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.


Moral Intelligence, Ethical Intelligence, Moral IQ and Integral AQAL

Joseph Dillard

Morality is at least as important as intelligence

The problem with virtue-based definitions of morality is that they have no necessary correlation with behavior.

Coronavirus, Trump, and George Floyd are causing some progressives, liberals, New Agers, “evolutionaries,” and Integralists to take leave of their rationality. I have no problem with that, since I am not always rational myself. What I do have a problem with are very smart people who know Integral AQAL and may or may not think they are second tier, acting in ways that I consider to be amoral or immoral. The combination of high intelligence and low moral intelligence is toxic not only to oneself but others and needs to be called out.

I am not the judge of amorality or immorality; society and the law are, and I may indeed be wrong in the following assessment. So I am not setting myself up as some morally superior judge of the character of others. However, all of us can appeal to both social norms and commonly agreed upon understandings of rationality to assess each others' MQ, or moral IQ, just as we use measurements as well as personal experience to make determinations of each others' morality and intelligence.

Moral intelligence was first developed as a concept in 2005 by Doug Lennick and Fred Kiel, Ph.D. Much of the research involved with moral intelligence agrees that this characteristic is ability-based, rather than trait-based. Therefore, moral intelligence is seen as a skill that can be further developed with practice. However, as we shall see, there are different definitions of moral intelligence. Moral intelligence has been defined as the capacity to understand right from wrong and to behave based on the value that is believed to be right[1] (similar to the notion of moral competence). Morality in this framework is conceived as a set of interior collective quadrant virtues or values that are meant to direct behavior in a moral way. As such, they are a form of cognitive intention or judgment, not so different from Kohlberg's levels of moral judgment.[2] Beheshtifar, Esmaeli, and Moghadam (2011) claim that moral intelligence is the “'central intelligence' for all humans.” It is considered a distinct form of intelligence, independent to both emotional and cognitive intelligence.[3]

The Four Quadrants of Morality

For Integral AQAL, “the cognitive line leads” for self-development, meaning that if we are not aware of something we cannot differentiate it from the subjective mesh of our experience, and we therefore cannot make decisions regarding that we have not differentiated. Consequently, we have no control over it. Those things outside our awareness, in which we are subjectively enmeshed, are parts of a controlling context of which we are a subset. Because Integral AQAL is focused on self-development, and the objectification of experience is fundamental to including and then transcending in order to move from level to level, whether on this or that line or in overall development, it is reasonable enough to conclude that the cognitive line leads, meaning that intellectual intelligence and IQ are a fundamental criteria for self-development. The educational and professional worlds, which supply us with our security, status, and power, and upon which our basic relational exchanges are dependent, largely agree. Therefore, we hear a great deal about IQ while I have never heard the term “MQ,” or “moral quotient.” We must be careful not to confuse moral intelligence with MQ, since intelligence is itself an interior quadrant cognitive line. Most definitions of morality or “moral intelligence” are interior quadrant-based definitions. For example, in the references I found MQ refers to interior quadrant characteristics of judgment and values, not to exterior collective characteristics of out-group assessments and social justice. Therefore, it is probably less confusing and misleading to instead speak of a “morality quotient” or “MQ.” I have not found treatments that address morality from all four quadrants, meaning that they are deficient as determinants of MQ.

When and where the moral line leads

As soon as we shift from a focus on self-development to a focus on collective development, the moral line leads. Collective development is more than communion as opposed to agency, as a developmental style within advancement from level to level. It is also more than interior and exterior quadrants of holons. Collective development is, in addition, a holon that includes and transcends individual holons, just as groups contain individuals and nations contain citizens. The interpersonal contains the personal in the sense that it is multi-perspectival in a way and degree that the personal and individual is not and cannot be. This is because the interpersonal and collective contain multiple personal and individual perspectives. Collective holons that emphasize communion and heterarchy contain holons that emphasize agency and hierarchy.

The reasons this matters is that collectives condition and limit our individual development. As children, parental norms condition our behavior. As adults, societal norms condition and limit our freedoms and choices. We know from the historical record that increases in human morality are not due to religion, spirituality, or integral. There is no reason to believe that attaining “second tier” on any line besides the moral is going to correlate with a higher level of moral behavior.

In our everyday interactions with others people are not privy to our intentions, judgments, and values unless we tell them; they only have access to our external quadrants, our behavior and our interactions with them. Consequently, while we tend to place emphasis on our intentions and values, others assess our morality based on simple but universal criteria: Are we respectful? Do we reciprocate? Are we trustworthy? Are we empathetic? It does not matter to us whether or not the check-out clerk at our grocery store is a third tier genius; what we care about is if he or she is efficient and gives us the correct change, both external quadrant measures of reciprocity and trust. In most everyday transactions the moral line leads, not the cognitive line. The questions we ask regarding our morality are different depending on the perspective of the quadrant doing the asking.

  • In the interior individual quadrant we ask, “Are my intentions moral?”
  • In the interior collective quadrant we ask, “Are my values moral?”
  • In the exterior individual quadrant we ask, “Is my behavior moral?” (That is, “Does my behavior correspond to my moral values and moral intentions?”)
  • In the exterior collective quadrant we ask, “Is my behavior considered moral by others?”

Common ways we avoid external collective challenges to our morality

Clearly, the exterior collective quadrant is the kicker. We can easily address the other three because they are largely determined by us. For example, most of us are pretty good at rationalizing our behavior. However, the question of the exterior collective quadrant has to be answered by others, who may not care about our answers and may completely disagree with them.

