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Dr. 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: integraldeeplistening.com
Why Humanity Remains Locked in a Mid-Prepersonal Level of Development
Part 2: Ways Integral AQAL Supports the Thesis That Our Development is Fixated at an Early Developmental Stage
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
Part I differentiated our personal self-development from our development as embedded within the super-ordinate holon of our socio-cultural matrix, and also provided some reasons why we do not recognize that our overall development is stuck at mid-prepersonal. In Part II, we examine concepts from Integral AQAL that support this conclusion. But first, here are some of the indicators that point toward the reality of this conclusion.
Characteristics of being stuck at a mid-prepersonal level of development may include the following:
In Part I of this essay, I noted six concepts basic to Integral AQAL upon which this argument is based:
Let us now look at those six in more detail.
1) Enlightenment can occur independent of stage development and it is not necessarily an indication of any high level of development. While definitions of spirituality that do not contain morality are highly problematic, there is no necessary correlation between enlightenment and morality.
Any definition of spirituality that ignores or minimizes the importance of the core moral line, in any of the four quadrants, is not advocating a credible definition of spirituality.
It seems that most everyone simply assumes religions, spiritual groups, and their representatives are moral or are going to act morally, and are shocked when it is discovered that behavior is not merely thoughtless, but abusive, and recurs at a frequency and degree of damage that makes it difficult to forgive and forget. The predictability of this sense of surprise implies that we humans have a studied preference for believing this time, this guru, this politician, this partner, this employer, is different, that we have our eyes wide open, and that we know what we are doing, when in truth we are once again trapped in the Dunning-Kruger Effect, climbing Mount Stupid. In such instances, do we hold those who announce to the world that they represent goodness, truth, and beauty, or hold the keys to enlightenment, to a higher ethical standard, or do we shrug our shoulders and accept bad behavior as part of the human condition?
True believers and the general public rarely hold those they idealize accountable, so that job goes, by default, to the courts. One graphic instance has been the ongoing issue of religious pedophilia, with Catholicism only being the most publicized example. It was not meaningfully addressed, much less controlled, until religious/spiritual institutions were forced to conform to secular law. Presumed standards of moral development are increasingly being questioned, challenged, and behavior pursued in the name of religion or spirituality is required to submit to collective social norms. This represents a sea change in humanity's relationship to spirituality. Another example is how a core aspect of Hinduism, the Caste system, was outlawed by India in 1949 because it discriminated against human rights, a principle of secular culture imported from the West. This revolution in the relationship between spirituality and social justice raises a very interesting question: Do religion and spirituality remain religious and spiritual when they are forced to conform to secular law and secular norms of morality? Neither appear to be authentic unless they do, yet their claim to authority and exceptionalism is based, at least in part, on allegiance to divine, not secular, law and norms.
This principle can be extended even further. Are religion and spirituality still religion and spirituality when they are forced to conform to science? Claims of miracles, psychism, and the efficacy of prayer are examples of traditional religious claims that have not been scientifically validated. Both religion and spirituality assume morality, and morality is based on authenticity in relationships and validity of truth claims that impact others. Science, however, focuses on facts, not morality, but the accuracy of the interpretation of those facts is indeed a moral issue. We are currently in the middle of a momentous, historical bending of both religion and spirituality to the requirements of science in the external individual quadrant and law in the external collective quadrant, in what might be viewed as a forced incarnation and embodiment of the sacred.
A realistic book about the religion or spirituality of tomorrow, rather than to be about causal, subtle, and non-dual dimensions, would likely focus on how conformity to both law and science are likely to transform spirituality and religion. Religion and spirituality can continue to be authentic conveyors of interior individual revelation, but to be credible in all four quadrants they need to adequately address scientific data from the exterior individual quadrant as well as criteria of social justice in the exterior collective quadrant.
While such conformity is hardly a necessity, it is for any sacred teaching that claims to be universal. Religions and spirituality can also continue to believe in their own prepersonal mythologies without any problem, as long as there are no claims to truth in the exterior individual quadrant. But religions and spiritual organizations generally portray their particular mythology as fact and accept only that science that validates their particular mythology. Ayurveda is a good example, but so are Scientology, appeals to “quantum everything,” and Wilber's “Eros as spirit-in-action.” As the domain of science broadens, religion and science find themselves in a defensive retreat if their authenticity is based on truth claims that are falsifiable. Therefore, the realm of the sacred can be expected to either become increasingly accountable to social norms and science, or else retreat into the realm of tautology and paramartha satya.
Deontological moral principles, which lie at the root of all world religions, have almost zero predictive ability regarding the actual moral behavior of practitioners. How does one square “Thou Shalt Not Kill” with holy wars? However, deontological precepts do have the benefit of setting normative guidelines, bolstering an adherent's self-image as that of a moral actor, and promoting positive public relations. An objective critique of morality in the history of religion and spirituality finds, when enough of a historical record is present, a record of the intermixing of noble, inspirational morality with moral depravity and amorality. Mystics and spiritual people may actively abuse their students and followers, or else they may disconnect from the hunger, fear, and disease surrounding them in the pursuit of their own personal enlightenment and that of fellow True Believers.
While any definition of spirituality that does not contain morality makes little sense, there is no necessary correlation between enlightenment and morality. The problem is that AQAL claims that mystical states are evidence of trans-rational levels of development, implying high morality, but the fact that children and criminals can access transpersonal states strongly implies that while states of union are experienced differently at different levels, that they are themselves ubiquitous, meaning they are not indications of this or that level of spiritual or moral attainment, but rather of either state access or development in one line in particular, that of spiritual intelligence.
This conclusion appears to go directly against a fundamental principle of AQAL, and that is that access to states of union are indications of enlightenment, meaning spirituality and implying morality. Wilber recognizes this problem, and addresses it in at least two ways. In Integral Spirituality he notes that “enlightenment” can indicate a state, line, stage, ultimate or end, and feeling. In the same text, he explains how enlightenment is not static, but expands as the socio-cultural collective contexts in which humans are embedded expands. Enlightenment, by at least some of these definitions (state, line, and emotion), is open and available to anyone at any stage of development, completely independent of their level of moral development. While I suspect most Integralists would agree with that, they would also insist that higher levels of development reveal not only greater refinements of enlightenment, but high morality. However, those higher levels are most likely to be spiritual intelligence line competencies with which the self-system line identifies rather than evidence of overall development to personal levels, much less to transpersonal ones.
The higher we evolve on lines associated with spirituality, such as spiritual intelligence, the more moral we are required to be.
While our in-groups simply assume that we are moral and maintains a vested interest in overlooking fellow in-group member amorality and immorality, with increased power comes increased responsibility. With increased responsibility comes increased transparency and accountability. The more universal your spiritual claims are the more subject they are to the judgement of others and the conclusions of both social norms and science.The higher your claims to enlightenment, the more morally accountable you are. You do not gain liberation from social norms because you have attained some level of “absolute realization.” The reverse is true. Expect to be held to a higher standard and be prepared to give those who accuse you of amorality or immorality the benefit of the doubt, just as courts exist to defend the abused by giving them the benefit of the doubt.
Although this has been the common, accepted attitude toward religious and spiritual leaders throughout history, no one deserves to get a free pass on morality because of the “halo effect,” a cognitive bias which causes us to minimize, discount, or ignore, the moral transgressions of those we hold up as ego ideals. The halo effect is largely employed to reduce cognitive dissonance caused by taking as real and important those behaviors that contradicts our idea of how an enlightened person is supposed to behave. This is why Wilber is almost forced to conclude that immoral behavior of gurus and pundits is mere “shadow” by “rude boys” instead of accepting it as evidence of what it actually is: low development on the moral line. We also use the halo effect to justify and rationalize our own moral failings. We look at our elevated lines and use them to create a halo of positive intent that explains away our personal culpability and our authentic low level of overall development. While we need to be less tolerant of moral turpitude by our secular and spiritual leaders, it is much more important that we isolate and name our own varieties of amorality and immorality. But who does that? Who even recognizes them?
2) Line competencies are not the same as level-to-level development. That is a type of Level/Line Fallacy.
Accessing a world view is not the same as attaining an overall level of development.
To the best of my knowledge, this variety of Level/Line Fallacy is not discussed by Wilber, but it is derived from his concept. A world view such as AQAL is a cognitive structure and “map” and therefore a feature of the cognitive line of development. This includes theocentric world views centered on oneness with nature, devotion, the formless, or the non-dual. Just because we have a cognitive grasp of multi-perspectivalism that is transpersonal does not mean that we are transpersonal. Advance on the cognitive line is not advancement in overall development. Nor does access to such states on the line of spiritual intelligence mean that we are transpersonal, but only that we are transpersonally developed on that particular line. Advance on the line of spiritual intelligence is not advancement in overall development. Our overall level of development is determined by other measures than the world view with which we identify or the states of consciousness that we are able to access. These include the required advance of the core lines of the self-system and the moral line. While the self-system generally tracks with both the cognitive and spiritual intelligence lines, the moral line, contrary to the assumptions of Kohlberg and Wilber, does not.
The transpersonal builds on the personal, which also means that what is authentically trans-rational includes the rational. We do not arrive at anything authentically trans-rational that does not include the rational. For example, states and affect of enlightenment cannot be assumed to be trans-rational because neither requires a rational level of development. Wilber points out that a failure to recognize his Pre/Trans Fallacy leads to “anti-intellectualism” while its recognition leads to “trans-intellectualism,” or “trans-rationalism,” because it transcends and includes lower levels of development, like the mid-prepersonal. We will see that this is a very important distinction.
Identifying with our cognitive line does not mean that we have ascended to the level of development of our cognitive line.
Because we tend to identify with our thoughts and to believe that the level of sophistication and inclusiveness of our thoughts determines our identity, or who we are in the development of our self-system line, it is normal to associate our level of development with our level of cognitive development. Mark Forman, author of A Guide to Integral Psychotherapy, makes the same point:
Most of the time the two lines are in basic agreement, with cognition slightly ahead. It's good to remember that both cognitive and self growth are hard, so it's not easy to gain a stage in either domain. Most of the time people are plodding along in both. That said, sometimes the cognitive line can get out ahead, particularly in very bright people. And sometimes the gap can be (or can aid in things being) pathological. We can all think of examples for that.
If we think post-formal thoughts, then it is normal to assume that we must be at a post-personal level of development. However, interior perception of reality is a notoriously poor determinant of reality, from the acceptance of geocentrism and other sensory illusions to the belief that because we have experienced oneness we know what truth and reality actually are. The level of consciousness with which we identify on our self-system line is therefore not an accurate gauge of our actual level of development. It takes considerable objectivity to differentiate our level of cognition from our sense of who we are. Does Donald Trump think he is prepersonal-tribal? Did Barack Obama believe he was immoral while dropping more bombs on foreigners than did Bush/Cheney? It is also normal to use our thoughts to defend prepersonal beliefs, emotions, expectations, preferences, and assumptions, a point the Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd has elaborated in some detail. We use our elevated, expansionist self-system line, combined with our impressive ability to spin infinite rationalizations, to discount evidence that our actual level of development is mid-prepersonal.
There are at least three different definitions of self-development that must be differentiated.
