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.


Part One | Part Two

Why Humanity Remains Locked in a Mid-Prepersonal Level of Development

Part I: Why We Do Not Recognize
that Our Development is Fixated

Joseph Dillard

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
 Jiddu Krishnamurti
I came to what on the surface appears to be an outrageous position by taking seriously several concepts basic to Integral AQAL.

Is man “a little lower than the angels,” as Paul put it in Hebrews 2.7, or are we merely “apes with big brains” as Richard Dawkins believes?[1] Or, as Steven Pinker proposes, is man both, comprised of a nature that pulls him both toward the sky as well as into subjective oneness with an amoral world?[2] While the spectacular creativity and adaptability of humanity compels us to focus on our almost infinite ability to reinvent ourselves, history is strewn with the wreckage of both individual lives and empires that underestimated their own capacity for self-destruction.[3] Writing at a time when traditional Western values and world views are collapsing under the onslaught of coronavirus, the inherent toxicity of neoliberal economics, and the contextualized “truthiness” of post-modernism, this historical moment provides an opportunity to consider the possibility that we have seriously overestimated our level of development, to the benefit of our self-image and self-esteem, but at the expense of the balance needed to sustain human evolution.

While we race ahead on cognitive, self-system, spiritual intelligence, and aptitude lines like music, sport, art, inventiveness, and communicative ability, could it be possible that our overall level of development remains stuck in the evolutionary basement, that of a clever primate with language? To those who recoil in horror at the idea that while our cognitive and spiritual intelligence lines are at vision-logic, on the edge of the transpersonal or beyond, with our self-system not far beyond, that our overall development is at mid-prepersonal, the problem could be due to the association of early developmental stages with “Nazis,” as Wilber does, and the mid-prepersonal with pre-linguistic, symbolic cognition, and feared and rejected emotional impulsivity, addiction, and fossilized personality disorders. Is it possible to reach such an estimation without erring to the other extreme of romanticizing the “primitive” and taking the “regress express” into a Rousseauean delusional paradise?

Jean Paul Sartre proposed a naturalistic perspective that avoids both reductionism and elevationism: “ It disturbs me no more to find men base, unjust, and selfish than to see apes mischievous, wolves savage, or vultures ravenous.” Or perhaps Konrad Lorenz is more on target: “I have found the missing link between the higher ape and civilized man; it is we.” Then again, consider the perspective of Dutch primatologist and ethnologist Frans de Waal: “Darwin wasn't just provocative in saying that we descend from the apes - he didn't go far enough. We are apes in every way, from our long arms and tailless bodies to our habits and temperament.”

Still, on its surface, the idea that integralists and spiritual adepts are at a mid-prepersonal developmental level is absurd. Before Wilber became infatuated with Spiral Dynamics color jargon he used a much more sensible developmental schema. He divided it into prepersonal, personal, and transpersonal stages, each of which has an early, mid, and late substage. Most integralists are confident that they are at least at vision-logic, an intermediate stage between late personal and early transpersonal, largely due to their ability to understand an integral world view and having had mystical experiences of oneness. Integral refers to a multi-perspectival world view as well as a level of development at vision-logic, integral-aperspectivalism. It declares a holonic spirituality and the integration of co-arising quadrants. Most of that includes but transcends the mid-prepersonal.

Integralists are hardly alone in this. If Integralists are indeed at mid-prepersonal in their overall level of development, then that is most likely the case for all those in pursuit of spirituality and enlightenment, as well as progressives and liberals who claim the moral high ground. Most of us, even conservatives and blue collar workers, are elitists, carving out exceptional rationales for our world views, emotions, and actions, regardless of how vile they may in fact be. Most of us base our claim to being “little lower than the angels” on religious, spiritual, or mystical authority, but some base it on their own status and power, which provides them with privileges and authority above that of others, while others base their exceptionalism on some talent or special competency. In fact, if we survey history, or merely look around us at our fellows, we easily find that we humans will use anything and everything to justify our sense of uniqueness, exceptionalism, and elite status. Even social ostracism is preferable to having to face the horror that we may in truth be at a mid-prepersonal level of development. In order to advance, both as individuals and as a collective, we need a realistic assessment of where we are. For myself, I am solidly mid-prepersonal in my own overall level of development, with a cognitive line at vision-logic, and both self-system and spiritual intelligence lines that are probably above average, but hardly up into the range where claims of enlightenment are made. My other lines are lower.

Why our overall level of development matters

When we inflate the developmental level of others, we set ourselves up for disillusion

These others could be partners, mentors, politicians, employers, collectives, such as political parties, religions, and nations, or gurus - those who claim or we believe to be enlightened. If we project perfection onto any of these, a variety of cognitive bias called the “halo effect,” when they inevitably fail to live up to our expectations, either they or our expectations have to change. The first option involves the imposition of our expectations onto someone we respect and value, which means that we insist on seeing them as we wish to see them rather than attempting to accept them as they are, or as how they see themselves; the second, being confronted with the delusional nature of our own expectations, may well present a threat to our world view and core identity. The way we generally square this circle is by making endless excuses for those with whom we identify - fellow spiritual seekers, those of the same political persuasion, co-workers, family members - anything to avoid an objective appraisal of ourselves.

