Imagining the Tipping Point: How will Integral memes show up in popular culture?

This topic invites serious comments as well (of course, always), but in the name of good clean Integral humor, here are a few of my fun fantasies:

There will still be marches and protests; signs will read “Wake Up! Grow Up! Clean Up! Show Up!”

A particular cola company will replace those personalized bottle labels like “Emily” or “Joshua” with a simple “I-I”

The picture of Ken Wilber on the book “A Brief History of Everything” will be hung in art museums next to Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s tomato soup can.

Groups engaged in identify politics will wear t-shirts reading “Already whole, always a part.”

Walls sporting graffiti will have a lot of vertical spiral doodles, accompanied by the phrase “What’s your kosmic address?” (A cryptic scrawling inviting interest, sort of like “Who is John Galt?” during the Ayn Rand craze.)


What about people marking social media with hashtags that indicate things like fallacies, stages, and types that the post or comment seems to be an expression of?

Things like:

#integral_red #integral_sick_boy #integral_pre_post_fallacy

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It’s really hard to say, because with every previous example of collective tipping points to higher stages, it was largely the products of that next stage that began to saturate culture, not the theoretical underpinnings of the stage. In other words, it’s the surface structures that gain influence, which in turn carve a channel for the deep structures to take root.

It was things like civil rights and The Beatles and Woodstock that made Green as influential as it was in the 1960s, much moreso than things like deconstructionism or pluralism or any of the other philosophical or structural elements of the stage. The rallying call wasn’t “go postmodernism!” as much as it was “all you need is love!”

So my sense is that, as integral continues to mature, the scaffolding of integral theory will likely become increasingly transparent, which will allow new and powerful expressions from the integral stage to come to the forefront and begin to permeate our culture.

But then again, who knows – integral appears to be the first stage that actually understands that it is a stage, so maybe that will have a somewhat different effect upon its unfolding, and it’s hard to predict what will be selected for by culture at large. But whatever and however it gets selected, there is a good chance that it won’t require digesting 600-page books in order to understand the message :slight_smile:


My personal hope and prediction: the bottom-up upwelling of integral thinkers and practitioners is eventually met with a series of sustainable and effective top-down solutions coming from various elite industry leaders. Like, for example, if Google decided to incorporate Integral Semiotics into their search algorithms. A single move like that would dramatically expand the influence of integral visions and values, without anyone ever really knowing that the technology behind the scenes was running off an integral operating system.


I think the idea of “healthy hierarchy” is especially powerful. One related concept is that “emulation is power” - meaning that if A can emulate B but B can not emulate A, then A seems to be of a higher power. Especially if A can emulate B at will. This seems to relate to our media culture that is constantly creating emulations of different ways of being in the world and allowing us to experience them in some way. This could build empathy (i.e. “Agape”) for people at different stages and coming from different contexts, or it could encourage disdain… It would be great to see a cultural moment where we have emulation with lots of agape.

Maybe the idea of a cultural conveyor belt could be developed along the lines of Wilber’s ideas about a religious conveyor belt - where creatives choose voluntarily to focus on effecting a particular stage transition in their audience. The creative could focus on different stage transitions with different works or at different parts of their career. It would be nice if at the culmination of such a cultural conveyor belt participants become co-creators themselves, who are able to emulate different stages and help others to make transitions.


It would be nice to see a time when there wasn’t as much touchiness and freewheeling-ness on social media as there is now so that such overt indications as you’re suggesting could be tolerated and effective. I personally don’t see that on any immediate horizon. One of the criticisms/dislikes of Integral has been what people interpret as the categorization of people (into stages, for instance). That’s one of the real challenges, I think, of bringing the deep structures of Integral forward. I’m reminded of a Carl Jung quote: “Truth, like nature, can be ruthless.” And so it is, and yet each stage in order to come online has of necessity had to thrust its (partial) truth ruthlessly upon the world one way or another.


You homed right in on the essential issue relevant to this topic, surface structures and deep structures. Reflecting on your reply after reading it a couple of times, I had one of those supreme meditative felt-sense moments in which I experienced Wholeness, including the wholeness of the Integral model. That was quickly followed by a passing brief poignant sorrow–a sense that here is this beautiful Reality frame, intellectually coherent, all wrapped up and tied with a bow, just waiting for a teetering world’s readiness to receive it.

I considered my essential freedom: I have the choice of planting some Integral memic products in the world right now, but the deeper awareness was no, have to keep doing the work on self and sharing to the extent that I personally can some of my knowledge of the deep structures. (Which isn’t to say that I’ve totally dismissed the idea of buying a can of spray paint and keeping an eye out for a vacant wall…)

Your clarity is always so welcome.

