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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Marty Keller is a native of the Detroit area. Graduated from the University of Michigan in 1973 where along with everybody else he fell in love with socialism, and has had at least ten different careers and political journeys since then. Came to California in 1983 and completed Masters Degree in Consciousness Studies at JFK University in 2004. He has always had a compelling interest in our political system, with a special devotion to the example of Abraham Lincoln as the quintessential American statesman. Recently completed 12 years of state government service, and 14 years in the Unity movement; now works to support disabled veteran business owners. He started writing commentary on Wilberian ideas with the WilberBlog in Jordan Gruber's now-defunct enlightenment.com web site; has been posting desultorily on AQALBlog for the past eight years. Regularly unwelcome at Boulder-centric events.
THREE BLIND MEMES
This essay (originally published in 2006) examines the unprecedented Kosmic evolutionary situation that we find ourselves in today—a time when three powerful levels of consciousness are dominating separate groups of billions of human beings across the globe. While this "trimemetic" clash is creating a maelstrom of confusion and fear unlike any in our species' experience, it is also giving rise to the opening to the Second Tier, where transpersonal identity changes our relationship to everything and makes possible a new Kosmic evolutionary experience that embraces the world that arises from moment to moment.
We are republishing this now at a time when the glue that held the world together through the end of the Cold War seems to be dissolving. The financial crisis besetting the globe is but an exterior reflection of an interior condition of transformational dynamics. Given the trajectory of history, it is entirely likely that the mess created in the "First Tier food fight" will get worse before it gets better as the way of Spirit works Itself out.
Part I - The Five Hundred Years' War
Thus three memes predominate in large numbers of people across the globe. This trimemetic tension will drive history for the foreseeable future.
At the beginning of this year , the drama of what some wags have called the “Khartoon” caper began to unfold. A Danish newspaper, frustrated by the level of censorship engendered by fear of local Islamic extremists, published twelve cartoons caricaturing Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. In the ensuing reactions from around the globe, we can observe the distinction of the three prevalent world memes, or levels of consciousness, as they come more forcefully into relief.
In various locations in the Muslim world, the perception of insult and blasphemy in the caricatures' publication has resulted in incidents of violence and even death. In much of the advanced sector, especially (and astonishingly, given its postmodern sensibilities) in Europe, there has been a vigorous defense of the separation of the civic and religious realms and the right of the one to criticize and even dismiss the other. In other parts of the advanced sector, most mystifyingly in the United States, there has emerged a self-conscious restraint that privileges cultural sensitivity over freedom of the press. (This grotesque self-censorship continues into the summer of 2009 as Yale University Press has decided to strike the cartoons from its forthcoming publication of The Cartoons That Shook the World.)
The distinctions become even more instructive when we consider the “Khartoon” state of affairs in light of the brouhaha over the proposal to lease certain U. S. port facilities to a corporation owned by the government of Dubai also in February, the July shooting war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, the continued carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan, and most recently, Pope Benedict XIV’s speech in Regensburg, Germany, on September 12.
Once one understands how the various elements of Kosmic evolution are manifesting in these diverse situations, one finds that it all makes perfect sense. This is because Ken Wilber’s integral AQAL model is not simply an elegant theory, it is a blueprint for understanding Kosmic evolution as it is presenting itself right here and right now. With this understanding comes the possibility of making an intentional and powerful contribution to the arc of unfoldment, especially for those of us willing to bolster what Wilber calls the Prime Directive—i.e., the entire spectrum of consciousness itself.
The Spectrum of Consciousness
As Wilber and many others have written, consciousness has been evolving since the moment of the Big Bang—if not before. It evolves in discernible stages, which he also calls “waves,” “levels,” and “memes.” Each new wave grows out of the preceding, earlier, less complex level, and is a discontinuity from its junior memes. In this way the spectrum of consciousness mimics the “great chain of being,” the hypothesis, dating back at least to the third century CE Egyptian mystic Plotinus, that the structure of the universe begins with inorganic matter, followed by the body, then the mind, the soul and beyond. Each higher link in the chain includes the lower links; you can’t have life without inorganic matter, minds without bodies, and so on.
At each point of emergence, the new wave of consciousness transcends, while at the same time including and integrating, the earlier wave(s). In the Great Chain example, we notice that molecules are an entire order of magnitude different and more complex than atoms. While atoms are fundamental to molecules, molecules are not merely the sum total of their atomic content. Water is not simply an oxygen atom with a couple of hydrogen thrown in. What makes molecules a completely new entity from the atoms they comprise is their new form and structure. The new entity both transcends the old, and includes and integrates them into an entirely new existent.
Consciousness evolves in the same manner. As life began to emerge on Earth around 3.5 billion years ago, the structures of consciousness were consistent with each level of complexity that followed. With the appearance of mammals around 225 million years ago, brain structures evolved to support the advanced consciousness necessary for mammals to survive the environment in which they had evolved. After another 200 million years then elapsed, sometime around 2-3 million years ago hominids, the immediate ancestors to the species Homo sapiens, began to differentiate themselves from their mammalian predecessors.
The fossil and archeological records make clear that the appearance of the hominids yet again introduced something novel into the world. It was a shift from the level of consciousness whose most advanced expression to date had been mammalian. Throughout the eons of the evolution of living beings, the simply structures of consciousness produced primitive awareness. As life evolved more complex and motile forms, this awareness expanded to interact with the environment to facilitate survival. Yet, from single-celled life forms all the way to the highly complex mammals, awareness remained simple and direct.
The innovation of human consciousness, primitive though it also was, introduced an entirely new feature: the key Kosmic singularity of self-consciousness—awareness of being aware.
And, just as cells transcend and include atoms, so too does self-reflexive human consciousness transcend and include mammalian, affective consciousness. This is evidenced in the objective realms by the presence of the limbic system in the human brain, a relic of the evolution of the mammalian mental structure.
Historic relics such as the Altamira and Lascaux cave paintings, dating from as early as 25,000 BCE, give us evidence of the emergence of self-consciousness in the Upper Paleolithic era. This was during what Wilber calls the “low mythic/membership” wave that emerged from the preceding magic-typhonic level of consciousness starting approximately 50,000 BCE. The hunter-gatherer mode of human reproduction that characterized Homo sapiens up to this point then began to give way to something unique and unprecedented.
The invention of agriculture in the period immediately following the end of the last Ice Age around 13,000 BCE was accompanied by a shift into the higher, more complex realm of consciousness needed to manage the challenges of this more multifaceted socioeconomic system.
As these early settlements grew in size and complexity, so too did the interior structures of human mental space. By the time large social structures like the Egyptian and Babylonian empires emerged in the second millennia BCE, the highest prepersonal wave had emerged. Wilber identifies this as the mythic/membership, rule/role level, where the identity of the self was in the clan or tribe. People lived in a psychic space of mythology, their mental lives dominated by a projected realm of gods and demons ruling life by a rigid set of unalterable rules. Survival depended on each person playing his/her assigned role in life.
Understanding—or, more precisely, remembering—this level of consciousness is a real challenge for modern and postmodern people. We who live in these realms now take absolutely for granted that each individual human is the center of self-identity. We are inheritors of a tradition whose emergence was emblemized by the Renaissance scholar Giovanni Pico della Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man and whose political security was established by the American Revolution.
Our premodern ancestors would have been perplexed, as are today’s premodern cultures, by the concept that individuals have the inherent right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” In tribal structures whose very survival requires constant vigilance against all comers—the archetypal “Other”—only the tribe itself has this right. Its individual members cannot expect to live, much less pursue happiness, if the tribe is destroyed.
The premodern religious traditions reinforce and support the tribe’s social and psychological requirements by bringing divine sanction to the political economic hierarchy necessary to the tribe’s ability to endure. Premodern monotheistic religions concentrate all absolute authority onto the one god who demands total obedience and whose eye is on everyone to ensure compliance. Getting through life successfully demands that each person fulfill responsibly the role that the tribe has assigned him or her. Deviance not only affronts one’s community, it challenges God Himself; against this implacable divine power there is no appeal.
This, then, was the consciousness of most of humanity as it approached the fifteenth century CE. With a few exceptions in places like Australia and hit-and-miss swatches of territory in Africa and the Americas where hunter-gatherer modes still prevailed, humans were manifesting mythic/membership awareness, the highest premodern meme, which Wilber labels “Amber” in his spectrum model.
The Emergence of the Modern
But something new was stirring in Europe; people were beginning to see and experience life somewhat differently from the rest of the human race. It is not the purpose of this essay to examine how this new perspective emerged. Suffice it to note that it did, and that by the time of the Italian Renaissance the new meme was noticeable and its contours distinguishable from the prevailing mode.
Unlike its predecessors, this new wave of consciousness has not been around all that long. The mythic/membership wave arose with the invention of agriculture and complex language, and so has had some 13,000 years of use to solidify its structure as, to use Wilber’s notion, a Kosmic habit.
