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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.
Why Smart, Compassionate Germans Supported Fascism
And Why It Matters Today
Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too. — Marcus Aurelius (121-180), Roman Emperor, Philosopher
Understanding the factors behind why over 30 million Germans supported Hitler and the German war effort can help us understand why so many people, not only in Germany but in Western-aligned nations, are unwittingly supporting the collapse of the West today. By examining the consequences for the German people subsequent to World War II, we can generate some plausible predictions for the psychological fate of the West.
How did we get into such a predicament and what can we do about it? A somewhat similar situation existed in Germany in the 1930's.
Why do so many intelligent, compassionate, well-informed, and clearly well-meaning people in the West today either ignore, deny, or outright support fascism and neo-Nazism in Ukraine? What might be the likely consequences for the greater West in years to come? In thinking about these questions I was reminded of the similarity of the current predominant Western narrative on the war in Ukraine to the German zeitgeist of the 1930's and 1940's.
Clearly, if you ask Westerners if they ignore, deny, or support fascism or Nazism, they will be insulted and angered, and certainly with cause. By supporting Ukraine they see themselves as supporting innocent Ukrainians who have been the victim of unprovoked aggression by an authoritarian Russian empire. These Westerners have no intention of supporting fascism or neo-Nazism.
While those supporting this mainstream Western narrative vigorously deny that they support fascism and Nazism in Ukraine, or that these toxic ideologies play a significant role in Ukraine, if we look at definitions of fascism and Nazism it is not difficult to determine that yes, fascism and Nazism do indeed exist openly and extensively in Ukraine. If that is the case, then knowingly or not, Westerners who support the Ukrainian government and military, in addition to supporting the innocent, victimized citizen population of Ukraine, are supporting fascism and Nazism, regardless of their personal intention or belief. They might not recognize that they are doing so, they may not intend to do so, they may speak out against fascism and Nazism. They may be helping Ukrainian refugees or citizens. They may have personal experience or knowledge of atrocities carried out by Russians. However, governments, particularly democratic ones, justify their existence based on the consent of their citizens. That means that we hold collective responsibility for both the successes and failures, the angelic and demonic acts of our governments, because they act in our name. Just as there exist collective benefits and delusions, there exist collective responsibilities, such as reflected by law. An example of this principle is the collective guilt of Germans for the Holocaust and the evil done by the Third Reich, resulting in the Nuremberg Trials and decades of German post-war guilt and shame. That guilt hangs as an albatross around the neck of Germany still today, almost eighty years after the end of World War Two.
What are fascism and Nazism?
Fascism is a political ideology that is characterized by authoritarian nationalism, racism and the repression of dissent. Nationalism is an ideology based on the premise that the individual's loyalty and devotion to the nation-state surpass other individual or group interests. Like fascism, the Ukrainian state is currently a one-party, authoritarian and extremely nationalistic state. Like fascism, the mainstream Ukrainian narrative glorifies the State, as evidenced by the exhaltation of a unique Ukrainian identity and the suppression of other identities within Ukraine.
While Ukraine professes to be a parliamentary democracy it is in fact a one-party state. Its methods are totalitarian, as proven by its suppression of dissent in the form of “disappearing,” imprisonment, and killings of dissenters. It emphasizes militaristic values as is seen by the curricula of child indoctrination camps throughout Ukraine. It is racist in that it refers to Russians as “orcs,” implying subhuman status. From this we can conclude that yes, fascism and neo-Nazism are alive and well in the Ukrainian government and military and that the West, including Germany, are arming, training, funding, and supporting fascism and Nazism.
What is the Western mainstream narrative regarding the causes of the war in Ukraine?
