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.


Matrix: red and blue pill

Integral's Blue Pill

Joseph Dillard

The “messianic” aspect of Integral relates the ascent of some 10% of the population to 2nd Tier, by adopting the world view of Integral AQAL.

In The Matrix, the film from which the above reference is derived, Morpheus, the leader of the rebellion against the machines enslaving humanity in a dream-like delusional state, says the following to Neo:

This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more.

The blue pill represents a life of blissful ignorance, tranquil happiness, luxury, and dishonest illusion, while the red pill represents unpredictable freedom, exposure to harsh truths, and demanding confrontations with reality. Following Plato's famous Myth of the Cave, the blue pill is a secure life, chained to our consensual reality, entranced by the shadows thrown from figures behind and the light of artifice, while the red pill resembles the perilous journey past the fire, into the inky darkness of the passages of the cave, as we grapple our way up toward the blinding light of the natural world. While the red pill allows escape from an enslaving dream world, the life of higher order wakefulness is threatening and uncertain.

The blue pill represents a life of blissful ignorance, tranquil happiness, luxury, and dishonest illusion, while the red pill represents unpredictable freedom, exposure to harsh truths, and demanding confrontations with reality.

Perhaps the reason why The Matrix has remained so vivid in popular culture is not only because it retells an ancient metaphor of human awakening, but because we live in a world in which we are surrounded by and live in, dystopian blue pill reality whose presence is pervasive and can no longer be easily ignored or rationalized away. National narratives are designed to create a public consensus for the implementation not of the popular will, but the will of the state, whether it be the abolishing of individual liberties in the name of national security, illegal foreign sanctions and wars to spread “freedom” and “democracy,” the creation of a surveillance state, or the justification of economic policies that enrich a minority at the expense of the majority. Such narratives are socio-cultural dreams which entire populations are locked within, and there are penalties and punishments associated with daring to take the red pill and attempting to wake up out of it.

Our personal life scripts are also forms of blue pill hypnosis, of zombiefied sleepwalking, in which we are convinced we are awake when we are living out the injunctions, permissions, taboos, and conscience of our parents and religious-cultural collectives. Indeed, this is reality for most of us most of the time, as we are imprisoned in structures and meanings generated by the particular syntax and grammar of our unique language. We are rewarded when we comply with groupthink and punished when we attempt to wake up out of it. This punishment is “for our own good” and by those who have our “best interest” at heart.

Life outside Plato's Cave is the Real World; life outside Neo's Matrix is reality. But is it? Life under the influence of the blue pill is not only seductive and pervasive, but unavoidable, as we awaken from one dream into the freedom of a broader dream reality. We eventually adapt to red pill reality and it becomes another form of blue pill sleepwalking. It seems to be a common human delusion to mistake awakening into a higher order of red pill reality as final escape from blue pill zombification.

Other historical examples of blue pill reality include the doctrine of karma, accordance with dharma, God's Will, predestination, destiny, fate, faith-based religious injunctions, and good luck. All of these create guidelines or structures that claim to wake us up but generally put us to sleep and keep us sleepwalking, because they have nothing to do with reasoning or questioning. Our addictions and luxuries also support blue pill reality by functioning as self-rescuing comforts that keep us anesthetized, oblivious to the fact we are chained to a bench staring at the back wall of a cave. Our beliefs can and do often serve the same purpose, which is the point Marx was making when he said, “Religion is the opium of the people.”

The proper conclusion to draw is not that all dreams are bad, that all government is evil, or that life is intrinsically a state of maya from which we must awaken, but rather that choice and wisdom within any dream is better than abuse, victimization, and ignorance. As we shall see, these conclusions have implications for Integral and integralists, just as they do for everyone else.

We all think we have taken the red pill, but have we? On the one hand, this is a matter of degree, as we can always wake up into some broader context than the one framed by our world view. In addition, we can be awake in one or two areas and sound asleep in various other ones. Perhaps the key question to ask is, “Am I awake in the areas that matter most?” Self development answers, “The cognitive line is most important, because it leads self development.” Self-actualization answers, “The spiritual intelligence line is most important because it discloses our oneness with all.” The self answers, “The advance of the self-system line is most important, because it increases control and provides answers.” Overall development answers, “The development of ethical behavior is most important, because it is required for the integration and development of all levels.” Depending on where we are in our lives and the issues that we face, a different answer may be most important to the question, “What forms of wakefulness are most important for me to emphasize?”

However, we can be clearer about the role of addictions and self-rescuing strategies of all kinds. These are blue pills, these anesthetize us and put us to sleep. Taking blue pills is generally rationalized on the grounds that we don't need to be awake all the time and that comfort and relaxation are necessary for balance. While this is true, beware of the chronic human ability to rationalize and justify staying asleep, dreaming, and sleepwalking in the warm embrace of our scripting, cultural narratives, and addictions.

Exceptionalism: a particularly pernicious variety of blue pill

I agree with Russian president Vladimir Putin's response when president Obama said: “…however, when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our kids safer over the long run, I believe we should act... That is what makes America different. That is what makes us exceptional.” Putin responded the next day, in an op-ed in The New York Times, noting that “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord's blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal."

Putin's views were soon endorsed by future president Donald Trump who declared the op-ed “a masterpiece”: “You think of the term (“exceptional”) as being beautiful, but all of sudden you say, what if you're in Germany or Japan or any one of 100 different countries? You are not going to like that term.” “It is very insulting, and Putin put it to him about that.”

Clearly, Trump was electioneering and happy to have Obama skewered by Putin. However, Trump is himself an exceptionalist, based on his “Make America Great Again” riff, which focuses on “winning” via the imposition of illegal sanctions as well as tariffs on “losing” countries. Exceptionalism occurs when you expect or demand consideration or treatment that you do not give others. Certainly, Trump would consider sanctions or tariffs imposed on the US to be unfair.

Trump and Putin were not the only ones to criticize contemporary American exceptionalism as a dangerous example of extreme chauvinism. In his interview with RT on October 4, 2013, President of Ecuador Rafael Correa criticized Obama's policies and compared America's exceptionalism with Nazi Germany, saying: "Does not this remind you of the Nazis' rhetoric before and during World War II? They considered themselves the chosen race, the superior race, etc. Such words and ideas pose extreme danger."

The US is hardly alone in this. Claims of exceptionality have been made for many other countries, including Australia,[3] France, Germany, Greece,[4] India, Pakistan, Imperial Japan, Iran, North Korea, South Africa,[5][6] Spain, Britain, the USSR, the European Union, Thailand and, as we shall see, for Israel.[7][8] Historians have added many other cases, including historic empires such as China, the Ottoman Empire, ancient Rome, and ancient India, along with a wide range of minor kingdoms in history.[9]

Toxic exceptionalism is linked to elitism and hubris, a discriminatory belief in the superiority of ourselves and our ingroups at the expense of others or various outgroups

There is of course genuine exceptionalism, such as people who have exceptional religious experiences or are exceptionally talented, or who commit exceptional acts of cruelty, such as that exposed by Chelsea Manning regarding the US Military. It is easy to rationalize exceptionalism as being about personal pride, not exclusion or denigration of others. Toxic exceptionalism is linked to elitism and hubris, a discriminatory belief in the superiority of ourselves and our ingroups at the expense of others or various outgroups.[1] This sort of exceptionalism is dysfunctional and unethical. At worst, it violates fundamental principles of human rights. Where does “personal pride” bleed into hubris? Do we actually believe we have the objectivity to know?

