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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
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 and his YouTube channel.
Characteristics of Our Emerging Worldview
Part 6-1: Priorities of the Intrasocial Worldview
The previous five essays in this series have explored six important worldviews from collective and psychologically geocentric perspectives. That is, we have considered how worldviews might appear from the perspectives of those societal collectives who hold them, whether they are Westerners, African/Global Southerners, Indians, Chinese, Russians, or representatives of Artificial Intelligence. All of these worldviews are psychologically geocentric in that they are held by waking, objective others in the exterior collective (IC) quadrant of our holons. We are now going to switch gears and consider a radically polycentric worldview, exploring how interior, or “intrasocial” collectives (IC) shape our worldviews. Few people have as yet considered or even been aware of an intrasocial worldview, represented by imaginal, dream, or mystically-derived, others, or its implications.
Because an intrasocial worldview is new to most, it requires some explanation and elaboration that the other worldviews that we have covered in the previous essays in this series, do not. Therefore, I have broken this essay on the intrasocial worldview into two parts, with this first one addressing its priorities in relationship to those of waking worldviews, while the second explores its characterological differences, as well as explaining the methodologies by which the intrasocial worldview is accessed.
While “intersocial” means “between social groups or systems,” “intrasocial” means “within interior social groups or systems.” Intrasocial groups are subjective, not objective, groups that exist within the interior collective quadrant of holons rather than, as we normally think of others, as existing objectively in the exterior collective quadrant of holons. While we normally think of people and objects as externally existing individuals or elements, our ideas and images of them are interior, existing in our interior collective quadrant. A good example of this are dream characters, which we know to exist as interior realities when awake, but which are normally experienced while dreaming as exterior, objective realities interdependently relating in dream collectives.
Intrasocial worldviews attempt to bridge and integrate the interior individual (II) and the exteriorcollective (EC) quadrants, but unlike other worldviews, do so from an interior and subjective perspective rather than the exterior perspective of waking selves and societies. While worldviews have as their natural home the interior collective quadrant of hermeneutics, culture, and values, the objective or exterior worldviews of individuals and collectives are the general subject of such study. In terms of Wilber's Integral Methodological Pluralism, discussed in Part 2 of this essay, these are the outer face of interior collective (IC) worldviews. The interior or subjective face is the provenance of Intrasociology, with the difference being that the hermeneutics are not carried out by waking selves but by multiple intrasocial, imaginal perspectives.
A considerable body of research has established that dreaming has an important impact on our physical and mental health, our waking moods, and our creativity. We also know a great deal about how our imaginal perspectives, as intent, systems of belief, and thinking shape our thinking, feeling, and problem solving. We also know how imaginal perspectives shape worldviews as familial and socio-cultural scripting and groupthink. What we don't already know or understand is how emerging potentials and our personal and collective life compass can and do shape collective worldviews. After laying groundwork in this essay, we will explore some of those possibilities in our last two essays.
Generally speaking, what appear to be priorities for interviewed emerging potentials are lower priorities for our waking identity, while those priorities which are lower for interviewed emerging potentials tend to be higher priorities for our waking identity. Priorities of physical and socio-cultural adaptation and survival tend to suppress the intrasocial worldview, with the result that our worldviews generally do not reflect the priorities of the intrasocial realm, and that is a barrier to outgrowing the limitations placed on us by our familial and socio-cultural worldviews or accessing any higher order synthesis of worldviews. While it remains possible to arrive at a synthesis among waking worldviews, as integral, metamodern and various other approaches attempt, unless the intrasocial worldview is taken into account the likely result will be a collective worldview that is less than an expression of the priorities of our collective emerging potentials and even much less so an expression of the priorities of our species life compass.
