Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Joseph DillardDr. Joseph Dillard is a psychotherapist with over forty year's clinical experience treating individual, couple, and family issues. Dr. Dillard also has extensive experience with pain management and meditation training. The creator of Integral Deep Listening (IDL), Dr. Dillard is the author of over ten books on IDL, dreaming, nightmares, and meditation. He lives in Berlin, Germany. See: and his YouTube channel.


Blind Spots in the Integral AQAL World View

Joseph Dillard

Strengths of Integral

Ken Wilber's Integral AQAL is extraordinarily useful in identifying and describing prepersonal, personal, and transpersonal stages of self-development and placing them in a transpersonal context. Its four quadrant approach to understanding reality is invaluable as a way to support balance and inclusiveness in any world view. Conceptually, AQAL does a commendable job of describing and emphasizing the importance of both agency and hierarchy, on the one hand, and community and heterarchy, on the other. The ability of Integral AQAL to organize, synthesize, and integrate religion, mystical experience, philosophy, psychology, law, sociology, science, astronomy, anthropology, and any imaginable field of human experience is exceptional, and in my experience, unparalleled. AQAL also does an excellent job of describing, organizing, and emphasizing integral life practices in each of the four quadrants. In fact, for almost any criticism that one can make of Integral AQAL, one can point to passages where Wilber has already identified exactly that point and taken it into account. The thoroughness of AQAL goes a long way toward explaining why Wilber does not answer his critics: he thinks he already has, in most cases, and they simply have not paid close enough attention to what he has written.

Some Unfair Criticisms

I do not agree with some of the most common criticisms of Wilber and Integral AQAL, for example, that it is “too intellectual” and lacks feeling and compassion. One has to overlook major and important passages in multiple works over decades to support that conclusion. Similarly, I don't view Integral as a cult or Wilber fundamentally driven by either money or status. I do not find him narcissistic. He has demonstrated an ability to revise his own self-appraisal, his goals, and AQAL, and these are core components of life that narcissists tend to have great resistance to modifying. One cannot argue that Wilber does not practice what he preaches. As a long time serious meditator, there is no reason to doubt that he is indeed accomplished in personal access to transpersonal dimensions. All of these factors contribute to explain why I have “Integral” as a component of the name of my life work, Integral Deep Listening. I say that as a way of indicating that my endorsements are not generous platitudes framing a hatchet job on Integral or Wilber. I genuinely value Integral AQAL and highly respect Wilber for his multiple important contributions to my growth and for the advancement of human understanding in general.

This is the context of respect and appreciation in which I offer the following criticisms of what I view as limitations of Integral AQAL as presently formulated. However, it is easy to criticize Integral, anything, or anyone; it is much more challenging to suggest reasonable and practical paths toward some higher order synthesis or a yet more comprehensive variety of Integral. To even do so puts me in the preposterous position of implying I know better than Wilber. I am quite aware Wilber is more advanced on both the lines of cognition and spiritual intelligence than I am. At the same time, the usual criticism, that alternative views can and should be dismissed as coming from some lower level of development need to be carefully considered. On Integral forums such arguments often mask superficial dismissal, discounting, and elitism, exceptionalism, and hubris.

Stages of Engagement

The classical arc of relationship to teachers, gurus, employers, and affiliations can be conceptualized as four stages, honeymoon, resistance, productive, and termination stages. We Integralists share the experience of having had an initial attraction and excitement to Integral AQAL. This is the honeymoon stage, similar to the initial infatuation of romance. Typically, at some point thereafter, we encounter disagreements and doubts. If we overcome those, we dig in and get to work on the relationship or on understanding and applying Integral AQAL. At some point, this leads to a termination phase, which can either be sudden and is therefore generally incomplete and tragic, like getting fired from a job, or slow, providing opportunities for psychological adjustment, perhaps best elucidated by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her Five Stages of Grief. If we lose interest or outgrow a relationship, job, career, religion, or worldview, we move into a termination stage of letting go and saying goodbye. This may be easy or extremely heart-wrenching, as we all know only too well.