We attempt to get around this problem in one or more of the following ways:

  1. We only consult those who agree with us and validate our morality;
  2. We ignore the opinions of those that disagree that we are a moral person; (“They aren't second tier; their eye of spirit hasn't been opened; they're just a scientific materialist.”)
  3. We ignore the exterior collective quadrant as relevant to morality all together. Kohlberg and Wilber do so when they assess morality based on judgment, an interior quadrant criteria.
  4. We focus on interior collective quadrant virtues and ignore the assessments of others.
  5. We make morality irrelevant as “policy,” “law,” “justice,” economics, or “just business.”
  6. We transform morality into amorality with euphemisms and the objectification of the interests of those affected negatively by our choices.
  7. We excuse immorality as out of our control:
    “It wasn't me.”
    “I was drunk/possessed.”
    “It was my job.” (“I was only following orders.”)
  8. We acquire enough power to ignore or suppress alternative opinions. (Trump, Obama, Zionism)
  9. We gain enough status that others believe our immoral behavior is moral or amoral. (For example, True Believers' attitudes toward their gurus.)
  10. We attain positions of power from which people are compelled to ignore or minimize our immorality. (For example, those voting for Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden because she or he is the “lesser of two evils.”)

We can recognize these “reasons” as various Freudian psychological defenses: denial, repression, avoidance, or rationalization. The function of psychological defenses are to reduce cognitive dissonance, in this case, between our self-assessments of our morality in the three quadrants and the conflicting assessments of others in the external collective quadrant. We do so to protect our world view and our sense of self, because we want and need to think of ourselves as a person of integrity. When we cannot, the psychological consequences can be severe. For example, at present an average of 17 US military veterans commit suicide every day. Therefore, the need to ignore or discount the reality of either immorality or amorality as determined by others in the external collective quadrant is very strong.

“Reasons” is in quotations above because these reasons are not rational, in the sense of being objective in relationship to our emotions, beliefs, and world view. Instead, they are the intellect in service to pre-rational, prepersonal emotional preferences and beliefs in order to support our world view and sense of who we are. These are interdependent; if our world view collapses our sense of who we are can collapse, as can occur with post-traumatic stress disorder. If our identity collapses we can adopt extremely bizarre, distorted, or alternative world views, as we see in schizophrenia and some altered states of consciousness. The Law of Parsimony will lead us to assume that reason is being used to justify some world view and sense of self until proven otherwise. That is the most likely condition, and therefore the first to rule out.

Some Integralists have lost respect, and with it claims to morality-based spirituality

What got me writing this essay were responses from some Integralists who I know via Facebook forums. One, who I hold in some esteem, is against the movement to defund the Minneapolis police force, a movement which is currently catching fire in other municipalities around the country, because he thinks it will result in a Darwinian Mad Max societal melt-down in which gangs take over. I have no problem with taking that very real and threatening possibility into account; in fact anyone who doesn't is hopelessly idealistic. What startled me was his rigid, polarizing rejection of the idea of defunding, as if maintaining the status quo was the only possibility - a black and white polarizing position. I question the morality of arguing for a continuation of an abusive and largely unaccountable status quo use of state power and the taking of polarizing positions by anyone imagining they are second tier.

A second very intelligent Integralist, whose opinion I respect on a number of subjects, was pointing to George Floyd's criminal record and coming up with various reasons to excuse the police involved with the incident. While this is hardly an unusual position, the evidence on the video of Floyd's death speaks for itself. Rationalizing crimes committed by the State fails to hold it accountable and thereby encourages the continuation of abusive practices. Again, I have problems with intelligent Integralists rationalizing and excusing state-sanctioned abuse. It is abuse done in our name and tacitly, with our approval.

Yet another Integralist I have known for some years cross-posted that George Floyd had once held a gun to a pregnant woman's belly. He was arguing, as his following comments indicated, that the victim of a state-sanctioned murder was himself a persecutor and that therefore Floyd and those who support him are themselves persecutors masquerading as victims. When I questioned these positions, the response was a black-and-white polarizing mid-prepersonal reactive melt-down: I was either inviting chaos on the streets or siding with socialists and those who want something for nothing. For me, there was the moral issue of justifying abuse and the dishonesty of using what looked like a rational argument to support a pre-rational, amoral perspective.

In other posts on Integral forums, whenever I have suggested positive aspects of Russia or China, in the context of attempting to understand their successes to discover why the West is losing ground to them in important areas, I commonly get polarizing epithets: I am an apologist for “authoritarianism,” I am ignoring the various alleged sins of China, such as prisoner organ harvesting, Tiananmen Square, suppression of the Ugyhurs and Tibetans, etc. One very intelligent Integralist who I had previously held in high esteem told me I needed to “get China's dick out of my mouth.” The same thing happens if I speak up for Palestinian rights and against apartheid. Some integralists call me “anti-Semitic” and accuse me of ignoring Arab terrorism toward Jews. How much must one genuflect to Zionism before one is not attacked personally for calling out its immoral aspects? Any narrative which cannot be challenged or questioned without immediately being branded “racist” is an extremely intolerant one. It is also obviously a narrative which fears any scrutiny for empirical evidence. In another area, evolutionary theory, I argue that science offers a compelling explanation for the existence of life and that one does not need the non-explanation of “Eros as-spirit-in-action” that Wilber provides. The response I get from some Integralists is that I am a “materialist” or an “upper right reductionist,” or a “flatlander,” meaning I ignore, reject or deny consciousness and the interior quadrants, when I haven't taken any of those positions at all. In each of these instances my position has been reduced to a polarized caricature, raising the question, “Why are these Integralists, supposedly multi-perspectival and second tier, needing to paint my position in absolutist terms and take positions that are themselves absolutist, black and white, polarizing, and reductionistic? What is that?

On a social level, it is claiming victim status for persecutors and labeling victims as persecutors, something that is rather common, but this is a case of it that is bad enough to cause demonstrations, if not riots, in almost every US state and in many cities around the world.

