Tag Archives: Wilber

Why not open source the integral movement?

Visit Integral Life, the main outpost for the Ken Wilberian revolution, and see how new age it’s become. (Integral Life is the leader of the deep lifestyle movement, helping people live more free and whole lives using integral philosophy, the first genuine world philosophy for the 21st century. from the site) Having tracked Wilber for 30+ years, I find the uncritical panoply of new ageism to signify Wilberian integralism to have come full circle and returned to its transpersonal, counter-culture, origins.

Wilber and his marketers have been building this brand and its product line for some time. The more developed the brand has become, the more his framework has atrophied. Its almost as if the Wilberian integralists can’t do two things at once. So, I suppose the decision was made. And then the cash registers were installed, and so it has gone.

What it looks like is this: kitschy self-realization resources and pay-to-play products dominating critical culture to the point one can’t find the critical culture anywhere. (How is this not egocentric?)

For example, wrap your discriminating intellect and eros around this:

2012, the Aquarian Age, and the Nature of Evolution (November 19th, 2009 by Darrell Moneyhon)

Regarding Ken’s very valid point addressed in his upcoming book, that indiscriminate democracy could be disastrous, given 70% of the population is at amber or lower, I think I have a solution – a broad strategy that could avert that catastrophe. I call it 3 S, for Sustainable Social Selection. It hinges on the idea that optimal human collective adaptation is based on effective utilization of human resources – no longer on selection via organisms dying off, the old “survival of the fittest” thing.

3 S adapts by finding the right person for the right “assignment”, or “engagement”. “Survival of the fittest is replaced with “survival of the fitting-est” – not meaning that whole groups of individuals (or even organizations or ideologies) will adapt or die from not fitting in with the requirements of the times (although such a selection may occur), but meaning that collectives which are able to get the right persons in the right job will adapt best. The ability to harness the various natural aptitudes and personality orientations, or roughly speaking, “gifts”, is what helps social groups survive and prosper. When the right gifts are placed in the right niches, a kind of workable egalitarianism is formed.

Why? Because gifts will sort out the best thinkers for thinking tasks, the best dreamers/intuiters for creative tasks and early stage innovation, the best relaters for healing and facilitation of social well-being, and the best do-ers for getting projects done in an efficient and effective manner. Those “gift” catagories are mainly types, but line competencies could also be used. Gift-in-niche assignments could be made based on performance (or observed proficiency) on certain lines of development, based on some form of multiple intelligence assessment, etc.. “Gifts” in general could include, then, a blend of type and line “intelligence” – a type-by-line “fit” factor.

Because all major types and all kinds (lines) of intelligences would be utilized, productively engaged, and cherished, no gift would be considered higher than other gifts. No gifts would be given better living standards than other gifts. To favor certain gift-sets would violate the very core of the Sustainable Social Selection strategy. All gifts, all people, would be needed in such a strategy. Every one would, therefore be “equal”.

But equal doesn’t mean everyone participates equally in all things. “Each according to her gift” is a 3 S motto. The foot of the collective body does not have the same (equal) access to forks as do the fingers. Nor do the fingers have equal access to shoes. Those would be poor “fits” in a survival-by-the-fitting-est scheme. The understanding and practice of intrinsic power would replace the lust for extensic power. A finger would not want access to shoes (except to help tie shoe laces!), nor would feet want to hold forks. Those “powers” would be extrinsic to the nature of the respective gifts.

Because of the respect given to all the gifts, and because of equal provisions, there would be no press for every person to have equal say in social problem-solving or social planning projects. There would be no advantage or incentive for a do-er to pretend to be a social mapper, etc. If the standard of living is equal, then do-ers would have no incentive to do what they don’t do best! They would naturally prefer practical projects over big-picture pattern analysis, etc.