The first is the self-system, which is one line, but the one that we most centrally identify with. It is normal for the self-system line to identify with our highest developed lines, regardless of the actual level of development of the self-system, which may be much lower, as Mark Forman indicates. The second definition of self-development is the one used by Integral AQAL and represented by the psychograph. The level of development of the self is the average of all lines. This definition assumes that Wilber's interpretation of the development of the moral line, following Kohlberg, is accurate, when the preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that it does not tetra-mesh in the exterior collective quadrant beyond the mid-prepersonal, because of the pervasive amoral and immoral characteristics of the socio-cultural holon with which we interdependently evolve. A third definition, which Integral does not use but is being proposed here, is called “overall development,” (not Wilber's “overall self”) to differentiate it from the previous two. It could also be called “collective development,” because it incorporates the notion of personal development as interdependently evolving with the collectives in which individuals are situated. It could also be called “integral development,” as opposed to “self-development,” because it requires the integration of all four quadrants as a pre-requisite for tetra-mesh from one developmental level to the next. Regardless of what we call it, in this context self-development is determined by the tetra-mesh of core lines and cannot proceed beyond a core line that has not tetra-meshed. In this definition, burden of proof is on Integral to show that the moral line has indeed tetra-meshed beyond mid-prepersonal. To do so it has to show personal moral behavior is neither immoral or amoral at a frequency or degree deemed abusive by those others affected by not only our personal, but our collective actions. Is this criteria too strict or is it realistic? We shall see.
The altitude of our self-system line is not the same as our overall level of development.
The Oxford dictionary defines the self-system as “the complex of drives and responses related to the self; the set of potentialities that develop in an individual's character in response to parental and other external influences.” Wilber defines the self-system as the center of what Wilber also calls “the overall self.” It is the locus of identification, will, defenses, metabolism, and integration, which balances the various levels, lines, states, and types of consciousness. Wilber differentiates the self-system line from both the cognitive and moral lines, and I agree. He also considers these three to be “core” lines, in that all three have to evolve level-to level in all four quadrants, what he calls “tetra-mesh,” as indicated above, in order to attain this or that overall level of development. If the cognitive line leads and the self-system line pretty much follows in tandem (because we largely identify with our thoughts), it does not follow that our moral line is as advanced.
Therefore, the level of development of your self-system line does not determine your overall level of development.
Again, this is because the self-system line is one of at least three core lines, each of which has to tetra-mesh in order for your overall level of development to advance. You can advance level-to-level in any line, but you cannot advance level-to-level in your overall development unless all three core lines, including the core moral line, are able to tetra-mesh, as individual lines. If they do, we can advance level-to-level. If one or the other of the three does not, we remain at the highest level where the fixated core line has tetra-meshed. For humanity as a whole, for multiple reasons, that highest level for the moral line is the mid-prepersonal. Humanity as a whole, and that includes you and me, cannot and will not evolve to late prepersonal, much less beyond, in our overall development, until and unless the collective moral line successfully tetra-meshes at mid-prepersonal. Again, this does not mean that we cannot attain personal enlightenment in most of the ways that Wilber defines it, and it does not deny brilliance or outstanding levels of development on multiple lines. However, both personal investments in amorality and perhaps immorality, both generally rationalized, ignored, or discounted, as well as supra-ordinate collective holon enmeshment in both amorality and immorality, are very real, solid, and stable sources of inertia that bog down our overall development to the prepersonal levels Dooyeweerd addresses in his Ground Motives.
Psychographs, which claim to depict our average overall level of self-development, are badly misleading to the positive, because they do not depict how collective moral responsibility drags down our overall level of development like a lead anchor.
Taking an average of your lines, as Wilber proposes, will not generate a portrayal of your overall development because at least three core lines serve as stoppers of development. If one of them is stuck at a low level, that is your “average.” Since our moral line is stuck at mid-prepersonal, our overall level of development, if plotted on a psychograph, is mid-prepersonal. However, the development of our self-system, which is an individual line, may be way ahead, and the development of Wilber's “overall self,” may also be way ahead, based on Wilber's understanding of both morality and psychographs.
3) The Pre/Trans Fallacy requires that any claim to transpersonal morality be based on rationality and reason.
If enlightenment 1) is independent of stage development by at least a majority of its definitions, and 2) high stage development requires the prior inclusion of reason, then reason demands that the laws of rationality be applied to understanding enlightenment. To meet the criteria of the Eye of Flesh we need to meet the consensual conditions of sensory perception. To meet the criteria of the Eye of Mind we need to meet the consensual conditions of both sensory perception and reason, that is, theoretical or hermeneutical consensus, knowing full well that this consensus, which is based on arbitrary axioms, will be revised and perhaps overturned as new knowledge is accumulated. To meet the criteria of the Eye of Spirit we need to meet the consensual conditions of both sensory perception and the rational interpretations of experts. The only way to authentically include reason and then transcend it is if we meet the consensual conditions of experts of the Eye of Mind on the issue at hand. It will not do to appeal to some version of Nagarjuna's paramartha satya, or absolute truth, nor will it do to attempt to short-circuit the Pre/Trans Fallacy by saying that the Eye of Spirit has its own empirical criteria based on mystical consensus and that therefore those that don't “get” the reality of transpersonal levels simply haven't opened their Eye of Spirit, while still claiming to include reason. This is at foundation an elitist position that makes itself an exception to the Pre/Trans Fallacy, which requires the inclusion of the rational in order to transcend it. When gurus and pandits make claims to absolute or universal truth, they might as well be calling out that they are safe on “Home Base” or “King's X” in a childhood game of tag. Carving out an exception to rules to protect our world view (and identity) is a pre-rational strategy disguised as both a rational and trans-rational one.
To move from the abstract to the concrete here, this is what Wilber does in insisting in a metaphysically grounded interpretation of evolution, as “Eros as spirit-in-action,” based on the Eye of Spirit. While Wilber claims that this interpretation includes the rational, it does not include, nor does it refute, the current Extended Evolutionary Synthesis model of evolution. As regards morality, an understanding of ethical behavior based on Kohlberg does not tetra-mesh because it does not address the contradiction between high levels of interior moral judgment occurring in the same person who manifests low levels of external moral, or amoral, behavior.
Until this dilemma is solved, there can be no evolution of overall personal development, although anyone can still attain great heights of personal altruism, compassion, and character development. These are important varieties of morality, and the only ones that matter to most people. However, there is no assurance that people who claim enlightenment manifest them more than those at prepersonal levels of development or that they are any less likely to be either amoral or immoral than individuals who are advanced on their lines of cognition and spiritual intelligence. When someone demonstrates respect, reciprocity, trustworthiness, and empathy in their interactions with us, we are probably relatively disinclined to focus on their level of development. They are fulfilling some relational exchange that is important to us, like an accountant or fireman does, that is generally our primary concern, not whether they are mid-prepersonal or non-dual in their development.
One of the most basic laws of reason that we can utilize in order to avoid this massive misconception of both spiritual idealism and mainstream developmental psychology, is Occam's Razor, or the Law of Parsimony, which says that simpler explanations that still cover the available data are to be favored. The planet Pluto could be made of Gouda cheese, but the Law of Parsimony says it is most likely made of rock. Covid-19 could be a governmental plot connected to the installation of G5 telecommunication networks, but the Law of Parsimony says it is most likely a highly adaptive, naturally occurring virus. Mystical experiences could be an indication of a transpersonal level of development, but the Law of Parsimony says they are most likely to be states accessible at any stage of development and markers of enlightenment as defined by highly positive affect, high line development (of at least cognitive and spiritual intelligence and probably the self-system) but that it does not follow that we are looking at enlightenment as defined as high stage development or an end state.
World views, even AQAL, are at root pre-cognitive and prepersonal belief systems.
This is Dooyeweerd's contention, and I agree. The major tip-off that this is true is the resistance of most belief systems to reason and rationality. For example, in the case of Integral AQAL, as mentioned above, evolution of “Eros as spirit-in-action” is a belief held in the interior individual quadrant based on personal and collective mystical experience that discounts scientific accounts of evolution without providing any rational counter-arguments. Why not? The Law of Parsimony tells us that the first hypothesis to rule out is that AQAL is a pre-rational belief system that uses a semblance of rationality to argue for its transpersonal nature. Pre-rational world views are strong arguments for an overall pre-rational and prepersonal center of gravity, regardless of one's degree of transpersonal attainment on the line of spiritual intelligence via meditation or mystical experiences or whether we have attained a post-formal level on our cognitive line.
Why are people not stuck at late prepersonal or early personal instead?
While people can and do fixate on lines at any and every level, we are not discussing linear fixations here but a fixation in stages of overall development. There is a big difference. Line fixations, other than those of the moral line, don't involve morality. Being fixated at late prepersonal is, on the moral line, about pre-conventional morality, otherwise known as pre-conventional morality, narcissism, or immorality, by Kohlberg and Wilber. Being fixated at early personal on the moral line is a manifestation of Kohlberg's conventional morality. We can be fixated at any level on any line for all sorts of reasons that have very little to do with morality, such as preformal cognition, sociocentrism, identification with reason, or an exclusively pluralistic/egalitarian approach toward life. To be stuck at mid-prepersonal is essentially not an issue concerning immorality either, which indicates a pre-conventional, late prepersonal level of development. Instead, mid-prepersonal “morality” involves a pre-pre-conventional amoral space that is emotionally driven: “I don't care,” or “I want to avoid or ignore abuse and instead focus on the wonderfulness of me and my belief system.”
Is it cynical to view humanity stuck at a pre-pre-conventional level of morality? In times of socio-cultural and personal crises, superficial adaptive strategies fail, our personas melt, and we get to see what proportion of society reverts to what level of development. In 2020 we are witnessing a massive amount of mid-prepersonal, emotionally-driven behavior and reasoning, particularly in the West. At the time of this writing, a significant number of highly educated and intelligent Germans are protesting against government oppression due to being forced to wear masks and observe social distancing for both their protection and that of others. This is a clash between a collective value fundamental to governance, public safety, a characteristic of the exterior collective quadrant, and a personal value, liberty and freedom, values of the interior collective and, when we identify with them, characteristics of the self-system in the interior individual quadrant. These people view themselves as highly moral actors because their intent is moral. Are they? If they contact coronavirus at a demonstration, go home and give it to their mother and she gets sick and dies, how is the morality of their decision to be determined? It appears to be amoral: they calculate that the danger of covid-19 is not significant and worth the risk involved in affirming personal and collective liberty, so fundamentally, they simply devalue the health of others, which is to say, they either don't care or else they do not care enough to make a decision that the government, representing consensus social norms, deems moral. Rationality is being bent to justify a prepersonal world view and a threatened sense of self, as Dooyeweerd predicted. Some Integral idealists respond as if they were personally attacked when challenges to Wilber's evolutionary theory are raised. And on Integral forums, mention Israeli apartheid or positive aspects of Russia, China, or Trump's presidency (“No one is smart enough to be wrong all the time,”) and see what happens. All of these reactions are prepersonal, revealing strong emotional identification with world views in a way that most closely aligns with the mid-prepersonal.
4) One can be anti-elevationistic without being a reductionist.
The fourth concept is also an elaboration of Wilber's Pre/Trans Fallacy, that one can be anti-elevationistic without being a reductionist. Another way of saying this is that one can challenge an idealistically-based world view without being a materialist. You can even reject the multiple ambiguous and therefore misleading traditional definitions of spirituality without being a romanticist that glorifies regression. This also means that one can be at mid-prepersonal without being a Nazi, which is a reductionism of the mid-prepersonal to only its pathological elements. These sorts of “either-or” formulations are examples of black and white or polarized thinking and is a type of emotional cognitive distortion, implying that affect is largely coloring and determining thought processes.
Is amorality really a sign of a mid-prepersonal level of development?