Waking up/Delusion in the service of adaptive survival
When asked their highest priority, interviewed perspectives usually reply, “Waking up the subject.” Their particular perspectives and recommendations focus on specific forms of waking up each emphasizes. For example, a crocodile who only moves when he can quickly catch a duck teaches waking up out of procrastination while maintaining balanced equanimity. In contrast, our waking identity makes survival a priority, which means that delusions which support survival are preferred to waking up out of delusion. For example, rationalizing corrupt business practices for financial gain is simple and common. Our inherited cognitive biases, such as familiarity, anchor, confirmation, and Halo Effect biases are examples of how this priority is baked in to our physiology and cognition.
Lucidity/Sleeping, dreaming, sleepwalking, drama
Because interviewed imaginal elements resemble snowflakes, in that they are only temporarily “alive” and have no security needs, they are not concerned with death, but rather with clarity - being heard, understood, and respected. This lack of survival needs also explains the relative objectivity of the worldviews of these interviewed perspectives. Our waking identity, on the other hand, is strongly identified with our body and emotions, the needs of which easily distort and cloud both perception and cognition to justify and support their priorities.
When interviewed perspectives are asked to express their preferences in terms of degree of liking, disliking, or neutrality, as is done in Dream Sociometry, (which is explained in Part 2), they often demonstrate considerable autonomy in their preferences from those of our waking perspective. For example, while Dream Self (our sleeping identity) might hate spiders and be very scared of them, other interviewed characters in the dream may be neutral or like spiders and feel no fear whatsoever. Our waking preferences are not only generally anchored to instinctive fear responses but generally constrained by our obligations to our families, employers, and various authority figures, making them less autonomous, with more emphasis on fulfilling the expectations of others.
While interviewed perspectives can be highly autonomous in their preferences, the contextual interdependence of those preferences is a stronger factor than their individual autonomy. When we dream or experience imaginal elements, say in a mystical experience, our experience feels autonomous: we are doing the seeing, experiencing, reacting, and deciding. By contrast, although interviewed elements, regardless of their origin, are indeed relatively autonomous, their preferences exist within a network of interdependent collective perspectives, including those of our waking identity. That collective may be a dream, mystical, serendipitous, or waking event. This is the difference between psychological geocentrism, in which our experience of life revolves around us, and polycentrism, in which experience is diversified among multiple loci of perception.
Identification with multiple, relatively objective framings/Identification with subjective scripting
The result of psychological geocentrism is that we tend to identify with our subjective familial and socio-cultural scripting. This is true even when we are merely rebelling against it, as adolescents often do. In contrast, the result of polycentrism is access to multiple relatively objective perspectives, framings, and solutions associated with creativity, freedom, and enlightenment. These might be elements from mystical or near death experiences that reframe our lives in transformative ways or they might be the perspectives of dream characters or the personifications of our daily life issues.
Free expression/Repression of perceived threats
Because imaginal perspectives are generally fearless, they express themselves relatively freely. In contrast, because we care about what others think and how they may hear what we say, we tend to temper what we say - and even think! - in order to reduce threats to our identity and relationships.
Being heard/Reduction of cognitive dissonance
Interviewed perspectives appreciate simply being heard. This is implied by the reduction in nightmares or recurring dreams once elements in them have been interviewed. While we also expect and even demand that we be heard by others, that desire is often in the service of manufacturing agreement in order to reduce cognitive dissonance that threatens our identity. Because imaginal elements have no stable, lasting identity to defend, they do not experience cognitive dissonance and therefore do not undertake “Atman projects” to reduce it. Because interviewed perspectives do not have any permanent identity to protect, they place the importance of clarity and mutual respect before and above survival.
Common understandings of empathy are actually projection. We think someone feels sad, and if we feel sad too, or understand how or why someone is feeling sad, that we are being empathetic. However, this is an interpretation and a projection onto the other person. We don't know if someone is sad until we ask them. Otherwise, they may be crying because they are frustrated, angry, or joyful instead of sad. Because interviewed perspectives are parts of us, they know how we feel; they don't have to project or interpret. This is what actual empathy is: becoming the perspective of the other rather than simply imagining that we know what their perspective is. We do so when we ask the other what they are feeling/thinking or intend, and when we actually become them and express feelings, thoughts, and intentions from their perspective, to the best of our ability, and then ask for verification that we have done so.