So this new meme, the “Orange” egoic/rational, which gave rise to the modern world, is still relatively young. But unlike its immediate predecessor, it finds itself being transcended by a new wave before it has had the same amount of time to “settle in” as a meme with a high probabilistically-predictable structure. This is creating an unprecedented tension in Kosmic evolution, because Orange has not yet completed its struggle to supersede Amber, and it has already given rise to a totally new wave. Since the 1960s, the “Green” vision/logic wave has been giving rise to the postmodern world of the Information Age.
Thus three memes predominate in large numbers of people across the globe. This trimemetic tension will drive history for the foreseeable future.
The Lower Right manifestation of the Orange meme was the nation state. Up until the establishment of the Tudor dynasty in England in 1485, most people across the globe lived in feudal kingdoms or empires. Whether we are discussing the Mughals, the Ming dynasty in China, the Timurid descendants of Tamerlane in central Asia, the Ottomans and Safavids in the Middle East, the Songhai empire in western Africa, or the Inca and Aztec empires in the Americas, the fifteenth century was the apotheosis of the Amber feudal imperialism. The wars that had been fought up to that time were tribal in nature, and tended to focus on the control of land and trade routes.
But in England and Holland, a new raison d’etre for governance was arising. Empires were organized around the prerogatives of the aristocracies: royalty, landowners, and priests. The masses of people were serfs or slaves. Only the (usually male) aristocrats had political and economic power; everyone else was just human capital to be yoked to that structure. But as trade developed and urban centers began to grow here and there, people outside of the traditional ruling classes started discovering independent means of creating and accumulating wealth. Henry VII in England consolidated his acquisition of the throne with his victory over Richard III at Bosworth Field by allying with the growing mercantile class against the landed nobility. Governance was beginning its slow evolution from empire to republic.
The Five Hundred Years’ War
Thus commenced the long-drawn out struggle by modernity to emerge out of long-enduring premodernity, a battle that still rages today. Remembering that we are limiting our examination of this mainly to the Lower Right, we note that in the beginning of this struggle, the existing feudal empires and allied groupings sought to suppress the emerging Protestant republics, who championed—albeit in religious terms and in starts and fits—the novel idea of individual liberty. Through the ensuing centuries down to the present day, different social formations and groupings embodied and championed the two memes. We will trace the contours of this trajectory to show that now while it is the Wahhabis and other premodern forces scattered across the Islamic world that are leading the charge against modernity, the real political opposition remains the autocracies of Russia and China.
We can briefly sketch the history of this Five Hundred Years’ War as it appears in the Lower Right; we will take up the examination from the other quadrants in future essays. That is to say, this article looks at this memetic clash as it appears from an objective study of systems of human interrelation.
But I want to emphasize that, according to the AQAL method, our understanding will be incomplete until we also look at it from the interior, subjective dimension as well—and then integrate what we observed in each quadrant into a coherent and unitary picture. Without this we will not appreciate how the migration of the sense of the self from the tribe to the individual marked a discontinuity in Kosmic evolution. The wave of consciousness that gave rise to invention of agriculture, language, and tribal social structures after 11,000 BCE set the stage for its own transcendence—just as the manifestations in the Right Hand quadrants of the Orange, rational/egoic wave made possible its own transcendence by the Green, vision/logic meme.
Without this tetradimensional view of evolution, we will not be able to appreciate the world we find ourselves in today, nor will we be able to create an effective integral politics that champions the Prime Directive and calls all of us into a higher expression of our potentials as the Kosmos becoming conscious of itself.
And so, on the outside dimension of this unfolding, this is the story of the clash of the premodern with the modern:
The foundation of imperial, feudal Europe was the Christian church with its twin branches. The western or Roman branch, controlled by the popes in Rome, extended from the kingdom of Spain (occupied by the Moors from the beginning of the eighth century until 1492) across the continent to Hungary and Poland. The eastern or Orthodox branch had been fragmented after the Ottomans’ capture of the Byzantine capital Constantinople in 1453. At that time its patrimony reached across the Balkans of southeastern Europe into Russia and the Caucasus.
Both branches of Christianity were more than spiritual entities. Since the Roman emperor Theodosius I had made Christianity the state religion in 380 CE, and even after the Great Schism split it in half in 1054, the church played a significant role in the political structures of Europe and the Mediterranean basin. It developed and defended theological and philosophical principles that reflected the premodern sense of the world. Its political authority derived from the universal belief that it alone possessed the divine mandate to interpret the scriptures and determine what was permissible in the lives of everyone—from the lowliest slave to the monarch him- or herself.
This absolute authority began to weaken in the West in the twelfth century with the conflict between the papacy and the Holy Roman emperors. It was further undermined by the insights and discoveries of the Italian Renaissance, with its emphasis on the dignity of the individual man. In the East, the Orthodox Church had its hands full with the assault of Islam on the Balkans.
Europe’s emergence from the Dark Ages was characterized by the development of cottage industries and crafts that fueled an expansion of trade, especially with Asia. In the martial arts, Europeans evolved much faster than the people in rival civilizations. This allowed them to seize the initiative in exploration and colonization at the end of the fifteenth century. This in turn enabled Spain in particular to funnel a huge infusion of gold and other precious metals from its American conquests into the homeland, fueling the accumulation of wealth that gave added impetus to local economic expansion.
Thus, when Martin Luther and Henry VIII issued their challenges against the Pope in the beginning of the sixteenth century, things were ripe for the irruption of the new rational meme and the political economic structures that would reflect and encourage it.
This emergence led to discernible changes first in northern Europe, in particular in England, Holland, Switzerland, Scandinavia, and Germany. Between 1519, when Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, and 1648, when the Treaty of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years’ War, Europe was ravaged by intermemetic religious warfare. The proto-republican nation states of Tudor England and Holland, moved by the emergent Orange rational/egoic wave, fought various combinations of imperial and church forces, championing the established Amber mythic/membership wave, to establish their political and economic independence. In France, Italy, and Bohemia Protestants also struggled to secure freedom of worship with varying degrees of success.
By the middle of the seventeenth century, an unofficial truce ended the overtly religious conflict. It left the Protestant nation states and principalities on the northern and northwestern rim of Europe, while the old Catholic and imperial powers maintained control in the central and southern parts of the continent. Although armed struggle between powers representing the two memes would still break out on the continent from time to time, the new wave of consciousness found more fertile soil to grow on in the British colonies of North America.
The American Transcendence
In the wake of the Peace of Westphalia, with premodern feudal states still predominating much of the world, the modern wave of consciousness nonetheless gained a permanent foothold in human awareness. As Wilber has pointed out, a signal achievement of Orange rational/egoic consciousness was the separation in human thought and belief between what we would now call the religious and scientific realms. And this was made possible by the gathering belief among increasing numbers of people that humans had individual, and not simply tribal, autonomy and dignity.
This sense was facilitated by the 1448 invention of moveable type and the printing press, which for the first time made the Bible available to the masses of people. This new accessibility, along with translations into the vernacular starting with Luther’s German version first published in 1522, gave people the means by which to begin seeing themselves as individual children of God, granted thereby the right to make choices for themselves unburdened by the demands of their group or prevailing authority.
One of the unanticipated results of this new capability was the unleashing of a continuous revolution within European Christendom, particularly among Protestants. The spiritual restlessness that impelled Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and others to revolt against the ecclesiastical hierarchy seemed to find little peace in the initial phase of the rebellion. It instead stimulated a drive towards deeper and more profound understandings of what God demanded and permitted to His people here on Earth. For over a millennium after the Council of Nicaea in 325, the Church had experienced a slow evolution of thought that rarely challenged its authority over its adherents. Thinkers like Augustine of Hippo or Thomas Aquinas brought new insights regarding God and man that were absorbed into the prevailing orthodoxy rather than sparking revolutions.
But once powerful rebellions broke out against the established order, people found themselves increasingly free to think for themselves about the great questions. Thus in the centuries after Luther set the Reformation in motion, numerous sects and beliefs evolved out of one another, each convinced of its own inerrancy and of the mistakenness of everyone else.
Since this truculence had political consequences, large numbers of people found themselves exiled from their home communities. Fortunately for them, the recently-discovered Americas offered safe harbor, a destination that made relative freedom available to nonconformists of every variety to practice their iconoclastic religious beliefs.
The religious situation in England was paradigmatic. Henry VIII actually had no serous quarrel with Roman theology; he simply wanted the Pope’s sanction for his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. At first his Church of England was essentially an independent version of the Catholic Church, but within a few decades true believers sought to purify the new denomination of its Roman excesses. The Puritans themselves were subject to dissenting opinions, and among these dissenters were the separatist Pilgrims who found themselves exiled to Holland before eventually making their way to the New World.
So while Europe was ablaze with the memetic war, dissenters of all stripes were peeling away and emigrating to the West. There they established communities of believers that, taken as an aggregate, deepened the cultural commitment to personal liberty not simply by virtue of their religious beliefs but also because they found themselves economically self-reliant.