Andrew Cohen provides an instructive example as someone who claimed enlightenment and who his students considered enlightened, and yet has been repeatedly accused of abuse by many followers, and even his mother.[5] Wilber rationalizes this abuse as “shadow” by a “rude boy,” meaning that Cohen really is highly advanced in his development and that his moral failings are at best, transpersonal teaching strategies to shock students out of their own delusions, and at worst, “slips,” or “temporary regressions.” This explanation involves the first option above, “the imposition of your expectations onto someone you respect.” By justifying the abuse of others in order to maintain their elevated status in our minds and their own, we enable and maintain their delusion that they have no serious concern or problem to look at. They do not have to take seriously the perspectives of those who claim abuse. They can avoid responsibility or the possibility that their assessment of their level of development could be fundamentally mistaken. The result is that Wilber blocked the development of Cohen by supporting him in not facing his accusers or his own failings. Wilber covered for, or minimized abuses of Da Free John and Marc Gafni as well.

Psychologically, Wilber has little choice. To do otherwise is to admit that those with whom he identifies as enlightened, while extraordinarily advanced in this or that line, are deeply morally flawed, in a way that cannot be rationalized as a minor outcropping of “shadow.” Because morality is a core line (since we can hardly imagine a definition of spirituality that doesn't contain it), the conclusion is that Wilber and those with whom he identifies with, are not much more advanced, in their overall development than say, dogs. You are not going to find too many apostles of enlightenment who hold that opinion of themselves. This is equally true for us when we justify, excuse, and rationalize the immoral and/or amoral behavior of those we respect or depend on. William Dietrich: “What sets our species apart is not just what men will do to other men, but how tirelessly they justify it.”

However, the alternative is more threatening to Wilber and Cohen's sense of self, their core identity. If they take accusations of abuse seriously, as genuine moral failings, the implication is that Cohen is not enlightened and that our hopes and expectations amount to a sunk time fallacy, another variety of cognitive bias, which means we have to admit to ourselves that we have been basing our sense of self, our life, and our future, on delusions. This is something few of us are prepared to do. The result is that we move into denial and double down on our rationalizations to excuse the immoral behavior of Obama, Clinton, Trump, Wilber, Cohen, our partner, our boss, our company, our nation - whomever and whatever we depend on in order to maintain our economic security, status, and self-image.

What Wilber and many spiritual seekers don't seem to acknowledge is that you and I can be brilliant and have advanced mystical experiences and still remain at low levels of overall development. Instead of considering this possibility, our desire to validate our own status or to attain the heights achieved by idealized others can cause us to ignore profound and destructive manifestations of serious dysfunction. Just look at your typical government bureaucrat or employee of the CIA, FBI, or any intelligence service. These people are generally smart, with advanced degrees and multiple competencies, yet remain purely amoral actors.

When we inflate our own developmental level, we set ourselves up for a precipitous collapse

There is no glory or status in contemplating the possibility that, while we may soar to great heights in intelligence, creativity, talent, status, wealth, power, or mystical experiences of oneness with all, our vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and failings more accurately define our actual level of overall development. What if that were true? We would then have to admit that we are not so highly developed, not so enlightened, or that we are seriously out of balance, having focused on excellence in this or that line at the expense of developing a broad and stable foundation. We might have to trade in our elitism and exceptionalism for some sincere, profound humility. Those who view us with indifference or with disrespect may be closer to having an accurate appraisal of our developmental level. This was hinted at by Gandhi when he replied, in response to being asked what he thought of Western Civilization, that “It would be a good idea.” But if it were indeed the case that our overall development is much lower than we believe, what would that mean for our self-image and identity? How would we avoid deep depression, meaninglessness, and an existential crisis? To do so, we will use any and all of Freud's famous defense mechanisms, cognitive bias, logical fallacies, and emotional cognitive distortions to avoid the overturning of the foundations of our sense of who we are. However, depression, meaninglessness, and existential crises may be normal and healthy aspects of the process of waking up out of our delusions, and to avoid them only makes our eventual confrontation with reality that much more nightmarish.

We can see that happening on a civilizational and cultural level right now in the West. Because the Western enlightenment has enthroned values of freedom, individuality, and democracy, bearers of that tradition represent enlightenment and therefore consider themselves relatively enlightened. That elite status, privilege, and exceptionalism has both rationalized the exploitation and abuse of non-Westerners for centuries. It has created an unrealistic, unbalanced self-appraisal that has in turn generated a corrupt society, leading to not only a personal, but a precipitous collapse of civilizational proportions. This is one consequence of confusing high line development with high self-development. Lines and levels are completely different, and until we understand and respect those differences we are not only living in delusion about who we are, we are setting ourselves up for failures in both our relationships and in our self-development.