While amorality can and does manifest on all levels and in the context of any line, just as we can have mystical experiences at any level, can one think of a more suitable foundational, representative level? Developmentally, amorality clearly comes before Kohlberg's late prepersonal, pre-conventional stage of immorality. roughly corresponding to Wilber's mid-prepersonal. To indicate that, here is again Wilber's chart of Kohlberg's levels of moral development:
Amorality is a form of non-coherence, or an absence of systemic coherence between narratives, values, processes and systems based on a self-system, rather than decoherence. Neoliberal economics consciously chooses an absence of systemic coherence in order to make capital gains the priority over human welfare. Lawyers consciously choose an absence of systemic coherence in order to provide the best case for their client, regardless of moral issues. Obviously, amorality has its uses, and they are both powerful and pervasive. Amorality is purposefully employed by self-systems as a tool to access various desired relational exchanges, such as security, wealth, and status. If I have an enemy that needs killing it helps to be amoral and simply not care. It is easier to do this as a bomber pilot than as an infantry soldier, where you have to face who you are killing. It is easier still to do this if you are the head of a corporation or a government official because it is easy not to care about lives that are abstractions and “folks,” if not “cockroaches” or “vermin,” rather than flesh and blood with names and families. Blindness, either due to ignorance or willful delusion, in itself due to our investment in the status quo and states of non-functionality, is normalcy in a state of amoral non-coherence. Because systemic drift has been gradual - the slowly boiling frog syndrome - coherent, moral alternatives appear to be impossible, non-viable, or threatening. We can't be moral, because personal, work, and international challenges will not permit it. The US has to remain at war in Afghanistan and Syria because the sunk cost fallacy requires it. Israel has to maintain Palestinians in conditions worse than the Warsaw ghetto because...We typically convince ourselves that we are moral, even when acting in thoroughly amoral and/or immoral ways. What remains is a limbic tropism, or an emotionally-directed orientation, to keep doing more of what's failed spectacularly, because it once worked and therefore should work. This is thesis horizontal stasis, what Wilber calls translation, rather than tetra-mesh to the next highest level. Amorality justifies and defends translation while aborting transformation.
In a capitulation to mid-prepersonal amorality and immorality, our overall development loses the ability to adapt to changing circumstances; the only menu of responses to a novel challenge is the same old menu of scripted alternatives indoctrinated in our youth or part of the behavioral substrate of our world view, relationships, business structure, or national identity.
To look at healthy mid-prepersonal development, observe dogs and most two year olds.
Neither are “Nazis,” a term Wilber facetiously used in Integral Spirituality to describe anyone at a pre-mid-personal (not only mid-prepersonal) level of development, and a term more generally used to describe people who are either immoral or lack morality all together. However, when we pass through our mid-prepersonal developmental level, when we are about two, when amorality occurs in a normal developmental process, under stable socio-cultural circumstances, we are healthy and happy. Life itself, with the single exception of human holons past the mid-prepersonal, is amoral. Mammals are not concerned with good and bad, right or wrong, fair and unfair in the context of social norms, but only on a sensory and affective interpersonal level. Normal mid-prepersonal expresses healthy amorality, a healthy sensory and emotionally-centered self-sense, and healthy concreteness.
Dogs and two year olds are not normally or naturally sociopathic, personality disordered, narcissistic, dramaholics, lacking in concern for others, addicts, splitting, or personalizing in unhealthy ways. Dogs and two year olds normally demonstrate a concrete degree of respect, reciprocity, altruism, if not empathy, and trustworthiness within the context of their developmental level. Anyone who has owned dogs all their lives, as I have, know that they are generally loyal, respectful, positive in mood, often joyful, cooperative, more trustworthy, and far less judgmental than your average human. While dogs are concrete, pre-verbal in their cognition, and amoral, few are sociopathic, narcissistic, addicts, exploitative, or vicious. There are plenty of animal and child behavioral studies and easily accessible YouTube videos that demonstrate the reality of very positive characteristics of the mid-prepersonal in both animals and two year old humans.
We need to reconsider the pathological cast that developmental psychology and Integral AQAL have placed on the mid-prepersonal. We can recognize and respect both the positive and dysfunctional aspects of this level of development and how both faces are both carried forward into “normal” adult life, without indulging in elevationism.
Most humans carry both healthy and pathological aspects of mid-prepersonal into adult life.
We normally carry not only unhealthy but healthy attributes of the mid-prepersonal into our adult life, and these characteristics are major elements of our personalities. To say that they are subsumed in higher levels of development is only true on this or that line. It is certainly the case that pre-formal cognition is included and transcended in formal cognition. It is certainly the case that sensory-emotional identity is normally subsumed in collective and cognitive definitions of self as the self-system develops.
What is not clearly understood is that moral fixation means that mid-prepersonal characteristics, both healthy and unhealthy, remain in the forefront of identity as these other various lines race ahead. When we are in touch with our emotions, preferences, expectations, and our most central beliefs, as most of usk are throughout most days, we are primarily living out of the mid-prepersonal. When we relate to others in a concrete, sensory way, as through sharing a meal, dance, or sex, we are largely experiencing life from a early to mid-prepersonal level. Yes, there are cognitive and relationship overlays, but these are relatively minor and irrelevant to acts of eating, showering, cleaning, having sex, or any number of other habitual and routine activities that make up the greater part of our days. We spend most of our day on automatic pilot, anchored in sensory and affective experience, with a perpetual overlay of roof-brain sub-verbal mental babble, mostly about emotionally-rooted drama. The cognitive scientist George Lakoff makes a very strong case that almost all of our cognition is not only unconscious, but a manifestation of pre-formal symbolic cognition, a manifestation of mid-prepersonal development.
In terms of toxic aspects of the mid-prepersonal, emotional cognitive distortions, which are fairly endemic throughout humanity at its present state of development, are a manifestation of thought in the service of mid-prepersonally rooted emotional preferences, beliefs, and identity. These include personalization, generalization, black and white thinking, jumping to conclusions, catastrophization, filtering, and labeling. Whenever we emotionally identify with a character from a movie or a book, with a politician or guru, we may also be operating from a mid-prepersonal level, due to the fundamental nature of the dynamic of identification. Fear is very clearly a mid-prepersonal emotion, and a great deal of our socio-cultural context is focused on the generation of fear in order to justify both the surrendering of control to others and to make decisions based on mid-prepersonal emotion rather than on rationality. It is more difficult to recognize hope as mid-prepersonal, since it is uplifting, provides purpose and builds confidence, but the expectation of pleasure and reward, which is intrinsic to hope, is as much a mid-prepersonal emotion as fear is. All emotions, even second and third order ones, like anxiety, worry, neurotic depression, and confidence, that do not gain priority until the cognitive and self-system lines develop far beyond the mid-prepersonal, activate and reinforce the mid-prepersonal.
When we personalize, feeling that what others say and do is about us, we are operating from a mid-prepersonal perspective. When we seek to maximize personal gain and advantage without consideration of costs to others we need to first rule out that we are not functioning from Kohlberg's pre-conventional stage of morality, which is chiefly an egocentric, “what's in it for me” and “might makes right,” late prepersonal mentality, or from a mid-prepersonal perspective, due to our inability to take the perspective of others. This may also include a calculated, rational refusal to take the perspective of others as well, a decision by a self that is cognitively differentiated and functioning at Piaget's pre-conventional level or above, and which chooses to take a regressed, amoral perspective, because it is found to be advantageous. When we express an unwillingness, incapability, or lack of interest in empathizing with the interests, concerns, and plight of out-groups, it makes sense to assume we are functioning from a mid-prepersonal moral line perspective regardless, of the level of development of our self-system or the height of our other lines. A common example are soldiers who consciously decide to view enemies as sub-human or simply as objects to exploit. The descent into mid-prepersonal amorality makes killing, sanctions, torture, apartheid, firing employees, and screwing both customers and one's competition much easier.
If we look at our lives and that of others, as well as the general state of public and international relations, we can find the Drama Triangle everywhere. When we are locked in the Drama Triangle, experiencing ourselves as Victim and others, life, or God as alternatively Persecutors or Rescuers, we need to first rule out the possibility that we are operating from a mid-prepersonal perspective, due to the primacy of emotional and life script validation that its dynamic provides. The Drama Triangle is essentially amoral, in that it plays out independent of respect, trust, and empathy.
While most of us can learn to recognize these pathological aspects of character and work to reduce them, we live in socio-cultural contexts that often reward and reinforce amoral and immoral behavior and punish moral behavior. Donald Trump is everyone's favorite example of mid-prepersonal pathology rising to the surface of the collective septic tank. While it is not fair or professional to give Trump or anyone a diagnosis of personality disorder unless they are a client and have been so diagnosed, it is legitimate to identify traits and characteristics of mid-prepersonal dysfunction in one another, as long as we recognize that a diagnosis has to meet a broad number of criteria, and the presence of even several diagnostic indicators is not enough to arrive at a diagnosis. The implication, however, is that whether or not Trump is clinically sociopathic, we have reason to believe that his familial and societal scripting have reinforced sociopathic characteristics in his personality that are associated with pathological aspects of the mid-prepersonal. He is an out-picturing of the current US socio-cultural milieu, as is his opponent in the 2020 election, Joe Biden. If you look at Biden's record of support for war, sanctions, support of plutocrats, Israeli apartheid, and harsh prison terms for non-violent crimes you have to conclude that both parties are heavily invested in both amorality and immorality, implying that the collective center of gravity of our neoliberal empire is solidly prepersonal, although Wilber would rank it higher, at early personal. Even if we manage to rise above such collective inertia in our personal behavior we continue to be conditioned in our overall development by the center of gravity of the collectives in which we are enmeshed.
Pallas Stanford provided another useful contextualization for this concept:
“...I think you are talking in scholarly terms about what I like to call the "imperial mind" - a term that I borrowed from Robert Kegan but use differently to refer to the human operating system of early childhood in which my personal feelings, thoughts, and desires are the only reality I know and raw physical power is the only form of causation I understand. Think of a two year old.
What I think is that the imperially minded rose to power in ancient times and have ruled without notable interruption ever since.
As each more advanced operating system came online, it was subverted by and made to serve the imperial mind. The social mind, for example, invented narratives that naturalized the rulership of the mighty even claiming it was ordained by divine law. Later, the formal mind used philosophy and science to rationalize imperial rulership. The concern I have been voicing in integral communities is that the post-formal mind seems very susceptible to the same subversion.
At any rate, what we have now is the imperial mind, the operating system of our individual and collective infancy, in the driver's seat of our shared endeavor. Being the infant mind that it is, it is heedless of consequences as it pursues its own desires and it will not stop until it is overcome by exhaustion or a greater power; or until it gets distracted. It will resist any effort to reign it in by any means at its disposal. This includes lethal means that threaten its own survival.
I am likewise not convinced that bringing more people to the leading edges of evolutionary consciousness will rectify this problem especially if the leading edges are as susceptible to subversion as they seem to be.”
Psychological drama, while a pathology of any level of development, is fundamentally an amoral identification with the mid-prepersonal. Jews have a collective reputation for promoting a script of chronic victimization. Whites that label themselves inherent racists because they are white are claiming status as inherent persecutors. Doctors, nurses, mental health professionals and teachers easily self-identify with the role of rescuer. The problem with all of these world views and identities is that they keep us stuck in the Drama Triangle: if you play one role, you eventually will find yourself playing all of them. There is no peace of mind and very little in the way of morality in the context of the Drama Triangle. Victims, Persecutors, and Rescuers are convinced they are moral actors, and it is only when we step back and see how these roles interact that we are able to recognize the fundamentally amoral and mid-prepersonal nature of psychological drama.
Pathological aspects of mid-prepersonal are not incidental to contemporary human culture and society; they largely define it.
Once you understand the dynamic of the Drama Triangle and begin to look for it, you will find it almost everywhere you look - in your relationships, business, national and international politics, religion, spirituality, your thoughts, and your night time dreams. We take these positions because each is morally validating and empowering in its own pathological way. Parents only punish their children “for their own good.” “It hurts me more than it does you.” Nations (so they tell themselves), only invade other nations to uplift them and bring them civilization, freedom, and democracy. Chronic identification with the role of victim places us in a morally blameless position, regardless of how heinous our crimes are. When we rescue others we acquire the status of moral paragons, beyond reproach. If people question our motives, we feel justifiably outraged that anyone would question the purity and sincerity of our intentions. These three endemic roles are moral cloaking for an amoral project. There is a cycling between moral and immoral behavior that disguises the essentially amoral inhumanity of the dynamic itself.