In the initial or “honeymoon” phase we are “true believers,” committed because of our identification with the leader, project, or ideas of the movement. I have written about this phenomena in Integral, Just How Moral Are Integralists?, Eric Weinstein's 4 Quadrant Model and the Kohlberg-Wilber Effect, at IntegralWorld.Net. When our identity becomes strongly bonded to the “other,” we can remain true believers all of our lives, never developing the objectivity necessary to critique the person or ideology from a perspective of disidentification. We have become so subjectively identified that we deny that we have been captured by groupthink. We never go through a serious “resistance” phase but instead move right into the third, productive stage. St. Thomas Aquinas, the famous philosopher of Catholic Christianity, is one example of someone that seems to have skipped the resistance stage. Speaking from my own experience, I was in the honeymoon stage in my relationship with Integral for about twenty-five years, from 1983 until about 2008, reading all Wilber's books at least twice and never experiencing any doubt or resistance. I was in love with the Integral world view.

If we allow ourselves to consider perspectives outside the echo chamber of groupthink, our certitude about our worldview, commitment, or relationship will eventually begin to be questioned. Perhaps this could be considered, at least in my case, a delayed resistance phase, probably based on such close identification with a person, career, or ideology that inconsistencies, imbalances, or limitations are either not seen or minimized. If the resistance phase does eventually arrive, as it finally did for me, cognitive dissonance sets in. Perhaps we have initial skepticism; perhaps our identification with the other, the project, or with Integral has not been central enough to block out any and all evidence that questions the sanity of our commitment; perhaps other people and ideas with which we identify are collectively strong enough to break through our idealization and cause us to consider the shortcomings of the “other” and question our motives and reasons for committing ourselves to it. At its worst, this leads to a premature disenchantment and we fall out of love, experience betrayal, abandon the cause, and even become an adversary to it. The same energy that causes an unrealistic total identification with the “other” reverses and expresses itself as an equally unrealistic rejection of the person, organization, or cause.

Much more often the outcome is a sorting through doubts, questions, and skepticisms, and a recommitment to the other based on a more realistic appraisal of both their strengths and weaknesses and of the relative advantages and disadvantages of maintaining the love, ideological, or work relationship. Most people who are committed to a long-time investment to a partner, a world view like libertarianism or free market capitalism, or to work, whether it is as a lawyer, musician, or pimp, have already gone through one, perhaps multiple, periods of disillusionment, and come through them with a strengthened commitment to their course, even if it is an addiction.

This leads to a more mature commitment to work, to getting things done, to building the cause, enterprise, or relationship. We are aware of the compromises and trade-offs that we are making, and we accept them because advancing the collective goals of the cause are more important than the disadvantages or limitations we have encountered. Such people are not true believers as much as practitioners of this or that variety of “realpolitik.” Like Machiavelli, they can objectively weigh advantages and disadvantages and can tell you the roots of their commitment, such as addiction, wealth, status, power, comfort, ideology, personal development, or even a genuine commitment to human rights, justice, and uplifting humanity.

Some personal background

In my case, I had been interviewing dream characters and the personifications of life issues, both my own and those of clients and friends, beginning in 1980. I had been teaching dream and meditation seminars for some twelve years before that. While Integral AQAL is a cognitive multi-perspectivalism or world view of the interior collective quadrant that conceptualizes all four quadrants, my interviewing practice, based on the sociometry of JL Moreno, creator of psychodrama and a multitude of action methodologies for individual and group psychotherapy, was not primarily cognitive but experiential. It was not simply a matter or groking a compelling world view but of disidentifying from my world view and becoming or identifying with multiple other world views. Therefore, this practice, called Integral Deep Listening (IDL) interviewing, was an experiential multi-perspectivalism, which included Integral AQAL, since I understood it, but transcended it as well, because IDL was not only cognitive, but experiential. I should hasten to add that Integral Life Practices are definitely experiential. The difference is that these are directed by one stable sense of self, “myself.” The yoga I was doing was directed in collaboration with a constantly shifting collective of multiple perspectives and world views. Instead of being psychologically geocentric, it was psychologically polycentric. AQAL is not. This difference was the foundation for my critique of AQAL. In addition, I listened to the perspectives of several people who criticized Wilber on moral grounds. I also began reading some of the many critiques of AQAL at Frank Visser's IntegralWorld.Net, which I highly recommend.

Our level of moral development is largely amoral, because it is enmeshed with an economic model that is amoral (profit over people) and a national model that is immoral (might makes right). The inevitable conclusion is that our overall level of development is mid-prepersonal, not post-personal.