Integral concepts that support this conclusion

I came to what on the surface appears to be an outrageous position by taking seriously several concepts basic to Integral AQAL.[6]

The first is that enlightenment can occur independent of stage development and it is not necessarily an indication of any high level of development.

The second is that there is a variety of Level/Line Fallacy that notes that it is an error to ascribe to a higher level of development than what can be explained as higher line development.

The third concept derived from Integral AQAL, which follows from the first two, is that if 1) enlightenment is both independent of stage development and 2) high stage development requires the prior inclusion of reason, as Wilber's Pre/Trans Fallacy states, then reason demands that the laws of reason be applied to understanding enlightenment.[7]

The fourth concept is also an elaboration of Wilber's Pre/Trans Fallacy, and that is that one can be anti-elevationistic without being a reductionist. This point is very important, because a reasonable initial conclusion for some Integralists to draw from my title is, “Dillard is glorifying the mid-prepersonal.” While this is indeed possible, I would encourage you to suspend for the moment that conclusion until more information is laid on the table. To draw that conclusion initially will cause you to misinterpret the following arguments.

A fifth basic concept derived from AQAL concerns holons. The holon of the self, which includes all aspects of self development, is the major province of both AQAL and enlightenment in general. However, self-development very clearly occurs within a larger, collective holon that includes all selves. This collectivity is different from the evolutionary polarized alternation of agentic and communal styles that Wilber thinks occurs level to level within self-development. We might think of it as the holon of humanity as a whole rather than the holons of individual humans. Call it a “species holon” if you like.

A sixth concept involves a deeper dive into Wilber's understanding of the place of morality in human development. Doing so, and then combining that with the above pieces brings us to some startlingly jarring, and possibly very threatening conclusions. So fasten your seat belt and try to enjoy the bumpy ride.

Why do we not recognize that our overall development is stuck at mid-prepersonal?

  • We overestimate our morality based on our evaluation of our own intentions.
  • We overestimate our overall morality based on the good that we do.
  • We think our intentions accurately reflect our level of moral development.
  • We are blind to our amorality.
  • We overestimate our morality based on a minimization of the seriousness of our own amorality.
  • We typically minimize the impact on others of our immorality and amorality.
  • We discount our responsibility for our abuse of others.
  • We minimize our responsibility for the amoral and immoral acts our collectives commit in our names.
  • We minimize the seriousness of the amorality and immorality of acts committed by our collectives.
  • We are typically blind to how our emotional preferences bend reason to their service, rationalizing as moral actions those that are immoral or amoral.
  • We ignore, minimize, or discount the mid-prepersonal developmental implications of our lack of integration of the dream state.
  • Guilt and shame regarding our addictions and bad behavior block an objective assessment of our level of moral development.

Let us look at each of these in a bit more detail.

We overestimate our morality based on our evaluation of our own intentions.

We mean well, and see ourselves as good people. When others disagree or feel wronged by us, they are misunderstanding our intentions. Dietrich Dorner, a German psychologist who studies leadership and decision making in complex environments, has suggested that “there is more harm done in today's world by well-intentioned people trying to do good, who are unaware of the unintended consequences of their actions, than by people actually trying to cause harm. Remarkably, this may well be true.” “Standard social science approaches to analyzing conflict too often miss the unintended consequences of well-intentioned acts.”[8] As TS Eliot said, “Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.”

How badly do we overestimate our morality? If you are typical, you rate your sense of self as equivalent to the level of development of your self-system line, which is most likely associated closely with the elevation of your world view. If you are Integral, you probably therefore conclude you are at least at vision-logic and your morality is post-conventional if not post-post conventional. The contention here is that your morality is probably a mixture of pre-pre-conventional, pre-conventional, and a lovely thin patina of conventional and even post-conventional thrown in there to impress and hopefully fool not only the rest of us, but to reassure yourself. Because such a very low overall level of moral development is too threatening to contemplate, you are likely to dismiss it out of hand.

We overestimate our overall morality based on the good that we do.

David Cecil: “It is often said that mankind needs a faith if the world is to be improved. In fact, unless the faith is vigilantly and regularly checked by a sense of man's fallibility, it is likely to make the world worse. From Torquemada to Robespierre and Hitler the men who have made mankind suffer the most have been inspired to do so have been inspired to do so by a strong faith; so strong that it led them to think their crimes were acts of virtue necessary to help them achieve their aim, which was to build some sort of an ideal kingdom on earth.”[9] I know I am a good person because I give to humanitarian and environmentally-conscious organizations, participate in civic groups, donate a large portion of my time, income, and professional expertise to others, and forgive the insults and abuses of others. Our idea of the good we do is not only not a good measure of how much good we have actually done (we have to ask the recipients), but we have to weigh that against how much harm we have done or has been done in our name. For example, if I have amassed a fortune through exploitation and then give half of it away and earn a reputation as a noble philanthropist, how accurate is the good I have done a measure of my level of moral development? When I voted for Obama I thought I was doing good and supporting good. This would not be the conclusion of most of the citizens of Libya, Syria, Russia, the Ukraine, Palestine, or of those Americans who lost their homes while financial elites were bailed out in 2008. People can do a great deal of good and, at the same time, a great deal of evil at any level of development on any line. Which we choose to see and emphasize says a great deal about our biases, our personality defenses, and our sense of self.