Tabling of assumptions/Assumptions, beliefs in support of identity
Interviewed perspectives possess worldviews that are built on assumptions, just as we build our own worldviews own assumptions. The difference is that the assumptions of interviewed perspectives exist as structural elements of a worldview and identity to which they are relatively unattached, since they are neither alive nor dead. Since they possess relatively unfixed and impermanent identities, their worldview does not perform the function of justifying and protecting identity the way ours do. By contrast, our assumptions often exist to defend our identity because we associate who we are and being in control with our continued survival. Therefore, we often defend our assumptions as if our lives depended on them, which in some cases, they do.
The perspectives of interviewed emerging potentials therefore constitute much more loosely held worldviews than those held by us. Our worldviews tend to define us, and therefore be much more strongly held.
The intentions that interviewed perspectives personify tend to be simple and fundamental, such as awakening, respect, reciprocity, and empathy. As a result, those intentions tend to persist over changing conditions of time and space. They are found in simpler forms in animals and even the relationships among material elements, becoming more sophisticated with evolution, but existing as a “lowest common denominator” within all relationships and worldviews. In comparison, our intentions tend to be conditioned much more by relatively impermanent needs that are dictated by impermanent circumstances, such as our physical condition, age, location, relationships, control, power, and status. Therefore, our waking intentions tend to be either impermanent or artificially permanent due to addiction, scripting, or an obsession with control.
Because interviewed perspectives are not often or easily threatened (there are exceptions), they need not defend themselves or avoid perceived threats. They are therefore less likely to be physiologically or emotionally reactive and are more likely to be assertive rather than passive or aggressive.
Relationship oriented/Survival oriented
Without concerns of life or death imaginal elements can focus on clarity of the communication of preference and intent to a degree that we often do not or cannot.
What is an Intrasocial Worldview?
In the above diagram of the four quadrants, the interior collective quadrant of culture is also the quadrant of “we,” that is, of our relationships with our ingroups - family, friends, peers, and those who share our national and ideological affiliations. The exterior collective quadrant of society is also the quadrant of “its,” that is, of our relationship with objective outgroups, such as Russians, Chinese, and Iranians are for many Westerners. Traditional (Wilberian) Integral AQAL does not make this distinction, assuming all human relationships fall in the interior collective (IC) quadrant. As they are normally perceived in our dreams, characters are also “its” existing in the exterior collective (EC) quadrant. But are they? Are they not interior, intrasocial, collectives existing in our interior collective (IC) quadrant? Are they “Wes” or “Its” or both? It is only later, upon awakening, or perhaps if we go lucid during a dream, that “its” may become “Wes.” In dreams we are often confronted with imaginal elements that are unknown or foreign others who are certainly not “we” in any experientially immediate sense. It is only upon awakening that we think, “that was part of myself.” We may not always reach that conclusion, as in mystical, near death, and shamanic experiences where the perceived is experienced as wholly other or as outgroup (EC) members.) This is a dualism that is resolved when it is recognized through a sociometric methodology that both imaginal and objective others are in fact equally members of the interior collective (EC) intrasocial quadrant.
Making the Case for the Importance of an Intrasocial Worldview
The relevance of an intrasocial worldview easily escapes the awareness of most people, and with good reason. Why elevate to the level of social and collective worldviews a perspective that is interior, imaginal, and generally viewed as either delusional or an expression of personal “shadow?” A Jungian “shadow” or Gestalt-based worldview might respond that our “unconscious” largely creates our inherited and scripted worldviews and that unless and until we become aware of its perspectives they will control what we believe, choose our priorities, and consign us to groupthink. However, while those arguments have merit, they are not the fundamental reasons why it is important to consider the nature and impact of an intrasocial worldview. By themselves, such interviewed interior elements are not sufficient to even disclose an intrasocial worldview. This is because the autonomy and multi-perspectivalism of these perspectives are very easily rationalized as aspects of our interior individual (II) quadrant.