Recurring themes that I have encountered include 1) Russia's desire for empire, 2) Putin the authoritarian, 3) Ukraine the innocent victim, 4) the denial of NATO promises not to expand to the East, 5) Russia as fascist and Nazified as Ukraine, if not more, 6) the war as unprovoked, 7) Russian war crimes. While I have addressed these at length in various previous essays, in summary my responses are: 1) Russia's previous empire building was nowhere near as extensive as that of the West and there is little if any evidence that the invasion of Ukraine was inspired by a Russian desire for empire. 2) Putin is a democratically elected world leader with a very high approval rating among Russians. He viewed Ukraine transformed into a de facto NATO state as an existential threat to Russia. 3) Ukraine and NATO have enacted multiple aggressive measures over the course of many years to provoke the Russian invasion. 4) The evidence that NATO promised not to expand eastward is clear and unequivocal. 5) While Russia has a fascist element it is in no way present in the government and military to the extent that it exists in the Ukrainian government and military. 6) The war was provoked by the US in concert with its European allies. 7) While Russia has undoubtedly committed war crimes in Ukraine, they in no way compare with those committed by the Ukrainians. I would only add that the US has a long history of supporting German and Ukrainian fascism.
How we share cognitive biases with post-Weimar Germans
How did we get into such a predicament and what can we do about it? A somewhat similar situation existed in Germany in the 1930's. Like citizens of other Western countries, Germans of that period were nationalists. They also shared the Western enlightenment and democratic culture of Western Europe and the US. Germany was a predominantly Christian nation, with the population divided between Catholicism and Lutheranism, and reflective of the traditional, conservative values of those religions. Germans at that time wanted pretty much the same things that we want now: food, shelter, financial security, a secure source of income, access to healthcare, and a good education for themselves and their children. In particular, they wanted and needed economic security and stability, as savings and the value of money had been destroyed by runaway inflation beginning in the 1920's due to the draconian and unrepayable reparations placed on Germany by the allies following World War I in the Treaty of Versailles. Between the summer of 1929 and early 1932, German unemployment rose from just under 1.3 million to over 6 million, corresponding to a rise in the unemployment rate from 4.5 per cent of the labour force to 24 per cent. Millions of Germans lost their savings and were reduced to penury.
Putin made it abundantly clear in his May 10th, Victory Day speech that he considers the Ukrainian war to be a conflict with the US, NATO, and EU and that it is a continuation of World War II. He considers the combined west to be driven by many of the same motivations that drove Nazi Germany. These include a desire to dismember Russia and plunder its resources, a desire to overthrow the Russian government, and an attitude of exceptionalism combined with a condescending attitude toward Russians and Russian culture. In addition, Putin has protested that the US and NATO have moved strategic and even nuclear weapons into Poland, bordering Russia (Kaliningrad) and Romania.
The destructive power of cognitive biases in post-Weimar Germany
Germans alive one century ago were not very different from Westerners today in their psychological make-up, simply because the inherited evolutionary characteristics of human cognition do not change much from generation to generation. That is, 20th Century Germans were born with a similar set of cognitive biases and were susceptible to the same emotional cognitive distortions that we are today.
Cognitive biases exist as heuristic tools with adaptive value, even if they consist of approximations that are only partially correct in general and sometimes can be completely false and misleading. In a simpler, pre-collectivized world, cognitive biases worked to gauge the trustworthiness of others, differentiate friend from foe, and generate tribal bonding. In the much more complex post-hunter-gatherer world of the last six millennia, when the approximations provided by cognitive biases are wrong, the consequences can be deadly, not only for individuals but for entire collectives. Like Westerners today, post-Weimar Germans based their identities on their life experiences and assumptions about what was true and false, good and bad, what they saw, heard, and learned. Out of those assumptions they developed preferences, beliefs, goals, and expectations. Just as it does for us today, to question those foundations of their identity created cognitive dissonance, as a threat to their identity and life control. Therefore, there existed not only strong social and cultural pressure to use and believe cognitive biases but to deny, reject, repress, and defeat ideas, beliefs, and people who challenged them.