Within two centuries’ time, the spiritual and political separation from the older memes of Amber Europe was formalized in the American Revolution. The Declaration of Independence memorialized the beliefs of the Orange rational/egoic wave of consciousness:
We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
So powerful were these affirmations that within 13 years revolution shook the French monarchy and its aristocratic control of the land and trade in alliance with Church control of thought and morals. The guillotine blade that severed Louis XVI’s head from his body in 1791 served as a powerful symbol of the burgeoning hegemony of the new order—even as the war against it continues even today.
The Orange Revolution in Europe
Since the transformation was first internal, within the human heart and mind (i.e., in the Left Hand quadrants), the new mental spaciousness and creativity produced by this widespread arising of Orange individual egoic consciousness sparked an enormous revolution in both the intellectual and the material worlds. Inspired by its founding fathers in the Italian Renaissance, the new meme’s philosophers, inventors, and scientists all brought forth a massive and unprecedented body of new ideas and discoveries.
The eighteenth century in the West saw the rise of what we now call the Age of Enlightenment. The philosophers and scientists of the time pushed the boundaries of the rejection of ecclesiastical domination and control of thought. They came to see reason as an advance over superstition and dogmatism. Giants of the age included Rene Descartes, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Baruch Spinoza, and David Hume. Each made a significant contribution to the advancement of rational thought in his own field of concentration.
The scientific revolution, spearheaded by Newton’s discoveries of natural laws, inspired the experimentation with labor-saving machinery that led directly to the Industrial Revolution. With Thomas Watt’s 1769 patent of his steam engine, the English economy found the way to generate an exponential increase in productivity, creating an unprecedented surplus in the national economy. This new resource initiated economic cycles that dramatically expanded the investment and generation of ever-increasing orders of new wealth.
In political thought John Locke spearheaded an inquiry into the place of the individual in the emerging republican polity, exploring concepts such as consent of the governed that would be the cornerstone of the American system of government.
The British colonies, with their increasingly independent political economy and sense of uniqueness, were poised to benefit most directly from the Age of Enlightenment. Although they would, until after the American Civil War, have primarily an agriculturally-based economy, growing numbers of American colonists found access to a leading-edge education in the schools and universities established by the various Protestant denominations to promote the new rational understanding of man’s relationship to God. The ideas of Locke and other rationalists increasingly resonated with the experience of many of the leaders of British America.
After the French and Indian War—the American theatre of the Seven Years’ War in Europe—the move for independence gathered steam. And once the United States was established based upon the “self-evident” ideas of individual liberty and consent of the governed, the Orange meme established a political economic base for the first time in Kosmic history.
Part II - The Twentieth Century
Orange’s Test of Fire
So now the struggle of the new, Orange, rational/egoic wave of stage of consciousness to break clean of the premodern wave entered a new phase. The American Revolution marked the beginning of the tangible ascendancy of Orange; the full-blown emergence of the modern world, expressed in the Lower Right as the Industrial Age, began to move the center of gravity of human consciousness higher. Its gift of the liberation of science from the prejudices of the feudal dogmas produced the increasingly profound breakthroughs that led to Einstein and the seeds of the next memetic transcendence—Green vision/logic.
But first it would have to undergo a test of fire from the challenge of socialism.
Orange-inspired revolutions—encouraged by the Americans’ victory in their war for independence—and Amber counter-revolutions would shake Europe until the final collapse of the Amber Soviet Empire in 1991. Starting with France in 1789, the commitment to individual freedoms and rational/scientific thought struggled mightily to establish itself, like it did in America, in an explicitly Orange political economy. England, Holland, and the Scandinavian countries over the course of the nineteenth century became constitutional monarchical republics based increasingly on industrial capitalism. France was convulsed with numerous revolutions before the Third Republic, established in 1870, ended the threat of feudal monarchy and put it on the road to becoming a modern republic. (The tensions between its agricultural and industrial sectors would be a source of political ambiguity down to the present moment.)
Revolutions in Germany led to the creation of the German Empire in the same year. Bismarck’s triumph permitted its leadership to transition to an industrial economy, but its governance, controlled by the Hohenzollerns and their allies in the Prussian Junker aristocracy, remained stubbornly Amber. The influence of these landowners would conspire to facilitate the emergence of Hitler’s Nazi Party, eventually bringing Germany down into the barbarism of the Third Reich before finally giving way to a genuinely modern republic in 1948.
Most of central and southern Europe had to wait until after World War II to transition to modern republican political economies, while eastern Europe had to endure another four decades of communist rule—and even now much of the area is still struggling to develop an enduring liberal polity.
World Wars I and II were yet more rounds in the memetic conflict. The Central Powers in the first case and the Axis Powers in the second were premodern imperial alliances seeking to repress and destroy modern industrial nation states. The Allies’ complete devastation of the fascist regimes in 1945 finally ended the political power of old-line Amber aristocratic empires in Europe.
But Amber was not yet done with its revolt against Orange. And in the twentieth century an unanticipated variant displaced the aristocrats as leaders of the revolt.
The rise of socialism in the middle of the nineteenth century helped complicate a continent-wide Orange transformation in Europe. Although there were many forward-looking aspects to it, socialism as a political movement was essentially a reaction to the convulsions that the development of industrial economies created in European society. The democracies eventually incorporated policies to ameliorate some of the damage caused by this transformation, while most of it disappeared as the enormous amounts of new wealth became increasingly available to the average citizen, resulting in the emergence of a robust middle class.
Vladimir Lenin and his Red “dictatorship of the proletariat” kidnapped socialism when the Bolsheviks succeeded in establishing the Soviet Union in the early 1920s. With no exception, every communist regime imposed on victim nations in the wake of the Russian Revolution was essentially a latter-day Amber imperial construct. In some cases, like the Soviet Union and much of Eastern Europe, the dictatorships sought to finance the crash development of an industrial economy through forced collectivization that crushed the peasantry and its perennial agricultural order. But in spite of the industrial base it created, the communist autarchy was resolutely tribal in nature. None of the features of industrial democracy such as an independent labor movement was allowed. Organized official terror was universally applied to crush individualism and promote the state interest in its place.
So while the old-line European aristocracies like the Austrian Empire were giving way to new democratic-based industrial polities, the cause of the premodern was taken up by the communists. It took another seventy years before this version of it gave up the fight.
The Global Struggle
The Five Hundred Years’ War was played out mostly in the European arena until the twentieth century. Amber reigned supreme and serene throughout most of the world while the tempest was raging in the West. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, imperial Islam, ruled over by the Ottomans from the Sublime Porte in Istanbul, was maintaining its long history of ignoring the barbarians on its northwestern border—except when seeking to sack Vienna. Muslim Persia was firmly in the control of the Qajars. In China, the Qing (Manchu) Dynasty continued its centuries’ long domination. The Japanese, having closed their country to contact with the outside world, lived contentedly under the Tokugawa Shogunate. In India, the Mughals held sway. The tribal lands of Africa, Australia, and Oceania continued their ancient premodern ways as well.
But as the European invention of capitalism and its surpluses grew, so too did its global reach. Europeans had gradually displaced most of the native tribal cultures of the Americas, while establishing footholds in Africa and Asia. By exporting their modern ways, they inevitably opened new frontiers in the memetic wars. Each empire in its turned rebelled against the European intrusions, and most suffered the fate of the first imperial resistance offered by the Aztecs and the Incas in the Americas—political if not memetic defeat. A few, like the Japanese, elected to embrace the strange new world, but most resisted.
The European penetration of the rest of the world set the stage for the bloodiest century in human history. From the Boer War in 1899 through NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign against the Serbs in Kosovo, humans slaughtered one another in unprecedented numbers as the premodern continued its resistance to the emergence of the modern.
After the defeat of the Axis powers in 1945, the Soviet empire took up the Amber cause in the Cold War. For the second half of the century, the West and the Communists engaged a prolonged and terrifying struggle fraught with the danger that it could get out of hand and unleash global nuclear destruction. Localized clashes—sometimes involving the great powers, sometimes their clients, sometimes both—broke out sporadically in Asia, Africa, and even the Americas. These wars continued the memetic bloodshed until finally, exhausted by its inability to generate the resources to keep up the battle, the Soviet empire collapsed.
Finally, since the moment Martin Luther’s rebellion signaled the mass arising of the modern Orange, rational/egoic, industrial/republican stage of consciousness, Europe was unified under its memetic hegemony. Pockets of resistance remained, mostly in the Balkans, but outside of the countries like Belarus and the Ukraine that regained their independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the premodern Amber mythic/membership, agricultural/imperial stage had been transcended.
And so it seemed for a brief moment that at least in Europe the end of the five centuries of rebellion against the modern wave of consciousness signaled the moment when the premodern world finally made its peace with the modern.