Integralists are confident that they represent healthy, inspirational, growth-oriented exceptionalism. How can we be sure? By what criteria can we objectively determine whether our exceptionalism is healthy or not? Considerations of American and Jewish examples of exceptionalism can help clarify these issues.

American exceptionalism

American exceptionalism is important because of the size of the American military and its history of aggressive police actions, invasions, and wars. Since WWII, over 12 million people have died in some 19 countries by military aggression justified by American exceptionalism. It is also important because of the global reach of US economic power, represented by the high percentage of world-wide commerce that is conducted in dollars, leaving countries vulnerable to economic sanctions. Citing social welfare, slavery, and civil rights issues, critics like Howard Zinn has argued that American history is so morally flawed that it cannot serve as an example of virtue to other nations.[2] Zinn also argues that American exceptionalism cannot be of divine origin because it is exploitative. The treatment of the indigenous population during colonization, the neoliberal gutting of other countries resources, as documented by John Perkins in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man as well as by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine, and the revelations of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison “opened fissures in the myth of exceptionalism,” as did the exposure of government incompetence after Hurricane Katrina.[3]

Historically, there are three types of American exceptionalism, and these will be useful in an assessment of Integral exceptionalism. The first is ideological: the US is exceptional because it promotes a unique mixture of democracy, egalitarianism, individualism, liberty, republicanism, and laissez-faire economics. The second is that the US has a unique mission to transform the world. Third is the belief that US history and mission give it superiority over other nations of the world. Historically, this has often been couched in Christian terms, with America and its leaders acting as servants of God to fulfill His Will. Powerful political interests in the US view it as being “above” or “an exception” to international law.

This third type of exceptionalism has been criticized as having three sub-types. “Exemptionalism” is supporting treaties only as long as U.S. citizens are exempt from them. “Double standards” is criticizing others for not heeding the findings of international human rights bodies, but ignoring what these organizations say of the United States. “Legal isolationism” is the tendency of U.S. judges to ignore other jurisdictions.[1a]

American exceptionalism is blue pill reality. It justifies not only our status quo but our priorities as including and transcending those of others. It rationalizes abuse and sanctions the violation of international law.

Claims of Jewish exceptionalism

While everyone and every nation exhibits some degree of exceptionalism, the US and Israel are important to single out because of the current global destruction generated by the vast chasm between their claims of exceptionalism and the reality of their ethical conduct. Both the US and Israel enjoy exceptionalistic status, on the basis of their military power and in symbiotic alliance. Israel provides American exceptionalism with moral purity through a common tradition of being “God's Chosen People/Nation” while the US provides Jewish exceptionalism protection from international human rights laws through its veto power in the United Nations Security Council and military intimidation. US exceptionalism is thereby intertwined with Jewish exceptionalism in ways that mutually justify the transgression of international law.

It is almost impossible to make any statements about Israel contrary to accepted Israel and Zionist dogmas without being labeled anti-Semitic, a global label and emotional cognitive distortion that is a logical fallacy called ad hominem because, instead of addressing an argument, it attacks the character of the individual presenting it. However, as we have seen, Judaism is hardly alone in its exceptionalistic claims; the salient point is the impact such claims have on current questions of war and peace, international law, and human rights.

Both Jewish and Christian Zionism exert powerful influence in the world through the Jewish doctrine of divine election or chosenness. High Holiday prayer services include the song of “Ata Bechartanu,” which describes God choosing and loving the Jewish nation. Because this doctrine is the cornerstone of Zionism, divine sanction for Jewish uniqueness has been inseparable from Israeli exceptionalism and Israeli history.[4] Judaism, Zionism, and Israel present powerful forms of exceptionalism that censor open discussion in powerful and broad ways, such as hate speech laws in the EU that jail those that disagree with the official accounting of WWII, or are found to be anti-Semitic in speech or writing, as imminent historian David Irving was. Zionistic and Israeli exceptionalism exhibit the ability to control and manipulate aspects of US foreign policy and over-ride US laws governing free speech.

The theological doctrine of chosenness justified the morality of Zionist claims to Palestine.[5] Zionists had little difficulty convincing their Jewish and Christian audiences that the seizure of Palestinian lands and the eviction of some 800,000 Palestinian owners, leveling their towns and villages to make sure they would never return, was not theft, because both populations were scripted from childhood to believe Biblical myths that God had promised Palestine to the Jews as their eternal inheritance. This promise made the claim to Palestinian lands exceptional, above the law. The doctrine of election did not merely set the Jews apart from other nations; it also set them above other nations.[6] Since Jewish ownership rights were divinely ordained, they could not be annulled by absence of the owners. Zionism could then be rationalized by Jews and Christian Zionists as a 'messianic' movement to restore Palestine to its divinely appointed Jewish owners, not the colonial movement to expropriate the natives that it actually was. Zionists and Israelis could not be accused of stealing Palestinian lands because, as the Jewish National Fund claims, the European Jews who arrived in Palestine were only “redeeming” lands which had had always been theirs. Since the Jews were the chosen instruments of God's intervention on earth, this was interpreted by some Jewish thinkers to mean that Jews were not subject to the laws of nature and society.[7] As long as the Jews believed that they were acting as instruments of God's will, they did not have to follow the laws of gentile nations.

Like American exceptionalism, Israeli exceptionalism is blue pill reality. It justifies not only the status quo but personal and national priorities as including and transcending those of other individuals and nations. It rationalizes abuse and sanctions the violation of international law.

Exceptionalism and Integral AQAL

An evaluation of exceptionalism within Integral AQAL needs to be conducted within a context of broad appreciation for the contributions of Ken Wilber and a belief in the lasting importance of Integral AQAL. As was true with the work of Sigmund Freud, while various aspects of his general theory of human psychology and development have been disproven, his greatest contribution was in stimulating an explosion of creative thinking and research about psychology. Many contributions of Wilber have stood the test of time and, I believe, will continue to do so, including his developmental multi-perspectivalism and integration of religious, philosophical, psychological, scientific, and socio-cultural fields in his four quadrant analysis of holons, the Pre-Trans Fallacy, his triune approach to epistemology, his detailing of transpersonal states and dysfunctions, and his Level/Line Fallacy. These are all areas in which Integral AQAL is authentically exceptional.

So what is inauthentic Integral exceptionalism? No one can claim to be integral if they have not at least attained a mid-personal degree of objectivity regarding issues of socio-cultural identity and scripting.