Of the multitude of cognitive biases 20th Century Germans were born with, there are several in particular that help to explain why smart and caring Germans embraced fascism. These include:
In prewar and wartime Germany the expression of doubts or disagreements with National Socialism or Hitler was viewed as unpatriotic or a betrayal of the war effort, an expression of the Groupthink bias. Due to the collective and self-reinforcing nature of this bias, it provides a good shorthand or summary of all these cognitive biases. Hitler's judgment in all areas went unquestioned by most Germans, an example of the Halo Effect. Like many European and Americans of that period, many Germans grew up in anti-Semitic households, so that bias and stereotype was their first and predominant assumption regarding Jews, an example of the anchoring bias. Germans were surrounded by people and media that supported Hitler and National Socialism, thereby making their belief in both almost predestined, an example of the availability heuristic. Because Germans were surrounded by others who accepted National Socialist beliefs and ideas it was easy to be carried forward by the prevailing consensus, an example of the Bandwagon Effect. But few Germans felt they were propagandized, biased, or controlled in their beliefs and worldview by others or by cognitive biases. Instead, they believed they were less biased than others, an example of the Blind Spot Bias. These Germans had a tendency to focus on information that confirmed their existing preconceptions and ignore data that contradicted or threatened it, an example of the Confirmation bias. Leaders of the Third Reich assumed the Soviet Union was as they believed it to be: backward, weak, disorganized, and incapable of defending itself. This example of the egocentric bias proved disastrous for the Germans and demonstrates just how deadly cognitive biases can be. Finally, Germans did not want to cause offense or controversy because they could be put in prison or killed and so only stated opinions that were socially acceptable within the worldview of the Third Reich, an example of the Courtesy Bias. Germans believed their own narrative of the greatness and infallibility of the German war effort and its leadership. The result was that they were blind to the realities of their situation: Russia had the ability to industrialize and mobilize sufficiently to prevent Germany from accessing oil in the Caucasus, which doomed their war effort. This is an example of how the Dunning-Kruger Effect was present as a powerful, toxic element in the German mindset in post-Weimar wartime Germany.
It is easy to see how only one or two of these cognitive biases would be enough to entrain most people in groupthink, but all these and others I have not named were in play in the 1930's and '40's in Germany. Such cognitive biases were hardly the only factors generating and maintaining mindless zombie-like acceptance of amoral and immoral leadership, action, and acquiescent silence, but they are important and often overlooked ones.
Just as it is easy for us to look back at 20th Century Germans and spot these cognitive biases and understand the role they played in creating massive toxic groupthink, so we can look back at our own adolescence and youth and wonder, “What possessed me to do that?” It might have been hanging out with a bunch of influential but detrimental people, dating or marrying someone who was abusive, getting tattoos you later regretted, or taking up habits like smoking and drinking that proved to be both problematic and very difficult to break. As they say, hindsight is 20/20. It is much more difficult to develop the objectivity to recognize how we are immersed today in groupthink in our lives, opinions, and worldview. Germans in the 20th Century largely did not do so; we in our adolescence largely didn't do so, and my contention is that you and I today are faced with the same problem. We are confident that we are aware of our cognitive biases and are freely choosing our worldview, preferences, beliefs, assumptions, and expectations, denying that we are in any way programmed or under the influence of pervasive cultural groupthink. This is not only a delusion but another cognitive bias that serves to maintain and justify our worldview and identity while warding off cognitive dissonance. Here are some examples.
How these same cognitive biases generate mass destructive delusion in the West today
The initial piece of information about Russia that most Westerners grew up with was “Russia BAD!” There remains a conflation of post 2000 Russia with first the imperial Russia of the czars and then the communism of the Soviet Union. While multiple aggressions by Western countries in countries like Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan are excused as poorly executed attempts at “democratization,” Russia's invasion of Ukraine is viewed as an inexcusable act of aggression. This is an example of Anchoring Effect, in that initial and pre-existing assumptions bias perception, regardless of their accuracy. It is a cognitive bias that appears to still be in effect in the worldview of most Westerners, largely because the media has worked to perpetuate the conflation of present day Russia with the behavior and motives of its predecessors. How many people in the West know much at all about the current Russian economy? How many have ever read or listened to a speech by Putin or Lavrov?
Most Westerners have assumed Ukraine would win the war, just as they assumed sanctions on Russia would bring it to its knees and that the Global South would join in condemnation of Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. They made these assumptions based on the incessant narratives produced by media in the West and the censoring of alternative narratives. The result has been collective anesthesia under the influence of the Availability Heuristic, with Westerners overestimating the importance and likelihood of those delusional outcomes given the greater availability of information that validates these misconceptions. Because Westerners not only live in a media but social echo chamber in which they are surrounded by people who share a common worldview, the Bandwagon cognitive bias is also well in evidence regarding views on Ukraine and Russia.