This entire mentality of blaming the victim exists within the Drama Triangle, originally differentiated by Karpman in 1968. The Drama Triangle is a three-handed psychological “game” or manipulation which is immoral, in that it is dishonest and abusive. Most of the time when we involve ourselves in the Drama Triangle we are not aware that we are doing so and even if we are, we hardly consider ourselves to be immoral or amoral. But both of those determinations are made by the recipients of our behavior, not by ourselves or our allies. We can be sure that those who feel victimized by us feel abused, and to the extent that abuse is labeled immoral or amoral - entirely subjective yet undoubtedly authentic determinations when we make them - it is, according to external collective quadrant criteria necessary for moral tetra-mesh from one level of self-development to the next.

Labeling someone as a persecutor shifts blame and responsibility outside of ourselves, while labeling ourselves and the groups we identify with as victims, which places us in a relatively virtuous, moral, blameless position. While it is undoubtedly the case that there are authentic persecutors, as was the cop that held his knee on George Floyd's neck for some eight minutes, killing him, and there are indeed authentic victims, as was Floyd and you and I are when someone rear ends our car, this can be differentiated by using “victim” and “persecutor” with a small “v” and “p” to indicate authentic victims and persecutors, and capitalization of same to indicate those in roles in the Drama Triangle. Victims and Persecutors compete for victim status while both imagine that they are well-intentioned “rescuers,” which is the third position within the Drama Triangle. This dynamic is so fundamental to human pathology that I wrote an entire book about it: Escaping the Drama Triangle in the Three Realms: Relationships, Thinking, Dreaming. It is a major step in mental health to be able to identify and objectify these three roles, and I can assure you that those who imagine they are enlightened or second tier are as susceptible to immersion in the Drama Triangle as is anyone else, and therefore at risk of immoral and amoral behavior.

The second level on which these Integral forum posts qualify as immoral is on the level of cognition itself. Rational appearing, unverified “facts” were being used to shift the argument from one theme (abuse by the state) to another (abuse by criminal elements). This is a manipulative strategy of misdirection in which reason and intelligence are used in the service of prepersonal and emotionally based preferences and world views, generally to support and validate values with which we identify. This is pre-rational amorality and immorality masquerading as not only morality and rationality, but, when it is offered by a member of the Integral community, it poses as a manifestation of some sort of “second tier” transpersonal level of development, when it is actually a prepersonal, emotionally-based cognitive distortion. Wilber even attempted to make the case that his vulgar slur of his critics was actually transpersonal upaya. I have no doubt that he believed it, because his understanding of morality is based on interior individual intention, interior collective values, and exterior individual behavior as he interprets them. It demonstrates no awareness of morality as conditioned by exterior collective judgments of others not in our in-groups, that is, those who agree with us. The conclusion, that we are blameless and the error lies in the recipient of abuse, is an example of the elevationistic version of Wilber's Pre/Trans Fallacy and it needs to be identified as such. Prepersonal and pre-rational behavior is elevated to transpersonal status. However, to call attention to the actual experience of abuse is generally taken by the Persecutor as a personal attack and rejected, or combatted, instead of met with a questioning and informational attitude. Therefore, it is better to address these issues in the abstract, in forums such as this one, where we can support each other in waking out of these all too common delusions.

Integral emphasizes intellectual development over moral development when it states “the cognitive line leads,” and this in turn creates moral peril that deconstructs the credibility of Integralists. The placing of individual development above collective development risks generating various forms of libertarianism and capital accumulation at the expense of others, whether they be employees, consumers, or the environment. This is because awareness and objectivity are intrinsically amoral. Meditation, for instance, is intrinsically amoral. It doesn't have anything to do with making either moral judgments or the determination of whether an action is abusive or not. However, we can and do make determinations as to what actions and behaviors of others are conducive to or supportive of meditative clarity. When self-development becomes the purpose of life, expressed as self-actualization, cosmic consciousness, enlightenment, and the maximization of individual this and personal that, we are placing our development before that of the collective, in the belief that if we improve ourselves that is the best thing we can do to improve the collective. This is only one side of an equation. Equal weight has to be given to the other side, which recognizes that we often grow best when we view others as our greater self and devote our lives to the service of others. The placing of personal development before that of others is normal in children, and they have to be taught to share, take the perspective of others, and how taking care of the needs of others can bring benefits to themselves

Protection of identity can easily become more important than morality

These are examples of reason in the service of prepersonal, emotionally-based world views that defend a strongly held, pre-rational, sense of self. Questioning those positions, or moving into a more objective perspective that tolerates ambiguity, creates cognitive dissonance for these people. That is, it threatens their sense of self and so they use the considerable cognitive resources they possess to reduce that cognitive dissonance. The result is a polarized and polarizing approach to disagreements, one which is reminiscent of the black and white thinking that is a characteristic of mid-prepersonal personality disorder and is itself an emotional cognitive distortion.

I do not consider such people or responses immoral, but merely protective and defensive, as if they feel I am personally attacking them and they have to defend themselves. Personalization is a fundamental mid-prepersonal, pre-rational, emotional cognitive distortion. It is an indication that there is nothing second tier going on on a cognitive level, regardless of how brilliant or spiritual one might be. Why don't these very intelligent people simply suspend their assumptions and instead ask questions in order to get clear on my position before jumping to absolutist conclusions that are their own projections, such as that I am against law and order, support groups like Antifa and social justice warriors, am a materialist, anti-Semitic, or atheist? These sorts of responses are intolerant, emotionally-based, and reductionistic, in that they caricature perspectives that are in disagreement with their own. Wilber himself is guilty of this regarding how he has treated his critics of his endorsement of morally compromised gurus. Another example is Wilber's ignoring, minimizing, misrepresenting, and discounting of the vast majority of scientific research that shows that evolution is not “eros as spirit,” a transpersonal, spiritual, divine, or purposeful process, but one that is entirely and adequately explained by naturalistic laws as occurring within the context of nature and not motivated, generated, or maintained by forces, drives, information, or intelligence “beyond” the natural realm. This becomes an issue of MQ and not simply intelligence when critics are disparaged, ignored, and dismissed without rationally countering their arguments. The world view Wilber ends up justifying is one based on consciousness and spirit - an interior individual idealism. He does so, I suspect, because to accept the scientific data would threaten not only this world view, but his core identity.