How moral do we view slave owners? For most of recorded history there was nothing immoral about owning slaves or beating your wife or children, They were your property, to treat as you wished. We now view such attitudes as shockingly immoral and oblivious indifference to same as amoral. How many aspects of our lives, society, and culture that we take for granted will future generations view with similar horror and disdain? For instance, how moral will future generations view us for acquiescing to an amoral economic system which allows individuals to accumulate far beyond their needs or any measurement of social equality? Will they judge us as chronically amoral, swimming in a sea of mid-prepersonal emotionality and oblivion, while all the while believing that we are wide awake and “advanced?” We confront this issue of historical objectivity in the current reconsideration of the lives of icons like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and F.D. Roosevelt. Gary Amirault: “Further generations will find nothing 'ethical' about twentieth and twenty-first century 'Judeo-Christian' ethics; they will find the morality in this system equivalent to that of Christianity in the Dark Ages, ever dark indeed!” How moral will our descendants consider our choice to perpetually place all of humanity under a nuclear Sword of Damocles?
The disavowal of collective responsibility is a pathological characteristic that belies identification with mid-prepersonal amorality. However, it is also pathological to claim responsibility for actions that are not due to our actions or behavior. For example, psychotherapy tends to over-correct, teaching people who have not taken sufficient responsibility for their lives and actions to assume that whatever they experience they have caused in some way. This bizarre urge to appear moral and avoid accusations of immorality results in the absurd belief that “all is in divine order,” which in its extreme, justifies murder, as Krishna does for Arjuna in the Baghavad Gita, in a manifestation of the doctrine of karma, in which we are currently getting what we deserve due to past abuses. A pathological drive to convince ourselves that we live in a morally-determined cosmos is also behind the idea that “all is in divine order,” as proposed by Leibniz and refuted as an aburdity by Voltaire in his satire, Candide. Yes, we share collective responsibility for the actions of those politicians we elect and for the decisions of the system of government we elect and live under. It acts in our names. No, we are not responsible for the acts of our forefathers or the specific actions of others. To believe we have such a pervasive degree of responsibility is grandiose, a form of expansion of our sense of self far beyond who and what our circle of influence rationally allows.
Addiction is a characteristic of a mid-prepersonal level of development.
Addictions are a combination of sensory and emotional attachment and identification, that is, an anchoring in a combination of early and mid-prepersonal developmental stages. Addictions are drives that are oblivious to issues of good or bad, right or wrong. In fact, remorse for indulging in our favorite addiction actually fuels the cycle of relapse. Addiction uses feelings of morality/immorality to fuel an inherently amoral process. Collectively, alcohol, cigarettes, and drug abuse kill 11.8 million people globally each year, more than die from cancer. This does not include other addictions, from the vile to the relatively innocuous, from gambling, sex, gaming, the internet and social media. It does not include the common addictions to the pursuit of relational exchanges, such as wealth, status, and security, or the almost universal addiction to drama, in the sense of emotionally-based identification with victimization, persecution, and rescuing. Edmund Burke noted that power is a fundamental addiction: “Those who have been once intoxicated with power, and have derived any kind of emolument from it, even though but for one year, never can willingly abandon it. They may be distressed in the midst of all their power; but they will never look to anything but power for their relief.” Some people are addicted to their work or a hobby, while others are addicted to relationships or a relationship. Most people have at least one addiction that interferes with their functioning and development. While various lines race ahead, such as the cognitive, self-system, music, kinesthetic, mathematical, and interpersonal, we can remain addicts to drugs, reactive affect, sex, or any other relational exchange, such as security, power, and status, regardless of how high this or that line flies, including the line of spiritual intelligence. This should be obvious enough.
Addiction is primarily a manifestation of the mid-prepersonal not only because of its overwhelming sensory and emotional characteristics, but because of its non-responsiveness to morality. Like the pre-pre conventional moral realm of which it is a characteristic, addiction is intrinsically amoral. When we recognize the pervasiveness of addiction as a common characteristic of humanity, we begin to comprehend the mid-prepersonal grounding of humanity as a whole at its present stage of development.
Obviously, some addictions are worse than others, and the ones with the greatest moral consequence are those that exploit, endanger, or devalue others. For example, pedophilia is worse than alcoholism and gambling, which are worse than addiction to anger and personal drama, which are worse than addictions to sugar, TV, the internet and social media. We might consider the latter “nuisance addictions,” in that they whittle away the quality of our lives without doing any great damage. Amorality itself can be thought of as a habitual addiction to not caring, to tuning out the distress of others, and to not perceiving either immorality or amorality as moral failings. Amorality is therefore both the most prevalent and worst addiction, because it does the greatest harm to the greatest number and is so difficult to treat. It exists largely below both individual and collective radar because victims of abuse are typically out-group members and distant collectives rather than individuals who are neighbors or family members. We cocoon ourselves in cultural groupthink bubbles that protect us from having to consider the moral consequences of our actions and to reassure us that our actions are moral and justified, regardless of how abusive they may in fact be. Concepts like “shadow,” when applied to ourselves and our in-group members, exist to deflect moral accountability: “It's not serious; it's just a minor slip.” As a rule of thumb, our addictions, whatever they may be, pull us toward identification with the mid-prepersonal due to their powerful combination of sensory and emotional anchoring. Therefore, they provide another clear signal that our center of gravity on the moral line is amoral, that is, mid-prepersonal.
The presence of cognitive bias, emotional cognitive distortions, and logical fallacies imply that while we may be capable of formal or even post-formal cognition, our intellect serves prepersonal beliefs, world views, and a narcissistic self grounded in mid-prepersonal emotional identification.
Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison claimed credit for monumental discoveries made by others, exemplifying Stigler's Law of eponymy: “No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer.” Many brilliant Jews (and Christians and atheists) support Israeli apartheid or, like Steven Pinker, take an amoral, neutral stance. Most of us ignore the ongoing atrocities in Yemen, committed by our governments. In the US, otherwise intelligent and objective people waste their time and energy arguing about which of two cognitively impaired individuals would make the best President, and in pretending that their favorite is not a hand puppet of an underlying plutocratic oligarchy which will maintain control of the fate of the nation during the downhill slide of Western civilization, regardless of the outcome of the election. Existing at mid-prepersonal is a lot like being in an emotionally-induced, addictive trance state. Sleepwalking in the matrix, choosing the blue pill, happily eating popcorn and gazing hypnotically at the flickering images on the dream screen of life while the theater fills with smoke. Enjoying the music in the first class salon while the last of the boilers that run the pumps sputters and goes out, as the Ship of State raises its stock market bow high above the water in a last hurrah before the epic dive...
Caitlin Johnstone: “To understand the world it's not enough to be intelligent, you've also got to be dedicated to learning what's true. Most aren't; they're dedicated to defending their own interests and worldviews. Smart people will often just use clever arguments to defend their false worldview.”
The non-integration of deep sleep and dreaming, in which we spend about a third of our entire lives, implies a grounding at mid-prepersonal.
Deep sleep is an early prepersonal level of consciousness while the dream state combines early and mid-prepersonal with lesser quantities of higher levels. We spend some five hours every night in deep sleep and some 2.5 hours dreaming, meaning that over the course of our life we spend more than twelve years in deep sleep and five years dreaming. Dreams mostly reflect pre-rational emotionally/based dramas because that is exactly the level of development that most of us are stuck in, most of the time. We hide that from ourselves and others with a thin veneer of rationality and habitual routine that floats upon a sea of pre-rationality, like a bit of flotsam on the ocean. Every night our dreams pull us back into identification with the mid-prepersonal. That reality is a basic reason why we have little time or interest in looking at our dreams - they are disturbing reminders that our intentions and self-image are far ahead of the reality of who and what we are while dreaming.
Interpreting dreams is hardly integration of the dream state with our own. While we definitely have expanded capabilities in dreams, and lucid dreaming is useful for both desensitization and creative expansions of identity, it does not integrate the dream state because dream lucidity colonizes dreaming with our own waking assumptions, interpretations, and world view. The benefits of lucid dreaming address line development, not overall level-to-level development. There is nothing about lucid dreaming that either catapults our awareness to a higher level than our normal waking state, nor is our lucid dream self any more able to understand or integrate dream content than is our normal, waking self.
Dreaming and deep sleep are rarely considered fields for the development of moral behavior. Are we more moral in our dreams, lucid or otherwise? Meditating while dreaming does indeed integrate the dream state with identity, but that has little practical spill-over into our real world patterns of interaction. This is because of the inertia of cultural norms and behaviors. They quickly pull us back into alignment with behaviors, attitudes, preferences, and world view necessary to survive in our everyday environment. Regarding the meaning of dreams, they remain enigmas even to long-time meditators. The integration of dreaming with waking awareness requires much more than nidra yoga, lucid dreaming, or meditation. It requires the development of a phenomenologically-based, experiential multi-perspectival, integrally informed approach. Tibetan Deity Yoga is a step in that direction, but suffers from its insistence on differentiating the sacred from the profane.
5) While cognition is the leading line for self-development, morality is the leading line for the super-ordinate collective holon in which all individual holons are embedded.
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 collective emphasis of communion, observed in 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.
Our self-development is contingent upon and limited by the level of development of the collectives in which we are socially and culturally embedded.
Wilber agrees. He states this point quite clearly in Integral Spirituality in terms of the width and breadth of personal enlightenment as conditioned by the height and breadth of the “age” into which we are born, that is, the overall collective level of development of our society and culture. A Bronze Age enlightened master like Gautama or Jesus can not attain the breadth and height of enlightenment accessible by you and me, because our socio-cultural collective context is considerably broader than theirs was. 
We may attain enlightened status on the line of spiritual intelligence and still remain at a low level of overall development, if the collectives in which we are embedded are of low development.
Lives of the vast majority of near death experiencers provide examples. These people experience extraordinary states of oneness, regardless of their level of development, and these states are often powerfully transformational. However, most near death experiencers return to living lives very similar to the ones that they lived before, not only behaviorally, but attitudinally and emotionally. The most likely reason for this is their re-immersion in an exterior collective holon that has not changed and into which they had spent their life adapting prior to their near death experience. Socio-cultural collectives have their own inertia and “gravity,” acting like a magnet to almost force us into conformity with its stasis and a return to the previous status quo. Consequently, those few experiencers determined to resist this “fall from grace,” typically use one or both of the following strategies: they share and proselytize, in order to keep the experience alive and surround themselves with others who share a similar world view, or they seek out ways to return to paradise by taking up meditation, the ingestion of mind-altering substances, or entering sacred communities.
Just how low the collectives are in which we are embedded is not determined by their highest developmental lines, but by the overall level of collective ethical behavior, since collective morality has to tetra-mesh as well if it is to advance level-to-level.
Examples among progressives, liberals, New Agers, and integralists of how low socio-cultural norms can easily pull us into an amoral, mid-prepersonal world view include:
There are people today who support the tearing down of statues of historical figures, including people like Washington, Jefferson, and Churchill, because they were either slave owners, racists, or both. Historical outrage at the actions of our ancestors can lead us to wonder what historical outrage future generations will hold toward us today. Allowing environmental exploitation, war, and vast economic inequity come to mind. The fact that we are numb to these because they are elements of our status quo groupthink matrix is no different than that of slave owners, or tribes who lived in cultures that practiced murderous vendetta. We see such behavior as outrageous moral offenses while they themselves did not. Similarly, the future is likely to see our current behavior as morally outrageous, while we ourselves do not.
While the cognitive line leads in the evolution of individual holons, the moral line leads in the evolution of the collective, species holon.
Ken Wilber has famously noted that the cognitive line leads in self-development. I agree. We can only objectify, that is, move from subjective identification to differentiation, through the ability to become aware of cognitive distinctions. Therefore, the process of movement from proximate to awareness of distal selves at any level of development on any line, but particularly on the line of the self-system, requires that the cognitive line leads. However, individual holons of self-development are embedded in collective holons of social and cultural development. Individual holons are subsets of the collective holons of which they are constituent elements. In these collective, Supra-ordinate holons, the cognitive line no longer leads.