The halo effect shows up in our world in the largely unquestioning support of Washington and its narrative on Ukraine and Russia by its allies. The rightness of the Western worldview regarding democracy, freedom, its own non-aggressive nature, and its superiority goes largely unquestioned in London, Paris, Brussels, Rome, Vienna, and Berlin. Americans are brought up to believe they are exceptional and use that belief to justify imperialism. Most Americans don't care about Ukraine, Russia, China, or Europe. They are too busy pursuing comfort, “self-development,” or raising families. This is an example of how Americans share with pre-war Germans the Blind Spot bias, as they too view themselves, in their exceptionalism, as less biased than others.
It is quite evident that Washington, NATO, and EU planners and politicians were so convinced that their ideological position was accurate that they projected its assumptions onto the Russians, in a massive display of the egocentric cognitive bias. They assumed Russia was a gas station pretending to be a country, and so they expected Russia and Russians to respond as if that were the case.They really did believe that the Russian economy was the size of Italy's and so they had no awareness of the realities of the Russian economy as it existed for Russians or of its capacities. If only this cognitive bias alone were at work it would be sufficient to explain the collapse of the Western military, economic, and informational wars on Russia.
The Dunning-Kruger cognitive bias shows up in contemporary Western groupthink as over-confidence in multiple areas. It explains why incompetent people can easily believe they are outstanding. Economically, the Dunning-Kruger Effect has shown up as the assumption that sanctions would crush Russia and in the belief that endless supplies of cash would keep Ukraine functioning as a de facto NATO state. Militarily, it has shown up as the assumption that NATO and its superior armaments and training would allow Ukraine to prevail in the war. Informationally, the West was convinced that its narrative regarding the reasons to support Ukraine and blacklist Russia would prevail throughout the Global South. All of these assumptions were not only wrong but disastrously wrong. The sanctions strengthened the Russian economy while causing inflation in the West and the outsourcing of the European industrial base due to high energy costs. Economic costs eventually became higher than the West could tolerate. The appropriation of Russian funds in Western banks led to dedollarization throughout the Global South, greatly weakening the ability of the West to coerce other nations through threats of sanctions. Militarily, far from destroying the Russian army, the war forced it to reconfigure itself into the most potent fighting force in the world. The transfer of weapons and ammunition to Ukraine bled Western militaries until they not only did not have more to send but lacked the armament necessary to protect themselves. In addition, the ability of Russia to counter, neutralize, and defeat whatever weapons NATO used against it deflated the illusion of the invincibility of US military weaponry. Disastrous misjudgments by the West, based on delusional over-confidence, itself a product of ignoring or discounting critical publicly available information about Russian, Ukrainian, and Western capabilities, have led to the end of 500 years of Western global dominance.
Like pre-war Germans, contemporary Westerners lost in groupthink love to virtue signal, demonstrating their investment in the Courtesy Bias. If you don't make the obligatory mouth movements denouncing Putin as an autocrat and China as authoritarian, you must be a Russia lover and a China-bot.
Perhaps the cognitive bias that most strongly aligns modern day Germans with their predecessors, as well as with Americans and other disciples of the Western worldview, is the Confirmation Bias. Modern day Germans focus on information that conforms to and confirms pre-existing preconceptions. For example, since the US is the Great Protector and Benefactor and Russia is Bad, who blew up NordSteam, in an astounding act of industrial terrorism and sabotage, must remain an eternal, unspoken Mystery. That the US did it is a thought that contradicts German confirmation bias and creates cognitive dissonance, threatening identity and worldview. Since we can't have that, it is best to simply change the subject, just as the West will certainly soon do regarding Ukraine.