We think our intentions accurately reflect our level of moral development.

Oscar Wilde: “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” As we have seen with the above example of Andrew Cohen and Wilber, elites imagine each other to be virtuous because they imagine themselves that way. Our investment in our relational exchanges can easily blind us to our immorality and amorality. If I build my life around securing my safety, resources, status, or power, morality will be a means to those ends, rather than an end in itself. Human beings generally have three moral systems, rules-based (Kantian), means-based (Golden Rule) and ends-based (ethical calculus). Rules-based systems represent personal and social intent and, when codified into law, give moral violations real consequences. Means-based approaches are similar to the Buddhist concept of “Right Action.” You don't simply intend good; you do good, as determined by the recipients of your actions. Ends-based approaches weigh rewards and punishments, and action, whether moral, immoral, or amoral, is determined by the good intended. Voting for the lesser of two evils, for Hillary Clinton over Trump or for Biden over Trump, intends good, and is an example of ethical calculus. We convince ourselves that an essentially immoral decision is a moral one, because our intentions are good.[10]

Since I wish all sentient beings happiness and health and generally feel compassion toward all, I must be at least at a post-personal level of moral development and am probably at a transpersonal level. But elevated development on any line is no guarantee that I am a moral person. “Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends.”[11] Perhaps I have had multiple mystical experiences and awakenings on my line of spiritual intelligence, a line that is independent of other lines. Wilber defines that line as follows:

Spiritual intelligence is defined as how we think about, picture, view, or conceive ultimate reality. Scholars like Paul Tillich and James Fowler call it how we view and relate to our 'ultimate concern.' “Spiritual intelligence and spiritual growing up through the major six to eight levels of development means that the narrative versions of virtually all major religions do not have to stop at the magic or mythic stage. The spiritual intelligence line goes from archaic to magic to mythic to rational to pluralistic to integral and super integral. There is an archaic approach to ultimate reality, a magic approach to ultimate reality, a mythic approach to ultimate reality, a rational approach to ultimate reality, and so on. Most of today's major religions are stuck at the magic and mythic level. Now that's an important realization. But just as important is that they don't have to be stuck there. There are, in fact, several higher levels of spiritual intelligence available to them and there are, indeed, individuals in every major religion that are at these higher levels. In fact, there have been empirical studies, including ones like the extremely significant studies of stages of Christian belief by James Fowler, clearly showing that there are individuals at every level of spiritual intelligence. Other studies show unmistakably similar conclusions for religions including Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism, among others...What we want is to develop both to the highest stage of growing up in spiritual intelligence, namely an integral stage, and the highest stage of waking up in spiritual experience, namely nondual unity consciousness. But strange as it seems, no path of growth, East or West, has ever included both of these paths of development. The Eastern or contemplative traditions are rich in maps and models of waking up and the various practices, steps, and stages useful for that realization. But there are no meditative systems anywhere in the world that have anything like the six to eight basic stages of growing up.[12]

Therefore, when Wilber discusses spiritual intelligence, he is referring to a specific line. As he points out, there is no reason why someone at any level of development (which presumably would include the mid-prepersonal) cannot have transformative mystical experiences. There is no reason why someone at mid-prepersonal cannot do as much good as someone who claims to be “second tier” or transpersonal in their level of development. In fact history is full of examples of people who were very simple, uneducated, and concrete who did great good in their lives. Arguably, most of the good that is done in the world is done by such people, simply because all of us must evolve through the mid-prepersonal, and to a greater or lesser extent, it lives on in every more highly developed line. It is largely due to our personal and collective moral context that our cognitive, spiritual intelligence, and various other lines normally race ahead while our overall center of gravity remains at mid-prepersonal.

We are blind to our amorality.

Amorality is 1) an absence of, 2) indifference towards, or 3) disregard for morality. Animals are an example of the first variety of amorality; neoliberal economics, and arguably any economic system that puts capital gains before human welfare, is an example of the second; and making up our own rules rather than complying with those of society, such as generating a “rules-based order” rather than complying with international law, is an example of the third. Foucault argued in favor of political violence in the late 1960s and early 1970s, threw bricks at police from a rooftop during a university protest, and said, “'The unity of society' is precisely that which should not be considered except as something to be destroyed.”[13] This is an example of this third type of amorality.

The first variety, absence, is amoral because animals do not differentiate right from wrong or good from bad in a moral sense. The second, indifference, is amoral because morality is irrelevant to the priorities, agendas, or relational exchange being pursued. When we place the pursuit of this or that relational exchange before morality we are practicing this second variety of amorality. As Sinclair Lewis has said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” The third, disregard, is amoral because morality gets in the way of priorities, agendas, or relational exchanges being pursued. A “rules based” system, in which empire sets the rules, is preferred and enforced over international laws and covenants previously agreed to, because the latter is both inconvenient and a detriment to the raw, unlimited expression of power by the state.