Karen Armstrong, the author of the highly recommended, A Brief History of God, has said, in her Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, “If it is not tempered by compassion and empathy, reason can lead men and women into a moral void.” Compassion and empathy are elements of the moral line. Morality leads in the evolution of the supra-ordinate collective holon because collectives are grounded in intersubjective relationships in the interior collective and interobjective relationships in the exterior collective, not cognition. Relationships, based on rules of interaction called social norms and behavioral ethics, are the province of both the exterior collective holon and the collective species holon while the objectification of individual awareness, a cognitive process, is the province of the two individual quadrants.
Certain circumstances have to adhere for ethical behavior to exist in the exterior collective holon. These include basic questions we ask of each other in all relationships. We ask, “Am I being respected?” “Is there reciprocation, that is, am I being treated fairly?” “Are you trustworthy in areas that matter to me?” “Do you empathize, that is, demonstrate that you recognize my feelings and perspective even if you disagree with them?” I may be an ascended master and you may be my dog, but if I do not pass the above sniff tests, you will have nothing to do with me and you will be wise not to.
We can lead with the cognitive line all we want, but if the above criteria being met, the foundations for personal, collective, and societal relationships collapse. This is why the Buddhist explanation for suffering, ignorance, is not sufficient to end suffering. Knowledge, that is, development on the cognitive line into wisdom, in no way ensures reciprocity, respect, trustworthiness, or empathy. We know that the moral line, rather than the cognitive line, leads in relationships because we value respect more than intelligence in our interactions with animals, children, and the talented. We may live with an enlightened master and be miserable if they are not respectful. We may live with someone with an IQ of 70 and be happy if they are respectful.
It is not possible to separate the level of self-development from the level of development of the collective holons in which we are embedded.
Both developmental psychology and developmental spirituality, such as Wilber's Integral AQAL, typically assume that high morality accompanies high cognition and a high self-system line. Spirituality in general makes the assumption that those who are high on the line of spiritual intelligence are also highly moral. This is done because intention and in-group validation blind us to our own amorality and that of those with whom we identify. We can see this clearly in the current ongoing collapse of both religious belief and in the growing distrust in the governments of both the US and its associated client states. It is not that the plutocrats, oligarchs, CEOs, and globalists who have the power to change the trajectory of world economies are either stupid or immoral. Conspiracy theorists assume that these are evil people who only care about personal power. I disagree. These are largely well-meaning people who are operating on moral principles that hide an underlying amorality, even from themselves. They believe that their policies, such as the bail-outs of the plutocracy in 2008 and again in the spring of 2020, would generate collective wealth and happiness, despite overwhelming evidence that they created distrust and societal breakdown.
The belief that we can separate self-development from collective behavior, which sometimes appears to be the overall enterprise of self-development psychology, philosophical idealism, and personal spiritual enlightenment, all three of which are largely interior quadrant enterprises, is a self-serving delusion. We want to believe that even if our groups, leaders, and governments are immoral that we are different; we are moral because our intentions are good, innocent, or justified. This mistaken belief in the differentiation of personal from collective morality is based on a level-line fallacy, in which we mistake excellence in our development in this or that line (generally cognitive, spiritual intelligence, and interpersonal) for our overall level of development. This is a mistake, error, and self-serving delusion. It is also based on the assumption that what others think of us in our exterior collective relationships do not determine or limit our personal development. Both of these assumptions are self-serving delusions.
Collective levels of moral development limit and largely define our overall level of development, regardless of our level of self-development.
Collective levels of moral development are our level of moral development in the external collective quadrant of our personal, individual holon. We cannot divorce who we are and our level of development from that of those collectives in which we live. To divorce our relationships with others is to divorce one quarter of any holon required to tetra-mesh to a higher level. To discount or minimize the impact of our actions on others is to not only discount and minimize others as objective entities, but others as aspects of our distal self, for example, as portrayed in our dreams. Wilber agrees, and made this point regarding enlightenment, as noted above, in Integral Spirituality. Collective amorality and immorality may not hold back our development in individual lines, or we may break free of their constraints on individual lines, but the level of overall development of collectives in which we are embedded is a statement of our overall level of development. Tibet provides an excellent example. Monks who were highly advanced in the line of spiritual intelligence and who practiced non-dual dzogchen meditation functioned within a feudal monastic system in which the vast majority of people lived in a state of indentured bondage to the monasteries. This was in no way viewed as immoral and occurred in an amoral context because the socio-cultural milieu had not yet differentiated out the mid-personal concept of human rights, which turned it into a moral issue. Instead, it was viewed as a moral system within the context of dharma, with each individual positioned in society where his karma determined he should best be.
Pursuing individual enlightenment in exclusion to the enlightenment of society is a fool's errand, because as we learn from history, at some point the unenlightened masses will rise up and undo all we have accomplished. The great libraries of Alexandria, Nalanda, and Baghdad were turned to ash, with the cumulative total of human wisdom and culture blotted out of history by the actions of a few ignorant individuals acting out of a combination of amoral and immoral motivations. To enlighten the general socio-cultural whole is the best investment in our own enlightenment and that of our children's children, because it creates collective contexts that better guide the development of individuals while protecting the collective accomplishments of civilization as a whole.
In his 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker refers to the Matthew Effect in societies, whereby everything seems to go right for some people, and wrong for others, in a sort of feedback loop in which immoral and/or amoral behavior by some individuals creates a chaotic environment that encourages reckless behavior by others. This is highly reminiscent of the current condition of the US, Germany, and other countries, where people are collectively demonstrating against government guidelines by not wearing masks and not observing social distancing, thereby endangering public safety. Pinker cites research by Martin Daly and Margo Wilson showing that the more unstable the environment, the more steeply people discount the future, and thus the less forward-looking their behavior is likely to be. In a socio-cultural sense, the mask of morality comes off and the actual mid-prepersonal overall level of development of Western society is revealed. Important causative factors include the emphasis on individuality over the collective sense of Asian society, as well as on freedom as a pre-eminent value, while Asian societies emphasize obedience and responsibility. The much superior response to covid-19 by Asian societies is a global experiment in which set of moral principles and social norms provides the greatest adaptability and survivability in times of systemic crisis. Asian societies appear to be at healthy mid-prepersonal in moral development, at least in terms of their response to coronavirus, due to their willingness to be accountable to the collective, while Western societies remain fixated at dysfunctional mid-prepersonal, as a consequence of a primary allegiance to individual liberty and freedom of choice.
6) Morality must meet criteria in all four quadrants to tetra-mesh and allow overall development from one level to the next.
While the core moral line has to tetra-mesh in order to develop level-to-level, individual lines can and usually do race ahead.
Arriving at Kohlberg's post-conventional or Wilber's post-post conventional levels of moral judgment does not reflect our level of moral line development because moral judgment and moral intent are interior quadrant criteria and determinants. They do not determine, indicate, or necessitate exterior quadrant morality, although this is a common elevationistic delusion that we use to justify our behavior and reassure ourselves that we really are highly evolved and that our moral lapses are only minor “shadow.” While morality lags far behind, the cognitive line leads, followed closely by the self-system line, because, as we have seen, we naturally identify with our thoughts.
The Kohlberg and Wilber analysis of moral development is flawed because it is based on interior quadrant intent and judgment which shows no inherent or necessary correlation with exterior quadrant behavior or relationships.
Moral intent, because it only represents the interior quadrants, is no determinant of moral behavior, which is the province of means-based and ends-based behavioral ethics in the exterior quadrants. You can believe in the Ten Commandments, Dharma, Karma, the Golden Rule, and meditate for ten hours a day and still be an alcoholic pedophile or drone assassinate women and children. We have seen that you can be a genius like Einstein or Edison and still cheat, claiming origination of discoveries and inventions of others. You can have amazing mystical experiences, lucid dream, be a certified adept in various schools of Buddhist Tantra or Zen and still abuse kids, be xenophobic, or a chronic narcissist. The problem is that most of us intuitively follow Kohlberg and Wilber in our understanding of morality, in that we assume that because our intentions are moral that our actions are as well. This conclusion supports our self-image as moral actors. Who wants to look at evidence that we are amoral and immoral? You are not going to find many self-help books on “Facing Your Amorality and Immorality.”
The consequences for Integral are elitism, chronic hierarchialization, hubris, and a lack of empathy with out-groups. The cure is not an over-emphasis on egalitarianism, heterarchy, and pluralism, but rather a constant questioning regarding the perception of others with which we are in relationship: “Does she see me as respectful?” “Does he see me as reciprocating?” “Do they see me as trustworthy in ways that matter to them?” “Does she see me as empathetic?” These are considerations that apply equally to agentic and communal styles of development.
We compromise ourselves morally because different relational exchanges involve different roles on different lines.
You go to work for me and quickly learn I cheat customers and exploit my employees. Because the relational exchanges of safety and security are typically higher priorities than morality, something employers and governments understand very, very well, we are forced to live with, and typically rationalize, immoral acts and the consignment of compassion and fairness to amoral oblivion. We may remain a saint at home and in our dealings with your friends and family, but at work er do what we have to do, including lie and cheat, because we need the money and we gain status in the eyes of our superiors when we do. This does not mean that we are “bad people, however, it is not merely reducible to “shadow” either.
Because the moral line is a core line, if it is sufficiently deficient we are no longer talking about “shadow;” we are talking about evidence of much lower overall development.
“Sufficiently deficient” morality is determined by the abused and courts, not by our own estimate of our intent and judgment, nor is it determined by the judgment of our in-groups, who are confederates who stand to lose face and status if they judge us as acting immorally. Therefore, if those who claim abuse by us or a court rules in favor of the plaintiff regarding a moral issue, we are not talking about “shadow,” but about a moral deficiency that disqualifies claims of overall higher level development. Of course, claims of high level development on other lines stands. For example, that the brilliant writer, satirist and playwright Oscar Wilde was sentenced to hard labor for the violation of contemporary moral norms in no way negates the advanced altitude of several of his other developmental lines. It also does not mean that Wilde was acting immorally by our standards, but only by those of his time.
Does that imply that there are no objective standards of morality, and that when others accuse us of acting immorally they simply don't understand that their judgments are socially conditioned and therefore are unfairly judgmental toward our behavior? The easiest way to cut through this swamp of ethical relativism is to return to those four basic foundational concepts of healthy relationships that underpin moral, immoral, and amoral judgments mentioned above. We can always determine whether or not our actions are “significantly deficient” or not by asking the recipients of our actions to tell us whether or not our behavior is respectful, reciprocal, trustworthy, and empathetic.
“Sufficiently deficient” morality is best determined by out-groups, including those whose respect we have lost.
Condemnation by out-groups may not be the determining perspective; it may be a minority out-group perspective. Because your X hates your guts doesn't mean you are immoral, only that she or he thinks you are. If some blacks and aligned whites view whites as immoral because they are white, that is not a broad enough of an out-group sampling to arrive at a conclusion. While the determination of our morality as children is based on the judgment of those adults who have the power to reward and punish us, the behavior of those adults is itself governed by laws and broad social norms. These exist to provide some degree of objectivity instead of mere in-group judgment and personal whim. Not only law and the judgments by broader out-groups, but assessments involving all four quadrants must be considered to calculate our level of moral development. Morality is, however, most fundamentally a collective norm and behavioral assessment, and therefore it makes sense to give the evaluations of others greater weight than our own assessment of our level of moral development.
Calling abuse “shadow” does not magically mitigate it.
Why should we excuse the abuse of others just because they consider their bad conduct “shadow?” If someone robs us or rapes our child we do not rationalize it away as “shadow.” That rationalization is beside the point, both to us personally and to the determination of justice in courts of law. What matters in the external collective quadrant is the administration of social justice, so that we and society are protected and there is assurance that the abuse will not reoccur. It also matters whether or not some type of compensation or restitution is provided.