While I read this, I was thinking to myself, ‘Here’s an old Greek idea!’ Then I get to the point where ‘no gift would be considered higher than other gifts’ is contradicted by this: ‘But equal doesn’t mean everyone participates equally in all things.’ This is garden-variety incoherence. Later, in an addendum, the writer suggests:

The key is get a modified democratic system which gives weighted voting privileges according to gifts, according to the person’s line strengths and/or type. This way, the “fingers” of the collective “body” aren’t voting about shoes. And the”feet” aren’t voting about eating utensiles. A thinker would have, say, one and a half vote, for big picture social policy votes. A relater would have, say, one and a half votes on specific issues related to health care.

The author contributes, by way of contextualizing this suggestion, some thoughts about an assessment regime which would sort out the overt typology of his scheme. Then at the end of his comment he sort of peels away to his core moralism.

But there is no guarantee that the behavior is following an optimal course which is in line with a person’s potential. Accordingly, both individual and collective behavior must be looked at in a dynamic, unfolding, genetic, sort of way, if we are to “behave” ourselves, and to live up to our potential.

Is the author really suggesting that by using typological assessments based in ‘moralized’ categories having to do with capturing in some definitive way a strict monological estimation of individual potential, there could then be a evolutionary progressive integral politics anchored to these behaviorally dispositive moralistic, performative, and structural identities?

The problem of the poverty of critical culture in Wilberian integralism comes to the front in Wilber’s musings.

Here is the idea that the integral world view will be, (or could be,) imposed as a matter of the natural superiority of the second tier moral consciousness. But I have a question, if the integral system hasn’t engendered a critical culture, in what way could I be convinced that second tier moral prescription isn’t, in actuality, massively egocentric, or otherwise darkened?


Don Beck on the 2nd Tier:

3. Do I accept that individuals, organizations, and societies must acquire these All Quadrant capacities in a step-by-step or developmental process?

6. Have I, personally, learned “when to hold ’em, and when to fold ’em, and when to walk away?” Can I resist the need to control or engineer people?

9. Can I think systemically by addressing complex issues from a multi-case [multi-cause?] perspective rather than isolate a single culprit.

(2nd Tier, to me, is rigorously self-critical. Obviously this means I’m a charlatan or innovator or heretic.)

So, rather than develop a critical culture able to contest and refine and configure a future integral politics, what has come about is a product line wed to an inchoate “system,” itself born in top down elitism, and wildly over-generalized and simplistic estimations about political behavior. And, these products are tasked with pulling people into this uncritical socio-political sphere; all the while the cash registers ring.

This calls into question the Wilberian Project, almost in-total. One repetitive bit is a pisser in all this: when the second tier maestro, goes about reminding that he or she ‘is not judging,’ or refers to transcend-and-include as a work-around. This may fool people. But, I’m hearing an indelicate mash-up of Plato, Hegel and Mao!

Should one take the blinders off, now, many decades into the Wilberian Project, it is fairly obvious what pseudo-second tier seeks to showcase: an ability to do some educative banking, where you get to buy some old ‘vertical’ thought forms and climb up a little closer. (The idea that a spiritual elite possess the most able political consciousness is especially appealing when one can buy their way in, master the vocabulary, and learn how not to get passionately angry about anything.)

I state this obvious implication of enterprising integral politics with a sense of delighted irony. After all, there isn’t any substantive integral political philosophy–how could there be given what’s being recycled, heck, time shifted! here. And, it is deliciously ironic that Mr. Moneyhon has made an attempt to figure out the ‘assessment’ requirement, since, after all, there isn’t also a substantive integral psychology, let alone an applied integral psychology, upon which to build his mash-up of typology and assessment of aspirational potentials. Of course, with good reason, Centauric political leadership is yoked to integral spirituality, but this sure looks different when there comes the top-down proposal to assess somebody else’s spiritual stage using the potted categories given by integral spirituality.

(Might as well mention, there’s no methodology for doing these assessments; nor is there even a basis for a methodology. It’s a different kind of pipe dream.)