The rationalizations we make to excuse our amorality are endless. Caitlin Johnstone pokes fun at the amorality of our “financial professionals.” Regarding rioting looters, she says, “I understand that people are angry, but they shouldn't just endanger businesses without even a thought to enriching themselves through leveraged buyouts and across-the-board terminations. Detractors nationwide have blasted the demonstrators for not hiring a consultant group to take stock of a struggling company's assets before plundering. You can't “...just rush in and destroy any business without gathering a group of clandestine investors to purchase it at a severely reduced price and slowly bleed it to death.” Much behavior that we consider “rational,” such as most economic behavior, involves a calculated disregard for whether it is morally right or wrong.

Most habitual behavior is mindless, in that we never stop to consider what we are doing is moral or not. If our actions have amoral or immoral implications, we don't want to know about them. That's amorality. We generally don't view our addictions, our indirect support of wars and corruption via voting for militant and corrupt politicians as amoral, nor do we view our obliviousness to the plight of others or the environment as a source of personal moral responsibility. These are examples of common, ubiquitous amorality. To assume that the vast majority of our actions are moral in the absence of critique by those affected negatively by our actions is denial, avoidance, or studied ignorance; to ignore that amorality is itself immoral, not amoral. Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. As Aldous Huxley has said, “We don't know because  we don't want to know.”

Who considers their lack of awareness, of caring, of concern to be amoral? I doubt if stock brokers, bankers, and financiers do. Politicians and lawyers certainly do not. In fact, lawyers are taught that justice has nothing to do with morality, but is merely the hoped-for outcome of client advocacy, regardless of morality. This is fundamentally an amoral position of the third variety. When we elect those who professionally advocate amorality to positions of power over us, can we be justifiably surprised or shocked when their actions that affect us are amoral?

Like politicians and lawyers, we typically write off our amorality as either addressing matters that are not our concern or due to our ignorance of the situation. If other people have problems it is tragic, but what can we do? Maybe it's their karma, or they don't work hard enough, or their adversity is an opportunity to become stronger. Political correctness (PC) has kept majoritarian culture from imposing rationality on minorities lest the majority be accused of discrimination. Something similar happened in Germany in the decades following WWII, with its “hands off“ attitude toward the self-segregation of Turks, leading to a non-assimilated “other” minority that has caused lasting problems in German society. Mainstream media and attitudes of political correctness in the US has allowed a culture of ganster rap and the glorification of violence to flourish among black youth in the ghettos, with the result that the majority culture is shocked when these people grow up to not care or abuse others. Blacks have not policed the ethics of their own culture, nor have whites, based on the number of white kids that think gangster rap is “cool.” We continue to see the consequences of some forty years of a deranged, non-intervention, amoral PC culture, hidden behind a mask of non-discrimination and “honoring differences.”

We overestimate our morality based on a non-recognition of our own immorality and amorality.

The Milgram shock experiments, which have been successfully replicated at least seven times to date, show that a consistent 65%, or two thirds, of both sexes will administer a shock believed to be deadly if told to do so by an authority figure. This strongly implies that our estimation of our moral rectitude is highly vulnerable to socio-cultural influences. Most young people can be taught by the military to kill. The findings of the famous Zimbardo Prison Experiment, although not replicated, correlate with those of the Milgram shock experiments. While we can comprehend these experiments as applicable to others, almost all of us will emphatically believe that we are exceptions, as a defense against the cognitive dissonance created by authentic contemplation that those results apply to us.

Some people believe that because humans are capable of morality, that is, of differentiating good and bad and right and wrong, that there is no human amorality. But as we have seen, we can consciously choose to either not investigate the moral consequences of our actions or simply ignore those consequences, as we do when we engage in addictions or self-righteously rescue or abuse others. On the other hand, researchers point to behavior in animals that appears to be moral, such as caring for the young, protecting kin, and sharing the spoils of the hunt, and conclude that morality is not limited to humans. The reason animal altruism is not moral behavior is that there is no differentiated self standing apart from behavior. This does not mean that animals are not capable of feeling secondary emotions such as regret or shame, express an awareness that their actions have caused displeasure or pleasure in others, or demonstrate extraordinary altruism. I would argue that this most certainly is the case, but add that this still does not cross the threshold of moral action. For that to occur, there have to exist societal norms of good and bad, right and wrong as well as a differentiated self which sees itself capable of making such choices. This is a high bar, and I find no evidence that animal collectives pass it.