Instead it cleared the way for the smoldering Islamic revolt against modernity to find new strength.
The Postconventional Complication
But Kosmic evolution is restless and does not wait for our meaning-making to keep up with it. The four centuries of the bimemetic polarity was about to be jolted and reconfigured.
Thus even while the Amber-Orange battle was raging, an entirely new meme began to find expression among significant numbers of humans starting noticeably in the 1960s. The postconventional wave, which Wilber labels “Green,” rejected conventional modernity’s emphasis on individualism, empiricism, and reason. It found in Orange a carelessness toward and disregard for the macrocosm that engendered violent oppression against those unable to “keep up” with the advances of modernity.
Since it appeared in perceptible numbers among college-age youth, its expression is attributed by many to the demographics of the postwar baby boom.
In truth, the record numbers of college students produced by this boom merely and happily coincided with a number of factors that set the stage for a new wave of consciousness.
We can perhaps trace the contours of this postmodern, postrational outlook back to the work of the nineteenth century German philosopher Georg W. F. Hegel, whose Phenomenology of Mind laid out both the contours of a philosophical understanding of Reason and of its transcendence. The work of his followers in the German Critical School and the reaction to it by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and their existentialist successors would help birth postmodernist philosophy.
These writers were working primarily in the Left Hand Quadrants; for the Right Hand consequences of this emerging wave we can look to the leaps in the natural sciences that were made in the nineteenth century. The inquiries of German mathematicians Karl Gauss and Bernhard Riemann, along with their Hungarian colleague János Bolyai, led to the discoveries of non-Euclidean geometries, which set the stage for the revolutionary insights of Albert Einstein.
At the same time, the breakthroughs in the study of electromagnetism by Michael Faraday and James Clark Maxwell were also straining the linearity of Newtonian physics. In the middle of the century, the evolutionary theories of Alfred Russel Wallace, Charles Darwin, Gregor Mendel, and others, while further undermining the Amber worldview of a fixed and rigid universe, were also dethroning humans from the pedestal of the Creation.
All of these inquiries, along with those in related fields of chemistry, biology, and even anthropology, were flung into an unprecedented new intellectual orbit by the thirty years between Einstein’s 1905 publication of his paper on the special theory of relativity and his 1935 presentation of the Einstein-Podolosky-Rosen (EPR) Paradox. Einstein and his colleagues in quantum physics, from Max Planck to Erwin Schrödinger, discovered and codified an understanding of the basic structures of the physical universe that not only overthrew Newtonian mechanics but also suggested a world so strange and discontinuous from all previous intellectual formulations as to seem dropped onto the planet from some invisible extraterrestrial source.
The implications for the Right Hand quadrants were momentous. The basis for an entirely new economy, the Information Age, was being created. Within twelve years of the enunciation of the EPR Paradox, William Shockley and his colleagues at Bell Labs had invented the transistor. This singular device opened the gates for the high-speed exchange of information that is the core of the new technology.
The American and Russian space programs, followed by their military institutions, were the first to make heavy usage of computers. During the 1960s, NASA and its counterpart in the Soviet Union refined both the hardware and software that swiftly made the intricate calculations necessary to send humans to the moon and bring them back safely.
Spurred by these developments, the contours of the emerging new economy began to become visible in the 1970s. While in the old Amber/Orange world the communist victory in Indochina, the OPEC oil embargo, the impeachment of Richard Nixon, the overthrow of the Shah in the Iranian revolution, and the disaster at the nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island were all happening, the computer age was establishing itself firmly in the American and European economies. Intel introduced its first microprocessor in 1971. Apple released its first personal computer in 1977, and over the course of the decade Unix and DOS were introduced. Videotapes and players were made available to the mass market, while computer game pioneer Atari placed game modules in arcades across America. Corning Glass pioneered fiber optics, and microwave ovens became available to consumers in the advanced sector. The digital platform of the computer led to a revolution in audio and video recording. In short order it produced CD players, MP3 files, DVDs, and the universal availability of downloadable digital files on the Internet.
It was in the 1980s that the first iteration of the Internet was created, and by the early 1990s the pioneering work of Tim Berners-Lee led to the establishment of the World Wide Web, the usage of which skyrocketed after the 1993 release of hypertext markup language (HTML).
It may be a coincidence that the acceleration of the general application of high technology occurred as the Soviet Union fell upon the ash heap of history; time will tell. But when the global political economic structure pinned in place by the Cold War disappeared, it unleashed a wave of economic expansion fueled by the gains in productivity made possible by the inventions of the global high-tech sector. This increase of the velocity of creativity was emblemized by Moore’s Law, the observation that “the complexity of an integrated circuit, with respect to minimum component cost, will double in about 18 months.”
A major feature of the emerging Information Age is the collapse of distances in our mental space. Since the advent of the commercial jet airliner in the 1950s, people have been able to move between widely dispersed locations on the globe in a day’s time or less. The Internet has made communication instantaneous between those exact same two spots. We have moved from regional networks of national political economies to an increasingly integrated global economy.
The Green Vision/Logic Stage of Consciousness
Orange advanced consciousness by focusing the self-sense in humans out from the generalized tribe or clan and into the specific individual. This movement featured an expansion of “interior space” such that a person could now reflect and experience a self-concept complete enough in itself so as to permit him to survive and thrive apart from the tribe. In this interior space where measurement of the new perspective gained cogency, rational thinking arose and solidified. That is to say, in this new self-reflective cognitive capacity we humans could develop and act upon a concept of ourselves as autonomous individuals. Reason is, among other things, the insight that reality is subject to objective metrics that apply universally, regardless of the tribe to which we might belong. The expansive application of reason to human experience resulted in a societal shift that, over the course of the past five hundred years, elevated individual liberty to the status of an enduring ideal around which entire societies have now organized themselves.
The results of this new self-sense were, as we have been reviewing, revolutionary. And, as is the case with all the stages of consciousness, it is still a limited view. Once we have experienced all that this stage has to offer, we are ready to move on to the next adventure.
The limits of the Orange, rational/egoic meme are precisely that it confines the self-sense to the life span of the human body, whose mortality renders dependence on reason a spiritual dead end. As humanity applied the scientific method championed by such scholars as Roger Bacon, Robert Boyle, and Isaac Newton, we inevitably came up against roadblocks that science could neither account for nor get past. Finally, when in 1927 the physicist Werner Heisenberg enunciated his famous indeterminacy principle, we could actually state in the language of pure reason—mathematics—the limits of rational inquiry.
The inadequacy of reason was explored in other arenas as well. In art, Pablo Picasso and his fellow Cubists, along with René Magritte, Salvador Dalí, and the Surrealists explored in painting the realm beyond rational perspectives. In music, Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Igor Stravinsky, and others overthrew Bach’s well-tempered musical technique with the twelve-tone system. In literature, D. H. Lawrence in England, Emile Zola and Gustave Flaubert in France, and John dos Passos and Theodore Dreiser in the U. S. pioneered realism, which critiqued the blind adherence to rational science and the industrial economy.
For about a century these expressions of frustration with the Orange memetic world chafed against its boundaries. In the meantime, as we have seen, science itself dethroned the supremacy of reason and, by introducing relativity into scientific inquiry and perspective, opened the way for postmodernism.
From the point of view of daily human existence, adherence to reason tended to bleed the heart dry. Since science could not measure love, nobility, honor, commitment, or intention, they did not exist. Conventional culture treated these as novelties or playthings, and people grew more restless and some even experienced a deep alienation from their own social connections.
This restlessness ultimately gave birth to Green.
If we can see Orange as the self-sense transcending tribal identity and settling into the individual, we can see Green as the mature version of this individuation. In this realm we come to see that others also experience an individualized self-sense, and that reason fails to provide adequate justification for privileging any one over anyone else. Thus we become sensitive to what is common among all humans, and are willing to examine in this commonality ways of promoting equal opportunities for every individual to fully experience his or her potential.
And so Wilber’s description of Green’s qualities and assumptions, from A Theory of Everything, demonstrates how Green opens up Orange’s constrictions:
The Sensitive Self. Communitarian, human bonding, ecological sensitivity, networking. The human spirit must be freed from greed, dogma, and divisiveness; feelings and caring supersede cold rationality; cherishing of the earth, Gaia, life. Against hierarchy; establishes lateral bonding and linking. Permeable self, relational self, group intermeshing. Emphasis on dialogue, relationships. Basis of value communities (i.e., freely chosen affiliations based on shared sentiments). Reaches decisions through reconciliation and consensus (downside: interminable "processing" and incapacity to reach decisions). Refresh spirituality, bring harmony, enrich human potential. Strongly egalitarian, anti-hierarchy, pluralistic values, social construction of reality, diversity, multiculturalism, relativistic value systems; this worldview is often called pluralistic relativism. Subjective, nonlinear thinking; shows a greater degree of affective warmth, sensitivity, and caring, for earth and all its inhabitants.