The shift of pre-war to post-war German groupthink
Groupthink can, like a salamander or shape-shifter, effortlessly transform from one set of beliefs into a previously inconceivable and contradictory form. We can predict such a shift based on what happened with Germans after the war. They didn't wake up out of groupthink; they merely exchanged one form of groupthink for another. The major elements of the new mode were guilt and shame about supporting Hitler and the war effort combined with a fear of nationalism. This new groupthink manifested as Germans trading security and comfort for a life of delusion. The delusion was that they were free and autonomous agents as a people when they had in reality subjugated themselves as sycophantic vassals within the American empire. The reunification of Germany brought greater comfort to most Germans, a greater fusion with Washington-mediated groupthink, and did nothing to reduce German suspicion or hatred for Russia. In this regard, Germans were very much like other Europeans and most Americans. They shared the same collective worldview and the same collective groupthink. The EU, an American sponsored development, was a further way for Germans to imagine they were acting for themselves within the family of European nations rather than as mere subjects to an American global empire. One can reasonably conclude that this delusional reframing was a far superior form of groupthink for Germany, in that this trade off was “worth it” for most Germans until 2023. Being an obsequious lapdog of Washington provided Germans with a high standard of living, with all the perks of a welfare state, without having to be concerned with troublesome questions of national security. All Berlin had to do was put up with American bases, nuclear weapons, spying, and having no independent foreign policy. Most Germans, like most Europeans, were fine with that and, truth be told, still are. Will that groupthink Bandwagon continue to provide a beneficial trade-off for Germans? Dark clouds are forming on the horizon. Some are currently predicting that Germany will slide into recession this year. If there is another massive influx of immigrants from Ukraine we can expect greater public support for the AfD, a relatively recent right wing and populist German political party. While Germany announces it has freed itself from enslavement to Russian energy, in reality it still imports a large quantity of its gas and oil from Russia, only it is “washed” through India, United Arab Emirates, and China, allowing Germany to continue to virtue signal while German industry and citizens see much higher energy prices. At some point, if inflation continues, the pain will wake Germans out of their long, peaceful slumber in Atlanticist mindmeld. However, that point is not here yet and we can expect strong resistance to doing so, as the last seventy years have been one long, comfortable ride for Germans.
Groupthink is an ever-present menace
Governments have good reasons to study, learn, and use cognitive biases to shape the perceptions of citizens. If they do so, they retain and strengthen their power. If they ignore or do not take cognitive biases into account and use them to manipulate citizens, their control is reduced and political status jeopardized. Consequently, we can expect any and all governments to generate mass narratives that manufacture our consent for their continued governance. While no one is ever going to take kindly to accusations of surrendering to groupthink, most of us can look back in our lives, say to our adolescence, and see how we were captured by groupthink. At the time, if someone had asked us, “Why are you parroting the mainstream view? If you are not being paid by the government or CIA, you should submit a bill,” what would our response most likely have been? Denial, anger, and feelings of victimization are likely responses and even understandable, but they are not the most mature or healthiest ones. Ideally, we would examine the evidence of the claim objectively. However, because we rarely recognize how we are immersed in groupthink, we are unlikely to do so, largely because there are too many reasons to maintain the groupthink and too few reasons to abandon it. Those reasons include group rewards and punishment, the avoidance of cognitive dissonance and threat to our core identity.
The pre-war or wartime Germans who supported Hitler and the war were not evil or stupid, nor were post-war or current day Germans, Europeans, Americans, Russians, or Chinese, who are locked in their own varieties of groupthink. Waking up to the reality that we are sleepwalking in toxic groupthink does not mean that we are ignorant, stupid, or guilty. Other people are likely to know more than we do about the things that are important to them, and those we dislike, fear, or do not respect are plenty compassionate toward those that they care about. Groupthink is so effective because it feels like autonomous, personal choice, it is reinforced by a powerful collective echo chamber, and the consequences for challenging it, both intrapsychically and socially, are high.
One doesn't have to agree with Russia's assessment of the degree of threat to it posed by Ukraine, NATO, and Washington to understand why it views the war in Ukraine as a continuation of World War II. From its perspective the West is persevering in attempts to subjugate, divide, and exploit it, but this time using Ukraine as a proxy and de facto NATO state. As the West loses Ukraine and Russia wins, and the mainstream narrative changes, perhaps to “China BAD!” or de-dollarization, or inflation, so will the groupthink Western bandwagon. It will move on to something else without ever considering how and why it continues to lose itself in toxic, highly destructive mass delusion.
