Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Giorgio Piacenza Giorgio Piacenza is a sociologist student in the Certificate program leading to a Master's degree in Integral Theory at JFK University.




Giorgio Piacenza

Ken Wilber usually states that every individual must go through stages of development one step at a time. I think that developmental psychologists have shown that this is generally true. Nonetheless, I also think that individuals are very much affected in the way they go through these stages by their cultures (which, among other things, offer support and challenge) and nowadays cultural codes are more mixed than ever before. Today's living cultures are not clearly distinguishable or definable anymore; they are blending and they are also blending stage-wise.

We can also quite evidently say that there are few isolated cultures not affected by modernity's “critical mindset.” Also, as the number of separate cultures diminish, all kinds of ideas, belief systems, myths, codes and paradigms circulate and the modern and globalized system -generally speaking- acts like a framework that supporting them all (as long as the ideas, values and codes of particular cultural groups are not extremely challenged by the modern system in which case an uncomfortable coexistence leads to suppression, oppression and aggression).

My thesis is that the way individuals go through their developmental stages is being modified by these globalized, culturally mixed conditions. For instance, predominantly Red stage, self centered individuals may be conversant with ecology, modern rational methods, local religious myths and so on. With a minimum level of cognition, he or she may adapt to a variety of cultural values, expectations and even demonstrate proficiency in some of the practices and ways of being not representative of Red stage of development. The same would apply for individuals that could be primarily defined as focused upon Amber, Orange and Green stage or ways of being in the world.

So what I am observing here is that the separation between the stages may not be as clear as suggested or apparently emphasized in the world as it is today. The concept of 'less intensely interiorized or lived' 'combined stages' may need to be taken into consideration more actively even in the ethical line of development or ethical mode of being in the world. If the lines of development related with self identity can also be more affected than previously supposed by the multi-stage cultural influences simultaneously present in the world today then the classification of who is primarily in what stage would need to be re-thought, revised, and remodeled carefully. What does it mean when the values associated with any stage are not taken too seriously anymore? Is the world producing 'light' individuals? Is the world producing individuals with less convictions but capable of adopting 'chameleon-like' any set of values adaptively?

Not only the Integral worldview declares that a particular worldview is not the only one exclusively correct. We don't need to have reached an Integral Worldview to feel or think like this as we have been 'toned down' by today's shared conditions in the world and –to a certain extent- by a diffused awareness of post modern relativism. The exclusivist claims of all cultural stages have already been diminished in the modern-postmodern world today by a general self questioning and critical thinking trend existing even in the earlier stages of the modern period. These claims have also been diminished by exposure to a variety of cultures and points of view due to interconnection and mass communication.

In relation to cultural influences on individual stages of development, I've also said in an essay titled “Cultural Influences on Individual Stages: A Brief Opinion Regarding Integral Theory for Latin America” that, individuals born in former colonial countries like Perú, tend not to have a strong set of shared values since- in essence- the specifics of these values were forced upon them rather than being nested from within an intrinsic process. Thus, also in Perú - and especially since modernity and interconnection has spread throughout most of the territory in one way or another- the way young people today go through their own developmental stages is less rigid than perhaps what can still be seen in large sectors of the U.S. population, in a culture and nation that originally mostly retransmitted European values for mostly European white descendants while continuing with its own forms of cultural development more independently.

Nonetheless, in Perú as in the U.S. and other places there seem to exist psychological peculiarities within individuals and these that tend to recur in different contexts. There may always be individuals more naturally inclined toward conservatism and authority. Individuals that seek to retain a fundamentalist religious, scientific or political perspective may be a psychologically specific group less able to deal with ambiguity and that require simple, direct answers within the safety net of authority and institutions. Nevertheless, I think that the majority of individuals in most parts of the modern world system today are not so entrenched in pre post modern affiliations. I think that they participate in a blend of cultural stages more openly and that this blend seriously affects how they go through their individual stages of development. Perhaps for them stages are not too clearly separated or defined, a fact which would also probably mean that their repudiation of the a stage they just left would not be as strong as perhaps conceived under the Wilber-Kegan-developmentalism model which –naturally- theoretically emphasizes separate structures.

What are the consequences of these ideas for the expectations of Integral-stage individuals increasing in number and becoming more politically influent? Are we in a race against time hoping for the supposedly 15 or so percent of available Greens (in the U.S. and conceivably in Europe) to mature and become Integral before their generation passes away and is replaced by a more narcissistic series of generations? Are we hoping for these Greens-becoming-Integrals to -soon enough- leave enough permanent cultural evolutionary patterns for individuals of the next generations to have an easier time going through their stages of development into the Second Tier, Integral ones in a global situation in which clear culturally defined differences are rapidly blending?

Reinstating –somewhat differently- a question I made in a previous essay “Integral People: Where?” will the unique social and cultural conditions instrumental in producing the idealism of the Baby Boom generation (with which the maturing Greens are mostly associated) repeat themselves to assist in the emergence of individuals once again concerned with social justice, change, spirituality, universalism and ecology? Will the evolutionary patterns being scripted (in a Consciousness-receptive Kosmos) by today's and upcoming Integrals pave the way for the transformation of self-absorbed, stage-undefined narcissists to reach Integral-level functioning? Or will the new generations be more self-absorbed and ready to click and download sensations than to seek and use Universal Principles to interpret the barrage of information available to them?

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