Some Blind Spots

We Are Second Tier

Much of the blindness common among Integralists comes honestly. That is, it is created by the integral model itself. For example, most Integralists assume, as I did for decades, that because they grasp the Integral Worldview that cognitively their world view is vision-logic or integral aperspectival. That is, their worldview is post-personal. It includes and then transcends identification with this or that worldview and is cognitively multi-perspectival. Because we identify with our thoughts and worldview, we assume that our self-system line is also at vision-logic and post-personal. In addition, if we have had mystical and/or near death experiences, we have evidence that our line of spiritual intelligence is transpersonal. These three factors combine to convince most Integralists that in their overall level of development they are at vision logic, if not higher. In my reading of Wilber, he generally supports these assumptions, although he hedges this by presenting psychographs that average multiple lines to arrive at one's overall level of development, an approach that generates a somewhat lower overall level of development.

The reason this is a hedge is that the lines that determine our overall development are the core lines, of which there are three critical ones: cognition, because the ability to externalize a distal self and then reincorporate it in a broader, more inclusive proximal identity is dependent upon our level of cognitive development; the self-system, because it is the executive which exercises control and makes decisions; and morality, because there is no legitimate definition of spirituality that does not include it. If these three lines are low but the line of spiritual intelligence is high, or you are a mathematical savant, your overall development will still be low. However, if these three core lines are high, your overall level of development is going to be high, regardless of how undeveloped other lines are. That's because these other lines, like charisma or proprioception, or mystical access may indeed be impressive and generate great status and social reinforcement, they aren't core. You can be high in them and remain quite low in your overall development, as a quick glance at most politicians and lawyers discloses. This fact is not captured by Wilber's psychographs.

The result of this misunderstanding is elitism, exceptionalism, and hubris. Because Integralists possess a world view that includes, then transcends or incorporates other worldviews, they are indeed superior in this key aspect of the cognitive line, regardless of how deficient Integralists may be in logic or reason. Because we typically identify with our worldview, it is easy and natural to assume that we are therefore more evolved than others, because we accept a vision-logic worldview. Integral AQAL and Wilber actively support this delusion with multiple statements that if only some ten percent of us get to Second Tier then society will reach a tipping point and a utopian reorganization of society will occur. This is preposterous. There is abundant evidence of people who grasp Integral AQAL and have an Integral Life Practice who vote for politicians that maintain systems of governance that keep broad swathes of the population locked in misery. For example, it is absurd to imagine that someone could vote for Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or Joe Biden and be second tier in their overall development. They are endorsing politicians with a long and consistent track record of support of illegal wars that are criminal under international laws signed by the United States and who have authorized and supported state-sponsored terrorism. You can extrapolate this to support of many European politicians as well. It takes mental gymnastics that parallel those of a contortionist to square such preferences with Integral second tier. And lest the reader hear this as an endorsement of conservative politicians, it is not. Progressives are sitting on the bow of the Titanic. Conservatives are at the stern. The Titanic, the political and economic world order that has been in place since World War II, has already hit the iceberg.

Those who are not integralists can smell this elitism, exceptionalism, and hubris a mile away. Just as we can see it in the exceptionalism of political partisans and religious true believers who preach universal love but practice condemnation, exclusion, and ostracism of those who do not follow the rules of groupthink, so non-integralists can see exceptionalism in us. They simply do not buy that the Integral worldview is superior, much less that Integralists are any more evolved or enlightened than they are. There is a good reason for this suspicion of Integralists by out-groups, and it has to do with the core moral line. For all of us, in our everyday relationships in the exterior collective quadrant, morality, not cognition, leads. We don't care if the clerk at the market is second tier; what we care about is if they can make change and are efficient. Are they trustworthy in their role as a clerk? That's all we care about, because that is the only way we interface with most clerks, most of the time. Being an efficient clerk not only assumes trustworthiness in that capacity but respect and reciprocity. We respect that there is someone willing to be paid to check us out with our purchases; the clerk at least minimally respects customers because the role demands it, if for no other reason. Reciprocity is evident: we pay and the clerk gives us our purchases. We may exchange social niceties. Also, there is a modicum of empathy. We understand that the clerk is under time and performance pressure; the clerk understands that we want efficiency. We can see from this simple example that morality functionally consists of respect, reciprocity, trustworthiness, and empathy. When these exist we can state with confidence that there is an ethical relationship. Where they do not exist, or one or more of these four are lacking, that conclusion is problematic.