My Integral correspondent who defamed George Floyd was doing something similar. He was using information that may well be factual - after all, I do not know that Floyd did not hold a gun to a pregnant woman's belly, or did not use drugs. Maybe he was a baby raper; I don't know. The point is those allegations are beside the point but are used as a willful manipulation to change the conversation from state abuse to the supposed culpability of the victim.

Sources of moral compromise

Why do otherwise intelligent people make such grievous rational and worse, moral errors? Caitlin Johnstone explains in "Five Reasons Why People Defend Police Brutality" one of the most common reasons:

One reason is because of a glitch in human cognition known as the "just world hypothesis" or "just world fallacy", which causes us to assume that if bad things are happening to someone, it's because that person deserves it. "Blaming the victim" is more psychologically comfortable than seeing that we live in an unjust world where we could very easily become victim ourselves someday, and we select for that comfort over rational analysis. It allows us to feel as though we're in control of our fate.

In the early 1960s a social psychologist named Melvin Lerner discovered that test subjects had a curious tendency to assign blame for an unfortunate event to the victims—even when said event couldn't logically have been their fault—and to assign positive attributes to people who received good fortune—even if their fortune was due solely to random chance. Lerner theorized that people have an unconscious need to organize their perceptions under the fallacious premise that the world is basically just, where good things tend to happen to good people and bad things tend to happen to bad people. Nothing in a rational analysis of our world tells us that this assumption is in any way true, but tests by Lerner and subsequent social psychologists have backed up his theory that most of us tend to interpret events through the lens of this irrational assumption anyway.

People are more comfortable believing they live in a controllable and just world, so when a cop brutalizes someone they need to start blaming the victim to maintain that psychologically comfortable perspective. Acknowledging reality is less comfortable. This is also why people often start babbling about how a rape victim shouldn't have been wearing that or should have known better than to get so drunk, should have used self-defense techniques X, Y and Z. It's why people justify the brutalization of Julian Assange, it's why people excuse the abusive things the US government does to nations which dare to disobey its dictates, and it's why any time video footage of a controversial police killing goes viral the comments are always flooded with people saying the victim should have known better than to get down on the ground so slowly or reach for his wallet so quickly.

The alternative is being real with yourself and accepting the uncomfortable reality that we live in an unpredictable and out-of-control world where bad things can happen to good people. Many people don't know how to live life that courageously.

The problem with virtue-based definitions of morality is that they have no necessary correlation with behavior. Any clever sociopath will explain his behavior in terms of any or all moral virtues enunciated by Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, Jesus, or contemporary ethnicians like Borba. Indeed, anyone who has a sense of self that needs to experience itself as moral will rationalize his or her behavior in terms of one or another moral intention. It is easy to imagine that Donald Trump, Barak Obama, and George W. Bush all believe they have self-control, are respectful, empathetic, act out of conscience and integrity, are kind, forgiving, and compassionate. Therefore, while such virtues might be viewed as a helpful guide to the determination of moral behavior, they are hardly sufficient for an integral, four quadrant definition of moral IQ or ethical/moral intelligence.

In order to generate same, criteria in the outer quadrants have to be met. It is not even enough for you and me to act in ways that we are certain are virtuous; those determinations have to be verified by others. Those others cannot be in-group members, because they have a vested interest in affirming our morality, since a lack of same reflects upon them, as members of the same group. For example, policemen cannot credibly attest to the morality of other policemen, regarding a disputed homicide, just as criminals cannot credibly attest to the conduct of other criminals. Our personal moral determinations therefore must be verified by out-groups in the lower left quadrant of exterior and collective perspectives in order to satisfy a four quadrant definition of moral IQ.

Here are four foundational virtues to be validated by out-group members regarding some specific interaction so as to generate an objectively measurable moral IQ. On a scale of zero to ten, a high score indicates a high moral IQ in one or more of these four virtues and a high score in all four of them indicates a high moral IQ:

  • Respect: You rate me as recognizing and taking your needs into account, whether or not I agree with them or actually support you in achieving your needs.
  • Reciprocity: You rate me as reserving for you similar rights and privileges that I reserve for myself.
  • Trustworthiness: You rate me as following through on what I commit to doing regarding some specific action that is important to you and our relationship.
  • Empathy: You rate me as accurately mirroring your thoughts, feelings, and intentions, whether or not I agree with them.

Notice that the above criteria do not require that I be a moral person in every way, but only in these four dimensions in specific ways that are important for our relationship. Notice also that the criteria for empathy goes beyond most definitions of same. Instead of being a feeling or awareness of compassion, recognition, or understanding, it is a validated mirroring. Most definitions of empathy assume validation but do not actually require it, meaning that empathy is normally only a self-assessed interior quadrant judgment and therefore not inclusive of exterior collective quadrant criteria.