And as to your idea re: Integral Semiotics as Google algorithm, this sounds interesting and also a bit on the occult-ish side, in the general sense of that word, hidden/unseen. (I recently read briefly at Gary Lachman’s website; know of him? Historian, cultural critic (and founding member of “Blondie”) who writes on politics and the occult. I think that’s why I thought of the occult when I read your words “without anyone really knowing…”)


It’s a good question.

I think it will be impossible so long as conservative and centrist viewpoints are verboten in the mainstream media, universities, left-wing politics, etc.

The intolerance in universities should be pretty well known by now, but I will give you a quotation from a professor named Jason Hill that I heard recently:

“If you are in the university and you are espousing capitalism, the free-market enterprise system, individualism, self-reliance – anything that smacks of conservativism – you are shouted down. So I think we need real intellectual diversity in the humanities and in the social sciences. I think the complete coercive monopoly of the left-wing that has taken root in the classrooms in our academies have got to be challenged.”

He hasn’t even mentioned the truly controversial issues, like the upper-right quadrant or cultural development or the three strands of good knowledge, which can get people smeared, fired, etc.

The culture right now excludes at least half of the integral model on given issues, with severe social penalties for those who break those taboos, so the first order of business is lifting those taboos.

That doesn’t mean we have to turn back the clock to the time when people felt free to utter racial and sexual epithets; it just means people will need to be free to offer whatever perspectives they feel are necessary to further the greatest depth for the greatest span without fear of retribution.

So in a sense we are getting ahead of ourselves, perhaps, in talking about integral culture. Since the dominant culture in the mainstream media and universities is a mythic-rational authoritarianism, the leading edge is still the Western Enlightenment or Orange.

If we can accomplish a reasonable degree of freedom of expression as a cultural norm – preferably with the requisite amount of Green sensitivity – we might be able to produce integral artifacts on some scale.

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Great points as usual @David_Marshall. Of course, I tend to place much of the blame for the lack of integration of conservative ideas on the conservatives themselves, their overall lack of intellectually-grounded ideas, and their ongoing campaign to convince a large cross section of Americans that liberals are the spawn of the devil himself. As I see it, the GOP of today is not my grandpa’s GOP — it has largely been hijacked by a dangerous breed of anti-intellectualism and conspiracy theory that causes a plurality of the right to immediately distrust any and all forms of “expertise” that are not explicitly sanctioned by the right wing partisan media universe.

This is one of the reasons the rise of the IDW has been so exciting for me, even if I disagree with many of the ideas that come out of that camp. It’s the return of conservative intellectualism, the likes of which we have not really seen since William Buckley Jr. — an intellectual grounding I did not think would return to the GOP until AFTER Trump, but is instead beginning to surface in spite of Trump. I am personally much more inclined to agree, disagree, and enfold with this batch of conservative thinkers, as opposed to weak-minded opportunist hacks like Jim Jordan, Devin Nunes, Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, Tucker Carlson, etc., all of whom are unfortunately exerting far more influence upon the average conservative voter than anyone coming out of IDW.

I absolutely agree that culture has swung largely to the left, and I also agree with all of the criticisms that have been surfaced in regard to the many limitations and even pathologies of the left — some of which spring from green, but most of which come from an amber enactment of green values. However, I can also see very clearly that, in terms of our policies and overall governance, the U.S. has been swinging pretty strongly to the right over the last several decades, to the point where a mainstream Democrat today is standing on pretty much the same political platform that Eisenhower did, and then called a radical for it. It’s also worth noting that, while the left certainly has its fair share of crazies, those crazies are usually pretty well marginalized in the political process itself, and the loudest extremists typically fail to be nominated by their party. The crazies on the right, however, have been finding much more success finding their way into office. Which is one of the things that tells me that the excesses of the right are, at this point in time, far more dangerous than the excesses of the left, because the “alt-left” (whatever that is) is not finding nearly the same level of political traction as the alt-right.

This disconnect — a LL culture that is being pulled to the left, and a LR political body that is being pulled to the right — is certainly one of the major fault lines that has been opening beneath our feet over the last few decades, and which finally swallowed us all in 2016.

Which is why, whenever we have these sorts of conversations and strive for more “alt-center” perspectives, we need to keep our eye both on the political pendulum as it presents itself today, while also tracking how the ground has been shifting beneath that pendulum. Genuine efforts at radical centrism require a very keen understanding of how our politics have been changing over the last 20 years or so, or else we can fall into the trap of trying to balance x with y, while the value of x keeps changing alongside the Overton window. Otherwise that “centrism” gets yanked to and fro whenever a new voice of extremism finds its megaphone on the internet.