So what is inauthentic Integral exceptionalism? No one can claim to be integral if they have not at least attained a mid-personal degree of objectivity regarding issues of socio-cultural identity and scripting. This is defined as the subordination of beliefs and experience, including mystical experiences, to mid-personal objectivity and reasoning.

A mid-personal degree of objectivity is a pre-requisite to anything integral because of Wilber's Pre-Trans Fallacy. The way we differentiate the prepersonal from the transpersonal is that the latter includes rationality. That which claims to be transpersonal but does not meet the tests of personal rationality is prepersonal and the pre-rational masquerading as transpersonal. Core AQAL beliefs of spirit, Eros, and soul do not reach late prepersonal levels of congruency, much less mid-personal objectivity, due to their inherent ambiguity, non-falsifiability, or inability to reach rational levels of mental clarity. As we shall see, they represent a Level/State Fallacy, in that they confuse access to transpersonal states, something children and criminals can do, with evidence of attainment of transpersonal developmental levels, something that is highly unlikely, given that it requires repeated and broad-based moral tetra-mesh.

The mid-personal level also requires a submission to the universality of both collective laws and norms. Claims of exceptionalism typically refuse to be bound by them, being “exceptions” to both law and community standards, as we have seen in the contemporary examples of the US and Israel. To be bound by collective laws and norms is not the mere professing of submission or of an intent to submit, but actual obedience. We actually submit to universal law in our behavior; we actually are obedient to collective norms as defined by outgroups, not simply those ingroups which serve as echo chambers for our beliefs and preferences. For example, in the arena of law, this includes obedience to international standards of human rights, not only demonstrated by personal adherence but by not voting for and indeed, actively working against, those politicians who do not vote against violations of international law. In the area of collective norms, this includes obeying principles based on mutual respect, including reciprocity, trustworthiness, and empathy. Concretely, that translates into agreeing upon collective norms regarding what constitutes abuse as well as addiction and sexual behavior.

Because integralists grasp the multi-perspectival model of AQAL and typically have had mystical experiences of oneness, they tend to identify with vision-logic, if not some transpersonal level. Their sense of self is integral-aperspectival. This is not only grandiose, but discriminatory, because the implication is that those who do not grasp a multi-perspectival world view are at a lower level of development. This is elitism and exceptionalism.

As Mark Twain said, “There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.” The cognitive line simply dresses an ape with a gun up in a tux so it can mix with polite company. Elitism and exceptionalism are useful and even humorous until we become victims of same.

American exceptionalism and integral exceptionalism

Let us now return to American exceptionalism and see if we can use it to draw clearer examples of Integral exceptionalism. All integralists are not inauthentic exceptionalists, and even of those who are, some of these varieties of exceptionalism will not apply. Peter Thiel has noted, “American exceptionalism has led to a country that is exceptionally un-self-aware.” This is a consequence not only for America but of exceptionalism in general. It generates hubris, which blinds us to our own over-reach and mis-assessment of the perceptions of important outgroups. Referring to the three varieties of American exceptionalism, the first involved an exceptionalistic ideology. Integral also has an ideology that it is exceptional because it promotes a unique mixture of characteristics. These include in-depth analysis of transpersonal realities, a multi-perspectival world view that provides cognitive access to integral aperspectivalism or “vision-logic,” also known as “2nd Tier” level of development. In addition, it uses empiricism to support its claims to a spiritual drive behind evolution. Its ideology is also unique in that it frames the development of entities in terms of the four quadrants of holons. This unique combination of ideological claims is one foundation of Integral exceptionalism.

The second exceptionalistic claim made by the US is that it has a unique mission to transform the world. Wilber makes a similar claim for Integral AQAL.

But we saw that when around 10 percent of the population reaches the same level as that of the leading edge itself, then there is a “tipping point” reached, and the generic qualities of the leading edge tend to seep into or permeate the entire culture. We already have around 5 percent that is already at integral, and it might reach 10 percent within a decade or two. At that time, there would be a transformative shift in the interior domains the likes of which humanity has never, but never, seen.[8]

A third exceptionalistic claim made by the US is the belief that US history and mission, ordained by God, give it superiority over other nations of the world, resulting in a further exceptionalistic belief that the US is therefore “above” or “an exception” to international law. Integral AQAL believes that because of the authority of direct mystical experiences of spirit and oneness that it is not subject to the empirical tests of truth of science, including consensus among peers in this or that research methodology. Integral believes that science will be shown to be in accord with its vision if scientists will open their “Eye of Spirit.” Until they do, they are viewed as “flatland,” ignoring the interior quadrants, and being materialistic reductionists. Because Integral AQAL has the authority of spirit, it is not constrained by science. This is a form of Integral exceptionalism.

We can recall that this third type of American exceptionalism has three sub-types. “Exemptionalism” is supporting treaties only as long as U.S. citizens are exempt from them. An Integral AQAL analogy would be to not supporting science that denies spirit as genesis for evolution. Integralists are exempt from it because they answer to a higher authority, that of spirit as revealed through development of the line of spiritual intelligence.

When the US ignores the critical findings concerning it of international human rights bodies but criticizes other countries for not heeding similar findings, it is manifesting exceptionalism in the form of “double standards.” An Integral analogy applies in its claim that it upholds the principles of empiricism as general principle, that is, as applying to the world, but denies their applicability to itself in the realm of noospheric empiricism, which is superseded by “spiritual” empiricism.

The third sub-type, the tendency of U.S. judges to ignore other jurisdictions, is called “legal isolationism.” An analogous form of Integral exceptionalism occurs when Wilber ignores his critics.

The Relevance of Claims of Jewish exceptionalism to Integral

While Jewish claims of exceptionalism are tribal, ethnocentric, and based on the authority of scripture, Integral claims of exceptionalism rest on personal mystical experiences of Wilber and integralists as well as the validating testimony of mystics throughout the ages. Therefore, Integral exceptionalism is based on appeals to authority, both subjective, in the upper left, and objective, in the lower right quadrant. Judaism and the US can broadly be considered a symbiosis of sacred and secular claims of exceptionalism, although clearly the US draws on both, although it claims a separation of Church and State. Similarly, Integral bases its secular claims of exceptionalism on the aperspectival and multi-perspectival higher order synthesis represented by AQAL while founding its sacred claims of exceptionalism on spiritual authority.

Just as Israel provides American exceptionalism with moral purity through a common tradition of being “God's Chosen People/Nation,” spiritual authority provides Integral AQAL with a foundation that its truths are absolute and do not have to answer to secular “flatland” laws. And just as the US provides Jewish exceptionalism protection from international human rights laws through its veto power in the United Nations Security Council and military intimidation, so Wilber's appeals to rationality, science, and law provide it a defense against claims that its appeals to authority are pre-rational and prepersonal beliefs.

Just as US exceptionalism is intertwined with Jewish exceptionalism in a pernicious and toxic brew, so Integral secular exceptionalism, based on Wilber's research into the integration of religion, psychology, philosophy, sociology, and science, is intertwined with Integral spiritual exceptionalism.