Trans-individual collectives, such as corporations, governments, and nations are amoral entities with characteristics of mid-prepersonal sociopathy that clothe themselves in moral virtue to justify immoral acts taken in the name of the people, the company, or divinity.[14] Trans-individual status provides collective legal cover for individual and collective immorality, partially under the guise of amorality. If it is just “business,” or a responsibility of some governmental or military role, then amorality, rather than either morality or immorality, is present. Personality disordered behavior is generally of the amoral variety, a reality that partially explains why it is so resistive to treatment. The widespread rate of suicide among US veterans, with almost twenty killing themselves each day, indicates that humans, from at least a healthy mid-prepersonal level of development on the self-system line, do indeed know the difference between morality, immorality, and amorality, and that they can ignore those distinctions for only so long and under limited circumstances. Human consciousness is saturated with amorality, but like a fish swimming in polluted water, it is largely oblivious to it.

We typically minimize the impact on others of our immorality.

“There are no guilty people in jail.” We all have ready excuses, rationalizations, and explanations for our actions that cause harm to others. Worse, we actually believe them. For example, anti-maskers often justify their refusal to protect others in the belief that they are defending freedom, liberty, and individual rights against an unjust, authoritarian state in league with conspiratorial medical and scientific interests.They certainly view their actions as moral. However, if an anti-masker infects someone with coronavirus who then dies, how moral was the decision to expose themselves and through them, others, to a deadly disease? Our response is basically to shrug our shoulders. Do our taxes fund criminality by our government? What recourse do we have? At least we could declare that we are being forced into collusion with immorality. Similarly, alcoholics minimize in their minds the impact of their drinking on their behavior and the impact of their actions on others, an example of our typical attitude toward our preferred addictions.

Karma is an example of immorality disguised as divine morality. Because a belief in karma will cause me to see myself responsible for my oppressed, unfair conditions, it keeps me and the abused victims in the world from questioning the justice of their status in life and rebelling against that injustice. The history of India demonstrates the effectiveness of karma at maintaining social cohesiveness and stability among multitudes of groups with different beliefs, languages, cultures, and rulers. Beneath its various spiritual justifications, the doctrine of karma is an effective tool for coercing those who are irresponsible into taking responsibility, manipulating those who are responsible into taking greater responsibility, and for maintaining a social status quo. The problem with the doctrine of karma is that it is a socially useful fabrication. It is simply not true that we create our own reality and that therefore our lot in life is the application of divine justice. It is simply not true that there are no persecutors or abusers, and denial of that reality only hastens the day of our own undeniable victimization. What is true is that our reality is interdependently co-created with others, our culture, and our environment.

We discount our responsibility for our abuse of others.

I would support not wearing masks in public as a matter of personal freedom and choice, as well as an opportunity to win those of that persuasion a Darwin Award, if a lack of concern for the spreading of coronavirus to others were not so profoundly selfish. Mask wearing primarily protects others from virus given off by those who do not know they carry the infection. So not wearing a mask, beyond being ignorant and stupid, is selfish. It endangers the health of others. It endangers the common welfare, which is why wearing masks is made mandatory in many places, such as inside hospitals and grocery stores. Not only is the science clear, the countries that have been most effective in combatting coronavirus have emphasized the use of masks while those that have not, or have been ambivalent about it, like the US, have the highest death rates. Not wearing a mask in such circumstances announces to the world, “I am an arrogant and selfish individual, and I don't care if you think I am, because my personal freedom is more important than your safety.”

There is always someone or something to blame for the harm that we do or is done in our name: “It's the Republicans/Democrats/Deep State.” “The government/my employer made me do it;” “My parents abused me;” “The dog ate my homework.” The famous military defense of “I was only following orders” was declared illegal under international law at Nuremberg. The famous business defense of, “If I don't do it I will lose market share to the competition,” is another, similar, but more socially acceptable example of the shifting of responsibility for our immorality onto others.

We minimize our responsibility for the amoral and immoral acts of our collectives committed in our names.

“Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.” Friederich Nietzsche

War, building and maintaining nuclear stockpiles, sanctions, torture, incarceration for non-violent crimes, and the rigging of economies to favor the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and weak are immoral and/or amoral acts for which we are personally accountable, in that we allow them to persist and in many cases actively support by voting for politicians that maintain these policies. Two current, blatant, international examples of this are Yemen and Palestine.

The reason this matters is that the ability of the moral line to tetra-mesh, necessary for overall development to ascend from one level to the next, is dependent in the external collective quadrant of relationship on the assessments of others, including non-group members, of our level of morality. Tetra-mesh is defined by Integral as

The act whereby a holon meshes or fits with the selection pressures (i.e., the validity claims) of all four quadrants. In order to tetra-mesh, each holon must, to some degree, be able to register its own exterior accurately enough (truth), its own interior accurately enough (truthfulness), understand its cultural milieu (mutual understanding), and fit within its social system (functional fit). Also referred to as tetra-enactment or tetra-evolution, meaning that all four selection pressures must be dealt with adequately in order for a holon to evolve.[15]

In the lower right quadrant of inter objective relationship, morality has zero to do with our intention. If our collective society is determined by a significant majority of others to be immoral, amoral, or both, then that stops our moral line from tetra-meshing, even if personally we are saints. To believe otherwise is to deny interdependence and to disown mutual responsibility, itself an act that is amoral, if not outright immoral. As the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius said, “The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.”

