Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion, SUNY 2003Frank Visser, graduated as a psychologist of culture and religion, founded IntegralWorld in 1997. He worked as production manager for various publishing houses and as service manager for various internet companies and lives in Amsterdam. Books: Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion (SUNY, 2003), and The Corona Conspiracy: Combatting Disinformation about the Coronavirus (Kindle, 2020).

Diagnosing Dillard

Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire

Frank Visser

This leaves us with a bewildering mosaic of opinions, ideologies, propaganda and counter-propaganda, from which we have to escape.

In his last essay Joseph Dillard, a frequent if controversial contributor to Integral World, takes a candid look at what motivates him.[1] He wants to break free from the matrix of Western self-understanding as an advanced culture of democracy, freedom and justice, and points to many data that seem to contradict this lofty view or ourselves. Apparently, hypocrisy triggers him, and disillusionment with the West pervades his writings, especially since he started commenting on the Russo-Ukraine war. His first 60 essays were directed at the integral community, arguing that it suffered from one-sidedness in its emphasis on individual development, at the expense of issues related to ethical behavior or justice. He used the expression of "healing integral"—the title of his first, June 2017 essay—aiming to restore balance. Since February 2020 he wrote another 40+ essays about the Russo-Ukraine war, and here again his goal seems to have been to restore balance, or at least present data that contradict our most cherished notions about our own culture.

This view of integral culture and practice met with opposition in the various online integral discussion groups, and Dillard always engaged with these critics, in my opinion setting a standard as to how we should debate integral topics. Not that any of these many exchanges changed his mind to any substantial degree (that would be another story). But he claimed that he learned most from those who disagree with him, and I can sympathize with that statement. Using a metaphor from the sailing world, we authors are like beacons spread out over the ocean of opinions, and by engaging with each other's points of view we are more able to establish were we ourselves stand. His favorable views on Russia and China were met with a stronger opposition, as these seemed to turn a blind eye to the obvious shortcomings of these non-Western cultures. Ironically, in his attempt to restore balance, he seems to have gone to the opposite extreme—and lost his balance in the process. One critic likened him on Integral World to a Don Quixote.[2]

To give an example with the help of a table I provided in my last essay[3]: Dillard seemed to have left the pro-West column, only to end up in the anti-West column of possible stances towards world problems.


Hence, Dillard keeps hammering relentlessly on the point that Israel is committing genocide on the Palestinians, and that the West (due to its moral and military support of Israel) is complicit in these crimes. What is more, by being a member of a Western country, he feels direct responsibility for these atrocities. As to the Russo-Ukraine war, he seems to have embraced Russian war propagande wholesale, and considers any positive comment with respect to Ukraine as virtue signaling. Where is the balance in all of this? Can we really understand the dynamic of these two terrible wars by switching from one form of cultural propaganda to the next?

Once a position is taken, it is very easy to collect supporting evidence, to bolster one's views. For example: a pro-Western ideology can point to the sunny sides of Western accomplishments (science, democracy, human rights), while minimizing its shadow sides (colonialism, climate change, woke culture). Conversely, an anti-Western ideology will magnify exactly these shortcomings, and question what is traditionally seen as the West's contributions. Likewise, a pro-Israel ideology will point to Israel's precarious predicament, as it is surrounded by hostile Arabic nations, some of which have never accepted the very founding of Israel. An anti-Israel ideology will highlight its aggressive expansionism in the West Bank and its oppressive treatment of the Palestinians in Gaza. Alternatively, a pro-Russia ideology will see it as rightfully defending its own sphere of infuence, and Putin as one who has virtually saved Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the '90. But an anti-Russia ideology will highlight Putin has been in charge for over twenty years now, in which democracy has been abolished, and any political opponents have been jailed, poisoned or killed.

Once a position is taken, it is very easy to collect supporting evidence, to bolster one's views.

So how can we avoid groupthink at all? Yes, by immersing ourselves in the view of our opponents, and by trying to understand how and why they see us the way they do (but that equally applies to them). But that can only be the first step. We need to disengage from our opponent's views again, to take a more impartial, or balanced, or integral view of things. Yes, the West has many accomplishments, and yes, it has committed many atrocities—but doesn't that hold true for other super powers as well? That is not so much whataboutism as it cures us of the temptation to see our opponents in a too romantic or rosy light. Yes, elections in Ukraine have been called off (after all, the country is in the midst of an existential war situation), but at least elections in Ukraine were multi-party based, and not just a cover for an authoritarian dictator. And yes, Israel's behavior towards Gaza is horrendous, but we should not forget that Hamas' stated aim is the destruction of Israel, and the October 7 pogrom by Hamas was violent in the extreme as well. And yet, Israel has been able to top the number of 1000+ casualties by a factor 30—and counting.

This leaves us with a bewildering mosaic of opinions, ideologies, propaganda and counter-propaganda, from which we have to escape—but not by priviliging one group over all others. And by refraining from fanaticism, extremism and sloganeering, again, from both sides. Dillard deplores he is "living in a world in which liberals and progressives are the ones demanding censorship", but is he aware of the pervasiveness of censorship in Russia and China (even with dire consequences for those who commit the least disobedience to the party line)? And for better or worse, isn't this Western "censorship" meant to prevent rampant disinformation and hate speech? Are "we" justifying neo-nazism and fascism in Ukraine, as Dillard implies? Zelensky, as a pro-Western ideologue, has fully sided with Israel, for one, and that's not particularly what one would expect if that were true. That is, as long as Israel is not deemed a "Nazi" state on its own, in the way it has created a veritable open-air concentration camp in Gaza. See how slippery all these extremist slogans are?

It all boils down to security concerns in all these world conflicts, for all parties involved, both for the US, Europe, Ukraine, Russia, Israel and Gaza. Can we not just acknowledge we as world citizens are all in the same boat, having the same needs and aspirations? We all want to live secure and productive lives.

Dillard shies away from standing above all parties: "at some point trotting out 'it's complicated,' appeals to multi-perspectivalism, and 'contextualization' simply become sophisticated justifications, just more ways to avoid responsibility, accountability, and justice." But hasn't he argued in many of his essays for this very "multi-perspectivalism", theoretical or experiential or otherwise?[4] We will not escape groupthink without aiming for exactly that. Of course, none of us has, or even can have, a perfect and impartial overview of these complex world affairs, but the next best thing is listen deeply to each other's viewpoints, and learn from them, even if we disagree.


[1] Joseph Dillard, "Just a Glitch in the Matrix",, March 2024.

[2] Ray Harris, "Don Quixote Rides Again, Fact checking Dillard",, March 2024.

[3] Frank Visser, "Palestine or Ukraine, Is There Any Difference?",, March 2024.

[4] See for example: Joseph Dillard, "Practicing Multi-Perspectivalism Regarding the Ukraine War",, May 2022.

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