Just as Judaism, Zionism, and Israel present powerful forms of exceptionalism that censor open discussion in powerful and broad ways, so appeals to mystical experience and absolute truth are designed to shut down rational discourse when it points out inconsistencies or irrationalities in Integral. This priority of sacred exceptionalism over claims of secular exceptionalism fundamentally places integral on an absolutist, idealist, non-falsifiable footing, just as Zionist claims finally make Israel apartheid above the law. From such an unimpeachable perspective, Integral is free to define truth and law in any way that it likes, because it is exceptional.

The “messianic” aspect of Integral relates the ascent of some 10% of the population to 2nd Tier, by adopting the world view of Integral AQAL, which will usher in a utopian age.

The “messianic” aspect of Integral relates the ascent of some 10% of the population to 2nd Tier, by adopting the world view of Integral AQAL, which will usher in a utopian age. Integral is exceptional in that it promises a global transformation if people will only awaken and adopt Integral AQAL. How is this different from the absolutist and exceptionalistic appeals of salvation by every religion and political party in the history of mankind?

Mystical experience transcends but does not include the personal because it does not pass the truth tests of scientific empiricism. This strongly implies mystical experience is pre-personal in origin but is mistaken for the transpersonal because of its perception of oneness and the profound sense of the apprehension of absolute, ultimate truth that normally accompanies mystical experiences. This confusion of temporary state access and permanent stage attainment leads to spiritual elitism and exceptionalism: “I have seen the Truth and I know what is True and Real not only for myself but for you, science, and the world.” This is an authoritarian claim supported by the authoritarian claims of other mystics.

Are claims of Integral exceptionalism warranted? On the cognitive line, yes. As a combination of an aperspectival-integral world view with mystical openings on the line spiritual intelligence, yes. In the four quadrant model, its “three eye” epistemological model, and the Pre-Trans Fallacy, yes. On these points integralists have a claim to both elitism and exceptionalism, and the attainment of cognitive multi-perspectivalism as well as mystical experiences can authentically be sources of personal pride. In overall development, in contrast to linear development, such claims are much more problemaic, since integralists and those claiming enlightenment are as vulnerable to deficiencies in ethical behavior as anyone else. The lack of adoption of Integral by mainstream science and the general public does not bode well for the messianic aspects of its exceptionalism. In these areas, claims of elitism are hubris, based on a confusing of high advancement in this or that line with high advancement level to level. Wilber has described the “Level/Line Fallacy,” but has failed to apply it to Integral's overall perception of itself.

Sources of Integral exceptionalism

Inauthentic exceptionalism extends beneath competencies to contaminate core identity

While integralists may insist they are affirming a hierarchy of abilities and world views, the self-system line itself shows this same hierarchical pattern of transcend and include, strongly implying that superiority exists not just in this or that competency, but in who I am, that “I am more evolved than you,” meaning than those in outgroups, the uninitiated, who know nothing of AQAL. The result is inescapable elitism and exceptionalism, as an expression of the pre-trans fallacy: a belief that integralists are more “spiritual,” in addition to being more evolved.

Identities enmeshed in grandiosity, exceptionalism, hubris, and self-inflation do not want to come to grips with the reality of the limitations imposed upon them by the collectives in which they are imbedded. Unless and until they do, they will continue to be victimized by them, and that ignorance impedes personal development. These are real costs, both to individuals and society. Morality as a developmental line bends to collective determinations of ethical behavior, and those determinations, rightly or wrongly, can stop our own individual overall development. If we think this is unfair, then the only alternatives are to change the collectives that we answer to or expand our identities in ways that make them compatible with outgroups.

Defining morality as intention and judgment leads to exceptionalism

The entire Integral model is based on interior quadrant intention generating exterior quadrant manifestation. This idealism is seen in Eros as Spirit-in-action, in which intention or a spiritual “drive” evolves form.[9] Wilber, following Kohlberg, defines morality in terms of interior quadrant judgment and intention, our personal determination of what is right and what should or shouldn't be, not in terms of exterior quadrant ethical behavior, as determined by outgroups.[10] Kohlberg never succeeded in showing that higher levels of moral judgment are correlated with more ethical behavior, as determined by outgroups in the global commons. Without such a determination, there can be no moral tetra-mesh, because determinations by outgroups in the LR quadrant are not included. Nowhere does Wilber address the false assumption that post-conventional or post-post conventional morality are associated with ethical behavior. There is no demonstrated correlation between moral intent and determinations of abuse by victims, outgroups, or courts.[11]

This bias supports an inflated, grandiose sense of our own level of development which generates elitism and exceptionalism: “I am moral because I know my intentions, which are just and righteous. If my actions cause harm it is only for a worthy cause.” The subtext is, “My behavior is ethical, despite what you think, because I can rationalize and justify it based on my intentions.” In this regard, Kohlberg and Wilber are echoing a common cognitive bias, to believe personal intention is more important than collective objective assessments of behavior.

Our ingroups validate our exceptionalism

This common cognitive bias is typically extended to our ingroups. Because confrontation with unethical behavior creates cognitive dissonance, most of us surround ourselves with ingroups that validate the morality of our intentions.[12] When we are surrounded by others who share our intent we can easily remain convinced that our behavior is ethical. Lawyers surround themselves with other lawyers, police with police, thieves with thieves, addicts with addicts, politicians with politicians, producers of porn with the porn culture, and cultists with fellow cultists. Military indoctrination works hard to create such an ingroup in the form of the generation of loyalty to one's fellow soldiers as the highest priority. The result is that soldiers will kill to protect or avenge their fellows regardless of larger ethical considerations. The fundamental premise is elitist and exceptionalistic: “Because we are fighting for a just cause we have the right to abuse others; because the enemy is not fighting for a just cause we have the right to kill them.” This ingroup intention-based exceptionalism “works” until the ingroup dissolves, typically when one leaves the military. At that point veterans may bump up against the intentions and values of various non-ingroup members, and cognitive dissonance can set in, leading to depression and even suicide, with some twenty veterans currently committing suicide daily in the US. This is essentially an example of the disconnect between the interior quadrant line of moral judgment and collective assessments of behavioral ethics, supported by outgroups. The conflation of these two is a Moral/Ethical Fallacy that is very common for humanity, as it is founded in an intrinsic elitist and exceptionalistic cognitive bias, but nonetheless shared and promulgated by Integral AQAL.[13]

Research by Robert Kegan, of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has shown that 3 out of 5—or 60 percent—of Americans remain at ethnocentric, the general level(s) where one is identified exclusively with “us,” or one's family, group, tribe, or nation.[14] This is ingroup self-identification. Kegan is greatly underestimating this percentage due to his use of a common but far too narrow definition of ethnocentrism. When “groups” are understood to include professional and personal affiliations, such as Integral, the percentage is obviously much higher. Such groups echo our intent and tend to reinforce the justice and ethical nature of our behavior, because to do otherwise challenges group identity and cohesion. It is difficult to find anything more foundational to ingroups of all kinds than their claims to exceptionalism. Those same claims make them both ethnocentric and fundamentalist. That makes American exceptionalism, an emphatic statement of elitism and justification for crimes against humanity and the breaking of international law in the name of democracy and liberty, a major, important and powerful marker of ethnocentrism. As such, ethnocentrism is solidly blue pill ideology, values, and world view, fundamentally in denial of its discriminatory nature.