We minimize the seriousness of the amorality and immorality of acts committed by our collectives, rationalizing as moral actions that are immoral or amoral.

Noam Chomsky: “Even if the U.S. was responsible for 2 percent of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2 percent I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one's actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences. It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century.”

Selective and filtered awareness allows us to plead ignorance of the immoral acts that are done in our names. Destroying Iraq and killing millions with sanctions and bombing in the name of democracy and freedom were immoral acts that many progressive and liberal Americans signed on to. Who owns personal responsibility for the atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or the carpet bombing of North Korea that exploded more munitions than the US did in Europe in the whole of WWII, with over 20 million tons of bombs dropped, almost every building destroyed and an estimated twenty percent of the population killed? Most Americans continue to hide behind a wall of amoral ignorance, as they do today toward China, with about half of the US population swallowing CIA and Deep State propaganda and now believing that China is an enemy. The overthrow of the governments of the Ukraine, Libya, and the ongoing attempts to overthrow the governments of Venezuela, Syria, and Iran are other ongoing examples of what can only be called imperialism, done in our names and with our consent. While our governments rationalize this as insuring a “rules-based order,” most citizens turn a blind eye and take what is essentially an amoral stance, as do many Jews, Zionist Christians, conservatives, and progressives toward Israeli apartheid.

We are typically blind to how our emotional preferences bend reason to their service

Our desire for control, economic security, status, and power cause us to rationalize and ignore the irrationality of our world views. We have two extreme and highly controversial examples occurring at present, beliefs held by intelligent and well-meaning people who do not see how their rational arguments are in the service of prepersonal, pre-rational belief systems, generally based on fear of attacks on their personal freedom and liberty: anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers. Both of these fervently-held beliefs are immoral, to the extent that they endanger public health, the first by exposing others to coronavirus and the second by undercutting herd immunity against serious diseases, proven to be reduced through the use of vaccines.

In such cases, of which these two instances are merely extreme contemporary instances, we generate arguments that are rational and consistent, once underlying false but unquestioned, and strongly defended premises are accepted. Consequently, what looks to be reasoning is actually rationalization of an emotionally-held position with which we are identified. To question it is to attack some component of our world view that supports our core identity, and therefore it is strenuously defended.

We ignore, minimize, or discount the mid-prepersonal developmental implications of our lack of integration of the dream state.

The dream state is a manifestation of mid-prepersonal cognition. Understanding a dream or dreaming involves an intellectual grasping of some aspect of their significance. While that can be quite valuable and helpful, it is far short of an integration of the dream state. The same can be said of dream lucidity. Our inability to expand our self awareness to be one with the dream state implies a level of species self-development stuck at mid-prepersonal, despite precocious development on multiple lines.[16]

Guilt and shame regarding our addictions and bad behavior block an objective assessment of our level of moral development

Without objectivity, self-criticism for immoral and amoral acts fuels a cycle of self-rescuing followed by self-persecution. If we know we are ignoring injustice or passively supporting abuse, guilt and shame make it more likely we will continue to do so, because these destructive feelings feed the addictive cycle itself. Essentially, we move back into denial and relapse. What is required is first awareness or recognition of our amorality or immorality, followed by a plan for change and the creation of the support structures necessary to follow through.

Why are amorality and immorality associated with mid-prepersonal instead of say, early personal?

Since Wilber considers everyone up through early personal “Nazis,” it might be reasonable to conclude that most people are fixated at a higher level of development.[17] While Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development, as depicted in this chart taken from the models of comparative development found in the appendices of Wilber's Integral Psychology, equates immorality with a pre-conventional stage and a late prepersonal level of self-development (and Wilber agrees), and both equate amorality with a pre-pre-conventional stage and a mid-prepersonal level of development, the economic structures that underlie and justify many immoral actions (such as warring and stealing to increase wealth and power), are decidedly amoral, tipping the scales away from late prepersonal immorality down to mid-prepersonal amorality. This is because economic relational exchanges are fundamental to personal development, self-esteem, a secure family, a stable career, and collective evolution. If those are amoral, life is going to revolve around those levels of development most associated with amorality.

If this is true, why is it commonly missed or not seen?

There are three basic reasons. The first is that economics is generally viewed as a function of the rational mid-personal and therefore economic decisions are typically equated with Kohlberg's conventional level of morality. This is quite evidently incorrect, as any world view that puts material gain before the welfare of people is pre-pre conventional to the extent that topics of morality, such as good and bad, and right and wrong, are not material to the business of commerce. Economics, while practiced on all levels of development, is fundamentally and profoundly an amoral relational exchange designed to secure early

prepersonal to mid-prepersonal physical and emotional needs of food, safety, sex, and security, and to secure mid-prepersonal to early personal emotional and sociocentric needs of wealth and status, and is therefore pre-pre-conventional and centered around the mid-prepersonal. People associate it with the mid-personal because it manifests a mid-personal level of cognitive line rationality. However, when we look at the level of the relational exchanges which economic reason services, and the highly addictive nature of those relational exchanges, we get a more realistic and authentic appraisal of the level of development supported by economics. It is not that economics has to support the mid-prepersonal; it can and does support every level. It is that the motivators for most economic activity is very clearly anchored in an amoral valuing of capital gains over human welfare.