What were the consequences of groupthink for Germans and what consequences for our own might we expect?
While circumstances today are radically different from pre-war Germany, and therefore in significant ways the consequences for our groupthink will be different from those the Germans had to deal with, human psychology remains essentially unchanged. When confronted with the delusional and destructive nature of groupthink, what consequences for our own groupthink regarding Russia and Ukraine might we expect? First, and most important, our various cognitive distortions enmeshed us in military, economic, and informational wars with Russia that we have lost. The awareness of that has not sunk in, and it is uncertain whether it will or not. The psychological defense of denial is very powerful. Western governments may simply walk away, turn the page, and refuse to view the decline of five-hundred years of Western empire building as a loss. Americans, insulated and protected behind two oceans, may not care and simply change the subject, say to political wars on the home front, which return, like a bad sitcom, every four years to distract and entertain.
However, it is quite possible there will be consequences of the loss of this war that the usual tactics will be unable to ignore. The loss of the economic war may well mean the end of deficit financing of empire. If that were to happen thousands of people would lose well paying jobs in the military industrial complex. Those people would likely be very angry and be looking around for someone to blame. There will certainly be no shortage of perceived persecutors: politicians, bankers, Wall Street gamblers, accountants, lawyers, government, the “system,” the media, law enforcement, and most of all, ourselves. We were all in on the biggest Ponzi scheme of all time. Blaming others or ourselves may feel “right” or even good, but because it constitutes a problem rather than a solution focus, blame and guilt feelings are useless and a waste of time. Although anger and blame are likely consequences for the loss of these three wars, they are hardly useful or productive ones. The exception is when anger is harassed to produced systemic change. We can expect an existential encounter by US citizens with the Myth of American Exceptionalism.
What does integral have to do with this?
Sadly, not much. In my experience, integralists are just as prone to cognitive biases and groupthink as anyone else. If the US economy collapses people will be looking for food and jobs, not for enlightenment or “2nd Tier” status. Integral sees itself as hierarchically advanced because “the cognitive line leads,” and because integralists see and understand lines, states, stages, quadrants and styles as well as relationships. Problems arise because this understanding of cognition does not take into account how humanity is captured and controlled by its cognitive biases, which entangle it in delusions, poor decision making, and collapse in ways and for reasons that it does not recognize or understand. One of those ways is groupthink. Integral lacks the objectivity to recognize and detach from its own groupthink, but that can change. It can learn to do so.
I have discovered, to my continuing astonishment, that many intelligent and compassionate Integralists, some of whom I consider good friends, either ignore, rationalize, minimize, or outright support fascism and Nazism in Ukraine. It is as if morality and social justice in the collective exterior quadrant are non-existent, irrelevant, or simply the domain of impersonal “systems.” I have concluded that integralists largely identify with their intent and self-identity: “I intend to be a moral person; therefore I am a moral person.” “My self-image is that I am multi-perspectival, pluralistic, and egalitarian, including and transcending other worldviews; therefore I am.” The interior quadrants not only justify themselves but ignore or disown conflicting information in the exterior collective quadrant. By doing so, the LR quadrant is disowned. The result is an inability to tetra-mesh both on the moral line and in overall development. While development in multiple lines moves forward, the moral line stays at prepersonal levels via an often unrecognized investment an amoral and even immoral status quo, because it has significant benefits. The further result is increasing developmental imbalance, with multiple lines advancing but overall development remaining stagnant, at prepersonal levels. Because integralists identify with their strong lines (“the cognitive line leads”), they are largely successful at minimizing their collusion with amorality and complicity in collective immorality, which can be summarized as a defiance of international law. That defiance is a fundamental refusal of reciprocity and statement of elitism/exceptionalism: “International law for you, the 'Rules-Based Order' for me.” As with Germany and Germans, because this arrangement has secured the foundational relational exchanges of security and development, allowing time, energy, and identity to be focused on the pursuit of higher relational exchanges, like hobbies, philosophy, and spirituality, this trade-off has been effective and so stable that it has supported the illusion that identity is largely a matter of higher relational exchanges. This has created a disconnect with those for whom it is not and cannot be, generally involving exploitation, for reasons of age or socio-cultural contexts.