Obviously, everyone is not going to be equally capable, honest, or objective in their evaluations of my moral IQ. For instance, since I am a supporter of Palestinian rights, Zionists can be expected to score my moral IQ very low. It is important to include Zionist scorings and indeed give particular importance to those perspectives that are most condemnatory. However, everyone has an agenda, and perhaps the best way to smoke out narrow agendas is to consider how out-groups, such as Arabs or Chinese, view the moral IQ of those groups doing the evaluating, in this case, Zionists. Therefore, it is reasonable to give weight to a median judgment of a broad cross section of polled out-group members. Something like this is in fact being done, as when we have global assessments of the trustworthiness of world leaders or countries, or the commitment to human rights of this or that country. For example, US News and World Report, in an article, “US Suffers Greatest Global Decline in Trust” (Jan 2020), notes that the US has dropped by more than 50% since 2016, the sharpest drop of any country assessed in the 2020 Best Countries report, an annual global survey of more than 20,000 people in 36 countries, including in the U.S. However, trust is subjectively assessed in a broad and general way, not in terms of a specific criterion as I recommend above. This survey was done prior to coronavirus and the US racial riots, both of which bode poorly for US global standing in terms of this measure.

Sources of cognitive inflexibility

There are several causes of the cognitive inflexibility of some Integralists. These include 1) chronic elitism, caused by Wilber conflating high lines of development, particularly in cognition and spiritual intelligence (his strengths), with high levels of development, meaning vision-logic or transpersonal; 2) a relative de-emphasis on the importance of morality to development, in particular based on a belief that an understanding of morality based on Kohlberg's model will tetra-mesh, when it can't and won't; 3) a resistance to the consideration of facts and scientific data that challenge the Integral AQAL model; and 4) the obscuring of the actual, quite low level of overall level-to-level development of many very intelligent people.

Where all of this bleeds over into the issue of morality is in the definition of what it means to have a mutually respectful exchange of viewpoints. If there is no respect shown for the other person or for their perspective, what conclusion, if any, can we draw regarding morality and ethics? The most generous conclusion we can draw is that the person showing disrespect is acting amorally from the perspective of the other party in the exchange; they are not perceived as taking morality into consideration in the conversation. This would be true even if the discussion were about morality itself. If one or both people are perceived to be disrespectful, then the conversation lacks moral standing, regardless of the topic. If the disrespect is intentional, then a charge of immorality may be justified. But most of the time disrespect is not intentional, and the experience of being disrespected is best taken as an indication of amorality on the part of the speaker. It will not do to shift the responsibility onto the recipient of the exchange, by claiming we were respectful and the other person misperceived our intentions, because few intentionally act disrespectfully, and when they do they are unlikely to admit it. The assessment of respect or disrespect is authentic for us, when we make it, regardless of the intention of the speaker.

Questioning generates information, which in turn generates both ambiguity and skepticism

The more historical information we have about the lives of leaders, gurus, and pandits the more difficult it is to maintain aspirational, idealistic images of them as someone to emulate. However, the phenomena of Donald Trump and romantic infatuation both demonstrate that humans can be remarkably selective in the qualities and characteristics they ignore in their ego ideals. There now exists a cornucopia of evidence of the non-morality of the religious. The Bible is full of examples of examples of immorality of Jews, Christians, and God himself. It has been a venerable practice of Buddhist monasteries for head monks to beat children who are student monks. Accounts of pedophilia in monasteries are also seeing the light of day after being shrouded in taboo and hearsay for centuries. We know that Japanese Zen monks with a non-dual meditative practice took up arms for the Emperor during World War II; the history of Christian torture and pedophilia is now well-known. Today, many professing Christians, liberals, and progressives, not to mention Jews, either actively support Israeli apartheid or indirectly support it through their silence, generally out of fear of bringing down charges of anti-Semitism upon their heads. Hindu sectarian wars and internecine conflicts with Moslems undercut claims of spirituality for both Hinduism and Islam.

For evidence of the non-morality of the spiritual we only have to refer to Wikipedia for a list of spiritual leaders convicted of violent and non-violent crimes.[4]

Where is the evidence that Integralists are more moral than anyone else? I don't see it. And if they are not, then their claims to “high level spiritual development” rest on something else than morality. But what exactly is spirituality without morality? It boils down to three things: 1) An ability to think and talk about spirituality and spiritual experiences of oneness in a sophisticated and convincing way; 2) a personal conviction that one is “spiritual,” generally based on personal mystical experiences; 3) the cultivation of objectivity, primarily through meditation. None of these have any necessary correlation with a four-quadrant definition of morality and therefore high MQ. However, they do have a very high correlation with a personal certitude that one is indeed a highly moral person. In the absence of external collective validation by out-groups, this claim amounts to a convenient self-delusion which, when accepted with enough certainty and combined with overflowing confidence, intelligence, and charisma, can convince others that there is a correlation between spiritual and integral, on the one hand, and morality on the other, when what is present is prepersonal shared belief in same, rather than any objective evidence. What is taken to be objective evidence is, upon closer examination, often found to be manipulation of public perception (“virtue signaling”) or fraud. For example, major capitalists from Andrew Carnegie to the Koch brothers were major philanthropists. To what extent was this giving a calculated effort to defuse criticism of their exploitative businesses and to buy the silence of opponents while burnishing their reputations?

Skepticism as the tabling of assumptions in favor of questioning

The positive aspect of skepticism toward assumptions of morality by Integralists and spirituality is that it not only teaches us to suspend both belief and disbelief in favor of asking questions, but also to redirect our efforts to concrete efforts that improve the life expectancy, quality of life, education, and societal contributions of the poorest around the world. To neglect the less fortunate is to neglect those aspects of ourselves that they represent. Such neglect is an act of amorality if not immorality; although we might well deny it, it may well be that Integralists remain simply too self-centered to care about the welfare of others that are not members of the in-groups with which they identify, and to make their well-being a personal priority. Until we do, Integral AQAL will be like a DeLorean from Back to the Future sitting on blocks, rusting, in front of our house.