With respect to this latter field, it’s important to point out Wilberian integralism has wed its centralized entrepreneurial focus with (mostly) digital evangelism for its technology of enlightenment. Well, there’s nothing integral about the Wilberian style of commerce.

Full circle we go: how to account for the re-introduction of new age hucksters and thought leaders into the integral mix? What you get with this is a lot of free floating folk metaphysics and magical doctrines, and, above all, you get the utopian ethos built upon a future “Self-developmental” payoff. Cha Ching.

There’s little harm that can come from any of this. When Wilber shifted direction–years ago–and worked to create a marketable new age self-help technology, it became clear the ‘early alpha’ integral analytic framework would either be advanced by others, or, not.


Daniel Gustav Anderson has contributed an excellent piece at Integral World, Integral Theory After Wilber. His blog is thought provoking and a favorite.

From his excellent essay, one I take as a beginning:

Integral theory should be critical. By this I mean it should be dialectical; it should be scientific and examined as such, rather than transmitted as a belief-structure or a cult object. Universal and essentializing claims should be eschewed in favor of properly warranted, demonstrated, and delineated ones. If one is inclined to speculate and explore ideas with a freer hand as I myself often do, or when one sees that evidence is lacking for an idea that may reward further investigation, such speculations and ideas should be marked for what they are: explorations, thought experiments, provisional claims, possibilities for future inquiry, or (to borrow from David Lane) an instance of unknowingness. In short, integral theory should be critically self-aware of how it makes knowledge, and how that knowledge functions politically and socially. The Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School has much to offer in this regard, as does the pedagogy of Paulo Freire.

(There’s a lot of integral thinking and writing by persons who knew nothing, may have predated, the Wilberian ‘integral.’ I’ve come to respect greatly the variety of superb descriptive and analytic work which wanders in disciplined ways through various subjective and objective perspectives. On the web, Integral World, provides a portal for post-Wilberian thought–although quality varies a great deal. IW authors )

The spell that binds us today consists not least in the fact that it ceaselessly urges people to take action that they believe will break the spell; and that it prevents the reflection on themselves and the circumstances that might really break it. (Theodore Adorno)

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Dooz Age, Unstoppable

Another flare from Integral Life.

The Integral movement is based upon principles of compassion, clarity, and inclusiveness. A willingness to step beyond our personal and cultural points of view while remaining true to our own unique perspective; to sanctify the common ground between different sciences and different spiritual traditions while fully honoring and celebrating the differences between them; to hold all the contradictions and paradoxes of knowledge gently in one hand while cutting through the confusion and fragmentation with the other—these are precisely the sorts of qualities that define the Integral movement as a whole.

The Integral movement is already beginning to sweep across the world. Though it is no longer just a revolution of the mind (ours is a revolution of the “body, mind, and spirit in self, culture, and nature”) and though it is still in its very early stages of emergence, its influence is rapidly beginning to gain traction, right now at this very second. The very same currents of growth and development that set the initial stage for the sixties revolution—vertical and horizontal growth through stages and states of consciousness—have begun to flow together once again, creating an upswell of consciousness, care, and creative novelty that has not been seen in decades.

The Integral Revolution: the result of an unstoppable force meeting an unmovable subject.

When do you think the Integral movement will reach its “tipping point”?

Forced choice poll. I selected: Centuries, if at all.

This kind of marketing pitch doesn’t move me at all. I’m not much of a joiner, and, feverish and grand appeals never inspire me. But, that’s just due to my own disposition. On the other hand, appeals which thread incoherent stuff together fascinate me!

The very same currents of growth and development that set the initial stage for the sixties revolution—vertical and horizontal growth through stages and states of consciousness—have begun to flow together once again, creating an upswell of consciousness, care, and creative novelty that has not been seen in decades.

is a doozy. No, it’s a double doozy. Talk about a personal and cultural point of view… But, what stopped the flow? Why is it flowing again?