I personally continue to believe that, as long as we maintain “first past the post” voting systems, and are therefore necessarily locked into a two party system, the GOP will likely be the first major party to “go integral” — but not until the current GOP is fully delegitimized, smashed to pieces, and forced by changing demographics into new strategies of coalition-building that are not bound by ethnocentrism, and that require genuine skillful means messaging that can communicate across multiple values.

(A good litmus test to tell us when this process has actually begun — when the GOP begins to broaden their platform in order to appeal to hispanic Americans, whose cultural tendencies toward hard work, family values, and high religiosity makes them natural allies for world-centric conservatives.)

But that is not today’s GOP. No, today’s GOP is actively trying to stop an investigation into one of the most significant foreign attacks in U.S. history — an attack that was designed to threaten our faith in democracy itself — by dismantling public trust in our central law enforcement institutions. Which is about as un-conservative and un-patriotic (and particularly un-nationalistic) as I can imagine. The same party that is also bending over backwards to justify removing vulnerable children from their families, with no systems or even plans being created to reunite them. It’s state-sanctioned child abuse, and any ideology that can support this deserves to be burned to the ground and thrown into the dumpster bin of history.

So, as I enact the world, integral should be playing two different roles here — criticizing and fixing the left however and wherever we can, while simultaneously destroying and delegitimizing the current brand of the GOP so that it can re-emerge from its own ashes as an actual world centric source of conservative intellectualism.

I am starting to think this should be a separate thread, but I will keep it here since I did include some thoughts about how integral might find political expression in the future through the GOP. But that is still pretty far off on the horizon, I think :slight_smile:


I think those are good points, Corey.

LaWanna said, “This topic invites serious comments as well,” so my first response was whether our culture would even allow integral memes, yet alone embrace them.

I agree with you about the GOP. It is disappointing in many ways. I had in mind conservative, centrist, and center-left professors at Heterodox Academy and conservative/centrist think-tanks like the Hoover Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, the Manhattan Institute, the Niskanen Center, the Reason Foundation, FIRE, etc.

I am generally focusing more on the education systems and the ideological substratum of our politics, as I think they are among the most important long-term issues.

I think if we can deal with those ideological issues there will be more room in the center for both parties and integral. Extremism tends to beget extremism, it seems to me.

That’s where integral can come in – only you’re not allowed to speak integral language yet in the mainstream media, only the Amber Left language.

I see the system being pulled in both directions, depending on the issue and level of government.

Some cities and states are being pulled far to the Left, others to the Right. On some issues the federal government has moved to the Left, on others to the Right.

On economic issues the trend has been to the Right federally, to the Left in many states and cities.

On identity issues it has been pulled to the Left pretty much everywhere, to the point even many conservatives are tentative about standing up for civil liberties and debates about public policy aren’t even possible in most places.

Yet it is usually Republicans who are standing up for civil liberties, so I don’t see our job as destroying them across the board – on some issues perhaps or part way, on others not so much.

If we are interested in civil liberties, the Democratic Party have not been our friends in recent years, so on those issues they stand in the way of improvement.

I focus on civil liberties because they are fundamental to pretty much everything else – without open debate we won’t be able to form functional public policy, particularly in such a way that will be widely accepted.

In any case, here is an integral meme for you. Sorry about the color. It was the only one available!



And here again I totally agree with you. I can even back this assertion with behind-the-scenes business and marketing analytics, as I notice that we have a much more difficult time making integral ideas relevant to Millennials, and Gen Z. I think this is due to several different factors:

  • The fact that older generations are much more receptive to the sort of “grand narratives” that Integral offers, but younger generations are more inherently distrustful of such “views from 50,000 feet”, and this bears itself out in our own various campaigns and promotions. It’s almost like our technology allows our total informational resolution to increase dramatically — but the higher the resolution, the easier it is to get lost in the details without ever noticing the big picture.

  • The fact that Millennials and Gen Z are still going through the “wake up, grow up” process, and we have not yet seen large cohorts from those generations who are mature/realized enough find integral ideas appealing.

  • The fact that much of Ken Wilber’s work is drawing upon the shared “blue marble” idioms and reference points of the Boomer generation, which Doug Rushkoff calls the “television generation”, and organizations like Integral Life have not yet figured out how to move from macro-level “grand narratives” to the sort of micro-level enactments that are expected by younger generations who grew up in the internet age. (Interestingly, own generation, the “Xennial” or “Oregon Trail” generation — or what I prefer to call the “video game generation” — is finding itself sort of drawn-and-quartered between these two very different views, and may be uniquely situated to help the integral project turn this particular corner.)