Where seen: Deep ecology, postmodernism, Netherlands idealism, Rogerian counseling, Canadian health care, humanistic psychology, liberation theology, cooperative inquiry, World Council of Churches, Greenpeace, animal rights, ecofeminism, post-colonialism, Foucault/Derrida, politically correct, diversity movements, human rights issues, ecopsychology.
What is important is to recognize that Green arose first as an interior sense, a Left-Hand event, which both interacted with and produced Right-Hand dimensions. As Wilber describes it,
As the green meme started to emerge on a more widespread scale, it began to displace the orange meme at the leading edge of the academic elite, and thus the modernism of orange universalism gave way to the postmodernism of green pluralism. Where the former was marked by static universal systems governing all cultures, the latter was marked by relativism, multiculturalism, diversity studies, and incommensurabilities of every imaginable variety. This was, in many ways, the first move from formalism to postformalism, and the result was a much-needed turn away from abstract grand theories, big pictures, metanarratives, and universal formalism, toward a detailed attention to particulars, to cultural nuances and important differences, with an emphasis on marginalized sectors and heterogeneity.
In its marvel at the multiplicity of perspectives available to human beings, Green asserted that “facts” are context-dependent. How one understands something depends entirely upon the situation within which one attempts the understanding. This assumes that perspectives are morally neutral, and that the advance is the recognition that multiple perspectives not only exist, but that none is privileged over the others.
Green Political Blossoming
This insight led to the “liberation movements” as well as the anti-war campaigns of the late 1960s, and out of these experiences men and women began to move into the governments of the advanced sector and agitate for policies reflective of the emerging Green sensibility. Especially in Europe, this meme reinvigorated leftist politics by challenging the old Left’s conventional statist assumptions.
A similar dynamic ensued in the United States, where Green got its first political victory when George McGovern’s insurgent campaign seized the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination for the old-line labor and urban machine power brokers. Although the country was not sufficiently evolved to embrace an explicitly postmodern approach—Richard Nixon easily defeated McGovern—the “cultural creatives,” as Paul Ray and Sherrie Anderson have labeled those in whom Green consciousness is awakening, discovered an institutional political home.
The Democratic Party, with a few exceptions, found itself transformed in the aftermath of the McGovern nomination. It embraced the postconventional political approach that sought to elevate those who had been marginalized by promoting multiculturalist, anti-elitist policies. It absorbed the women’s movement; it championed the African American struggle for racial equality; it made room for gay liberation. It changed its historic embrace of anti-communism by challenging Ronald Reagan’s confrontation of Soviet military policies.
But only with the disappearance of the communist threat were Americans willing to elect a Green president. Bill Clinton, the first Baby Boomer chief executive, came to office in 1993 with a minority of the popular vote. He sought to “triangulate” his positions, which in effect meant playing Amber, Orange, and Green against one another. His major domestic achievement, welfare reform, was in fact an Amber/Orange revision of a Green experiment in eradicating poverty.
His Vice President, Al Gore, was more explicitly Green in his programmatic outlook. In particular, his environmental policies drew from the willingness of Green to look at the world from the perspective that it serves as the home of the entire human species, and the source of all our material goods. As such we must cultivate its resources with care, ensuring equal access to its riches for everyone with the understanding of the relative finiteness of much of its bounty.
He actually won a razor-thin majority of the popular votes for president in 2000, aced out in the Electoral College only by George Bush’s 437-vote plurality in Florida. Bush, a more conventional politician with a mixture of Amber and Orange outlooks, managed in 2004 to push his popular vote margin to 3% over another Green-outlook opponent, John Kerry. Clearly Americans are fully engaged in this new memetic emergence.
Western Europeans, in the meantime, have gone further than the Americans. Their robust socialist parties provided an institutional base for Green consciousness to grow from. The socialist left in France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Holland, Spain, and the Scandinavian countries have all eschewed conventional platforms in favor of postindustrial, postmodern approaches. The European Union experiment is essentially a Green foray into an egalitarian, multiculturalist political economic formation. Impelled by a near-zero birth rate, European elites have embraced the postindustrial nature of their societies.
In the rest of the world, Green-wave political movements have arisen only in other sectors of the Anglosphere, notably Canada and Australia. In almost no other country do we see Green emerging among large sectors of the population, much less finding expression in politics. Since this vision/logic meme arises out of Orange, Green will start appearing only in those societies that have already experienced an Orange center of gravity.
The current condition of our political world is based upon this new trimemetic geometry. Next we will examine the dynamics of this unprecedented situation (Three Blind Memes, Part III: "The First Tier Food Fight").
Part III - "The First Tier Food Fight"
The Dissonance of Amber, Orange, and Green
In Wilber’s adaptation of Clare Graves’ Spiral Dynamics system, we recognize that all the waves of consciousness from birth up through the consolidation of a mature personalized ego share the conviction that each is the “correct” way of seeing and interpreting reality. This part of the spectrum of consciousness Graves and Wilber identify as “the First Tier.”
We can characterize the levels of consciousness throughout the First Tier as collapsing “down” from a generalized, unbounded sense of the self at conception into a very specific, individualized conventional adult human. Once this identity of the self narrows into the severely bounded, totally separate and distinct person, it really has nowhere else to go but back “up.”
“Up” on Wilber’s map is the transcendence of the individualized ego into the relative freedom of the Second and Third Tiers. This “momentous leap” represents the action for which all conscious beings yearn—the freedom from the tyranny of the egoic self and absorption into the dimensionless One. In the transpersonal realms we begin to identify with wider and deeper dimensions of the Kosmos; our consciousness is on a more profound journey yet, opening itself to itself with greater and greater breadth and depth. Ultimately, as Wilber and his peers speaking from the Third Tier note, all polarity disappears and only the radiant One Taste of authentic universal omnipresent reality remains.
Until the illusion of separation dissolves, we struggle with what occurs to us as the limiting structures of consciousness. At this time in Kosmic unfolding this means that almost all adults on the planet are living from one of three different First Tier memes, a configuration unprecedented in Kosmic history.
In the first two parts of this essay, we looked at how, for the five hundred years beginning roughly in the sixteenth century, the Orange rational/egoic wave struggled like a butterfly to emerge and distinguish itself from the cocoon of its Amber, mythic/membership chrysalis stage. Although the issue has been settled by and large in the advanced sector, the battle continues today in the rest of the world.
But with yet another wrinkle: it is now complicated by this new memetic dynamic—that of the Green vision/logic “sensitive self” seeking to transcend Orange and establish itself as a distinct level of consciousness. And this complication is further impacted by the fact that as a “Kosmic habit” Green is very young and therefore manifests within such a wide range of probabilities that its effect, while clear and pronounced, is still diluted and unfocused—just as Orange was until the beginning of the twentieth century.
And just as it happened with the emergence of Orange out of Amber, as Green is struggling to establish itself as a discrete level of consciousness, Orange finds itself as unsettled about it as Amber was about Orange!
But the geometry of their dissonance is different. Orange marked a significant shift by giving rise to the rational and individualized realms. It differentiated the quadrants, which the premodern mind simply could not see. Orange created a literary world out of a predominately oral culture, and in so doing enabled the dignity of the individual to emerge out of the tribal system.
To Amber, this development was simultaneously a lure and a threat. Since the evolutionary momentum is towards the Nondual state of consciousness, all holons are drawn toward transcendence of every stage of development. This pull comes, as it were, from the future; that is, it is not discernible in the level one occupies. So while we are drawn—just as teenagers desperately want to be adults—we are also fearful, for the new territory is alien and therefore full of surprises, not all of which promise to be pleasant—just as teenagers fear the risks and responsibilities of adulthood.
We see this acted out today in the ambivalence that much of the world holds towards the United States. On the one hand, it represents freedom, opportunity, and wealth; on the other, license, amorality, and soullessness. It attracts even as it repels.
And this dichotomy has been true since the rise of the Tudors and their Orange compatriots in sixteenth century northern Europe. The modern world has both frightened and seduced the premodern. And because Amber can only filter this through its mythic/membership, rule/role mindset, it reacts prerationally, and thus the intermemetic war between Amber and Orange has been a bloody and violent one.
But the struggle between Orange and Green plays out of a rational mindset. Since both are identified with the individual rational/egoic world, their disagreement rages more in the mental than the physical realms. Theirs is, in a certain way, a civil war, a fight between two dimensions of reason—even though the prevailing Boomeritis variant of Green denies the rational foundation of its structure. And like civil wars everywhere, the antagonism is envenomed by the conviction of betrayal on both sides.
We can see this in the political lines drawn in the advanced sector since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. In the Left Hand quadrants, we see the erosion of trust and civility in political dialogue and the increasing suspicion and bitterness that each faction feels towards its opposite. In the Right Hand quadrants, we see, among other things, the increasing gap between the systems of production and the systems of governance, not to mention the wars and economic dislocations.