As it turns out, over the past weeks I’ve been reflecting upon the cultural history that was the context for Ken Wilber’s first appearance as a thinker, writer, and cultural critic. This refers to the late seventies and eighties. If I ponder just the thin slice of my closest cohort, and briefly unpack where this small sample was, say, in 1982, ten years after graduating from high school, my conclusion would be: revolution over, making a life—toggled on.

In this personal respect, I really have no idea what current of growth and development in days of yore this pitch is referring to. It would make more sense if names were named. “The very same currents of growth and development” implies precision (via the word ‘same,’) about precedents. Which same currents?

(Let me leap to an idea: in other schools of self-realization, might one discover that their properly applied experiential applications strip away sentimentality–completely?)

By the time the Reagan era rolled into the village, cocaine-fueled hedonic nihilism was the cosmopolitan rage, and the self-realization movement struggled to restore itself after lots of revolutionary bad psychedelic mojo had gone down. Oddly enough, politically, the southern strategy had yet to morph into the southern baptist strategy, yet, a religious call-to-arms emerged at the time to—the dour religionists hoped—beat back the coming ‘new age.’ Think of this as the reaction to Marilyn Ferguson’s The Aquarian Conspiracy (1980) and John Naisbett’s Megatrends (1982), both books were more lucrative and widely distributed annunciations of revolutionary hope and transformation than anything published in the sixties.

But, I get why, as a marketing position, it’s better to channel nostalgia back to the sixties, rather than back to the more contradictory eighties. Still, the actually “same” currents are to be found circa 1980, not circa 1968.

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The Da Wilber Code

Barry, a psychologist, has on his blog created a fantasy about a conversation between new age gurus Ken Wilber and Andrew Cohen.

It’s short and strikes the bullseye, and, is very very funny. Great timing too because Barry’s parody is in the context of up-and-coming performances like this one, Conversations With the Masters. The answers to important questions such as:

* Would you like to learn the critically essential keys to human growth?

will be explored. The event is free, but bring your checkbook.

Daniel Gustav Anderson on his for-the-turnstiles blog declares:

For the purposes of scholarship and making knowledge, it is over for Ken Wilber.

This is hard to argue with after the travesty provided by Wilber’s book, Integral Spirituality, with its appalling instantiation of integral mathematics.

What jumps out for me, aside from the evidence found in Wilber’s recent books, is how completely disinterested Wilber is in the integral-like scholarship that has followed from psychological and anthropological and post-modern turns in a number of fields—over forty+ years.

Three of which, among many, are: organizational development, semiotics, and anthropology. Karl Weick has for years surveyed and analyzed the organization by galumphing through the quadrants, except his important work isn’t unfolding in integral terms or from an integral framework.

Earlier this year a colleague turned me onto the semiotician Paul J. Thibault’s Brain, Mind And the Signifying Body: An Ecosocial Semiotic Theory. It’s not technically a work based in wilberianism’s model, but it fits the bill for an integral scholarship in the superior terms offered outside of Wilber’s badly aging model.

Just sayin’.

See article about Dr. Weick, Karl Weick and the Aesthetics of Contigency (pdf) – Eisenberg, E. (2006). Organization Studies, 27(11).

Weick is author of three essential books in organizational studies: Sensemaking In Organizations; The Social Psychology of Organizing; Making Sense of the Organization: The Impermanent Organization.

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The Sweat Lodge of World Transformation

Scary, but also worth a read: For Some Seeking Rebirth, Sweat Lodge Was End John Doughtery – New York Times: October 21, 2009

The story summarizes the horrific manslaughter that resulted from a sweat lodge conducted by new age con man James Arthur Ray in Sedona, October 8. Three died, eighteen were hospitalized, and, Ray has yet to be charged. Ray herded paying customers into a dangerous environment and then—literally—allowed three to perish. His state of consciousness can easily be characterized: oblivious. On the website for the deadly new age huckster Ray, he offers bona-fides.