I hope to ask Ken a question about this exact dilemma in next month’s episode of The Ken Wilber show. Generation theory is such a useful collective typology, as these exact same altitudes often find some very different forms of expression from generation to generation.



Agreed. I find it so hard to listen/look at #45 and cronies that I sometimes have to tell myself I’m entering the theater of the absurd in order to take in any “news.” However, I do wonder about some of the Integral attempts to “criticize and fix” the left, or post-moderns in general. Do your analytics tell you if or how this is having an effect? It sometimes seems very heavy-handed and repetitious, and it makes me wonder who is the intended audience? The academic post-moderns? The Integral community so that we’re educated/informed? The left in general?

I’ve often thought that in terms of encouraging a post-modern jump to 2nd tier, a softer approach, or a different approach in general, might be more useful. There is of course some on-going pointing-out of the praise-worthy values of this stage, but on point, it seems there is less of that than the negative critique, which does sometimes sound pretty harsh. I have nothing against harshness, or ruthless truth, if it’s working, and that’s why I ask.

And now I’ll give you a reason to dismiss everything I’ve said because I’m going to go a bit loony on you and visit the dark side of the moon in terms of typology. Actually I offer it as a source of hope :slightly_smiling_face: if one gets desperate. I have a friend who is a Vedic astrologer who fills me in on possibilities and predictions re: #45, based on his chart and progressions. And he said at the beginning of this year that June through September of this year will be severe challenges to #45 with him leaving office before the 2020 election, specifically between June 2019 and April 2020 (lots of afflictions in his chart then). Via impeachment or resignation or criminal indictment or health concerns is not clear, as all show up as possibilities. I take the “wait and see” approach, but certainly these summer months are thus far panning out as pretty severe challenges. But I also think, should the leaving-office circumstances come to pass, “Pence, oh no!”

I hope the right blockquote shows up here; I may have jumbled it.

The really important question is: brims in the front, or brims in the back?
Loved the hat! I always appreciate the wit of a good cooptation.

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Well no, the quote didn’t show. I was referencing the next to last paragraph in your political analysis.

Absolutely! As much as we can lament the intellectual shortcomings of our time, we must also acknowledge them as intellectual voids to fill!

Excellent views,
The amber enactment of green values is a concern and I think Robb Smith and Mark Forman brought up the dangers of the (particularly young) orange enactment of the talking points of the IDW. I think there’s more of a destructive habit at work directly enacted by a portion of green that asserts itself as the representative and protector of the marginalized, with the highest of good intentions, but in practice the protectionism turns into enabling, ignoring and making excuses for unsustainable attitudes and behavior from red.

The same thing happens in toxic relationships between a codependant and a narcissist (romantic, familial, social, etc.) In this case it’s happening in the big picture as green being the codependant- enabling, rationalizing and reorienting blame for the unhealthy behavior of red, the narcissist.

Being accountable for one’s actions represents an act of evolution and a gateway out of red, but green feels emotionally responsible to defend and portray red as the victim (with a wide source of legit examples to support their point) and to showcase exterior causes to explain red’s behavior and shift blame to amber and orange.

Red already has a worldview that doesn’t see fault in self (other than weakness to stand up for oneself), so this habit of green plays right into and exacerbates and strengthens this unhealthy expression of red. Green’s good intentions are hurting the ones they are trying to help and blocking their pathway of development by making it comfortable for these lower expressions without challenging them with interior expectations of accountability, responsibility, etc…

If someone points out some of these horrifying real-world figures, like how a 6.5% segment of the population is responsible for over 40% of homicides, or that the #1 cause of death for black males 15-34 is murder by another black male, the natural defensive and codependant tactic of Green is to attack whoever brings up points like these, or to bring attention to external factors, disprivilidged environment and such that are very real and valid points, but it doesn’t address the interior domain that seems to be crucial at this stage of development.

It’s true that the political machine has moved right, but there is a stifling politically correct environment well established in culture and at many institutions where it’s effectively blasphemy to bring up these types of points, as evidenced by many demonstrations against those who state them. This constrictive environment, I believe, can push many conservatives who don’t think they have a voice in this pc cultural era (The View) to become emotional and to vote for a cartoonized figure who “won’t be bullied by the left”, and cast their vote for a ridiculous caricature, just to scratch an emotional itch and gain satisfaction against those who’s been grinding at their nerves.

I voted for Hillary and tried to convince others how dangerous a Trump presidency could be, but I didn’t vote out of excitement for a candidate and I was dissatisfied with all of the candidates, including the primaries. The Republicans always seem painfully outdated and the Democrats tend to be highly focused on a specific spectrum of their political beliefs. An integral candidate of any type is unavoidably going to be dependant on and have to “wait for” integral voters, unless he or she plays chameleon.