The moral line, not the cognitive line, leads in overall development

This reality poses a huge problem for the Integral AQAL assessment of our level of overall development. The problem is that Wilber follows Kohlberg in identifying morality with moral judgment, a cognitive, interior quadrant measurement of morality that has never been shown to be correlated in any way with interpersonal morality in the exterior collective quadrant. Take Barack Obama for an example. Here is a very smart guy, post formal in cognition, a Constitutional lawyer and scholar, who would probably score post-conventional on Kohlberg's assessment of moral judgment, if not post-post conventional (a higher level added by Wilber.) Yet Obama, on Tuesday mornings would sign off on the drone assassinations of multiple individuals. For example, A 2011 report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) identified at least 385 civilians killed in seven years of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, including "credible reports" of 168 child deaths. This does not include totals for Yemen, Afghanistan, or Somalia. We could point to much more evidence, but this one piece alone necessitates the conclusion that Obama's level of morality is at best pre-conventional immoral and most likely pre-conventional amoral, meaning it correlates with a mid-prepersonal level of self-development.

“A standard American libertarian who consistently opposes war and militarism is a better person than any western self-styled "leftist" who does not. We're talking about mass murder here. It doesn't matter how good your other positions are if you're fine with mass murder for power.” Caitlin Johnstone.

I am hardly a libertarian, but I find it difficult to disagree with Ms. Johnstone.

Why this matters is that Wilber states, and I agree, that morality is a core line. Core lines are required for overall development to move from one level to the next. If a core line cannot tetra-mesh, that is, bring all four quadrants into some degree of balance, then it is functionally a stopper for overall development, regardless of how evolved other lines may be. This is the case not only with Obama, but with all of us, because we are enmeshed in societies that are either pre-conventional immoral or pre-conventional amoral, or a combination of the two. We know this by their support of illegal wars and Israeli apartheid, at the very least. Our level of moral development is largely amoral, because it is enmeshed with an economic model that is amoral (profit over people) and a national model that is immoral (might makes right). The inevitable conclusion is that our overall level of development is mid-prepersonal, not post-personal.

This is a shocking conclusion for most Integralists; they don't want to believe it. They don't want to accept it. However, we cannot separate out our personal level of development from that of the collectives with which we are identified without denying and abdicating our interdependence with the external collective quadrant. For those who attempt to divorce their personal journey to enlightenment from the societies in which they are enmeshed, the response is that they are pretending that development can occur without the tetra-meshing of the exterior collective quadrant. It can't. It doesn't. Integralists are under the pervasive delusion that they can, and Wilber has done nothing, zero, null to address or rectify this delusion. Are we holons possessing at least four quadrants or not? If we are, then the external collective has to tetra-mesh on the core moral line for us to advance from level to level. It does not and cannot, as long as our collective is mired in an amoral economic order and an immoral national relationship with other states.

We are respected mostly among our fellows in our in-group

Why this matters is that it is close to a mortal blow to the credibility of Integral in the eyes of those who are the recipients of the immoral and amoral actions of the collectives in which we are embedded and which represent us. Whether they are victims of drone bombings, or of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, or are homeless children on the streets of San Francisco or Los Angeles, two of the richest cities in the world, these people care nothing about Integral, Integralists, second tier, or enlightenment. What they do care about is the morality of their everyday interactions and the degree of ethical concern that their government demonstrates toward their need for a living wage and affordable health care and educational opportunities for themselves and their families. Most conversation in on-line Integral forums that I have visited don't deal with these issues. There is a major and profound disconnect between the concerns of everyday people and the average Integralist, and that undermines the credibility of Integral AQAL and its supporters.

This elitism, exceptionalism and hubris boils down to an emphasis on self-development and agency to the detriment of collective and communal development. Wilber places equal weight on communal development, with it alternating up the spiral with agency in emphasis. However, that equal emphasis is theoretical, in a worldview in the interior collective quadrant. We get deonotological imperatives, such as the greatest breadth of concern for the greatest depth, but these boil down to the sterile judgments, like those of Obama the constitutional lawyer. These altruistic principles do not extend to any consistent, much less mandated, program of collective responsibility in the exterior collective quadrant of relationship.