The solution to these issues includes 1) coming to grips with the implications for self-development contextualized and limited by the social norms and level of collective moral development of those socio-cultural contexts in which we are individually embedded; 2) recognizing that the elitism supported by the Integral AQAL model as currently constructed alienates both scientists and the masses and thereby reduces it to cult status; and 3) to start taking seriously the multiple critiques of Integral made by Integral dissidents for decades, that make recommendations for its reform. It should be quite clear to all by now that basic reform of Integral is not going to come from Wilber, because since Integral Life Practice in 2006, his revisions of AQAL, including those in his “The Religion of Tomorrow (2017) have echoed the world view and assumptions laid out in his opus magnum Sex, Ecology, Spirituality and refined in Integral Spirituality.

What is such a revised Integral likely to look like? It will be built around Wilber's four quadrant model of holons with an emphasis on the secular and humanistic applications of same, in a shift away from an emphasis on spirit, deity, and the transpersonal, exactly the areas that attracted most of us to it in the first place. Wilber has shown that historical increases in human rights, such as decreases in slavery and increases in women's rights have been due to economic factors, such as industrialization, and secular factors, such as the rise of humanism, and not to religion or spirituality. Science has played a much greater role in purity than any religiously based standard of moral purity.

Religion, spirituality, and integral do not increase morality because the collective social norms that determine morality are largely secular and exist independent of them. For example, what religion I am or whether or not I am religious or not has almost zero bearing on how much you respect me on most measures important to most people. You want to know if I am trustworthy, reciprocate, and am empathetic; if I am, I am likely to be a valuable person for you regardless of the mutuality of our world views. If I am not, you are likely to form a generally negative opinion of me based on my failure to perform in that one area of mutuality upon which you depend or have expectations.

A reformed Integral will also see a shift from emphasis on self-development based on cognitive multi-perspectivalism to collective development based on experiential multi-perspectivalism. The difference is that between a self-centered assessment of reality and one that others verify reflects their own perspectives. It will also drop metaphysical language and beliefs, including spirit, God, deity, soul, and subtle and causal levels of spirituality, on the one hand, in order to practice the phenomenalistic “tabling” of as many assumptions as possible. There also will be a shift from an emphasis on the cognitive line leading to the moral line leading. There will be an increasing acceptance of the conclusions of mainstream science and the implications of those conclusions for the various fields in each of the four quadrants, which will continue to generate a retreat of metaphysical, anecdotal, and faith-based world views, including most varieties of idealism.

To survive, Integral will have to become more than the views of its founder and do a much better job of incorporating the perspectives of those with which it finds itself in variance. At present, while it proclaims a multi-perspectival and integrative mission, on closer examination Integral tends to take a reductionistic approach, labeling those perspectives with which it disagrees as representative of a lower stage of development, “materialistic” or advocating an “oppressive hierarchy,” and just not enlightened or as cognitively and spiritually broad and deep as it is. Either people haven't grasped the Integral model or they haven't opened their Eye of Spirit. Integralists like Wilber, David Long, Brad Reynolds, Joe Perez, and Mark Forman have taken one or both of these positions at one time or another. A lot of good people have made their critiques, been met with deafening silence, and have dropped out of Integral, concluding that it was incapable of self-reform. These include people like Mark Edwards, who hasn't been heard from since 2010, and Jeff Meyerhoff, (2015).

Implications for Integralists

Is there something about the Integral model itself that encourages the use of reason to support and promote pre-rational agendas masquerading as transpersonal ones in ways that lead to questionable ethical relations with out-groups? This is not simply the case of running into a few integral True Believers, nor is it that I communicate in a way that just happens to bring out polarizing responses from people, nor is it the case that they just happen to be “right” on these issues and that because of my own low level of development I cannot see the correctness of their position and am obviously wrong. I also don't think this reactivity on the part of Integralists is simply a matter of not knowing the rules of logic or not understanding the importance of cognitive biases, because those who I have cited above are well aware of both. Nor is it about me; these are patterns of baked-in reactivity that are visited upon whomever is perceived to float a threatening idea.

Instead, there are basic characteristics of Integral AQAL, as it is presently constructed, that attracts people who believe they are rational and highly evolved when in fact, when pressed, quickly melt down and demonstrate a pre-rational and prepersonal center of gravity. To be sure, this does not apply to quite a few integralists that I respect and who can disagree with me without creating polarizing positions, and they are the reason I continue to stay engaged and have not given up hope for the future of Integral. These include Bruce Alderman, Layman Pascal, and Frank Visser. I am sure there are many more who stay above the fray by not allowing their character to be known via interactions on Integral forums.

Integralists tend to follow Kohlberg and Wilber and judge their morality based on interior and individual intention and judgment, while most of us, most of the time, don't really care how we judge our morality. They care how they judge our morality. If integralists, progressives, liberals, and New Age types do not learn to put at least equal rate on the significance of the assessments of out-group members in the external collective quadrant for determination of their moral IQ, they will not gain traction with the masses regardless of how intelligent and multi-perspectival they are, how much meditation they do, or what gurus they have had. Enlightenment and spirituality are simply not as important to most people, on the level of day-to-day interaction, as are respect, reciprocity, trustworthiness, and empathy.

Whether we recognize it or not, whether we like it or not, not only our peers, but out-groups who are affected by our actions and those of our in-groups (such as our national policies), are constantly forming judgments about our moral IQ. Regardless of our intellectual IQ, how thoroughly we understand Integral AQAL, and regardless of how much meditation we have done or how philanthropic our intentions are, if we are rated low in one or more of the above four qualities in areas important to out-groups, we are unlikely to be trusted. This is because, although the cognitive line leads in self-development, the moral line leads in both the lower right quadrant of external collective interpersonal relationships as well as in the subordinate holon of collective societal-cultural development.