“Shadow” can be used to signal, “Anything and everything that I think about you that you disagree with is just your denial.” Or, it can be used to say, “Regardless of what I did to you, it's not significant abuse.” Both of these rationalizations are extraordinarily useful for those who want to avoid responsibility. In the first instance, I can maintain my top dog, authoritative position by essentially saying, “I'm right, and your failure to agree with me just demonstrates how blind and pathetically unevolved you are.” In the second, I get to maintain my elitist status: “I (or my favorite guru) am second (or third!) tier and I just slipped a little bit.” The concept of shadow allows me to make such claims in the face of ample evidence that I am prepersonal in my development in that my behavior is emotionally-driven belief system. When gurus, pandits, and ego ideals such as politicians and movie stars abuse others, my excusing their behavior as “shadow” can be a transparent attempt to avoid the cognitive dissonance that arises when I have to admit that someone I admire is a seriously flawed and/or abusive individual. I have witnessed otherwise intelligent Integralists do so regarding their favorite politicians and political party. Some otherwise rational people do so regarding coronavirus. It is not someone's “shadow” that causes them to not wear a mask or not do social distancing, and I can assure you that they themselves will agree.
Due to inherently manipulative uses of the term, as a psychotherapist of over forty years experience, I gave up using “shadow” decades ago. I have seen it used to support an immoral or amoral position or both, as a way to validate taking the role of Rescuer within the Drama Triangle, disguising one as a sincere and compassionate care-giver. “Shadow” is another possible indication of a mid-prepersonal level of overall development coexisting with complete obliviousness to that reality. While practitioners are too subjectively enmeshed in the meme to see it, the concept of “shadow” has a “sell by” date of expiration, and it will be looked back upon as a quaint window into the mentality of contemporary culture.
Socio-cultural development occurs not only on lines of technology, organization, and value but is most basically determined by the width and height of morality.
Relationships are based on assumptions and expectations of ethical behavior. Morality is the currency of the exterior collective quadrant in a way that it is not for the other three quadrants, because it is the quadrant of accountability to global norms. Therefore, it matters a great deal whether socio-cultural morality is egocentric, sociocentric, or worldcentric. There is outstanding evidence to support the conclusion morality today is not much different than it was in ancient Egypt, China, or mesoamerica: schizophrenic. That is, socio-cultural morality is solidly mid-prepersonal and egocentric when it is not outright amoral, in terms of level of development, while personal morality, that is, the relationships between individuals on any level, remains grounded in conditions of respect, reciprocity, trustworthiness, and empathy. Again, in the collective species holon which contextualizes our self-development, the moral line leads.
Amorality is not moral or immoral.
“There have been periods of history in which episodes of terrible violence occurred but for which the word violence was never used.... Violence is shrouded in justifying myths that lend it moral legitimacy, and these myths for the most part kept people from recognizing the violence for what it was. The people who burned witches at the stake never for one moment thought of their act as violence; rather they thought of it as an act of divinely mandated righteousness. The same can be said of most of the violence we humans have ever committed” Gil Bailie
Amorality is not to be confused with Kohlberg's pre-conventional level of morality, which is itself largely correlated with late prepersonal levels of self development. Instead, amorality is prior to pre-conventional: an early to mid-prepersonal level of pre-moral development. While most amorality has little or no negative effect, following the Pareto Distribution and Principle, 20% of amorality may do 80% of the damage to the character of an individual or the cohesiveness of a society. For example, an addiction may not generate harm to health or reputation of a guru or leader 80% of the time, but there may be a 20%, or one-fifth likelihood, that there will be major fallout. Repetition of the behavior will therefore up the odds of that 20% manifesting as unfavorable, toxic, and possibly devastating blowback on the individual, organization, or society. This is what makes addictive behavior both so deadly to moral standing as well as a marker of mid-prepersonal overall development. The same principle may hold for immorality as well, as a very few number of corrupt or outright sociopathic individuals and individuals can cause the vast amount of harm done to other individuals or to society in general. If this Principle holds, then both individuals and societies will forever be attempting to reduce the 80/20 proportion, but finding it impossible to do so completely, instead, limiting its influence and toxicity. Examples include the use of law and collective responsibility to reduce violence over the course of human history and attempts to reduce nuclear accidents or the inadvertent initiation of a nuclear war.
Amorality, to be differentiated from immorality, is clearly early and mid-prepersonal, but can be expressed at any level of any line.
While immorality involves the making of moral judgments as to whether or not someone is violating social norms, amorality is behavior that is prior to moralistic social norms, but is still normative, in the sense of socially acceptable. When we are immoral we are moral actors; we know the difference between good and bad, right and wrong as concepts. We have seen that animals, on the other hand, are amoral, in that they do not act based on social norms. We are also amoral, like animals, when our actions concerning others do not take into account moral considerations. Many business decisions, addictive behaviors, historical slavery and patriarchy are examples.
Why is the morality of economics so central to the determination of our level of moral development?
Morality generally yields to the securing of fundamental relational exchanges, such as safety and security. If we have to choose between allowing our families to starve to death and stealing, which are we more likely to do? If our work requires us to lie and cheat, and we need our job to pay our bills and maintain our standard of living, what are we most likely to do? If we need to lie and cheat in order to attain goals that are central to our professional identity (politician, lawyer, judge, advertising executive, banker...), what are we likely to do? And in the non-economic realm, if our spiritual beliefs conflict with truth, which are we more likely to uphold?
Economic systems that place “capital gains” or profit before human welfare are amoral.
Amorality is neither moral nor immoral; it is the state of all pre-human life and a characteristic of early and mid-prepersonal developmental levels. When we say, “It's nothing personal,” what we are really saying is that we are not concerned about how our actions impact the personal lives, health, safety, or security of others. Existing within an amoral economic context is different from rational objectivity because amorality either does not care or discards morality because it gets in the way of “business.” Capitalism, business, and government, to the extent that they are based on “capital gains,” “staying in business,” “maximizing profits,” or “following policy,” are amoral. Business involves the pursuit of self-development as status or any other sort of power or personal advantage. The pursuit of relational exchanges considers the needs of others and out-groups to the extent that doing so increases profit of personal gain; otherwise, those defined as “other” are “costs” and “expenditures” or competitors, to be minimized and eliminated if possible.
Pursuit of profit and personal advantage is inherently opposed to collaboration with others and our ecosystem. Many profitable activities involve exploitation of some sort, a term that originally meant “productive working,” but within thirty years, by the 1840's, was being used by abolitionists and others to deride what had previously been thought of as beneficial. War, monopolism, usury, strip mining, fossil fuels, factory farming, ads convincing us we're deficient, are all profitable activities that identify some human need or cognitive failing and exploit it. Individuals, organizations, and nations become extremely powerful by excelling at profit and subsuming anyone who doesn't, to the point where even nations which don't worship profit are forced to pursue it out of self-defense.
Examples of economic amorality include statements like, “Firing you is nothing personal; it's policy.” “Our CEO making four hundred times what front line employees do is moral because he or she is the creative wizard that allows the company to exist, thrive, and pay your salary.” “If I don't bend the rules, lie, cheat, and steal, my competition will and I will get fired, or not get that promotion, or we will go out of business.” “I am not paying you a living wage because I can hire people for less. Take it or leave it.” “You must do what I say, whether or not it is fair or legal, or I will demote or fire you.” Amorality was the basic value structure behind the widespread rigging of vehicle emissions tests by Volkswagen, BMW, and many other car manufacturers. Emission cheating was not a moral decision but an amoral business calculation. However, in the eyes of the court it is a criminal act and immoral, meaning that it broke social norms of morality by lying and cheating. The same is true of drug and mafia money laundering by USBC, one of the largest banks in the world. Possibly getting caught, paying fines, and the calculated costs of damage to reputation were simply computed as business expenses. As long as those expenses were less than the profits from laundering, amorality was and continues to be a rational business decision. From the point of view of USBC, the practice was amoral; from the perspective of the abused, the act was immoral. Who is correct? Based on your role, your perspective will indeed change, but the collective holon, not you, will determine its final moral status: moral, immoral, or amoral, and that determination in turn will capture, limit, and determine your overall level of development.
When society exists within commercial contexts of amoral economic systems, it is functioning at an amoral, mid-prepersonal level.
In contrast to what prevailing opinion appears to believe, economics is not the manifestation of an “orange,” rational level of development, just because it puts the cold calculations of reason before feelings. Any and all levels of all lines can and do operate, from time to time, in service to a mid-prepersonal level of amorality on the moral line. Reason is a personal level tool on the cognitive line which is used to justify a mid-prepersonal amoral position which supports fundamental relational exchanges of safety, security, and the acquisition of status and power. In such instances, reason is employed in the service of pre/re/conventional egocentric and narcissistic amorality.
The idea of trade and market exchange automatically channeling self-interest toward socially desirable ends stems from Adam Smith's famous concept of the “invisible hand.” Perhaps the core justification for Laissez-faire economic philosophy, which lies behind neoclassical economics, the “invisible hand” fundamentally amoral, since it has nothing to do with respect, reciprocity, trustworthiness, or empathy, foundational concepts of moral interaction. It contends that the maximization of self-interest maximizes collective economic growth. In integral terms, it claims that a focus on the individual quadrants will generate maximum collective quadrant development, and focus on the attainment of desired relational exchanges will produce the greatest collective benefit. Positing an economy guided by Smith's invisible hand may amount to social Darwinism, an amoral belief system disguised as a rational conclusion, which is also associated with champions of laissez-faire capitalism.
Only government with its laws and powers to enforce them can protect citizens from the inherently amoral nature of commerce, which is based on the priority of maximization of financial gain. If you live in a country that does not protect its citizens from abuse in the pursuit of profits, you are living in an amoral socio-cultural context. You are like a fish swimming in polluted water that is largely adapted to that dysfunctional reality. Privatized prisons, hospitals, and rentier economies that exploitatively extract value from workers provide three clear examples. This threat is much more pervasive and corrupting than protection from military intrusions, that every year become less likely, while the intrusiveness of plutocracy - power based on the accumulation of wealth, becomes increasingly pervasive in all societies.
The fact that we are embedded in an amoral economic structure strongly implies that our own level of moral development is amoral, pre-pre conventional and mid-prepersonal.
If you live in an amoral economic system - and who doesn't? - your core moral line is at best mid-prepersonal, prior to Kohlberg's level of pre-conventional morality. You can race ahead all you want on various other lines, and indeed, it is good for society and your own well-being if you do, but that will do nothing to advance your overall level of development. Only lifting your collective external quadrant out of amorality will do that. The problem is, you cannot do so by yourself. You and I are held hostage in our overall development to that of the collectives in which we are enmeshed. It takes collective will and great perseverance over decades to move a collective from level to level. Individual effort will advance lines and advance us in this or that line, with the exception of the moral line. Its development requires a collective effort, and in that regard it is different from all other lines. The failure to recognize this and to therefore emphasize the importance of the advancement of social justice in the exterior collective quadrant is therefore a major, major deficiency in Integral AQAL as it is presently formulated. This is not to deny that we have a choice as to whether we act amorally, immorally, or morally and that those choices are not only critical to the success of our relationships but to our personal development as a whole. Development on the personal moral line remains unable to tetra-mesh level to level, because we remain morally compromised in our exterior collective quadrant, due to the mid-prepersonal level of moral development of the human holon.
Geopolitical systems that place power before compliance with international law are immoral.