Imaginal perspectives, when interviewed together, such as the various elements in a dream or mystical experience, in the context of accompanying actions and emotions, present patterns of preference that diverge not only from our own but from each other. They demonstrate considerable autonomy. Why? How come? Such interviewed perspectives are found to have preferences and worldviews of their own that cannot simply be consigned to an unconscious, whether personal or universal, without ignoring, minimizing, or discounting core elements of their own worldview. Consider the relative autonomy and objectivity of mystical, shamanic, near death, and “visitation” imaginal experiences. These contain elements that often possess worldviews at great variance to our own and which can be reduced to aspects of ego, self, or Self only by discounting their experiential objectivity. For example, most people who have mystical experiences are extremely reluctant to reduce them to products of their imagination or unconscious, individual or collective. That's not how they are experienced, nor is that the source of their overwhelming significance. Think of Saul on the Road to Damascus. It was his conviction of the objective reality of his experience that led to his conversion and subsequent founding of Christianity. To a lesser extent, objectivity is possessed by your typical dream character. As experienced, dream characters and objects possess objective reality, not imaginal, and to deprive them of that status, generally in retrospect, after we awaken, is to discount their ontological status and instead project our own assumptions upon them.
The traditional psychological response generates a dualism between “fantasy,” “delusional” “self-created” imagery, whether in waking, dream, or some altered state, and “real,” “objective” revelatory experiences of wholly other Reality. The advantage of the first approach is to note the importance of ownership of our experience, including our dreams and mystical experiences, as a movement toward both self responsibility and self empowerment and as a necessary step toward healing, balancing, self-development and self-integration. An intrasocial worldview agrees entirely with this emphasis but notes that it still minimizes and discounts the transformative nature of emerging potentials that are distinct from ego, self, and Self, both as experienced and based on their own testimony. They are, to a greater or lesser degree, significant precisely because they are experienced as separate from our personal responsibility and our ability to control them. This aspect of an intrasocial worldview is threatening and challenging in addition to being potentially transformative, presenting a choice between neutralization by complete internalization or by disowning, a conclusion of dysfunctional otherness, as occurs when we conclude a dream monster, villain, or a waking individual, nation, or worldview is a threat, precisely because it is wholly “other.”
Avoiding ontological dualism
Assuming imaginal elements are self-aspects, sub-personalities, “parts,” or “shadow” relegates them to the interior individual (II) quadrant because they are private and individual manifestations of consciousness. On the other hand, assuming some imaginal elements are wholly other, as is commonly done with mystical and near death, shamanic experience, personal and mass visitation (like thousands seeing Mary and the sun bouncing in the sky at Lourdes or mass UFO sightings), is to relegate these elements to the exterior collective (EC) quadrant because they are experientially not self and embedded in contexts that include but transcend our own, that is, are elements of some superordinate holon. The interior collective quadrant then becomes the natural home of individual delusions, such as adolescent irrational risk taking and romance, as well as collective delusions, such as the Dutch Tulip delusion or Russophobia, and ideological fixations, from Aquarius and cult guru veneration to German National Socialism, Zionist apartheid, and American exceptionalism.
Both individually and collectively, it is relatively easy, in retrospect, to see the dreamlike nature of life and to ask ourselves, “What could I/we have been thinking when I fell in love with him/her?” “…when I got that tattoo?” “…when I took up smoking?” “…when I joined the army?” It is, however, extremely difficult to recognize or wake up out of individual waking dreams, like addictions, as it is out of collective ones, like the American Dream or self-reinforcing civilization-collapsing economic behavior. Neither of these dualisms - the relegation of the “other” to subjective, interior, and individual experience, which is the preference of psychology, or the complete objectification of the “other” to exterior experience, as science, shamanism, and visitations do, are suitable or satisfying because they are each reductionistic in their own way. When recognized instead to be elements of the collective interior collective (IC) quadrant, they are manifestations of “ontological indeterminancy,” of the recognition that imaginal elements always possess some degree of both self-ownership and radical otherness. They are interdependently co-created by both “other” and self.