Integralists have to stop assuming that people who have spiritual experiences have attained transpersonal levels of development on anything but their line of spiritual intelligence, and if they are a criminal, child, or True Believer, probably not even that. Instead, the Law of Parsimony tells us to first rule out the likelihood that they have attained transpersonal states and assumed that indicates and is to be equated with a transpersonal level of development. As Wilber has pointed out, that is a false conclusion.

Integralists also have to learn to recognize logical fallacies, cognitive distortions, and cognitive biases and realize that these indicate a failure of the rationality necessary to access developmental levels that include and then transcend rationality. The taking of black and white, polarizing positions initially, especially without producing evidence to back the position up, is probably a statement of the use of reason to justify a pre-rational, prepersonal emotionally-based world view. Integral has to do a far better job of teaching people how to think straight and to maintain objectivity, instead of melting down to pre-rational, prepersonal, and non-respectful positions. To stay rationally objective is not only a marker of personal levels of development but of MQ, because it is more likely to positively answer the questions of its four criteria.

We have a great deal to thank Ken Wilber for; we have all been greatly enriched by the Integral model and world view. However, our MQ is largely independent of both and has little to do with spirituality. Others are watching us all the time and asking, “Do they respect me?” “When and how do they reciprocate?” “In what ways are they trustworthy and in what ways not so much?” “Can they accurately mirror back my intentions, feelings, and thoughts, whether or not they agree with them?” These considerations are the glue of human relationships, not consciousness, spirituality, developmental lines, and intellectual brilliance. As important as those things are, without positive answers to those questions we do not earn the respect of others, and without that respect, relationships are amoral and utilitarian, at best. The world needs Integral and Integralists now more than ever, to move from a cognitive multi-perspectivalism to one that is responsive to the interests and needs of those who face the greatest life crises. Don't concern yourself with doing more, but with doing whatever you do better, in a way that is more deeply respectful of whomever you encounter, moment to moment.


[1] Borba, M. The Step-By-Step Guide to Building Moral Intelligence. Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2001.

[2] There are various versions of such virtues. For example, here is Borba's construction, developed as a guide for the moral education of children:

  • EMPATHY: Identifying with and feeling other people's concerns.
    • Step 1. Foster awareness and an emotional vocabulary.
    • Step 2. Enhance sensitivity to the feelings of others.
    • Step 3. Develop empathy for another person's point of view.
  • CONSCIENCE: Knowing the right and decent way to act and acting in that way.
    • Step 1. Create the context for moral growth.
    • Step 2. Teach virtues to strengthen conscience and guide behavior.
    • Step 3. Foster moral discipline to help kids learn right from wrong.
  • SELF-CONTROL: Regulating your thoughts and actions so that you stop any pressures from within or without and act the way you know and feel is right.
    • Step 1. Model and prioritize self-control to your child.
    • Step 2. Encourage your child to become his own self motivator.
    • Step 3. Teach your child ways to deal with temptations and think before acting.
  • RESPECT: Showing you value others by treating them in a courteous and considerate way.
    • Step 1. Convey the meaning of respect by modeling and teaching it.
    • Step 2. Enhance respect for authority and squelch rudeness.
    • Step 3. Emphasize good manners and courtesy--they do count!
  • KINDNESS: Demonstrating concern about the welfare and feelings of others.
    • Step 1. Teach the meaning and value of kindness.
    • Step 2. Establish a zero tolerance for meanness and nastiness.
    • Step 3. Encourage kindness and point out its positive effect.
  • TOLERANCE: Respecting the dignity and rights of all persons, even those beliefs and behaviors we may disagree with.
    • Step 1. Model and nurture tolerance from an early age.
    • Step 2. Instill an appreciation for diversity.
    • Step 3. Counter stereotypes and do not tolerate prejudice.
  • FAIRNESS: Choosing to be open-minded and to act in a just and fair way.
    • Step 1. Treat your kids fairly.
    • Step 2. Help your child learn to behave fairly.
    • Step 3. Teach your child ways to stand up against unfairness and injustice.

Doug Lennick and Fred Kiel, Ph.D., authors of Moral Intelligence and the originators of the term, provide their own version of judgment-based virtues:

  • Integrity: Creating harmony between what we believe and how we act, doing what we know is right, always telling the truth
  • Responsibility: Taking personal responsibility, admitting mistakes and failures, embracing responsibility for serving others
  • Forgiveness: Letting go of one's own mistakes, letting go of others' mistakes
  • Compassion: Actively caring about others

[3] Beheshtifar, M., Esmaeli, Z., & Moghadam, M. N. (2011). Effect of moral intelligence on leadership. European Journal of Economics, Finance and Administrative Sciences, 43, 6-11