Whether your higher, more enlightened, internal quadrants or your lower, more “ethnocentric,” external quadrants define your reality may depend on whether you have been blessed with the enlightenment of Integral AQAL and mystical experiences, on the one hand, or on whether you are a member of some group of “deplorables,” that is, an outgroup disowned by exceptionalists. In the first case, drinking the Kool Aid of elitism and exceptionalism makes it important to instruct those of a narrower, less enlightened world view, by talking to them on their level, or a little higher, as Wilber recommends.[15] In the second, it is probably difficult to conceptualize the egalitarianism, pluralism and respect for human rights that accompanies being marginalized, maligned, or vaporized by a drone.

Hierarchy over heterarchy

Hierarchy matters for evolution, including human development and the evolution of the self. Hierarchy, like self-control, provides structure, like a trellis upon which a vine grows. Its opposite, heterarchy, requires going against the flow of self development and self-control to cultivate collective consensus. It is believed by Integral AQAL (and Spiral Dynamics) that different stages alternate in emphasis between the two. Wilber takes pains in multiple places to emphasizes the equal importance of communal, heterarchical development and agentic, hierarchical development.

Emphasis on hierarchy is part of a broader dialectic, as Wilber points out in his differentiation of self developmental styles: masculine agency and feminine communion, and in his emphasis on the need to balance these at each stage of development. Everyone will favor one or the other, depending on role, level of development, and circumstances. Both serve as antithesis for the other, together generating creative synthesis that moves us beyond ourselves and into closer alignment with overall development.

When hierarchy is emphasized to the detriment of heterarchy, grandiosity, exceptionalism, and elitism become significant sawdust in the mechanisms of evolution. When either hierarchy or heterarchy become a fossilized status quo, they embody a blue pill, zombiefied state of existence. In such cases, agency comes to the rescue of communion or communion generates structures that keep agency from devolving into sociopathy. Neoliberals and those who presume to late personal or above, as most integralists do, cannot be exceptionalists and stand for equality at the same time. It's one or the other, although it is quite common to be universalists in some contexts and exceptionalists in others, as are “PEP” Jews—“Progressive Except Palestine.” If we broaden your focus to the world stage, Integral isn't for equality among world views; the Integral world view is superior. There are indeed superior world views, and those include as well as transcend more narrow world views. As in George Orwell's parody of socialism, Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

The problem for Integral is that its world view transcends but does not include more narrow world views in at least two critical respects. The first is its repudiation of fact-based, empirical, scientific determinations of evolution as “flatland” and materialistic.”[16] The reason for this is that to submit to the findings of science regarding evolution is to undercut the reality or importance of Eros as Spirit-in-action as the cause of evolution. To do so would deconstruct most experiences spirituality as transpersonal level attainment and instead disclose them as prepersonal state access. The second is its unwillingness to allow the ethical behavior, rather than the cognitive line, to lead development. Integral is unwilling to submit spiritual authority in the field of behavior to exterior outgroup collective determinations rather than to the authority of interior states. This deconstructs elitism and exceptionalism by requiring obedience and humility. When we make professions of equality but our actions demonstrate and create inequality, our level of development is determined by the latter, at least by those on the receiving end when we abuse others.

Holonic models theoretically take all four quadrants into account, but theory is a cognitive line perspective. Ethical behavior is not determined by theory but by collective norms based on ethical standards such as Haidt's moral foundations:

  • Care/harm: Redistributive Property (Welfare, Charity, Land reform)
  • Fairness/cheating: Cooperative Property (Sharing, Antitrust laws, Sport rules)
  • Loyalty/betrayal: Interpersonal Property (Kinship, Ethnicity, Nationhood)
  • Authority/subversion: Institutional Property (Religion, Hierarchy, Law)
  • Sanctity/degradation: Normative Property (Norms, Manners, Ethics)
  • Liberty/oppression: Lockean Property (Self-ownership, Personal property, Capital goods)

AQAL and integralists are elitists and exceptionalists because integral is elevationistic

This exceptionalism is not a fluke. It is baked into the integral pie. It is hard-wired on the mother board as a consequence of ascensionism, an emphasis on evolution over involution. The watershed election of Donald Trump revealed this bias and its unintended consequences in stunning, gruesome clarity, like pulling away a sheet to reveal a turd in a punch bowl. Changing this striking and highly discordant exceptionalism is going to require some major re-parenting, and the usual parents - historical exemplars, gurus, leaders, conscience, intuition, God and spiritual practices of various sorts, including meditation, are out to lunch, napping, playing cards, feeding their favorite addictions or of no demonstrated usefulness. They all perceive reality primarily through the filters of the interior, not the exterior quadrants.

Elevationism and Exceptionalism Within the Integral Community Itself

Just as we citizens make exceptions for elected officials, allowing them to kill, wage war and torture in our names and with our money, so integral itself has historically made exceptions for the behavior of its leadership. We have seen integral leaders either endorse or stay silent in the presence of serial abusing spiritual authorities. However, the following criticisms of Wilber and other integral figures need to be read as examples of a far broader phenomena that is intrinsic to the human tendency to both elevate our own level of development beyond where it actually is and to delegate responsibility for our misdeeds to others, thereby providing us with plausible deniability that eventually backfires.

Wilber has a history of rationalizing and therefore excusing the prepersonal behavior of people who he respects or likes. These include Adi Da, Marc Gafni, Robert Augustus Masters and Andrew Cohen.

Wilber has a history of rationalizing and therefore excusing the prepersonal behavior of people who he respects or likes.[18,19] These include Adi Da,[20,21,22] Marc Gafni,[23,24] Robert Augustus Masters[25] and Andrew Cohen.[26] On the other hand, Wilber has a history of distancing himself from those who have lost credibility. In the above list those would include Adi Da and Andrew Cohen and Robert Augustus Masters but not Marc Gafni.[27,28] Regarding his own behavior, Wilber is ambivalent. On the one hand, Wilber is quite capable of describing his own imperfections and thereby asking his audience not to expect perfection from him.[29] On the other hand, as far as I know, Wilber is yet to reframe integral to confront the exceptionalism from community standards of morality by those with lines demonstrating transpersonal aptitudes. Enlightened masters, who possess lines demonstrating transpersonal aptitudes such as extraordinary ability to witness and deep inner peace, often accompanied by high cognitive and charismatic lines, can be so brilliant and personally charismatic and likable that Wilber has tended to excuse behavior that does not pass community standards of morality. Nor has he insisted on integral community standards necessary for even the maintenance of an early personal collective culture.[30] These include non-abusive behaviors, as defined by the community as well as no sex with students or other teachers unless the community gives its consent. If it is indeed true that Wilber does not insist that leaders conform to such standards then it is difficult to understand on what grounds an early personal level integral community has been created. Since such a community is a pre-requisite for any higher level community, since higher levels require the inclusion of lower levels, integral as a community cannot possibly serve as a late personal example, much less the 2nd Tier beacon that it claims to be.