There is another important reason why examination of an interior collective, intrasocial worldview is important. The testimony of interviewed elements themselves attest to their interdependent nature. But to become both aware of and convinced of this fact requires the employment of a methodology that interviews multiple imaginal elements in a way that produces preference data that can be compared in order to generate an objective assessment of collective patterns of preference. Dream Sociometry, one of many possible methodologies that is capable of generating such a recognition of multiple, relatively autonomous, co-existing authentic perspectives, is discussed in Part 2 of this essay.
Still, the underlying question is, “So what?” Why should anyone pay attention to the perspectives of imaginal elements? Based on interviews with hundreds of such elements over more than forty years, they represent our easiest and most duplicatable access point to a variety of both individual and collective creativity that transcends interpretation and problem solving. They provide reframings of our life issues in ways that liberate from assumptions and expectations that block solutions. Intrasocial groups represent a wellspring of conditioning factors that strongly influence the course of both individual and collective worldviews, but do so largely outside our awareness. They bubble up indirectly as “eureka” moments, synchronicities, creative dreams, spontaneous chaotic reorganizations of life into patterns of higher integration, and anomalous phenomena that redefine our assumptions and theories in ways that cause us to expand our personal and collective worldviews. But for the most part, these are missed or misunderstood. We have a powerful tool to enhance our creativity and reduce our suffering at hand, but we do not recognize it.
An example of the reframing of a personal worldview might be the realization that most people who we fear, for one reason or another, are not actually threats. The result is a reduction of defensiveness, anxiety, reactivity, misperception, and miscommunication. An example of the reframing of a collective worldview might be the reduction of perception of enemies as “other,” whether they be Russian, Ukrainian, Chinese, Iranian, Palestinian, Israeli, or our own government leaders. Instead of ignoring important differences, these are seen in a clearer, less reactive or projected way, making our interpretations of their actions less reliant on visceral assumptions, collective groupthink, and our own unrecognized motivations.
The intrasocial reframing of the worldviews on which we build our identity is not haphazard or without intention. Instead, interviewed imaginal elements tend toward consensus regarding what potentials are emerging and which are not, pointing us toward a hypothetical individual and collective “life compass” which has very clear and persistent priorities of its own, although those priorities are constantly in flux and do not reflect the existence of any one center of reality and beingness. Those priorities include clarity, balance, inner peace, and interdependence. These and other priorities constitute a worldview that is distinct from the others which we have so far discussed, although there exists important overlap, implying an interdependent synergy in a movement toward a collective worldview that is inclusive, transcending, and integrative.
In summary, an intrasocial worldview emphasizes elements that worldviews largely derived from waking experience do not emphasize. To recapitulate and underline those differences, waking worldviews tend to be more in the service of 1) physical survival, 2) self-development and preservation, 3) control, power, and status accumulation, 4) self-justification, 5) reducing cognitive dissonance, 6) the preservation of the reality of dualities, 7) maintaining and expanding groupthink. In contrast, intrasocial worldviews tend to be more in the service of 1) awakening, balance and integration, 3) interdependence, 4) transparency, 5) fearlessness, 6) polycentrism, 7) multi-perspectivalism. Clearly, waking worldviews can and do incorporate these characteristics to a lesser or greater degree. Accessing the intrasocial worldview is a way of infusing waking worldviews with a greater quantity and quality of those priorities. Reasons why the intrasocial worldview is not more widely recognized and appreciated include:
If such resistances are overcome, one consequence of applying such an intrasocial methodology is that subjects develop worldviews that reflect the priorities of authentic, integrative emerging potentials and their life compass. When multiple individuals choose to do so they generate a collective culture that has a shared evolving worldview that provides important objectivity regarding whatever social worldviews are dominant at the time. After we assess the Dream Sociometric methodology that reveals an intrasocial worldview in Part 2 of this essay, in the final essay we will consider what a synthesis of the Western, African/Global South, Indian, Chinese, Russian, Artificial Intelligence, and Intrasocial worldviews might look like.