[4] "List of religious leaders convicted of crimes", Wikipedia

Violent crimes

  • Tony Alamo - Headed a Santa Clarita commune. Convicted of tax evasion in 1994 and then resided in a halfway house in Texarkana.[1] In 2009, he was convicted of ten federal counts of taking minors across state lines for sex, and sentenced to 150 years in federal prison.[2]
  • Shoko Asahara - Founder of Aum Shinrikyo sentenced to death by hanging under Japanese law for involvement in the 1995 Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway.[3]
  • Wayne Bent (aka: Michael Travesser) - Founder of Lord Our Righteousness Church, sometimes called Strong City. Was convicted of one count of criminal sexual contact of a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor in 2008.[4] He was sentenced to 18 years with eight years suspended.[5]
  • Graham Capill - former leader of Christian Heritage New Zealand. Sentenced to nine-year imprisonment term in 2005 after multiple charges of child sexual abuse against girls younger than twelve.[6]
  • Matthew F. Hale - Former leader of Creativity Movement sentenced to a 40-year prison term for soliciting an undercover FBI informant to kill a federal judge.[7]
  • Warren Jeffs - Once President of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (a polygamist Mormon sect), convicted of rape as an accomplice (overturned in 2010). Jeffs was convicted in a Texas state court of child sex charges and sentenced to life plus 20 years. He is incarcerated at the Powledge state prison. He also awaits trial in other states and in the federal court system.[8]
  • Jung Myung Seok - South Korean religious sect leader and founder of Providence. Convicted for raping several of his followers.[9]
  • William Kamm - An Australian religious sect leader and self-styled Pope Peter II who was sentenced to prison in October 2005 for a string of sexual attacks on a 15-year-old girl. In August 2007 his sentence was increased after being found guilty for a series of sexual abuses against another teenage girl over a five-year period.[10]
  • Ervil LeBaron - Led a small sect of polygamous Mormon fundamentalists, and was convicted of involvement in the murder of two people and plotting to kill another person in 1981.[11]
  • Alice Lenshina - Zambian head and founder of the Lumpa Church. Conflicts with the government over the sect's rejection of taxes led to a violent confrontation and her subsequent imprisonment.[12]
  • Jeffrey Lundgren - Headed splinter group from Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, executed October 24, 2006, for multiple murders.[13]
  • Charles Manson - Leader of the Manson Family who served life in prison for first degree murder until his death in 2017.[14]
  • Shukri Mustafa - Egyptian leader of Takfir wal-Hijra who was captured and executed for the kidnap and murder of an Egyptian ex-government minister.[15]
  • Fred Phelps - Leader of anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church. Convicted for disorderly conduct and battery.[16][17]
  • Swami Premananda of Tiruchirapalli - Indian religious leader convicted and sentenced to two life sentences for the rape of 13 girls and murder in 2005.[18]
  • Theodore Rinaldo - Leader of a religious group in Snohomish, Washington convicted of third-degree statutory rape for having sexual intercourse with one minor girl and of taking indecent liberties with another.[19]
  • Paul Schäfer - Former head of Chile-based Colonia Dignidad, was convicted of sexually abusing 25 children.[20]
  • Roch Thériault - Former head of "Ant Hill Kids commune" served a life sentence in Canada for the murder of Solange Boislard.[21]
  • Yahweh Ben Yahweh - Head of Nation of Yahweh, convicted for Federal racketeering charges and conspiracy involving 14 murders.[22]
  • Dwight York - Head of Nuwaubianism, convicted in 2004 of multiple RICO, child molestation, and financial reporting charges and sentenced to 135 years in prison.[23]
  • Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh - an Indian guru, music producer, singer-songwriter, actor, and filmmaker. He has been the head of the social group Dera Sacha Sauda since 1990. On 28 August 2017, Singh was sentenced to 20 years in jail for rape.[24] He has also faced prosecution for murder and ordering forced castrations. He is also alleged to have committed sexual assaults on many of his followers. He is also involved in murder of a journalist[25]

Non-violent crimes

  • Joseph Smith, Jr. - The founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, was "subjected to approximately thirty criminal actions" during his life. Another source reports Smith was arrested at least 42 times. Smith was killed by a mob while in jail awaiting trial on charges of treason against Illinois.[26]
  • Jim Bakker - Created the PTL organization. Convicted of fraud and conspiracy charges after illegally soliciting millions of dollars from his followers.[27]
  • Hogen Fukunaga - Founder of Ho No Hana who was given a twelve-year jail sentence for fraudulently gaining 150 million yen from his followers.[28]
  • Kent Hovind (Dr. Dino) - founder of the Creation Science Evangelism ministry. Willful failure to collect, account for, and pay over Federal income taxes, knowingly structuring transactions in Federally-insured financial institutions to evade the reporting requirements, and obstructing and impeding the administration of the internal revenue laws.[29][30]
  • L. Ron Hubbard - Founder of Scientology. He was convicted of petty theft and ordered to pay a $25 fine in San Luis Obispo, California 1948[31] and in 1978 was convicted of illegal business practices, namely, making false claims about his ability to cure physical illnesses in France. He was sentenced to four years in prison, which was never served.[32][33][34][35][36]
  • Luc Jouret - A founder of the Order of the Solar Temple. He was convicted in Canadian Federal Court of conspiring to buy illegal handguns.[37]
  • Henry Lyons - Former President of National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. Convicted for racketeering and grand theft.[38]
  • Barry Minkow - Head pastor of San Diego's Community Bible Church, and founder of the Fraud Discovery Institute, who had turned to religion and entered the ministry after release from prison for the notorious ZZZZ Best fraud, returned to prison in 2011 for further acts of securities fraud while serving as a clergyman.[39]
  • Sun Myung Moon - Leader of Unification Church, imprisoned for criminal tax fraud in the 1980s.[40]
  • Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh—later called Osho. Fined $400,000 and given a 10-year suspended sentence following a plea bargain agreement in which he made an Alford plea to (1) a charge of having concealed his intent to remain permanently in the U.S. at the time he applied for his visa extension and (2) a charge of having conspired to have followers stay illegally in the country by having them enter into sham marriages.[41] Deported from the United States.[42][43][44][45][46]
  • David Yonggi Cho - Founder of Yoido Full Gospel Church. Sentenced to three years in prison for embezzling 13 billion won (US$12 million) in church funds, in 2014.[47]
  • Kong Hee - Founder of City Harvest Church. Original sentence of eight years, reduced to three and a half years for misappropriation of church funds amounting to SGD50million, in 2016. See City Harvest Church Criminal Breach of Trust Case

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