Wilber may base his stand on trusting what he believes is fair and just to the individuals concerned; he may even trust his intuition and what he “knows” to be true and the right course of action. He has often dismissed the seriousness of breaches of community ethics as “shadow,” meaning that a person of high development has “slipped,” in a temporary or relatively minor or compartmentalized regression that emphasizes an interior definition of morality, rather than defining their behavior from the perspective of their victims, and emphasizing an exterior quadrant definition of morality based on the impact of actual behavior on others.

Wilber can also make the case that his personal actions are not the business of the community, especially when he has neither codified or agreed to any community behavioral standards. If so, I can completely support him in his right to such preferences, while pointing out that these reasons are associated with intentional criteria of truth. But leaders have responsibilities beyond their individual intuition and moral compass; they have taken on and have the responsibility to delineate and uphold collective, intersubjective and social standards of truth and morality. Many, myself included, find Wilber at best to be ambivalent on this score and at worst duplicitous and unethical. The result is an increased but altogether unnecessary and avoidable lack of credibility for Wilber, those associated with him and for Integral as a whole. For many, this is a major reason why Integral has a serious case of arrested development or “evolutionary self-correction.”

Redressing Integral exceptionalism

In the next version of AQAL, Wilber needs to state clearly that overall development is determined by one's lagging core line (which more often than not is morality), not by leading lines. While the cognitive line leads in personal development, ethical behavior leads in overall development. The writing about world-wide transformation occurring when some mystical percentage reaches 2nd Tier needs to stop because 1) it is magical thinking, in that there is no peer-reviewed or duplicated research to support this claim; 2) it is damaging Integral by generating elitism, exceptionalism, and unrealistically positive self-rankings; 3) the acceptance of Integral has not been supported among the vast majority of academics, middle class, and blue collar people; and 4) utopianism neither encourages nor demonstrates humility toward or respect for lower developmental stages. But this by no means is meant to imply that Wilber or AQAL would be wise to abandon its teleological, inspirational and even idealistic evolutionary thrust. Far from it.

Many integralists I have encountered on Integral sites on the web state an intention to support non-exceptionalist standards while supporting politicians who do not. What is that? Nor do they take positions that actively challenge those in authority who do not support universal law and collective norms. Where actual behavior contradicts intention or judgment, claims of exceptionalism are discredited. Integral exceptionalism is our own problem, because it turns us into a hypocritical echo-chamber that scientific consensus and the general public do not take seriously. Whether exceptionalism is baked into integral at such a depth that its fate is tied to the known course of exceptionalistic dogmas and societies is not yet known; the verdict is still out. Some have given up; others don't recognize the problem or don't care because they are involved for other reasons; and some are trying to fight the exceptionalism and elitism within Integral.

The absence of a fundamental respectful relational exchange of reciprocity, trustworthiness, and empathy leads individually to the blocking of personal and collective evolutionary processes and collectively to the collapse of civilizations. The cure for this self-validating of higher overall development is not to pretend, in an act of fake humility, that we are not at vision-logic or above, when we may well be in our cognitive or in self-system lines, but to understand that without tetra-mesh based on relational exchanges that are themselves grounded in mutual respect, our overall development is equivalent to that experienced by the mass of humanity: thought and behavior in the service of pre-rational hopes, fears, desires, and beliefs.

Integral is a grand adventure in “pointing instructions,” providing a very useful map up and out of Plato's cave, a journey into the Light. Where it fails is that we surface into a vast, illuminated prepersonal sound stage, overflowing with inspirational speeches and idealism; a higher order matrix, where we act out our roles under the influence of a blue pill.


[1] An ingroup is a social group with which we psychologically identify as being a member. By contrast, an outgroup is a social group with which we do not identify. To the extent that we identify with, or define ourselves according to our race, culture, gender, age, religion profession, we separate ourselves from those who are not included in those definitions. They become “not-self” and members of outgroups. While this distinction evolved due to its adaptational and survival value, this basic dichotomy can set us in unnecessary conflict not only with others but with those aspects of ourselves represented by outgroup members.

[1a] Michael Ignatieff (2009). American Exceptionalism and Human Rights. pp. 3–8.

[2] Zinn, Howard (1980). A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present. Harper & Row.

[3] Pease, Donald E. (2009). The New American Exceptionalism. University of Minnesota Press.

[4] The doctrine of Jewish chosenness incorporates three interlocking divine choices made by the God of the Jewish scriptures. First, God chose Abraham's lineage through Isaac to be His “treasured people (Deuteronomy: 7.6), a people “consecrated” to the Lord and “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus: 19.5).” He also chose a land where His people would come together; although its borders vary, this land always included the land between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea as its core. Like God's chosen people, this land too was unique: it was a pure land, “flowing with milk and honey (Exodus: 33.3),” devoid of impurities, the best of all lands on the earth; it was also a holy land, set apart from other lands, because it was His earthly dwelling place. Finally, this God makes a Covenant with His chosen people. He promises to given them owners and rulers over the holy land, and to guide, bless and favor them as long as they observe His laws. Conversely, He threatens them with dire punishments, including exile from the Promised Land, if they break their Covenant (Exodus: 19.5). It appears that the cumulative deficit in Jewish conduct finally led to their expulsion from the Promised Land in the first century CE. In their centuries of exile, the overwhelming majority of the Jews lived in Europe and the Middle East outside of Palestine. Alam, M., Shahid. Chosenness and Israeli Exceptionalism.

[5] This was the starting point, the chief inspiration for nearly all the early Zionists. Anita Shapir writes: “One of the covert assumptions present among all the poet and the majority of Zionist thinkers and leaders was that Jews had a special right to the Land of Israel, that is, Palestine.” Ahad Ha-Am also commented that this was “a land to which our historical right is beyond doubt and has no need for farfetched proofs.” Anita Shapira, Land and power: The Zionist resort to force, 1881-1948 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992): 40-41.

[6] In 1904, Rabbi Kook, the chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Palestine, wrote: “So on the collective level of Israel, God ordained these two faculties: a faculty corresponding to the physical entity, that aspires to material improvement of the nation, and a second facet devoted to the cultivation of spirituality. By virtue of the first aspect, Israel is comparable to all the nations of the world. It is by dint of the second aspect that Israel is unique, as it says: “The Lord leads it [Israel] alone”; “Among the nations it [Israel] shall not be reckoned.” It is the Torah and unique sanctity of Israel that distinguish it from the nations.” Rabbi Isaac Hakohen Kook, When God become history: Historical essays of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook, translated by Bazalel Naor (Spring Valley, NY: Orot Inc., 2003).