In addition, most integralists have had mystical experiences that have led them to conclude that their vision is spiritual which means, among other things, that they experience themselves as ethically responsible. This is the source of a second problem that arises for an integral worldview. A consciousness approach to spirituality and an understanding of morality that orbits around intention does not take into account how both are determined in part by the assessments of outgroups, that is, by both social and intrasocial others whose agreement or disagreement with our priorities and behavior has consequences for our ability to tetra-mesh, or evolve level to level, in the collective quadrants. The result of this unawareness or discounting, is hubris, or a sense of exceptionalism which leads to overreach, discounting of outgroups, repression, and abuse, which in turn feeds personal and societal collapse.
Integralists tend to want to pull everyone up to their level, which reflects both a lack of empathy and implies superiority. To become relevant in the civilizational shift that is taking place integralists will learn to supplement their cognitive multi-perspectivalism with experiential multi-perspectivalism. They will spend time looking at the world from the viewpoint of Russians, Chinese, Palestinians, and single parents in homeless shelters. That's because any framework that is truly integral is going to understand and respect the perspectives of outgroups and then attempt to reach members of outgroups at their level of need. The result of this practice is often surprising: we learn that the outgroups we classified as “red,” “blue,” “orange,” or “green” are in various ways more integral than we are.
Waking up out of groupthink
While a collective slide from one form of groupthink to another feels natural, actually waking up out of groupthink is hard work. It involves not only becoming the skunk at the family picnic, but challenging core beliefs that support our own identity. There are many convincing reasons not do do such a stupid and dangerous thing. While in today's world ignoring cognitive biases is less likely to get you killed, if you violate central and cardinal principles of prevailing groupthink in any culture at any time, you can expect to be ostracized, and people may attempt to destroy your career if they figure out how.
Waking up out of groupthink involves facing the realization that we are complicit in the maintenance of a toxic zeitgeist in which we only experience the illusion of free choice. On the other hand, to consider ourselves helpless victims of propaganda robs us of our agency and ability to wake up out of groupthink, since we imagine we are powerless victims of our socio-cultural context. As crazy at it may sound, we need to encourage and foster cognitive dissonance and to recognize the experience that our identity is being threatened as an opportunity to disidentify with aspects of our identity that are not necessary for our survival. The experience of cognitive dissonance is like fear, an alarm that tells us we are unsafe. However, over 90 percent of our fears turn out to be false alarms, to which we are surrendering our peace of mind and objectivity for no good reason. Cognitive dissonance is the same. It tells us that we will invite an existential crisis if we don't reduce it. However, if we suspend that prepersonal, emotional demand and listen, in a deep and integral way, to the source of the cognitive dissonance, we are likely to find we not only are scaring ourselves unnecessarily, but the perceived source of danger is in reality an important teacher that can propel our growth to the next level.
It makes sense that the default assumption all of us need to make is that we are indeed sleepwalking in groupthink, and that while some of that is harmless, and in fact our cognitive biases are sometimes useful and beneficial, some of that built-in bias and the groupthink it creates is toxic and counterproductive, not only to our own growth and development but to society as a whole. That is because our actions and words influence others and indirectly many we will never meet.
Do we have a responsibility to wake up? Do we have a responsibility to wake each other up, even if we are met with resistance? At what point do those attempts to wake others up out of groupthink become disrespectful rescuing? At what point is it more respectful to simply leave people to the fate they are defending and demanding?
To answer such difficult questions we have to ask, “Does their groupthink hurt only themselves or does it hurt others as well?” “If people insist on pursuing groupthink that kills others, is it justifiable to kill them, if lesser measures have been tried and been unsuccessful?” “If some variety of groupthink hurts others, how much of a threat is it to either individuals or social cohesion?” “Is combatting groupthink based on helping, rescuing, or manipulation for our own benefit?” How can we be sure? As George Orwell said, “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”