But this civil war is underway on a field where the premodern war against the modern is also still raging—and Orange and Green both fail to see in the other an ally in this Kosmic dynamic. Neither Osama bin Laden nor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad care whether George W. Bush or Al Gore is president of the United States; they would both as easily obliterate the one as the other. Any manifestation of the post-Amber world is a trick of the Great Satan to be eliminated in the name of Allah.
But Green does not see it that way, because it is caught by its rational appreciation of the potential dignity of all human beings, even those dominated by the prerational—including those out to kill them! Orange groks Amber's resistance; Green is perplexed by it. It has not yet worked out a political platform that addresses Amber’s stubborn refusal to appreciate the finer points of negotiation. Green is enraptured by the nonviolence campaigns of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., seeing in them an ideal template for right political action. It forgets that Gandhi and King were dealing with people and institutions dominated by Orange, not Amber. Green thrills to the 1989 picture of the brave student standing before a tank in Tiananmen Square, overlooking the hundreds or even thousands killed by the brutal repression of the demonstrators by the Amber Chinese communist regime.
Green does not see its inheritance from Orange because it is still a First Tier meme. And each First Tier meme, because it is still limited to self-identification with only human beings, is forced to presume that it is the only valid way of being.
It is this interplay among the three that Ken Wilber has characterized as a “First Tier food fight”:
As it is now, when any paradigm oversteps its authority and begins to make pronouncements about other phenomena brought forth by other paradigms, the only principle guiding the pronouncements tends to be, "I'm right, you're wrong." My paradigm is the best, only, real, and/or authentic mode of inquiry, and the phenomena of your paradigm can all be reduced to the phenomena brought forth by my paradigm. If you are a die-hard physical scientist, you imagine that the phenomena brought forth by other paradigms (such as hermeneutics, meditation, systems theory, or postmodernism) can all be reduced to a "consilience" of laws governing fundamental physical particles; and if you are postmodernist, you return the favor and claim that all physical particles are nothing but social constructions, a reality revealed only by your own deconstructive paradigm. Thus proceeds the first-tier food fight.
And even this myopia, this blindness of First Tier memes, is an expression of the One manifesting in time and space. It is the dance of the Divine, celebrating like Shiva the ever changing interplay of creation and destruction, of birth and death, of the new and the old, unfolding, expanding, regenerating, shifting perspectives, ever outward from the first singularity of the Big Bang—if not from before! Only in the folds of dimensionality, in the density of Form, do we “think” of it as a fragmented, limited, death-sentenced realm, stuck in Plato’s cave mesmerized by the shadows on the screens of our consciousness. Ah, there is so much more!
What Then Can We Expect?
What can we expect of the world of the three blind memes?
The short answer is, who knows?
But, being humans with our meaning-making impulse, this will not do. Living as we do in the fullness of the individualized egoic realms, standing on the brink of finally transcending the First Tier, we can look back at where we’ve come from and, utilizing the tools created in the past century, devise yet another hypothesis about the map and where we are on it.
If, in the Lower Right, Amber was characterized by imperial agricultural societies with a pyramidal social structure, and Orange by industrial nation states with a large middle class, what political economic structures does Green seek?
The unfolding Information Age economy gives us some clues. First, there is a significant tendency toward decentralization. Computer technology and the Internet give us a capacity for exchanging data in a nanosecond anywhere around the world. Multinational communications and transportation corporations are no longer irreplaceable elements of the global economy. This coheres with Green’s insight into the limited value of rational hierarchies and its determination to level life’s playing field.
Further, the exchange of wealth is transforming. Up until this epoch, wealth exchange occurred either through barter or monetization. That is, we swapped goods or services that we mutually agreed to be of equal value, or we created a medium of exchange (money) to act as the value carrier and used it for selling and purchasing. Since all wealth is, in essence, the product of human imagination, the closer we can get to direct application of human creativity in developing and exchanging goods and services the less we will need to depend upon monetization with its attendant flaws.
We are very early in this process, but as long ago as 1994 the economist Peter Drucker foresaw the possibilities of a world where everyone controls his/her own means of the production of wealth, i.e., where everyone is a “knowledge worker.” The ability, through digitalization, to directly apply our knowledge to the physical world and create wealth thereby is an unprecedented situation, one that neither Orange nor Green truly knows what to do with.
But Green is creating a world of networks to supersede the political economy of nation states. In the Information Age, according to Drucker in his brilliant book Post-Capitalist Society, a networked "society of organizations" will become the primary structure of social interaction.
Society, community, family are all conserving institutions. They try to maintain stability and to prevent, or at least to slow down, change. But the organization of the post-capitalist society of organizations is a destabilizer. Because its function is to put knowledge to work—on tools, processes, and products; on work; on knowledge itself—it must be organized for constant change. It must be organized for innovation; and innovation, as the Austro-American economist Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950) said, is “creative destruction.” It must be organized for systematic abandonment of the established, the customary, the familiar, the comfortable—whether products, services, and processes, human and social relationships, skills, or organizations themselves. It is the very nature of knowledge that it changes fast and that today’s certainties will be tomorrow’s absurdities.
The world that Green is producing is even more amazing than Drucker foresaw. The unfolding nanotechnological world promises transformation in all quadrants that is beyond the comprehension of most of us. As Ray Kurzweil details expansively in The Singularity Is Near and other writings, we are on the brink of a technological breakthrough that will permit in essence the conscious and deliberate development of a new version of humanity to carry on the work of the Prime Directive. From what Orange (and even Green) would presume to be from a work of science fiction, Kurzweil observes:
In the 2020s, we'll see nanobots, blood-cell-sized devices that can go inside the body and brain to perform therapeutic functions. But what happens when we have billions of nanobots inside the capillaries of our brains, non-invasively, widely distributed, expanding human intelligence, or providing full-immersion virtual reality?
Once nonbiological intelligence gets a foothold in the human brain (this has already started with computerized neural implants), the machine intelligence in our brains will grow exponentially (as it has been doing all along), at least doubling in power each year. In contrast, biological intelligence is effectively of fixed capacity. Thus the nonbiological portion of our intelligence will ultimately predominate.
Kurzweil argues that the advance of consciousness is occurring on a long exponential trajectory that began with the Big Bang and is finally accelerating measurably within a single human life span. We can see evidence of this in the ever shorter duration that each new meme has lasted before its successor has arisen. Millennia passed once the hominids differentiated themselves from their cousins of the family Hominidae some million years ago before the preconventional Amber wave emerged sometime around 11,000 BCE. Amber then dominated until Orange arose only five hundred years ago, and now Green's appearance has limited Orange’s ride as the new kid on the block to a mere half millennium. If Kurzweil is right, we can expect to see increasing and significant numbers of people manifesting Second Tier consciousness within a generation!
To us in our current stage of consciousness, the possibilities lurking in the near future are both exhilarating and terrifying.
But how does this play out in a world where billions have yet to arrive at Orange, who live in that schizophrenic state of love/hate for the modern world? How does this play out when at the same time internecine warfare rages between the Orange and Green expressions of the rational/egoic waves?
Let us look at our world today. Green is struggling to emerge and replace Orange in the advanced sector. Given the intensity of the civil war between them, it is perhaps not surprising that Green has yet to prevail. Still, in two generations it has secured a solid foothold. Orange is struggling to emerge and replace Amber is two critical areas of the world, China and India, as well as in lesser economic powerhouses like Russia, South Africa, Brazil, and the nations of Eastern Europe. We see Amber tribal states like Iran and Pakistan, where Orange has only a tentative presence, seeking the benefit of its technology by developing nuclear power with its potential for conversion to weaponry.
This is complicated by the irony of Amber states dominating the oil fields of the globe, where the fuel of the Orange political economy is found. So many of these fields lie in the fiefdoms of Araby, whose ancestors once flirted with the emergence of Orange centuries before it finally materialized in Europe. But the immense wealth and power of the Abbasids was blunted by the Mongol conquests of the thirteenth century, and the Ottomans and Safavids who eventually succeeded them in control of the Middle East were content to remain Amber agricultural empires—and fall increasingly behind the Orange modern world in wealth and civilization. As Bernard Lewis has pointed out in his book What Went Wrong?,
For many centuries, the world of Islam was in the forefront of human civilization and achievement. In the Muslims’ own perception, Islam itself was indeed coterminous with civilization, and beyond its borders there were only barbarians and infidels. . . . It was the foremost economic power in the world, [and] had achieved the highest level so far in human history in the arts and sciences of civilization. . . . [M]edieval Europe was a pupil and in a sense a dependent of the Islamic world, relying on Arabic versions even for many otherwise unknown Greek works.
And then, suddenly, the relationship changed. Even before the Renaissance, Europeans were beginning to make significant progress in the civilized arts. With the advent of the New Learning, they advanced by leaps and bounds, leaving the scientific and technological and eventually the cultural heritage of the Islamic world far behind them.