Eye of Spirit Exceptionalism

Another aspect of this elitism, exceptionalism, and hubris is manifested in “Eye of Spirit empiricism.” “Because I have my Eye of Spirit open I have experienced oneness with ALL. That means I know not only reality - truth, goodness (morality), and harmony (inner peace), but Reality - what is true, good, and harmonious for everyone.” This is not only grandiose, but highly presumptuous. The classical formulation of this is Nagarjuna's paramartha satya, or absolute truth. When one claims they have access to this, as did Adi da, Wilber's original guru, and Andrew Cohen, then moral norms do not apply and neither does the limited vision of the Eye of Flesh and the Eye of Mind. What this does is allow gurus to excuse sex with students and ignore science that disagrees with their mystical experiences. This is what Wilber has done with evolution, using Eye of Spirit to validate “Eros as Spirit-in-Action” as a teleological explanation for evolution while ignoring and discounting the mounting scientific evidence that this is simply not true. Wilber refuses to reconsider his belief in the primacy of consciousness and teleology in the interior individual quadrant, despite the vast body of science that provides an altogether adequate naturalistic explanation for evolution. Integral AQAL demonstrates a tendency to dismiss any naturalistic view as “materialistic,” thereby creating an artificial duality between two unreal realms: idealism and materialism. For an extremely thorough and impressive review of why this is in fact the case, review the numerous articles by Frank Visser at IntegralWorld.Net that explain Wilber's position and how it fails to address evolutionary science.

Wilber Violates His Own Pre/Trans Fallacy

This is a problem, because it is a violation of Wilber's on pre/trans fallacy. For anything to be trans-rational it must include the rational. But Wilber does not answer the science on evolution. Instead he simply insists that his position is post-rational and transpersonal. However, the pre/trans fallacy requires that the prepersonal and personal be included if they are to be transcended. No one has yet demonstrated how Wilber is not violating his own pre/trans fallacy regarding his theory of evolution. This matters, because his understanding of evolution is central to his conception of spirit. Change your understanding of evolution and you change your understanding of spirit.

Collective development and Social Justice Take a Back Seat

To summarize my most fundamental and serious concern about Integral AQAL, it seriously and massively overestimates the level of overall development of Integralists while ignoring or discounting the relevance of tetra-mesh on the moral line. The result is hubris, exceptionalism, and elitism which destroys the credibility of Integral for non-integralists. The solution to this problem is simple. To recognize and take seriously that, while the cognitive line leads in personal development, the moral line leads in our collective and overall development. Personal development is contingent on our collective development because of relationship in the exterior collective quadrant. To put it in a Buddhist framing, the fundamental principle is pratityasammupada - interdependent co-origination. We aren't going anywhere without our brothers and sisters. Personal enlightenment without lifting up the poorest, without ensuring social justice is simply grandiose and narcissistic.

Failure to Integrate the Dream State

Dreaming is one of four fundamental states of consciousness along with waking, deep sleep, and meditative clarity, turiya. There is no Integral without some degree of integration of these four states. Its idea of integration of dreaming proposed by Wilber is either colonization by waking identity via lucid dreaming or its obliteration through achieving meditative clear awareness during meditation. Neither approach respects dreams and meets them on their own terms. Neither approach takes dreaming, as a co-equal state of consciousness, seriously. Therefore, AQAL fails to provide a methodology for the integration of the dream state. Integral wants to jump straight to the transpersonal without integrating the dream state. What passes for dreamwork is waking colonialism in the form of projection and the exploitation of the state in the name of expanding waking control and competencies (Lucid dreaming). I explain this issue and propose a solution in my essay, Assumptions of Integral Dream Analysis: A Critique of Wilber's Understanding of the Dream State and Dreamwork, at IntegralWorld.Net