Well, they don’t yet have a lot of stuff to “clean up” but they are definitively “showing up.” Showing up massively in the workforce, where they bring their anti-“command-and-control” sensibility, thus changing the workplace in subtle ways…

Corey, the “tipping point” and the ways of getting there has been a focus of my attention in most of my adult life, although in a context different from the “deep structures” that you mentioned if the latter refers to the philosophical or structural elements of a stage of consciousness.

As Albert Klamt mentioned in his comment on Integral for the Masses… on the Gulf Between Theory and Practice, “The Holy Grail for organizational, institutional and personal transformation and evolution isn’t found yet. No matter how far Theory of Everything has proceeded in heads and hearts of change agents and initiatives of all kind, it’s an odyssey with many approaches and starting points, many expeditions to the tipping point and many surprises…to come…”

I wrote about my search for the tipping point in my article published in the Enlivening Edge magazine. Even if you guys don’t have time to read the article, the magazine’s mission prolly gives a clue about my orientation regarding the tipping point:

“Boosting the emergent collective intelligence, consciousness, and impact of the ecosystem of next-stage organizations and initiatives, until they become the new mainstream of organizing work."

The phrase “next-stage” refers to the subtitle of Frederic Laloux’s, Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness. As Ken noted in his Foreword, “Laloux’s book speaks from an Integral perspective and is grounded in a sophisticated understanding of evolutionary and developmental theory and what in Integral theory is called AQAL (all quadrants, all levels).”

In the four years since the book was published there has been a dynamic movement of Teal-inspired practitioners and organizations growing up around it. It seems to me that their chance to become the new mainstream is not dependent on “how will Integral memes show up in popular culture.”

I’m curious about your insights on the relatiosnhsip between the two kinds of tipping point.


It would be intriguing to see a list of the sociological and psychological statistics that send green into red attack mode. Im young enough to remember when Bill Cosby back in the day advocated for local black responsibility and that was applauded by many conservatives and crushed by the left.

“man is half animal, half spiritual, if he cannot create like a god, he can destroy like a god.” - paraphrase Erich Fromm

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I think those are really interesting and important points, Corey, and you seem to be in an almost unique position to understand them. I will offer a few responses.

  • Robert Kegan has said that it’s rare for people to understand integral or fifth-order perspectives before their forties, so that would put the integral movement in an interesting position in terms of communicating with people at younger ages – a real test for skillful means.

  • I have often wondered whether a recontextualization of the integral model to reflect the interests and proclivities of young people, particularly postmoderns, might be helpful. What I have in mind is the same AQAL features presented in a different order and with different emphases.

Basically, I would be interested to see how it would work to present each item in terms of level of controversy, starting with the least controversial and moving up to the most controversial.

So you might start with types, move on to lines, then states, then quadrants, then levels. You might poll young people just to see what they readily embrace and what they resist and begin with what they are most likely to accept.

That way if they balk at, say, levels they still have accepted much of the model. Levels could also be presented in such a way as to avoid the pitfalls of relativism rather than to stratify society or encourage elitism.

Often levels have been emphasized – to the point where people sometimes discuss levels but not types – and this might create resistance and obscure a full application of the model at the same time.

  • I would be interested to see what their concerns are, though of course that will vary a lot from type to type. But Ken once remarked that Xers responded to postmodernism with apathy, while Millennials just want to succeed in it, so the model probably could be fashioned in such a way to help them succeed in that culture rather than tip that culture on its head, which the Leftist types wouldn’t be ready for until their forties anyway.

  • That said, I think the radical Left – which is usually Amber or Mythic-Rational and rarely Green – is a grave threat to both Orange and Green, so the integral model might be used to encourage a kind of moderation or middle way or centrism, and I think that is possible at younger ages and lower levels.

For example, I remember in economics classes being given an appreciation for market perspectives on one hand and a skepticism of supply-side economics on the other, which left me in the middle – not an integral view but a centrist view, and something like that might be a reasonable goal for integral with young people, one that would set them up well for integral thinking latter on.

  • Finally, if they object to big pictures or meta-narratives because they have been told that postmodernism disproved such ideas, it would seem important to show them that postmodernism is itself a meta-narrative or big picture just to dispel that myth. It sounds like that might be a priority given what you have said.

I do have more ideas, but I said “finally” on my last bullet point, so I think I will have to stop! I would love to hear Ken’s response on your generation-theory questions. It would be interesting to see how his ideas have evolved on that subject given recent developments.