. . . It was bad enough for Muslims to feel weak and poor after centuries of being rich and strong, to lose the leadership they had come to regard as their right, and to be reduced to the role of followers of the West. The twentieth century, particularly the second half, brought further humiliations—the awareness that they were no longer even the first among the followers, but were falling ever further back in the lengthening line of eager and more successful Westernizers, notably in East Asia.
In spite of its dependence on Muslim oil resources, the advanced sector’s economy is full-blown into the transition into the Information Age, and it is transforming the world’s economy with it. The contributions of India and China are, ironically, the result of their commitment to industrialization and to of their embrace of the modern. They are building computers to specifications developed in the West, not from native invention. They seek to emulate the United States of the 1950s, not of today—not just yet, anyway.
It appears that the major thrust underway in the world is the continued push of Orange to bring modernity to the entire human race—even while the postmodern world is racing ahead of it. By its control of economic wealth Orange is the center of global memetic gravity, but evolution is dynamic and so it is always churning the world. How the Amber Muslim world reacts to the emerging industrial nation states to their north and east—with the Iraq experiment right on their center—will impact Orange's momentum.
Oh, and by the way, the trimemetic dynamic is not simply playing out in the macrocosm, but in each individual human at the same time. This is because, as Wilber has tirelessly pointed out, we humans (both individually and collectively) comprise a dozen or more lines or capacities of development, including the cognitive, the kinesthetic, the emotional, the moral, and so on, each of which evolves more or less independently of one another. It appears that the cognitive generally leads the rest, so that we may develop advanced knowledge while still operating from a less advanced moral stage—Adolf Hitler being “Exhibit A.”
As we observe the dynamic of this unprecedented trimemetic world, we may be tempted to simply ignore the implications and agree to live our individualized lives as if the maelstrom were not accelerating. It may be possible to fill out the current expected American lifespan of 77.9 years without experiencing significant challenge to our relative equanimity, but I doubt it. The crosscurrents are simply too immense to evade. The forces within the quadrants are building up a colossal head of steam and, as always, are beyond the means of control by anybody,
So the only choices for those relative few who are aware of the situation (including you who are reading this) are resistance and surrender. Resistance being futile, surrender is the only practical alternative—surrender to the truth that it is all the manifestation of Spirit unfolding, and that it is right and perfect just as it is.
Part IV - The Integral Embrace
Facing the Shadow
So if my hypothesis about our trimemetic world has any validity, what—if anything—can (or should) we do about it? After all, the titanic tidal forces of Kosmic history, now arising among us in three distinct structures, appear to be overwhelming even to the citizens of a nation as powerful and blessed as the United States. How much more formidable must they appear to us as individuals—and therefore how much less susceptible of individual influence?
Amber, Orange, Green: each is a legitimate and authentic structure of consciousness coming into existence as elements of Kosmic evolution. And yet to each of these structures as they look out from their own interiors, the others appear as strangers and threats. This is evidence of the challenge that “transcending, including, and integrating” poses in this evolutionary process. As Ken Wilber has demonstrated, each new level both transcends and includes each of the earlier levels. Properly understanding this dynamic requires us to also remember that each line of development is subject to this process. And, at the same time, we must also bear in mind that each line unfolds relatively independently of one another.
This combined and uneven development has led Wilber to caution us to appreciate that, when one or more of the earlier levels have not come into a mature expression, or have possibly even developed in a dysfunctional or pathological way, there will be discernible effects on the later memes. The underdeveloped waves will impact the later ones by appearing as drags on or blockages to the evolutionary momentum. And whether these snags show up in one or more lines of development, they will impact the momentum of a person’s overall evolution.
Thus we can appreciate that transcendence and inclusion require a third action before development can proceed with relative ease.
That is why to Wilber’s formulation I have added “integrate”: transcend, include, and integrate. Failure to integrate earlier levels is what we discern as the drags and blockages in the later levels. At the same time, the later levels, because they do access greater depth, can bring healing to the unintegrated parts and permit the integration that liberates acceleration.
About four years or so ago, I found myself feeling blocked from further spiritual growth. My meditation practice seemed barren, and I felt sluggish within my soul. The sense of excitement and wonder that had characterized my earlier spiritual practice and discovery had disappeared, and I was left feeling stifled and frustrated. My career trajectory had slammed to a halt, and I had no inspiration about what I should be doing with my life.
An image came to mind over and over again: I was being choked by some unseen force. Something was intervening to stop my awareness from expanding, and that something was within me.
I was working on my master’s degree in Consciousness Studies at John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, California, at the time. Insights from the work of C. J. Jung in a survey course in psychology led me to suspect that I was dealing with classical shadow issues. I concluded that, given the nature of these things, I could either wait until they revealed themselves in meditation, or seek a more activist approach and recruit someone trained to reflect back to me what I was unable to see of my own accord.
I was led to a Jungian therapist who was also educated in India as a practitioner of Advaita Vedanta, and began to work with her on a regular basis. After several years of therapy, capped by participating in the Landmark Forum and its subsequent courses, I finally began to understand why I was feeling choked spiritually.
What was bumping around in the shadow had arisen because I had summarily stifled my emotional and relational development at the tender age of one year—a time when I and all humans are just emerging from the Beige archaic, uroboric initial wave of consciousness. At twelve months old we have only just begun the journey into differentiating ourselves from our mother/environment. In the upper right, we are only now consolidating the neural networks, the “hard wiring,” of our brains. A blow against the healthy consolidation of this wave in any given line of development impacts our subsequent progress because that now stifled capacity will impede its own and the other lines as they unfold.
In my case, I see now that while the cognitive line has had a relatively free and easy path of growth—now well into the Second Tier—the arrested development of my emotional and relational lines has kept my “center of gravity” hovering just this side of the First Tier border.
And it makes sense. If we can visualize the incomplete line of development as a subpersonality—as the Jungians suggest—then that little child is huddled deep within our subconscious, radiating onto all the other lines of development the fear and inflexibility that characterize his stifled consciousness. His terror of the death that he imagines will result if he relents and lets go of his defensive psychic posture is an anchor that drags on all subsequent momentum of consciousness growth.
Given that psychologists have identified at least twelve distinct lines of development, it is easy to see why recognizing where we are in the unfoldment of our “individual” consciousness is challenging. Although Wilber has devised a “psychograph” to aid us in the matter, I have not discovered a whole lot of research on how to actually plot and interpret a psychograph in its dynamic nature. A valid psychograph would not only indicate the extent to which each line of development has unfolded, but also any blockages that each line might be experiencing and how the growth of each affects the whole. At this stage of AQAL inquiry this art form appears less developed than palm reading or aura interpretation.
What further complicates this is the impact of the Four Quadrants: an individual psychograph is nested in the collective psychograph (or is it a sociograph?). In other words, consciousness being unitary, there is ultimately no such entity as an individual consciousness; there is only consciousness itself, and its unfolding through us as individuals.
And the holonic nature of the realm of Form means that there is always a simultaneous interior and exterior view of any occurrence. (Wilber elaborates a much more sophisticated version of this in Integral Spirituality, asserting that there are actually interior views embedded in the Right Hand quadrants, and exteriors in the Left Hand. This may be just by way of driving the serious student even madder than does the requirement to account for the lines of development in appreciating the trimemetic challenge, but Wilber—thank God!—does not stand still on anything he has written.) Thus understanding involves simultaneous grokking of the features that characterize the four quadrants.
It’s Not About “Me”
Having brought intentionality and prayer work to shadow areas of my psyche, I have had awakenings not only to the nature of my underdeveloped emotional and relational capacities, I also have discovered how to apply the appropriate psychological and spiritual therapies to hasten the healing that facilitates the necessary integration. This quest has led to discover a missing essential that has always been implicit in my work but not conscious: that transformation is assisted by recognition of its multi-quadrant dimensionality. I realized that transformation at the level of community is an inescapable requirement for “my” own spiritual growth.
This, I am discovering, is a universal truth for folks who have reached the limits of the First Tier. Personal resources, especially in the face of the prevailing cultural center of gravity, are inadequate for the leap to the Second Tier. And even though it seems clear that certain avatars and saints have had the grace to make the jump on their own, they all seem to turn right around and bring their new consciousness right back into their communities.
So here’s the challenge we discover once we transcend the First Tier: it’s no longer about us as individuals. As the identity of self finally outgrows the individual personality, our awareness of and actions in the world cease being confined to the prison of our personal self-conception and begin to arise from identity with a greater “I am.”
All of the earlier levels of consciousness are still present, and they most emphatically continue to support the mental construct of our personal egoic identity. But because we have escaped the tyranny of the First Tier, we now begin to discover an entire new and unexpected set of goals, aspirations, and understandings. We become less attached to the predicates of our daily personal lives and more intrigued by both how the greater world evolves and what contribution we can make to it. We immerse our First Tier structures in a deeper, freer realm that liberates our developed strengths and heals our psychopathologies.
