and evolutionary autopoiesis

A consideration of human evolution leads us to the contemplation of how human selves, cultural, and social forms block not only development but evolution, and what we might do to minimize our interference with potentials and possibilities that present themselves as deeply creative and beneficial. For IDL, these come in two varieties, the far more common personally-beneficial perspectives of emerging potentials that reveal and clarify the priorities of our life compass, and the much more abstract and objective perspectives of emerging potentials that reveal and clarify the priorities of evolutionary autopoiesis. This understanding of autopoiesis is not teleologically driven, but can be completely accounted for in terms of heredity, adaptation, and variety, yet it can reveal and amplify experiences that we term “sacred.” To say that evolution is therefore trending toward the sacred is mere conjecture and possibly wishful thinking, validated by mystical and near death experiences. It is enough to say that interviewed emerging potentials can and often do reveal truth, goodness, and inner peace of a higher order than we possess, and that these are three classical elements of the sacred. Interviewed emerging potentials also seem to be intimately co-arising with both respect and creativity. Therefore, while it is presumptuous to declare that this or that is an evolutionary destination, we can indeed state that interviewed emerging potentials often support these values and actions.

Human and intrasocial rights

Heron mentions four approaches to the expression of human rights. I will list them as background for a discussion of their relationship to intrasocial rights.

  • Autocratic cultures which define rights in a limited and oppressive way and there are no rights of political participation.
  • Narrow democratic cultures which practise political participation through representation, but have no or very limited participation of people in decision-making in all other realms, such as research, religion, education, industry, etc.
  • Wider democratic cultures which practice both political participation and varying degree of wider kinds of participation.
  • Commons peer-to-peer cultures in a libertarian and abundance-oriented global network with equipotential rights of participation in decision-making of everyone in every field of human endeavour, in relation to nature, culture, the subtle and the spiritual.

These mesocosmic socio-cultural approaches have analogies in the realm of the intrapsychic and intrasocial microcosms.

The self, with its obsession with self-control, self-development, self-esteem, and self-actualization is an example of an intrapsychic autocratic culture which defines rights in a limited and oppressive way. There are no rights of political participation for either those aspects of self or alternative perspectives that are perceived as “not-self.” This is the common, chronic state of human psychology at the current stage of human evolution.

Narrow personal and social roles and addictions that practice participation in the politics of self governance through their possession of temporary control of identity and executive functions.

When addictions take over, this could be compared to political coups. When we shift from the role of partner to parent to worker to planner to player to socializer and to republican, this could be compared to shared democratic governance. This is analogous, in the microcosmic domain, to democratic political participation through representation of multiple self-identities which are often inconsistent or in conflict with each other in values and priorities. The reason they can and do co-exist is because the others typically yield the field to them in their area of expertise: in church the “player” and “partner” roles typically take the back seat; at work, all roles except the worker and planner are typically expected to be subordinated. Pre-eminent roles emerge predictably in equally predictable circumstances, but they have no or very limited participation in decision-making in realms in which some other role plays the autocrat. For example, when indulging our favorite addiction, the self-parenting role is out-voted or goes to sleep.

Wider democratic cultures, which practice both political participation and varying degrees of wider kinds of participation, are most closely analogous on an interpsychic level to loose and porous role boundaries, where spontaneity and creativity take precedence over the expected structure of this or that role. For instance, there are those who can make work and learning fun, fun to be educational and productive, and learning to be productive and fun.

Commons peer-to-peer cultures in a libertarian and abundance-oriented global network with equipotential rights of participation in decision-making of everyone in every field of human endeavour, in relation to nature, culture, the subtle and the spiritual.

On a mesocosmic level this is much more realistically attainable in small collectives than in large ones. On an intrapsychic level, it is difficult without a practice of experiential multi-perspectivalism. This is because it is quite easy for us to delude ourselves into believing that we have an interior democratic, peer-to-peer culture when we do not. The only way to know is to interview members of our interior “constituency” as well as a variety of perspectives that may not be subjectively enmeshed at all, but still are privy to the nature of our intrapsychic governance. If we do this enough, we can get a pretty realistic sense of just how much of an intrasocial and intrapsychic peer-to-peer culture we actually possess. It is also quite possible to generate an intrasocial peer-to-peer culture without establishing same on an intrapsychic level, which is more difficult, just as establishing same on a mesocosmic level is more difficult still, because of the number of variables that are not in our control.

Creative leadership

I am also not the fan of libertarianism that Heron appears to be, because of its over-emphasis on the rights of individuals at the expense of obligations to the collective. Over-emphasis on individuality tends to enhance both grandiosity and authoritarianism, just as over-emphasis on collectives tends to enhance passivity, compliance and a lack of objectivity necessary for both getting unstuck and moving out of the way of life compass and evolutionary autopoiesis. Heron defines the evolution of creative leadership:

…creative leadership initiatives are taken by those who launch and empower co-operative groups of autonomous people. Charismatic empowering leadership of this kind is fundamental. Once the groups are up and running, charisma devolves and rotates: developmental initiatives are taken spontaneously by different peers at different times, and with respect to varying issues, in order further to enhance the flourishing of autonomy and co-operation within the group, within networks of groups, within the parity of spirit.

Applying this formulation to the intrapsychic and intrasocial realms we are asking, “What is the appropriate role of the self?” Following Heron, we might say that creative self-leadership over our lives and destinies occurs when we launch and empower co-operative collectives of intrapsychic roles and intrasocial emerging potentials. This is not so much a matter of charisma as of having a suitable methodology and using it. Once we have established both types of collectives, we become increasingly transparent, interpreting experience less and allowing these collectives to interpret, run the show, and diversify both roles and interpretations freely. This enhances the flourishing of autonomy and co-operation both intrapsychically and intrasocially, within mesocosmic collectives, and in relationship to the sacred.


This essay has attempted to build on Heron's emphasis on LR mutual co-enquiry as a fundamental strategy for building a collective commons which is itself necessary to stop and reverse the exploitation of people, resources, and the planet. It presents the argument that the development of an interior, intrasocial and microcosmic democracy will strengthen balance and creativity in individual members of collectives, increasing the likelihood of mutual understanding, cooperation, and success. For an example of a methodology that generates such an approach it refers to Integral Deep Listening, a methodology developed by the author. More information is available at and

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