Compassionate Challenge for Integral

This was originally posted on Integral Life. The topic is how the integral community may creatively engage the mainstream. It turned out to be a bit of a critique as well. Feedback here or at integral life is much appreciated!

  • To sum up everything I whole heartedly feel: Focus on the content, not the framing of integral. This means that yes, you can express integral’s heart without its maps. Maps are secondary, you’re standing in the territory! Come back down from the mountain and challenge yourself to speak from the heart. The maps are tools, not crutches (or bedrocks, for that matter). I’d like to see a more organic-oriented integral, focused on cultivating and engaging the culture without first needing AQAL, SD, etc, etc. If used up front, those can serve as a barrier rather than a stepping stone. Some people may like maps and are quickly oriented to them, but this is not the most universal approach. Integral is more than an “operating system,” because we are vital-systems, messy, non-linear, emergent. Let’s explore new ways to express what integral means!
  • So, “more bottom” up approaches would keep the current “top down” approach (utilized by the theory and the websites, business, etc) in a healthy, vibrant balance. Roots and branches!
  • It would be nice to see the academic journal use Open Access. This would encourage more contribution and be utilizing the changing cultural/collaborative atmosphere the internet is cultivating (like twitter).
  • I really don’t want to sound outspoken or overly critical, though I do feel some things that are going on in this particular integral community might be masking the valuable content. A more open-source approach might help the integral community evolve. For example, one good idea by CoreIntegral, is to try to reach out without the complex methodology and linguistics that come with Wilber’s integral. By reaching out more, integral folks are learning new ways to communicate, and also limitations they may not have been thoughtful of. I know this is happening unofficially on twitter, or other sites, but it’d be nice to see if Wilber and the Integral organization officially engage these ideas.
  • Oh, I know this is an oldie, but I’d love it if Wilber blogged.

I don’t mean to belittle the complex theory and “mapping” that Wilber and subsequent theorists have done. Not at all. I think mapping and navigating have validity, but that doesn’t mean this is the universal approach that will “spark” this emergent consciousness in the mainstream. That will take time, trial and error, evolution of our own methods and development of new ones. I often think of Wilber as someone (Like many of the earlier theorists) who has paved the way. By all means pioneers. Sometimes it just takes future catalysts to help that first spark become a flame.

Alright, I hope everyone doesn’t eat me alive!

[Note: I’ve also been told that embracing more “open source” and collaborative methods is really just articulating a shift from linear “rational/orange” to “green” meshwork emergence in civilization. Integral is already “past” that so I should give it more credit. This is a good point but it also seems partial. If this is the way society is going, then using the “mapping” language we would be wise to start utilizing these “green” networking tools.

As far as the theory goes, is IOS too top heavy? Are we drowning out the experiential/spiritual intimacy? Is the navigation system too logical/rational and less heart-felt/organic/intuitive? I’d like to discuss that with everyone, or maybe save it for an upcoming post.]


3 thoughts on “Compassionate Challenge for Integral

  1. Good thoughts. One of the reasons I stopped being interested in integral is because it is a closed, top-down hierarchy with a fair amount of corruption and power plays, and no real access to the dialogue from participants who don’t already have money or power and aren’t willing to kiss Ken’s butt.

    I’ve found that almost all notions that integral is “beyond” green are pre-trans fallacies. Integral culture is mostly orange and blue (and I refuse to call it “amber”), as stated by Don Beck himself. Beck’s description of yellow in SD is that of a ecosystems-thinking forest ranger, a description that would be rejected by nearly all integral community members as being too “green.”

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more, although I think you’re being a bit too kind and apologetic toward the Integral Institute approach toward mainstream engagement. When Integral Naked first came out five or so years ago, there was so much potential to take Integral into the mainstream. Since then, Wilber’s style has gotten increasingly insular and self-referential. Eventually I just got sick to death of the Integral Naked dialogues, which didn’t seem dialogical at all, but rather just exercises in translating various issues and topics into AQAL-ese. Perhaps this has changed with Integral Life, but I’m not paying money to find out. Of course, it’s not all about what I like or don’t like, but I’m a person sympathetic to the Integral cause, and a huge fan of Wilber’s books (at least through SES). So if I feel disengaged by the Integral Enterprise, I can imagine how tough a sell it must be to Joe Mainstream. I doubt I-I will open up in the way you suggest, although that would be awesome. Jon Kabat-Zinn is a good model, I think, of how to successfully engage the mainstream. And Alan Watts too, albeit in a different way.

  3. @Duff: Interesting that you mention the integral culture is orange and blue. I thought of something similar. AQAL/SD and the language in Wilber’s books are heavily rational-oriented, all theoretical. So it’s no surprise a community built around that would tend to be top heavy, or watered down theory into “blue.” Even using these terms at this point isn’t really comfortable/natural for me. But at any rate, I do like Don Beck’s description of “integral,” being more like a forest ranger or someone who has returned to nature consciously.

    @Bob: You’re probably right about me being too soft. I didn’t want to seem too overbearing at the outset of the discussion. I definitely agree that Integral Naked had so much potential (the list of celebrities and musician dialogues was a lot of fun).

    You hit the nail on the head about the “core” problem with this organization. It’s like it’s trying to engulf the world by translating popular culture into its own meta-theory. But a theory is just a pile of words, after all. What about the experiential component? It seems that has become secondary. I don’t think this is truly the original spirit of Wilber’s books or integral. What about igniting the consciousness that is “already” present? They recently interpreted Eckhart Tolle’s dialogue into an “integral” perspective, but in my opinion, Tolle is already doing what the Integral Enterprise wants to do: help people shift their own consciousness.

    Alan Watts definitely had a good way to “engage mainstream.” It’d be nice if Wilber left the nest and went on a book/speaking tour, I’m sure many universities and colleges would love to host him. The potential is there, or rather was there. My question is, what’s going to happen now? Is I-I headed for a dead end? My gut tells me more creative, open engagements will pop up eventually. It’ll happen naturally, not in an overtly insulated, over-engineered way.

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