In AQAL terms, we become much more aware of the lower quadrants; we are actually capable for the first time of integral awareness. As Wilber notes in Integral Psychology:
For the fact is, this is the dawning of the age of vision-logic, the rise of the network society, the postmodern, aperspectival, internetted global village. Evolution in all forms has started to become conscious of itself. Evolution, as Spirit-in-Action, is starting to awaken on a more collective scale. Kosmic evolution is now producing theories and performances of its own integral embrace. This Eros moves through you and me, urging us to include, to diversify, to honor, to enfold. The Love that moves the sun and other stars is moving theories such as this, and it will move many others, as Eros connects the previously unconnected, and pulls together the fragments of a world to weary to endure.
On the doorstep to the transpersonal realms we find ourselves less and less interested in our personal story and more and more fascinated by and committed to something far greater and more profound that our own minor myth. This world, this species, this universe—grander expressions (or so we first believe) than any individual human, far more captivating and spacious than the confines of our personal mental prison—as the locus of our new identity dictate who we are now to become.
We will no longer play in the sphere of personal transformation; by leaping out of the First Tier we have exhausted everything it has to offer. Now we glimpse the possibilities of transformation on a far more majestic scale, and we dedicate ourselves to uncovering the gifts we individually have that can enhance this endless Kosmic dance of infinite recreation.
But, as always, remember: it’s transcend→include→integrate. There will be lines of development still struggling through the First Tier memes, even as the cognitive and other lines are unleashed into the Second. We will still be subject to the energies of the three blind memes in those areas of our own development.
But now, for the first time, we can begin to cherish these dear stages of growth. We can come to appreciate how necessary each is to the Kosmic unfolding. Like indulgent mothers, we can chuckle when we see them manifest in predictable behaviors and presumptions all around (and still within) us. And at the same time, like impatient fathers we can call these underdeveloped parts of ourselves forward to a more glorious future, and hold them accountable to the Divine appointment that is planted in each holon at the moment of its creation.
Some would call these integral endeavors “powerful glimpses of a true Descent of the all-pervading World Soul.” Others would simply say the time is ripe for such. But this much seems certain: less comprehensive endeavors are starting to lose their appeal; the allure of flatland, the call of fragmentation, the regressive pull of reductionism are becoming much less fascinating. Their power to enthrall the mind becomes weaker every day, as Eros works its subtle wonders in and through us all.
Integral Embrace of the Three Blind Memes
Look around the world from the Second Tier. Is it not magnificent? Evolution is busting out all over! Far from being a curse, the nexus of three powerful First Tier levels of consciousness possessing billions of people is creating the energy necessary for mass escape from First Tier gravity. Ray Kurzweil and others, in glimpsing the possible (Right Hand) structure of the next level of consciousness evolution may not understand how the Kosmos is setting it up, but they absolutely intuit that the time is fast approaching for an entirely new order of “reality.”
From the point of view of Green at the leading edge of the First Tier, the world is swiftly going to hell in a hand basket. The United States, gripped by arrogance and fear, is trying to impose an Amber imperium on the world, and this conceit is fueling the backlash of al Qaeda and the Iranian atomic weapons program. Its quixotic adventure in deposing Saddam Hussein and its hubristic attempts at building a fragile democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan are grotesque failures. The U. S. is also destroying the global environment by refusing to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, thus guaranteeing an ecological holocaust in the next century. And finally, by placing its future in hock—especially to the Chinese—America is heading for a crash that will make Alaric’s sacking of Rome in 410 seem a picnic.
As one peruses the pages of American newspapers or listens to NPR or other Green media, it is easy to catch the tone of despair. Amber George W. Bush has an iron grip on the levers of power and is monomaniacally focused on imposing his fundamentalist will upon a manipulated and deluded nation. He is aided and abetted by a docile political class that is clueless about how to oppose his drive for dictatorship; it’s Germany, 1931, all over again.
Orange, on the other hand, is determined to build up material wealth as the way to build upon the end of the Cold War. Far from being a threat, we need China (and India) to pull their weight in the world economy. The crunch that their accelerating demand for oil is putting on energy costs is the appropriate impetus for research and development of new energy sources, including the latest generation of nuclear power plants. Opening up world markets, reducing barriers to trade, promoting public health and education in third world countries are the natural paths to a richer future. Orange has always been willing to suffer the turbulence of markets, because reason tells it that the yin and yang of economic development include the continuous pulling down of the old to make way for the new.
And so from the point of view of the Chinese and the Indians, whose societies are being seized by Orange in accelerating waves, America’s paralysis and Europe’s sclerosis are opportunities for leapfrogging into industrial hegemony. All around the rims of the Pacific and Indian Oceans a new industrial market, activated by China’s determination to develop a modern political economy, is arising.
Green, with its commitment to diversity and equality, is in a terrible quandary about this. Although it is committed to a level playing field, it also knows that the rapid growth of Chinese and Indian industry is an enormous threat to the global environment. What to do? What to do? When blaming Amber/Orange America for this situation finally loses its cachet, Green will have some serious work to take on.
And Amber remains, as we have seen above, caught in its simultaneous longing for and dread of the modern world. Globalization of the world economy is changing the Third World whether it wants it or not. It appears likely that Amber will continue to act out its schizophrenic relationship with Orange (it doesn’t have a clue about Green, except that it sometimes is its ally against Orange) for some time to come.
But the Kosmic action is now moving decisively into the Second Tier—even if very few people are there yet. But because the Second Tier operates from an identity of self with global and even universal realms, it can have profound effects on evolution in relatively short spaces of time. By consciously accessing the lower quadrants we start learning how to leverage all the power of the Kosmos. Just accepting and being willing to embrace the world as it is, driven by the spectrum of consciousness as it has evolved to now, change the dynamics of history.
If you are up for the integral embrace, you will know that we are now called to focus on transformation at the level of community. How can we grow and evolve becomes the urgent inquiry; no longer do we worry so much about how I personally grow and evolve. We begin to perceive the illusion of the individual self in our willingness to identify with the greater collective. And when the tyranny of the personal self begins to dissolve, the radiance of possibilities never imagined begins to shine forth. We begin to ask, what can we do for the evolution Spirit Itself?
Let us begin to savor how Spirit is manifesting Itself right here and right now. The three blind memes are, even in their sightlessness, Spirit-in-action. They are in fact leading us through the wilderness to the Land of Canaan. They may not cross over the River Jordan with us, but without them we never would have gotten near. The unfathomable love of Spirit for Itself in all its manifest forms and unmanifest potential makes this crossing over possible. The amazing fact that It acts through and as us to achieve this leaves us open-mouthed in awe and wonder.
As always, it is appropriate to let Ken Wilber have the last word.
This Eros is the same Spirit-in-action that originally threw itself outward to create a vast morphogenetic field of wondrous possibilities (known as the Great Nest). Out of itself, as matter, it began; out of itself, as life, it continued; out of itself, as mind, it began to awaken. The same Spirit-in-action differentiated itself into modes of the good and the true and the beautiful, as it continued its evolutionary play. And it is now the same Spirit-in-action, starting to become collectively conscious of itself, that has initiated an era of integral embrace—global village to communications internet to integral theories to network society—as it slowly binds together the fragments of a world that has forgotten how to care.
Just so, the same Spirit-in-action has written this book, and it is the very same Spirit-in-action who is now reading it. From subconscious to self-conscious to superconscious, the great Play continues and the grand River flows, with all of its glorious streams rushing into the ocean of One Taste, never really lost, never really found, this sound of the rain on the temple roof, which only alone is.
 For further exploration of the Amber stage in human history, look at Geoffrey Blainey, A Short History of the World; Jean Gebser, The Ever-Present Origin; Ken Wilber, Up from Eden; and Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness.
 For Ken's thorough analysis of Green, see not only the appropriate sections of A Brief History of Everything, Integral Psychology, and Boomeritis, but also the draft of his forthcoming Karma and Kosmic Creativity posted on his Shambhala web page.
 Many analysts have noted the trajectory of the self sense as a "descent" of spirit into the very dense form of human being, from which the "ascent" or return springs. Sri Aurobindo himself posited this arc in his suggestion of the descent of the "superconscient" into the world of form and dimension. See Arthur Young's The Reflexive Universe and A. S. Dalal's A Greater Psychology: An Introduction to the Psychological Thought of Sri Aurobindo.
 See Wilber's Sex, Ecology, Spirituality for an in-depth exploration of these structures.
 Although many analysts use religion to explain the rifts in the world today, it is actually the meme within which religion is understood by its practitioners that matters. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism are all comprehended differently on the various levels of consciousness. Fundamentalism is characteristic of Amber, skepticism of Orange, and universalism of Green.
 Wilber now asserts that one can sit in meditation for years and never see the structures of consciousness arising, much less shadow issues and other underdeveloped psychological matter. Integral practice requires appropriate psychotherapies. See Integral Spirituality (Shambhala: Boston, 2006).