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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Steve McIntosh is the author of Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution (Paragon House 2007). He was an original member of the Integral Institute think tank, and has taught integral philosophy to a wide variety of audiences. An honors graduate of the University of Virginia Law School and the University of Southern California Business School, today McIntosh is president of Now & Zen, Inc., and director of The Project for Integral World Federation.
A Transcendent Vision of Integral Consciousness
For me, the most exciting thing about integral philosophy is its promise to serve as the foundation of a new stage of consciousness. Integral philosophy's teaching about the spiral of development shows how the postmodern worldview is now being transcended and included by the newly emerging integral worldview. And if integral philosophy is correct, the emergence of this new set of values is as historically significant as the emergence of modernism during the Enlightenment. As illustrated in figure 1, the structure of the spiral of development shows how the integral stage represents a return to individualistic side of this dialectic structure. And this is why we can expect the rise of integral consciousness to share many similarities with early modern consciousness. By this I do not mean to imply that integral consciousness will be characterized by a return to the values of modernism, but rather that the rise of integral consciousness, like the rise of modernist consciousness, can be expected to produce what Richard Tarnas has called “spectacularly tangible results.”
The Enlightenment began with a scientific revolution, but as the emphasis on reason and objectivity spread its roots into European culture, the cutting edge of change was taken up by new forms of philosophy. This subversive “New Philosophy” (as it was called at the time) urged people to question received authority and to think for themselves. And this New Philosophy offered a transcendent vision of a new form of human government – democracy.
The promise of democracy did much to recruit people to adopt the modernist worldview. In fact, it can be argued that the political movement for democracy was the primary catalyst for the emergence of modernism. The rallying cry “liberty, equality, fraternity” was a distillation of the modernist creed. Even today, modernism and democracy continue to co-create each other. When modernist consciousness reaches a critical mass in a population, the people demand democracy. And conversely, in situations where democracy is imposed on a premodern population, the government often becomes dysfunctional, collapsing into corruption and stagnation.
Thomas Jefferson was keenly aware of the necessity of modernist consciousness for the success of democratic forms of government. Jefferson called it “public virtue” – the sense of responsibility to improve the human condition and to be intolerant of corruption. And according to Jefferson, without the requisite degree of public virtue in a population, democracy could not be sustained. But Jefferson also recognized how a democratic society could foster public virtue and imbue a sense of personal responsibility in its citizens, thus ensuring its own perpetuation.
The political issue of democracy played a critical role in the emergence of the modernist stage of consciousness. And we can also see the importance of political issues in the rise of postmodernism. During the emergence of the cultural structures of postmodern consciousness in the 1960s, the moral appeal of the twin political issues of peace in Vietnam and civil rights helped bring people into the postmodern worldview. And just as the emergence of modernism was heralded by the slogan “liberty, equality, fraternity,” the antithetical values of postmodernism emerged with the slogan “turn on, tune in, drop out.”
So what will be the central political cause of emerging integralism? It seems to me that the answer to this question is found by examining the many similarities between integral consciousness and modernism. Consider the following parallels: Modernist consciousness values progress; integral consciousness values evolution. In modernism, the “good life” is achieved through the acquisition of an abundance of status and material; in integralism, the “good life” is achieved through the acquisition of an abundance of consciousness – knowledge and awareness. Modernism is very interested in external technologies such as machines and electronics; integral consciousness is very interested in internal technologies such as spiritual practices. Emerging modernist consciousness brought with it a new approach to problem solving – the scientific method; integral consciousness likewise has a new approach to problem solving – the compassionate use of the spiral as a method of relating to the good of each stage, and seeing the bad in perspective. As I mentioned above, modernism was brought about by a New Philosophy that transcended the stale and established philosophy of Aristotelian scholasticism; and now the subversive insights of integral philosophy are transcending the stale academic philosophies of materialism and existentialism. And most importantly, the appeal of modernist consciousness was made vivid through its transcendent vision of a new form of human government; and we can expect that the rise of integral consciousness will likewise depend on a similarly transcendent vision of a new form of human government, one that transcends and includes the idea of democratic nation states.
This new moral vision is found in the idea of a limited, democratic, federal, and integral world government. Integral world government is defined as a global federation of nations united under a constitution of laws guided by the insights and principles of integral philosophy. An integral world government would be instituted to provide democratic oversight of the global economy, protect the world's environment, establish a universal bill of human rights, preserve cultural diversity, and bring an eventual end to war, disease, and poverty. And an integral world government would provide for a system of global justice which would reduce the incentives for terrorism. As global problems become more urgent, the need for a morally-legitimate system of global law becomes more acute, and this makes a world federation not only more desirable and achievable, but also inevitable.
Without the insights of integral philosophy, the idea of a democratic federal world government lacks the necessary power to stimulate the kind of popular movement that will be required for its inauguration. But when the idea of world government is supercharged with integral theory's understanding of evolution, its appeal is empowered and its ability to create agreement and passion is significantly enhanced. It is true that the movement for integral world federation depends upon the development of the underlying structures of integral culture. However, as integral philosophy finds its application in the movement for integral world federation, and as the broader integral agenda becomes more well-defined, the potency of these ideas will help raise the consciousness of many to the integral level. Indeed the transcendent vision of a world federation will help integral philosophy to come alive -- to become empowered with an idea whose time has come.
A full explanation of the idea of an integral world government is beyond the scope of this essay. However, I have recently created a website that describes the idea more fully. Found at http://www.IntegralWorldGovernment.org, the website consists of an on-line petition entitled: A Declaration of the Value of Global Governance. This declaration/petition, modeled after Jefferson's 1776 Declaration of Independence for the United States, provides an opportunity for integral political action. The values listed in the declaration, reproduced below, trace the enduring values of each stage in the spiral of development, beginning with the “kinship bonds” of tribal consciousness and continuing up to integral consciousness' value of the channel of evolution as a whole.
WE hold these truths to be self-evident,
—that the world can be made a better place through the evolution of consciousness and culture,
—that we each have a responsibility of care and compassion for others and for the natural and cultural environments in which we live,
—that in order to fulfill these responsibilities and to secure the blessings of world peace, justice, and prosperity, it is necessary to institute a new form of global governance deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed,
WE, the free citizens of planet earth, thus affirm the need for a system of global governance founded on the values of integral consciousness, which include:
The value of the universal family of humanity;
The value of individual freedom and personal autonomy;
The values of decency, honesty, and respect for traditions;
The values of progress, prosperity, and economic development;
The values of multiculturalism, environmentalism, and egalitarianism;
The value of the channel of evolution as a whole -- the system through which individuals and societies develop.
WE, the undersigned, therefore solemnly publish and declare our intent to work toward the establishment of a limited, democratic, federal, integral world government; so that through this organization, we can begin to solve the global problems of war, hunger, poverty, disease, injustice, terrorism, environmental degradation, unfettered corporate globalization, ignorance, and despair.
The Integral World Government website also contains the following educational essays:
Please have a look at the Integral World Government website, and if you feel so moved, sign the petition -- it would really mean a lot to me personally.
© 2004 Steve McIntosh, 1638 Pearl Street, Boulder CO, 80302. (303) 530-9028 x. 222. [email protected]