Throughout his life, James Arthur Ray has studied and been exposed to a wide diversity of teachings and teachers – from his collegiate learning and the schools of the corporate world, to the ancient cultures of Peru, Egypt and the Amazon. Armed with this comprehensive and diverse background in behavioral sciences, coupled with his experience as a successful, entrepreneur, and an avid thirst for spiritual knowledge, James boasts the unique and powerful ability to blend the practical and mystical into a usable and easy-to-access formula for achieving true wealth across all aspects of life.

I’ll return to this shortly.

Speaking of hucksters, here’s some excerpts of a pitch received from Ken Wilber, October 15.

This is Ken Wilber, and I wanted to take a moment to write you and tell you of the first and only organization that is the exclusive outlet of my Integral work and all projects connected with it. The organization is called Integral Life, co-founded by myself and my CEO, Robb Smith.

I’m truly excited by this organization and its development, because for the first time in history, although there are hundreds of projects and organizations and websites inspired by my work, this is the first one that has my personal seal of approval. The projects, partner organizations, academic journals and books, blogs and forums all have a quality checked by me to personally guarantee that my Integral model is being used accurately. That’s the problem with these hundreds of other applications of my work. As much as I truly appreciate the inspired use of my model by them, there are often misinterpretations of its leading ideas, resulting in less than truly Integral results.

What is an ‘integral result?’

Here’s what it looks like, symbolically speaking:


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The Integral Spiritual Center lands a come-on in my email box every week. Yesterday’s gave me a whack on the side of the head.

Modern science has given us a compelling picture of the evolution of our universe, from its first moments: quantum fluctuations—i.e. the “Big Bang”—led to a massive inflation, followed by “the dark ages,” then the formation of the first stars, at about t+400 million years. But science has been largely unable to explain what happened before—indeed, what brought about—the Big Bang. Scientific explanations have tended to end up sounding somewhat like traditional Eastern cosmology: the Earth stands upon the back of an elephant, which stands upon the back of a turtle, and from there, it’s turtles all the way down…. The world’s great spiritual traditions have long sought answers to this question, and have theorized a process reciprocal to the one that science has investigated so thoroughly: prior to evolution, there was involution.

Truth be told, I’m not aware of any spiritual tradition that has pondered what happened before the Big Bang. (This is the case if one discounts secular science enough to make of it not a spiritual tradition.) But the main thing is: the traditions didn’t know of the Big Bang.

Not so curiously, creation myths tend to be very relational and story-like! These stories have a beginning but don’t usually pose a beginning prior to their starting point. But the Big Bang doesn’t begin with the Big Bang. It’s a just-so story in the sense of ‘as far as we know’ and ‘to the degree that we know.’

The turtles all the way down trope certainly aligns with one of Ken Wilber’s oldest (surviving!) propositions, The Great Chain of Being. I’m not sure which scientific explanation was to the ISC’s blurb writer, “sounding somewhat like traditional Eastern cosmology.” (And this was stated after the same writer wrote: “science has been largely unable to explain what happened before.”)

The blurb seems to change the subject and goes on after raising Involution:

Essentially, says Ken, we begin every moment in a state of nondual Suchness. But if we have yet to stabilize that state into a state-stage, that state will be pre-conscious to us, and we will undergo the first contraction, into the causal realm of the Witness and all that is witnessed. If we have yet to stabilize that state, we will contract into the subtle realm of the soul. And if we have yet to stabilize that state, we will contract into the gross realm of the ego and our conventional self. So with every moment, we “fall down the stairs,” cascading down from suchness until the point of our state realization. Here, we recognize ourselves, in a dynamic similar to what the Tibetan Book of the Dead teaches about the Bardo and our experience after death. And this world (and with it, all “lower” worlds) arises in our experience.

Reminds me of Ibn al-Arabi, ra, and an encapsulation I wrote in 1991.

Henri Corbin commenting on the fact of ascension
(as described by Ibn’ Arabi, r.a.)

Look upon our own existance. Is it continuous ?

Or is it incessantly renewing on every breath ?