Geopolitical systems are fundamentally amoral, functioning immorally, while masquerading as either mid-personal, rationally-based, coldly calculating “realist,” or as late-personal, selfless “liberal” rescuers, bringing globalism, democracy, freedom, and endless consumption to the masses. As such, these geopolitical systems are locked in a mid-prepersonal level of amorality while imagining that they are much more highly evolved because their representatives are rational, articulate primates in suits. To understand this schizoidal chasm between professed intent and actual behavior, it is necessary to look at what people, groups, and nations actually do in exterior individual behavior and exterior collective relationships instead of simply accepting the narratives they tell themselves and others regarding their intent. Such narratives are almost always self-serving, designed to both elevate and justify our actions and those of our groups. When do you hear people claiming an intent that is lower than the level of their behavior or relationships? Isn't it almost always higher? If so, why? The answer is that attributing a moral intent to immoral and amoral actions justifies an elevationistic self-sense. We use language to advance on multiple lines, identify with that high development, and totally lose sight of the fact that we are functionally apes with highly developed cognitive lines and guns. We are a mere twenty thousand years beyond spear chunking; the world view of shamanism is still alive and well in our everyday thinking in the form of dualistic cognition, personalization and the bulk of psychological defenses, cognitive biases, our world view, and our support of our in-groups at the expense of others and truth, and a belief in the determination of truth and reality by interior states rather than by a four-quadrant, multi-perspectival approach.
Immorality, best seen in the “realist” school of geopolitics, as represented by people like Machiavelli, Churchill, the Dulles brothers, Brzezinski, and Kissinger, is not experienced by animals or life in general. It is a purely human phenomenon, despite animals being hung during the Middle Ages after being sentenced to death for witchcraft. Human norms make distinctions between right and wrong and good and bad, based on collective standards of abuse. While morality is based on respect, reciprocity, trustworthiness, and empathy, immorality is based on disrespect, unfair exchange, violations of trust, and sociopathy. If you live in a country that acts on the assumption that “might makes right,” your core moral line is at best late prepersonal, the level of Kohlberg's pre-conventional morality, but more realistically, mid-prepersonal, because it is probably weighted down by an amoral economic system. The worst offenders by far are the NATO countries, the “Five Eyes,” and Israel, and the worst of those, by far, is my own country, the United States.
John Bolton provides us with a contemporary example of the “realist,” more appropriately the Machiavellian, school of geopolitics. Bolton said,
“Now I want to make the case for secrecy in government when it comes to the conduct of national security affairs, and possibly for deception where that's appropriate. You know Winston Churchill said during World War Two that in wartime truth is so important it should be surrounded by a bodyguard of lies.”
“Do you really believe that?” asked an incredulous (interviewer) Napolitano.
“Absolutely,” Bolton replied.
“You would lie in order to preserve the truth?” asked Napolitano.
“If I had to say something I knew was false to protect American national security, I would do it,” Bolton answered.
“Why do people in the government think that the laws of society or the rules don't apply to them?” Napolitano asked.
“Because they are not dealing in the civil society we live in under the Constitution,” Bolton replied. “They are dealing in the anarchic environment internationally where different rules apply.”
“But you took an oath to uphold the Constitution, and the Constitution mandates certain openness and certain fairness,” Napolitano protested. “You're willing to do away with that in order to attain a temporary military goal?”
“I think as Justice Jackson said in a famous decision, the Constitution is not a suicide pact,” Bolton said. “And I think defending the United States from foreign threats does require actions that in a normal business environment in the United States we would find unprofessional. I don't make any apology for it.”
Bolton was enunciating an “ethics of ultimate end,” as differentiated by the eminent German sociologist Max Weber, in his famous essay, Politics as Vocation (1919), from an “ethics of responsibility.” While the former believes the end justifies the means, and therefore morally justifies whatever is required to accomplish one's goals, the second refers to accountability for the means one uses to accomplish their goals. Weber told his audience at the University of Munich,
There is an abysmal contrast between conduct that follows the maxim of an ethic of ultimate ends ... and conduct that follows the maxim of an ethic of responsibility, in which case one has to give an account of the foreseeable results of one's action.
Generations of critical thinkers from Rosa Luxemburg to Aimee Cesaire to Frantz Fanon to Edward Said to Arundhati Roy did not live and think and write for us to excuse our actions on the grounds of being enlightened or “second tier.”
Immorality can be covered up in two ways. It is wise to assume that everyone, including ourselves, are using both almost all the time, if not all the time. The first is by claiming moral intentions to justify immorality, the road preferred by geopolitical “progressives.” The second is to make the issue neither moral nor immoral, that is, amoral, which is the approach that the realists and the gun and armament industries use. This is a manifestation of ends justifying (immoral) means. Abuse and exploitation are calculated means in the service of prepersonal, amoral ends. As Secretary of State Madelyn Albright said, when asked if the killing of some 500,000 Iraqi children due to sanctions under the Clinton administration was worth it, “Yes, the price is worth it.”
Amorality means killing is just a job, a cost of doing business, in this case, of bringing democracy and freedom, not to mention control of oil and domination by the US. It's a job. If you work in the armaments industry, say manufacturing nuclear triggers outside Amarillo, Texas, you might think, “The government and police require the weapons; we just provide them.” If you are a PhD who cannot get a job in your field and get offered a job making $120,000 a year working for an arms manufacturing company and have a family to support, what do you do? How do we evaluate morality vis-a-vis basic relational exchanges of safety and security? I was friends with a brilliant scientist dedicated to the development of green energy, who was also a kind and generous individual. To support himself, his wife, and his work, he earned money working out the mathematics of explosive charges in bombs for a US defense subcontractor. He knew those bombs would be dropped on people, destroying lives, families, and resources. Is such a person “immoral” because he wants economic security? No, it's worse than that: he is amoral, which is a lower stage of moral development than immorality.
This is mid-prepersonal behavioral ethics on the moral developmental line, but that reality is generally not recognized, or is completely discounted, because he, like weapons salesmen, are nice people, like Hitler, who had an IQ of over 140, was a vegetarian, liked dogs, and was genuinely admired and appreciated by the mass of the German public during the 1930's. The problem with our support of realist and liberal geopolitical systems is not that they are immoral, while manufacturing consent, to use Noam Chomsky's phrase, to obfuscate with sanctimonious or utilitarian rationalizations, but that such systems are amoral: we just don't care enough to think in terms of good and bad, right and wrong when it conflicts with our self-image as democratic humanitarians.
However, our true religion is the worship of fundamental relational exchanges of safety and security, which involve the accumulation of wealth. Even when we have attained a comfortable standard of living and we have acquired the time freedom to move on to higher relational exchanges, such as the study of Integral AQAL and meditation, we are likely to become addicted to the accumulation of wealth, due to the powerful reinforcers of security, status, and power its possession generates. That is the condition of the US and much of its satellite international community: so many pieces of a corrupt system are interdependent that everyone is in collusion to ignore its profound and fundamental amorality.
When developmental lines run off and leave the moral line you get developmental imbalance.
Meritocracy, or the pursuit of excellence, is essential, but destructive if it does not occur within a balancing and moral context. The consequences of the general pursuit of excellence, an agentic priority hard wired into self-development, at the expense of balancing agency and communion, are severe, leading inevitably to disastrous crashes that spew fallout that damages others and has lasting effects. For personal examples, look at gurus and the vast landscape of flawed and corrupt political and business leaders. These are people who have attained excellence on one and often several lines while ignoring or neglecting addictions, pre-conventional, or pre-pre conventional ethics. For civilizational examples of the consequences of ignoring balanced societal development, examine Jared Diamond's detailed analysis in Collapse. The higher the altitude of this or that line, the broader its foundation must be. When we focus on excellence, we emphasize altitude at the expense of foundational breadth. By not focusing on the business of broadening our foundation, essentially through tending to the moral line, we risk self-validating complacency that leads first to rigidity and lack of adaptability, and then to personal and civilizational catastrophe.
What is to be done?
It is a mistake to avoid or ignore the transformative awarenesses of gurus and pandits who are theocentric in their cognitive and spiritual intelligence lines but who are morally, and therefore overall, at mid-prepersonal in their development. For example, Osho, otherwise known as Rajneesh, has written brilliantly on spirituality. The fact that he owned multiple Rolls Royces, built a compound with watch towers commandeered by guards with guns, and had sexual relationships with students in no way detracts from the quality of his spiritual and intellectual insight in his writings. Does the fact that a culture of pedophilia was a long established tradition within the Christian priesthood and most probably within Buddhist monastic traditions negate the value of those traditions? What such disturbing realities do is force spiritual idealism to come to terms with the mundane, secular reality of human nature as solidly anchored at mid-prepersonal. It compels us to recognize that any spirituality that refuses to do so is not authentic spirituality because it is morally compromised at its core. The recognition that our level of overall development is solidly mid-prepersonal is a call to go back and re-evaluate both individual and collective assessments of level of development, based on a recognition that the moral line is core and that there is no overall tetra-mesh from level to level if we have chronic amorality or immorality or both.
Authenticity is based on a realistic appraisal of our level of development and that of the groups to which we belong.
If we are not willing or able to make such an objective, realistic appraisal of our level of development, we forfeit claims to authenticity. Without authenticity, what do we have? People who sincerely believe in the authenticity of their vision and dispensation, due to mystical experiences, trust in spiritual authority, the validation of their peers and in-groups, or the heaping up of indicators of status: arms, trophy spouses, off-shore accounts, second homes, or conspicuous consumption, replace out-group objective assessments with personal conviction, belief, and intent. We give the perspectives of out-groups, that is, those who disagree with us and/or are not members of our clubs, societies, organizations, race, gender, nation, or flavor of spirituality the benefit of the doubt.
However, if those we have offended call us abusers, that does not mean they are correct. Just because your X thinks you are lower than frog crap does not mean that you are; consider the opinions of your detractors within the context of the more emotionally neutral evaluations of other out-groups members. For example, Somalians, Philippines, and Indonesians are unlikely to have any personal grudge against you as an individual, but they may indeed have a low opinion of you as a supporter of your society and culture, to the extent that they experience it as exploitative and abusive. If the US attacks enough countries, at some point it becomes unwise for Americans to travel abroad. Right now in the US those supporting Black Lives Matter are unlikely to view individual whites as bad people, while holding them personally accountable for racial discrimination of policies created and maintained by a majoritarian white culture, which incarcerates for non-violent crimes a percentage of blacks that far outnumbers their proportion of the population. As an example of how deranged, unhinged, culturally over-determined social norms can get, the famous father of environmentalism, John Muir, is now being blacklisted because he, (like many intellectuals of his time), supported eugenics.
Hanging our heads in shame or wasting our time in self-flagellation because as a species we can at times act more like apes than angels is hardly a solution.
Remorse can simply fuel the cycle of abuse, as can be seen in an alcoholic after a bender or a spouse abuser after the latest attack. Neither is it helpful to claim responsibility for generalized claims of abuse that we cannot make right with words or actions. Claims of victimization can sometimes be manipulative ploys to justify abuse, for example, as terrorist attacks were used by the US to justify the invasion and devastation of Iraq. Integralists need to work at cultivating humility, but in order to do so they first have to own up to the elitism and exceptionalism baked into the integral world view. Integralists are particularly blind to this elitism because, after all, in their minds and world view, they are likely to believe they transcend and include elitism.
We also have to learn the difference between authentic humility and false humility; we aren't born with a recognition of that distinction. For example, claiming one is mid-prepersonal could be an example of false humility. How can we know? False humility is a strategy to gain status by currying favor from people we need, respect, or fear. Authentic humility recognizes the distinction between false and real humility and examines intent to consider how important the regard of needed, respected, or feared others is to our own sense of self-worth.
Recognizing that our overall level of development is mid-prepersonal is not to underestimate our enormous strengths as a species and as individuals.
These have been extraordinarily well-documented by Steven Pinker in three very important books, “The Blank Slate,” “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” and “Enlightenment Now.” Differentiating level-to-level line advancement from level-to-level overall advancement is done in the context of decades of research into self-development. The dividing of society/culture into stages and types by Spiral Dynamics into stages and types can be helpful as are the organizational applications of stage models by people like Laloux. In all these cases we are observing lines of socio-cultural development, not overall level. This is true as long as we insist that morality is a core line that must evolve in all four quadrants. If we ignore that, then no problem - individuals and societies advance level to level.