The second reason amorality and immorality are not commonly associated with the mid-prepersonal is that self-development gauges morality largely in terms of intention, as Kohlberg and Wilber do, rather than in terms of social justice.

The third, and most important, is that the view that we are all at a mid-prepersonal level of development is a knife pointed at the heart of our self-appraisal and identity. Our sense of self is based much more on interior assessments of the value of our actions than on the exterior assessments of others and, in particular, those who disagree or disapprove of us. In fact, we create elaborate rationalizations as to why claims of abuse, immorality, or amorality by others are wrong or false. It is to be denied at all costs.

In Part II we will look at six concepts basic to Integral AQAL that support the thesis that human development is fixated largely at a mid-prepersonal level of development.


[1] Language has only existed for the last 50,000 years. Greg Gutfeld: “Language turned apes like us into civil creatures.” William Inge: “Man, as we know him, is a poor creature; he is halfway between an ape and a god and he is traveling in the right direction.” Cicero; “What an ugly beast the ape, and how like us.” H.L. Mencken: “It is hard for the ape to believe he descended from man.”; Mitch Herdberg: “It's weird...people say they're not like apes. How do you explain football then?” George Santayana: “The irrational in the human has something about it all together repulsive and terrible, as we see in the maniac, the miser, the drunkard, or the ape.” Terry Pritchett: “Evolution was far more thrilling to me than the biblical account. Who would not rather be a rising ape than a fallen angel? To my juvenile eyes, Darwin was proved true every day. It doesn't take much to flip us back into monkeys again.”

[2] “There's a common criticism of evolutionary psychology that it's fatalistic and it dooms us to eternal strife, 'Why even try to work toward peace if we're just bloody killer apes and violence is in our genes?” Steven Pinker.

[3] For a highly instructive explanation of the factors that lead to the deconstruction of human civilization, see Diamond, J., (2005). Collapse. New York: Penguin.

[4] In his Integral Spirituality.

[5] Scofield, B. Integral Abuse: Andrew Cohen and the Culture of Evolutionary Enlightenment.

[6] “AQAL” stands for “all quadrants, styles, lines, and levels,” all of which need to be taken into account to arrive at a multi-perspectival world view. For an elaboration, see Wikipedia, “Integral Theory.”

[7] Laws of reason are axioms, and axioms are arbitrary preconditions of any system. Therefore, this statement is not meant to imply that there is one “correct” system of logic that compels the conclusions of this essay, but rather approaches reason in a more open-ended way: Use whatever standard of reason you prefer to evaluate these arguments, but use reason, rather than using reason to validate your predispositions, world view, and beliefs.

[8] Peter T. Coleman, The Five Percent: Finding Solutions to Seemingly Impossible Conflicts

[9] David Cecil, Library Looking-Glass: A Personal Anthology

[10] See Dillard, J., The "Lesser of Two Evils" Fallacy And Wilber's Basic Moral Intuition. IntegralWorld.Net.

[11] Isabel Paterson, God of the Machine


[13] James Davison Hunter, Before the Shooting Begins: Searching for Democracy in America's Culture War, Free Press, 1994, p. 249.

[14] A classic presentation of this theme is a documentary, “The Corporation.” (2003) Bakan, Achbar, Abbot.

[15] DeVos, C. Integral Life +

[16] For a review of Wilber's theory of dream interpretation and why it fails at the integration of that state with waking, see Dillard, J., Assumptions of Integral Dream Analysis, IntegralWorld.Net.

[17] “...somewhere between 50%-70% of the world's population is at the ethnocentric or lower levels of development. This means amber or lower in any of the lines. To put it in the bluntest terms possible, this means around 70% of the world's population is Nazis...Every time somebody somewhere has sex, they are producing a fresh supply of Nazis.” Wilber, K. Integral Spirituality, p. 179. Describing all early developmental stages, and everyone at those stages of development as essentially predatory, exploitative, sociopathic, and dysfunctional is not a clever literary device. It echoes with Hillary Clinton's epithet of “deplorables,” only worse, implying not only elitism and ridicule, but sociopathy. To pass off such criticism as PC or, “Can't you take a joke?” Will not do, because jokes that demean people and particularly, those that demean entire classes of people by stereotyping them in negative ways, are not only not funny; they're toxic.

[18] While Wilber associates the relational exchange of security with a higher level than safety and sex, and does not include wealth or status as relational exchanges, all of these are not only often pursued as ends in themselves but easily become highly addictive, and addiction is most closely associated with the early and mid-prepersonal, due to its powerful sensory/physiological and emotional components.

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