Does not being cease then come into being
with every breath, and upon His sigh of compassion?

Hexities, themselves pure possibles do not demand concrete existence.
recurrent creation manifests infinitely, essentially, divinely.

Divine being descends, is epiphanized in our individuality
such being thus ascends to return to the source.

Every being ascends with the instant
to see this is to see the multiple existing in the one.

And so the man who knows that is his “soul”,
such a man knows his Lord.

Richard Grossinger, from his superb new book, The Bardo of Waking Life:

The 9.5 years that it will take a spacecraft to bust out of Earth’s gravity well and be slingshot by gas giants to Pluto, out at the edge of the Kuiper Belt, must be measured against an event barely the size of a ball-bearing out of which the entire universe detonated once into a state so protracted and sticky it continues to fulminate and distend.

Involution? This reminds me of quaint and romantic notions from the hydraulic 19th century. Of course we’ve moved through the hyper-hydraulic 20th century. And past the cusp of the 21st century it seems contemporaneously quaint to suppose involution tended to reveal (Wilber’s) suchness is another turtle. We’re all enslaved for hundred thousand story-making years to this mechanical conceit.

“Before,” then, is only a mechanical necessity. What happens before you and your dear one decide to go out and dance? What is caused to morph?


Our basis is completely mysterious. . .

Completely. It’s not that involution makes clear the origin, it’s that “pure possibles do not demand concrete existence” may require any origin to be essentially not knowable and, perhaps, origin exists beyond mere mechanics, beyond mechanical concretization of (even) original possibility.

Granted, Wilber is moved to try to explain everything. What a romantic!


What we call music in our everyday language is only a miniature, which our intelligence has grasped from that music or harmony of the whole universe which is working behind everything, and which is the source and origin of nature. It is because of this that the wise of all ages have considered music to be a sacred art. For in music the seer can see the picture of the whole universe; and the wise can interpret the secret and the nature of the working of the whole universe in the realm of music. Inayat Khan


We are only possibility, and God is no one but the background agaisnt which possibility rests.

For me, ‘completely’ and ‘only’ tear involution and sunder suchness. Mystery cannot be the ground of mechanics and also itself mechanical. Before involution and evolution? Only God knows.

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The following could serve as the subject of an assignment: What’s wrong at the level of assumptions found in the following argument?

I’ve provided some helpful italicizing.

At the second gathering of the teachers of Integral Spiritual Center, Patrick Sweeney famously asked Ken Wilber, “what can we do to stay out of Appendix III of Integral Spirituality?” In “The Myth of the Given,” Ken surveys some major modern approaches to spirituality, and demonstrates via AQAL their partiality—and how that partiality might be remedied.

It’s sobering to consider that so many of today’s most eminent teachers are partial! But as Ken points out, Appendix III (and the Integral approach in general) is meant not so much to point out that partiality as to highlight expertise in a highly specialized area. AQAL is an incredible tool for both situating various approaches and for understanding how they are related to each other. To the extent that the conclusions of these approaches fall within their area of expertise, they are most assuredly true. But to the extent that their conclusions overstep their area of expertise, a broader context such as AQAL can be enormously helpful.

The potency of AQAL to situate various approaches derives from its own formulation. Take, for example, the field of psychology. Ken points out that there are six major schools of psychology, each advanced by brilliant researchers who pioneered a particular approach to the field. Ken’s approach was to ask “what must be the characteristics of the human mind, such that the major conclusions of each of these schools could hold true?” His goal, rather than to work within one of the major schools to further its particular conclusions, was to reverse-engineer the human psyche—indeed, the entire Kosmos—altogether. source: ISC Editor’s Weekly Blog

Sometime in the near future I will highlight a very fine paper that does employ AQAL to accurately situate various perspectives in the field of organizational behavior. It is one of the few such integral overviews–rooted to a discipline–that is expert enough in a ‘meta-disciplinary’ sense to provide a lot of value.


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