[7] In the fifteenth century, Isaac Abravanel, a Jewish statesman and bible commentator, offered a clear statement of the doctrine that Jewish election in the words of his modern biographer offered them “exemption from the laws of nature and society that govern gentiles.” See: Seymour Feldman, Philosophy in a time of crisis: Don Isaac Abravanel, defender of the faith (London: Routledge/Curzon, 2003): 137-38.

[8] Wilber, K., Trump and a Post-Truth World: An Evolutionary Self-Correction. p. 89.

[9] “Who knows, perhaps telos, perhaps Eros, moves the entire Kosmos, and God may indeed be an all-embracing chaotic Attractor, acting, as Whitehead said, throughout the world by gentle persuasion toward love.” Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, Shambhala, 1995, p. 78.

[10] Wilber defines the moral line as addressing the question, “What is the right thing to do ” or as “awareness of what should be.”

[11] “ psychologists have questioned the assumption that moral action is primarily a result of formal reasoning. Social intuitionists such as Jonathan Haidt argue that individuals often make moral judgments without weighing concerns such as fairness, law, human rights or ethical values. Thus the arguments analyzed by Kohlberg and other rationalist psychologists could be considered post hoc rationalizations of intuitive decisions; moral reasoning may be less relevant to moral action than Kohlberg's theory suggests.” Haidt, J (2001). “The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgment”. Psychological Review. 108 (4): 814-834.

[12] Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort or psychological stress experienced when we hold two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. This discomfort is triggered by a situation in which our beliefs clash with new evidence, facts, or experiences. When confronted with realities that contradict our beliefs, ideals, and values, we try to find a way to resolve the contradiction to reduce our discomfort. Most of these ways involve further distorting reality in order to maintain our identity. These methods involve the various defense mechanisms identified by Freud: denial, repression, regression, projection, identification, sublimation, and so forth.

[13] Cognitive biases are systematic patterns of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment. There are currently more than one hundred, with more being discovered. While some are mental shortcuts called heuristics, that the brain uses to produce decisions or judgments, decision-making, belief, behavioral, and social cognitive biases have a strong pre-rational affective component, meaning they feel true, seem intuitively accurate, and invite emotional identification. The consequence is that to challenge the accuracy of a cognitive bias can feel like an attack on oneself and create cognitive dissonance which has to be resolved, generally by cognition in the service of pre-rational beliefs: justification and rationalization. The Moral/Ethical Fallacy assumes not only that intention predicts behavior but that intention justifies behavior. This is a fallacy on two counts. First, an intention to act morally does not predict ethical behavior because our personal moral norms may be inconsistent with those of collectives in which we operate. Secondly, “justice” is a collective standard of shared cultural and social norms which determine whether a behavior is ethical or not, not personal intention.

[14] Wilber, K., Trump and a Post-Truth World: An Evolutionary Self-Correction, p. 13.

[15] “Hence, as for that “basket of deplorables,” to the extent that they are genuinely at amber, ethnocentric, premodern stages of development, they are uncomfortable with worldcentric values (orange and green), not because they fully see them and loathe them, but because they do not (and cannot) see them in the first place. As Kegan puts it, such values are “over their heads.” This truly is not meant in a judgmental fashion, but simply as an explanatory and descriptive narrative; because the cure here involves, not hating them and “deploring” them and criminalizing them (unless their behavior in itself warrants such), but to reach out and compassionately include them in the ongoing national dialogue and ongoing cultural normative development which is precisely what the green leading edge (including its Hilary champions) have actively refused to do for at least four or five decades now.” Wilber, K., Trump and a Post-Truth World: An Evolutionary Self-Correction, pp. 49-50.

[16] “Do I think Mayr or Dawkins or Lewontin or Kauffman believe in telos or Eros that is Spiritual in any way Absolutely not. Virtually all mainstream theorists embrace scientific materialism.” Ken Wilber, “Take the Visser Site as Alternatives to KW, But Never as the Views of KW”,, June 27, 2006.

[17] “Moral Foundations Theory was created by a group of social and cultural psychologists (see us here) to understand why morality varies so much across cultures yet still shows so many similarities and recurrent themes. In brief, the theory proposes that several innate and universally available psychological systems are the foundations of 'intuitive ethics.' Each culture then constructs virtues, narratives, and institutions on top of these foundations, thereby creating the unique moralities we see around the world, and conflicting within nations too.” Haidt, J.

[18] Ammann, E., Personal avowals by Ken Wilber. Spiritual Wiki

[19] “Unethical behavior doesn't get you enlightened. It gets you a nightmare. It gets you the unhappy dream. It's the worst of all possible worlds paraded under this "crazy wisdom" notion. By the way, there is no "crazy wisdom" teaching in the East. It was invented by three American drunken womanizing teachers to rationalize their [mis]behavior [justifying egoic impulses as transegoic]. I am very fond of these guys, incidentally. They are some of my very dear friends.” Video presentation by Ken Wilber [LoC 490] (*1949) US American transpersonal philosopher, consciousness researcher, thought leader of the 3rd millennium, founder of Integral Theory, Assholes and Accidents, YouTube film, minute 3:14+, 9:00 minutes duration, posted 4. June 2011

[20] Adi Da and the case of Ken Wilber,

[21] Ken Wilber and Adi Da. Kheper.

[22] Lane, D.C. The Paradox of Da Free John, “Indeed, it may well be that much of Da Free John's deep psychological insight into the human condition didn't stem from his self-proclaimed "enlightenment" but from observing day to day his own neurotic behavior and his own self-centered interactions with those closest to him.” David Christopher Lane, Ph.D. (*1956) US American professor of philosophy and sociology, Mt. San Antonio College, Walnut, California, lecturer in religious studies, author, The Paradox of Da Free John, review of same article dated 1985, 24. May 2015

[23] "What has particularly grabbed my attention is that many of the players involved in the Gafni situation are “larger than life” archetypal figures, including Ken Wilber “the Einstein of consciousness,” Barbara Marx Hubbard “the grande dame of conscious evolution,” and John Mackey founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, called the “prophet of conscious capitalism.” The fact that some of the allegedly most brilliant and spiritually awake among us are themselves supporting Gafni is showing us the challenge of what we are dealing with. Not merely a personal situation, it is as if “central casting” has sent the perfect figures to embody the deeper archetypal process that is getting acted out."
"...this deeper pattern, where intelligent, highly accomplished people with the best of intentions “protect the abuser” that I'd like to illumine."
"Not only do I find the accounts of Gafni's accusers highly credible and having the ring of truth, but the counterarguments by Gafni and his supporters are so filled with holes that they are impossible to be believed or taken seriously. ...
From all appearances, it seems that Gafni has had an entrancing effect on the people who support him, who seem to be so blinded by his light that they don't see his shadow."
"Both Wilber and Mackey, although over time distancing themselves from being publicly associated with Gafni, have yet to openly come out and condemn his actions, exhibiting what seems to be a real lack of insight and courage. As if suffering from a form of blindness, Gafni's followers seem to not (at least publicly) recognize the depth or danger of his sickness.
"Part of what makes the whole truth so hard to figure out is that so few of Gafni's alleged victims have gone public with their stories; this makes it easier for Gafni to minimize the extent of his transgressions. And of course, the nature of most abuse is that it happens in private, making it even more difficult for outsiders to know for certain what really happened.” When the Most Awake Among Us Fall Asleep: Marc Gafni, His Supporters and Wetiko, awakeninthedream, 11. August 2016