Worldcentric Platitudes, Ethnocentric Choices

Another blind spot is Integral's verbal commitment to worldcentrism but a behavioral commitment to ethnocentrism. The Integral Glossary at Integral + defines ethnocentric as “The general level(s) where one is identified exclusively with “us,” or one's family, group, tribe, or nation.” Worldcentrism is defined as “The general level(s) where one is identified with “all of us,” or all human beings, regardless of race, sex, or creed.” Worldcentrism has to be practiced to be real in a world where groupthink punishes deviations from ethnocentrism, but it is impossible to point this out without being tarred as a Social Justice Warrior, stuck at the Mean Green Meme, a supporter of autocracy, or the dreaded accusation of anti-Semitism. Try pointing out positives about China, Xi, Russia, Putin, or Iran on an Integral forum and see what happens. Try advocating for Palestinian rights on an Integral forum and see what happens. Integralists, from the top on down, with a few notable exceptions (some of which have been censored and expelled from Integral forums) refuse to challenge groupthink that validates Western imperialism and Israeli colonialism, the acceptance of the broadening shadow of censorship, which discriminates against voices in violation of the First Amendment, and the acceptance of the fundamental and dominant religion of the US and Western culture: exceptionalism. Integral avoids responsibility through a minimization, ignoring, or discounting of the importance of social justice. is most blatantly seen in Integralists endorsing Western ethnocentric stereotypes regarding Russia and China. Consciousness, intent, teleology, and worldview are, for Integral, prior to relationship and social justice; self-development and personal enlightenment are more important than law and social norms, as a cursory review of comments in Integral forums and essays/books by Integralists demonstrates. Relationships in the external collective quadrant are evolutionarily “downhill.” The inner quadrants are privileged; if one only works on purifying and elevating their consciousness through meditation and establishes a correct worldview (Integral AQAL) the result will be healthy behavior and moral action. In what century are we supposed to see the positive results of this agenda? Has anyone informed Integralists that the West is already living on borrowed time? I have noted a lack of awareness of how Integral AQAL supports toxic and dysfunctional aspects of the Western worldview and censors dissent in Integral Closet Ethnocentrism, at IntegralWorld.Net.)

Overlooking or Minimizing Issues of Personal Morality

I am not going to go into this one because multiple sources already have, it is low-hanging fruit, and is easily discounted as character assassination. However, there is little doubt that Wilber has tended to overlook his moral failings. For instance, he has justified telling his critics to “suck my dick” as a response supported by other Integralists, and as a second tier example of upaya, or higher level “skill in means.” (For a full elaboration of this drama and its implications, see Visser, F., Games Pandits Play, at IntegralWorld.Net.). Wilber has stonewalled criticism of Adi da, Andrew Cohen, and Marc Gafni, excusing abusive behavior as liberating strategies by enlightened “rude boys.” The result has been to discount the abuse and victimization of students and associates of these supposedly enlightened individuals with highly developed lines of spiritual intelligence. The reality is that the more of the personal history we have of gurus and those who claim transpersonal status the more likely we are to find that they are unbalanced and deeply flawed individuals. Personally, I have no problem with this; we all have made stupid and harmful choices in our lives. What I object to is the hypocrisy of holding oneself, a leader, or a nation as a paragon of virtue when in fact they are ignoring or hiding a garbage dump. As that great sage Irma Bombeck once said, “The grass is greenest over the septic tank.”

Valuing Excellence Over Balance

Instead of rectifying the problems with the lagging moral line we are urged to race ahead on the cognitive, self-system, and spiritual intelligence lines. This is a cultural phenomena that is by no means limited to Integral. Rather, it is more evidence that Integral is a creature of the groupthink in which it is embedded. Valuing outstanding achievement, as in getting to second tier, demonstrating transpersonal meditative states, having mystical experiences, or acquiring status, wealth, and power, rather than placing equal, if not more emphasis on balanced development puts a premium on excellence, self-control, and strengths, while minimizing or ignoring limitations, failures, inadequacies, and weaknesses. This is a certain recipe for personal, collective, national, and civilizational over-reach, eventual implosion, and collapse. We are going through an epic collective demonstration of that reality at present in the political, socio-economic and medical realms. Coronavirus has revealed the inadequacies of democracy and the strengths of centralized governance when a genuine crisis erupts. With a population four times that of the US, China has held its deaths from the epidemic to less than 5,000 while the US now has over half a million. To put that in proportion, China's response has been over 100 times more effective than that of the US. The same can be said when its response (and that of Singapore, Vietnam, S Korea, and Taiwan) is compared to other Western countries such as the UK, Germany, Italy, and Spain. Coronavirus has also revealed the inadequacy of a “profits over people” economic system in which privatization leaves countries under supplied with ventilators, hospitals, and other necessities to combat a medical crisis. Our best and brightest cannot agree on responses to the epidemic, generating the immorality of allowing thousands of needless deaths and the amorality of their justification. Excellence is of little value if it does not, will not, or cannot meet the immediate and critical needs of those who suffer or who are vulnerable, such as children and the elderly, due to no fault of their own.