If you look back at the assessments of level of development that you have read, they almost always ignore morality. Why is that? If you take morality seriously, the level analysis breaks down. What you have left is linear development. People don't want that; we want to believe development, both personal and socio-cultural, has progressed much farther in altitude than it actually has.
Pursuit of relational exchanges can and often does take priority over morality.
Questions regarding morality often come second to the question, “Do you have stuff that I want?” If I envy what you have attained, for example, power, wealth, comfort, status, and trophy spouses, as Donald Trump has, or mystical states of clarity, as multiple gurus claim, I am highly liable to table skepticism and any moral questions I might have and see you as an example of the attainment of relational exchanges I covet. At that point, the halo effect, a cognitive bias, will cause me to ignore your low developmental lines, including your moral deficits, if I can. And in the case of Trump, over 40% of the US voting population is able and willing to do so.
For most humans, it is “live and let live,” meaning, “I am not likely to pass moral judgment on you unless you abuse or exploit me, my family, or nation, or violate tenants of my religious/spiritual beliefs.” This amounts to allowing the powerful to play on the relative moral indifference of people, unless you get directly in their face or in their way. If you don't care what evil I do as long as it doesn't affect you, I can slowly appropriate your resources and freedoms, like kudzu suffocates bushes and trees, or anacondas strangle their prey, and do so as amorally as do they.
As Integralists or spiritual seekers, we need to recognize that judging our level of development by that of our highest lines is not how out-groups, that is, the majority of humans, see us.
Those whom we have just met and members of out groups assess us first and foremost by our level of moral development, as determined by the answers to the following questions: “Are you respectful, whether or not you agree with me, my values, culture, world view, and life choices?” “Do you reciprocate, that is, treat me in a way that both of us consider to be fair?” “Are you trustworthy in ways that matter to me, that impact on my health and happiness?” “Are you empathetic, that is, do you have my acknowledgement that you hear my feelings and intent, whether you agree with them or not?” For in-group members the criteria is different. We are viewed as “members of the club” and standards are lowered. We are assumed to be all these things and groupthink strongly encourages us to disregard evidence to the contrary.
The burden of proof is on Integral, the psychology of self-development, and spirituality in general to show how any definition of self-development that includes morality can proceed beyond mid-prepersonal if our behavior in the exterior collective quadrant is largely amoral.
Kohlberg failed to demonstrate a correlation between interior judgment and moral intent and exterior quadrant moral behavior, particularly in the realm of social justice in the exterior collective quadrant. I know of no research that has successfully demonstrated a correlation and I do not think it can be done. If I think I am moral and you don't, I cannot simply ignore your opinion in my assessment of my level of moral development and claim any four quadrant, integral assessment of my morality. This is where relatively objective sources of the determination of social justice come in, as represented by the courts and out-groups. If they rule against me, I cannot simply ignore that determination, regardless of my mystical experiences, opinions of followers, or personal achievements because I am a member of that collective whether I like it or not: my holon is a sub-holon of it, as a super-ordinate collective holon.
To move ahead in human development we need to have a realistic sense of where we are in the various stages of evolution. The psychology of self-development has done us no favors by leading us to believe that we are much further along than we actually are. It has encouraged hubris, exceptionalism, and excellence over balance by mistaking identification with high line development for high stage development. As a result, it has reinforced world views that have made us blind to realities of human nature, such as the pervasiveness of cognitive biases, the unconsciousness of almost all human cognition, the near universality of amorality, the prevalence of addiction in human experience, and our willingness to adapt to environmental and socio-cultural circumstances, regardless of their morality. As a branch of the psychology of self-development, Integral has fallen victim to all of these misperceptions. It will only be when Integral and spirituality are redefined as occurring within the overarching context of a super-ordinate collective holon in which the moral line leads and collective interests are prioritized over individual development that Integral can begin to be relevant to all people, at all stages of development.
 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.
 For a full exposition of this perspective, see Wilber, K. (2006). Integral Spirituality. Boston: Integral Books, “The Sliding Scale of Enlightenment,” pp. 235-248
 I am not claiming that courts actually do so. More often than not, courts are captured by the prosecution, regardless of whether or not the prosecution represents the abused, because the prosecution is the side which generally has the most power, status, and influence. Amorality takes over the justice system, just as it does commerce, if both are not made transparent and held accountable.
 For example, see Wilber, K. (2006). Integral Spirituality. Boston: Integral Books, pp. 51-2.
 For an exposition of Wilber's Level/Line Fallacy, see Wilber, K. (2006). Integral Spirituality. Boston: Integral Books, pp. 183/6.
 Personal correspondence.
 “Dooyeweerd claimed to have demonstrated that theoretical thinking has always been based on presuppositions of a religious nature, which he called ground motives. A ground motive is a spiritual driving force that impels each thinker to interpret reality under its influence. Dooyeweerd identified four major ground-motives of Western thought, three of them dualistic in nature: 1) the Form-Matter divide of Greek thought; 2) the Creation-Fall-Redemption motive of Biblical (Hebrew, Semitic) thought; 3) the Nature-Grace divide of mediaeval, Scholastic thought; and 4) the Nature-Freedom divide of humanistic, Enlightenment thought.” “This means that theoretical thought never has been neutral or autonomous of the thinker.
However, Dooyeweerd remained unsatisfied 'with an argument that shows that in fact philosophy always has been influenced by religious convictions'. Rather, 'He wants to show that it cannot be otherwise, because it is part of the nature of philosophy or theoretical thought.' This led Dooyeweerd to undertake a transcendental critique of theoretical thought...Whereas Kant and Husserl sought the conditions that make theoretical thinking possible, they still presupposed that a theoretical attitude is possible. Dooyeweerd sought to understand the conditions that make a theoretical attitude possible, and argued that all theoretical thought takes place with reference to an 'Origin of Meaning', which is a ground-motive to which we adhere extra-rationally. This means that theoretical thought never can be neutral or autonomous of the thinker.
From this, Dooyeweerd argued that all "good" philosophy addresses three fundamental parts to an idea: 1) world; 2) coherence of rationalities; and 3) origin of meaning. This, he proposed, can enable disparate theoretical and philosophical approaches to enter into discourse with each other, as long as each thinker openly admits their own ground-motive.” (Wikipedia)
 Frank Visser has written extensively and in great detail about this, yet most Integralists that I have encountered either ignore or dismiss EES or refuse to grapple with its significant and profound implications for Integral AQAL. This is because Integral AQAL is fundamentally a spiritually-based theory of evolutionary self-development, and to include EES requires a radical re-definition of spirituality. Most Integralists I know are not ready to do that, viewing it as a capitulation to “materialism” and “flatland.” For the relationship of EES to Integral AQAL, see Visser, F. “'The Modern Theory of Evolution is Catastrophically Incomplete.' Ken Wilber's Emotive Dealings With Evolutionary Theory.” IntegralWorld.Net.
 See Johnson, M, and Lakoff, G. (1999) Philosophy in the Flesh. Basic Books.
 See Burns, D. (1980) Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.
 See Dillard, J. (2017). Escaping the Drama Triangle in the Three Realms: Relationships, Thinking, Dreaming. Berlin: Deep Listening Press.
 I suspect that a major reason Wilber views our current societal level of development as sociocentric is because he, following most other developmental theorists, view neoliberalism, the overarching economic system of the world today, as a rational structure grounded at mid-personal, while I am making the case that it is thoroughly amoral, using reason to justify placing financial gain before human welfare, and for that reason is pre-pre-conventional (amoral) on the moral line of development.
 Personal communication.
 “Phrases such as “institutional racism,” “systemic racism,” “unconscious bias,” and “color-blind racism” are part of this new definition of racism that no longer requires conscious acts or bad people. All whites unwittingly support an evil system rooted in slavery that oppresses “people of color;” they can't help it. We would therefore have a viciously racist society even if not one white person were “racist” by the old definition. The only moral course for whites is to renounce “white privilege” and to fight “systemic racism” as one of the central purposes of their lives.”
“Many whites believe this is the greatest moral challenge of our time but how do we fight racism perpetrated by a “system” and not by people? A recent statement by the National Museum of African American History points the way. It listed undesirable traits of “whiteness” that oppress blacks: linear thinking, rugged individualism, self-reliance, the intact nuclear family, a strong work ethic and delayed gratification, respect for authority, punctuality, planning for the future, English common-law justice, property rights, and good manners.” Taylor, J. Why America Has Gone Mad. In other words, if you want to eliminate discrimination, eliminate Western civilization and culture.
 It is extremely important to understand what the Drama Triangle is and how it pervades our lives. See Dillard, J. Escaping the Drama Triangle in the Three Realms: Relationships, Thinking, Dreaming. Berlin: Deep Listening Press.
 For an amplification of the characteristics of Tibetan Deity Yoga and its comparison to Integral Deep Listening, another form of experiential multi-perspectivalism, but one that is phenomenologically-based, see Dillard, J., Tibetan Dream Yoga and Integral Deep Listening.
 “...the same structure that 6000 years ago could be said to be fully Enlightened, is no longer so today.” Integral Spirituality, p. 247.
 For a critique of Jung's use of the term, see Dillard, J., The Shadow. Carl Jung, and Integral Deep Listening. For a critique of Wilber's adaptation of “shadow,” see Dillard, J. Problematic Aspects of Wilber's 3-2-1 Shadow Work.
 “The U.S. Government is not taking over any functions of international law, but is instead effectively destroying international law and the United Nations itself, by its own manifest ignoring and contempt of international law, and effectively imposing upon the entire planet an internationally lawless world, a rule by force, overriding any international rule by law.
This is not the U.N. that FDR envisioned and hoped for; it is instead the rule-by-force that Adolf Hitler and the Axis powers during World War II intended to exist.
The United States Government itself has taken upon itself the mantle of Hitler's intended Thousand-Year Reich, though with the aims of the U.S. regime, instead of with the aims of the German regime. Instead of aiming for a rule by force over the entire world by Germany's Government, today's reality is a rule by force over the entire world by America's Government. This is not Germany's imperialistic fascism ruling the world; it is instead America's imperialistic fascism ruling the world.” Zuesse, E. The Irrelevant U.N. strategic-culture.org
 On a December 2010 episode of Fox News' Freedom Watch, John Bolton and the show's host Andrew Napolitano, debating about the legality of Wikileaks publications.
 Even the British Prime Minister of the time, David Loyd George, praised Hitler: “(Daily Express, September 17, 1936):
“I have now seen the famous German leader and also something of the great change he has effected. Whatever one may think of his methods and they are certainly not those of a parliamentary country , there can be no doubt that he has achieved a marvelous transformation in the spirit of the people, in their attitude towards each other, and in their social and economic outlook. He rightly claimed at Nuremberg that in four years his movement had made a new Germany. It is not the Germany of the first decade that followed the war broken, dejected and bowed down with a sense of apprehension and impotence. It is now full of hope and confidence, and of a renewed sense of determination to lead its own life without interference from any influence outside its own frontiers. There is for the first time since the war a general sense of security. The people are more cheerful. There is a greater sense of general gaiety of spirit throughout the land. It is a happier Germany. I saw it everywhere, and Englishmen I met during my trip and who knew Germany well were very impressed with the change. One man has accomplished this miracle. He is a born leader of men. A magnetic and dynamic personality with a single-minded purpose, a resolute will and a dauntless heart. […] As to his popularity, especially among the youth of Germany, there can be no manner of doubt. The old trust him; the young idolize him. It is not the admiration accorded to a popular leader. It is the worship of a national hero who has saved his country from utter despondency and degradation.” Published in the Daily Express, September 17, 1936, online here.
 Plato, Francis Galton, Charles Darwin, John Kellog, Oliver Wendall Holmes, Alexander Graham Bell, Luther Burbank, and Margaret Sangar were all supporters of eugenics.