[24] "Speaking from being on the inside of the Integral community, there is no need to invoke as a phenomenon as flimsy and new-agey as “wetiko.” The truth was much more basic Gafni did a lot of his alleged perpetration pre-internet (leaving scattered evidence which was not easily compiled until much later) and there was otherwise not a very clear way to discern if he was just slightly damaged or a true victimizer. Gafni existed in this grey area and — like the narcissist that he is—benefited from playing the victim and putting up a wall of earnest denial. That made denouncing him for some time—based on mostly anonymous victim reports and warnings from distant Jewish communities—a dicey proposition.
Also, without invoking “wetiko,” we just have to see that Gafni exploited a bunch of normal individuals who had trouble seeing and recognizing a personality disordered person in action. If there is anything to debunk here, it's the idea that the leading lights of the Integral community you mention are actually psychologically astute persons beyond what other educated individuals are. They are most assuredly not. Sally Kempton is a very dull woman on that level. Wilber—who is otherwise brilliant as a theorist and is a nice fellow—has relatively weak interpersonal skills and has let several personality disordered teachers get past his radar (he seems to have a blind spot around narcissists). There's nothing shocking about this and it doesn't take a major statement to figure out how this happened. It happens all the time in every community and in every culture.
Those of us who saw that Gafni was damaged—though I don't think most of us knew quite how badly until later—were stuck amongst those who we personally knew and liked and who were swayed by Gafni. It just took time for Gafni to burn enough bridges so that the good will created by his charisma eroded, but it had been eroding in earnest since 2008.” Dr. Mark Forman, one of the integral mouthpieces and integral psychotherapist August 28, 2016 on Paul Levi's article When the Most Awake Among Us Fall Asleep: Marc Gafni, His Supporters and Wetiko, August 11, 2016

[25] Ammann, E., RA Masters,

[26] Ammann, E., Andrew Cohen,

[27] Ken Wilber on Marc Gafni, 15 May 2006:
“There is substantial truth to some of these allegations.
Nonetheless, there is some truth to these allegations because of grave wrongdoing on Marc's part, and I believe this wrongdoing is due not just to bad judgment on Marc's part, but to a pathology or dysfunction affecting Marc.”
''Rabbi Marc Gafni & Sexual Improprieties'”
Ken Wilber and Sally Kempton on Marc Gafni, November 2007:
“Several years ago, Marc suffered a profound injustice, which continues to be perpetrated on some malicious websites, and to be spread by people who do not understand the truth of the situation. That there was significant injustice [Internet vendetta] done to Marc through false complaints, is something that I and others have concluded after much examination.
We believe that Marc's experience has deepened him into the kind of Integral Spiritual leader and teacher that we need to help lead the movement in the future decades." /Ken-Wilber-Sally-Kempton-Letter2 The Unique Self of Marc Gafni Ken Wilber, 26. December 2011
“I am rejoining the Wisdom Council of the Center for World Spirituality, to which I invited many of my colleagues to participate.” Ken Wilber Offers His Final Statement on Marc Gafni

[28] Donna Zerner: As thrilled as I would be to never think about serial predator Marc Gafni again, I feel compelled to comment about the irresponsible article The Forward just published, allowing him to spew his blatant lies and pathetic excuses regarding his sexual abuse of 13-year-old Sara Kabakov: Marc Gafni tells his story—and experts respond Forward.
I heard that lawyers told The Forward they were “legally required” to post MG's response to Sara's searing account, but wow, providing a platform for his b.s. feels so morally wrong, and is angering a lot of people. The Forward probably thought it'd be okay because they included (weak, uninformed, out-of-context) analysis from “experts,” and also published a disappointingly mild opinion piece comparing MG to other abusers like Trump: Eisner, J. Responding to sex abuse claims, men behave badly—again Forward
I know Sara Kabakov, and I know MG, and I could definitely disprove every one of his outrageous lies line by line, but it's not worth my time and energy. I'm sure Sara will respond soon, in her own way, to reclaim the truth, including that their physical contact was not just “necking” as he claims but involved below the waist penetration, and that she definitely never wrote him a “loving letter,” and so on.
Because of my own toxic involvement with MG, including actually defending him Donna Zerner: the shadow behind the light, and because I've spoken in depth to 15 of his victims whose abuse experiences range over three and a half decades up through THIS YEAR, and because I know the stories of many many others whose lives he's traumatized, it galls me that he's being given a platform to present his manipulative and "spiritually sophisticated" defenses. MG is a sick, troubled, and desperate man, AND an admitted sex and porn addict, who I believe has a personality disorder and is therefore not capable of change. His umpteen scandals over the years have utterly destroyed his reputation, and yet, tellingly, not stopped him from continuing to exploit and manipulate those few unfortunates still drawn to his purported “brilliance” and “charm.”
BTW, for anyone needing compelling evidence of MG's long history of abuse, many useful testimonials and articles are gathered here: The Marc Gafni Inquiry.
In the Forward MG blames the accusations against him on an orchestrated “smear campaign” (guess who uses that same phrase to describe women coming forward Trump, of course). The truth is, there is no smear campaign; there is only karma coming 'round to proclaim: “Nope, you're not getting away with this anymore." There are only women finally courageous and fed up enough to tell the truth and take their power back from abusive men. There is only—in this era of Donald Trump and Bill Cosby and Roger Ailes and a million other entitled men who've gotten away with exploiting women for way too long—the Divine Feminine saying “No more!” These a-holes have been given a platform long enough. It's our turn to have a voice...and we have a lot to say!

[29] “We started yelling, louder and louder, screaming, red-faced and furious.
“Get out, you goddamn obnoxious bitch!”
“Get out yourself!"
“I hit her. Again. And again. I kept hollering. "Get out, goddamnit, get out!" I kept striking her, she kept screaming, “Stop hitting me! Stop hitting me!" Ken Wilber, Grace and Grit: Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya, 1991, p. 155.

[30] Identity at early personal is collective; we identify with group norms and behaviors. If those norms are not accepted and enforced, the group fractures, meaning individuals cease identifying with the group. It doesn't matter if the rules are fair or not or whether they are imposed by one figure or by tradition or created by some collective process. In any of these cases, to attain and maintain group identity at early personal, group norms define identity. When exceptions are made, group cohesiveness suffers and identity regresses to a pre-group, late prepersonal level.

[31] See Jim Andrews, Ken Wilber on Meditation: A Baffling Babbling of Unending Nonsense, June 2013 IntegralWorld.Net.

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