The Stupidity of Color Jargon

Next to these significant concerns, it seems ridiculous to note that Integral uses color jargon derived from Spiral Dynamics that gives it a cult-like flavor. Not only is the color progression used by Integral (and SD) confusing and not correlated with the spectrum (although Wilber has made attempts to correct this), people not familiar with this nomenclature are left on the outside, as the uninitiated. This furthers the ethnocentric, non-worldcentric image of Integral. Both Visser and I have addressed the inadequacies of this model and proposed solutions. For example, see Visser, F. "Yeah, but he got the colors wrong", A Suggestion for Improving the Integral Color Scheme, IntegralWorld.Net.

Useful but Dishonest Ambiguity

Wilber's writings deliver a maddeningly ambiguous use of key terminology: “spirit,” “spirituality,” “God,” and “consciousness.” For example, in Integral Spirituality Wilber parses five different definitions of spirituality. Due to such ambiguity, unless our particular meaning is defined, we are like ships passing in the night, thinking that we agree when we may in fact be hearing and assuming entirely different things that produce completely different conclusions. One ends up wondering if that ambiguity is intentional, as a way of signaling agreement but remaining capable of switching definitions to defend differentiation and one's position whenever desired. The end result is to cast a pall of intellectual dishonesty over works like Wilber's The Religion of Tomorrow.

The Consequence of Discounting Basic Human Relational Exchanges in Favor of Enlightenment

Humanity does not need a great awakening to AQAL and to its spiritual nature; what it needs is a practical, mundane obedience to international law and collective norms so that basic human needs are met and human rights are respected. It is fascinating that I cannot say this without some Integralists immediately thinking, “That's so orange!” “That's so blue!” It's almost as if Integralists have been captured by groupthink to parrot out the same inane discounts in order to maintain their own elitist worldview and reduce their cognitive dissonance. It's as if the concept that one has to include a lower level before one can claim its transcendence did not exist in Integral thought. If we champion a transcending worldview, like Integral AQAL, but ignore our participation in collectives that are immoral or amoral, the truth is that our overall development is not early personal (blue) or mid-personal (orange), but stuck somewhere on the dysfunctional side of mid-prepersonal (amoral) and late prepersonal (immoral aspects of egocentrism) levels of development.

What does a more authentic Integral model look like?

  • It de-emphasizes hierarchy. Although hierarchy is not only real and vastly important as a source of structure for development, it is fundamentally and intrinsically discriminatory. Discrimination has its uses. For example, meritocracies, such as educational advancement, are based on discrimination, which is itself based on objective determinants of ability (tests). Whenever Wilber or Integralists discuss the political, cultural, and social differences of voters, as Wilber does in Trump and a Post-Truth World, he is emphasizing developmental distinctions that boil down to class discriminations: those who went to graduate school vs. those who didn't; those who understand and accept Integral AQAL and those who don't; those who hold status within the Integral community and those who don't. Class distinctions, while real, mostly exist to preserve the prerogatives of those with status, power, and wealth. It is in their interest to get us to change the subject from class distinctions to enlightenment or anything else, so that their position as the bird at the top of the tree goes unchallenged and the birds on lower branches do not notice what is falling on their heads.
  • It prioritizes the humanistic building blocks of morality: respect, reciprocity, trustworthiness, and empathy rather than an intellectual focus on worldview and cognition.
  • It works to integrate the dream state on its own terms rather than on those imposed by waking identity.
  • It places justice as a higher value than personal enlightenment.
  • It moves from psychological geo- and heliocentrism to polycentrism.
  • It moves from a cognitively grounded multi-perspectivalism to an experientially grounded, four quadrant multi-perspectivalism.
  • It refuses to vote for “the lesser of two evils” and instead takes a principled stand for worldcentrism and social justice.
  • It denounces and fights against censorship, because it is an ever-escalating descent into the stifling of multi-perspectivalism.

I not only do not claim to be correct about any of this; I am sure I will change my perspective on these issues as time goes by and as I learn more. However, that is not to endorse some version of post-modern relativism. Some things are less delusional than others, some things are less harmful than others, and some things promote the common good more effectively than others. I am not expecting any major revisions from Wilber to his worldview. He has made his contribution, defended his position, and we can all be thankful that he has done so with such thoroughness and clarity. The ripple effect of his thought has already gone far, influencing many indirectly who have shifted their perspectives toward Integral without ever having heard of Wilber or read anything by him. I view Wilber as the Freud of transpersonal psychology. Like Freud, Wilber's major contribution is his stimulation of a creative outpouring of ideas and approaches that expand and improve on his model in important respects. My hope is that this critique will itself be used to stimulate your own ability to advance Integral in a positive way in your own life and in your outreach to others.

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