Integral Ethnocentrism - Why is everyone white, male, American?

Interesting discussions here on Integral Life. In a recent dialog (linked here), it became apparent that the term “Ethnocentric” is used dynamically across a multi-definitional surface can create significant room for communication error.

Term in question is “ethnocentric”. Starting with common English language, the definition is fairly straight forward :

ethnocentric (Cambridge dictionary definition linked here):

  • believing that the people, customs, and traditions of your own race or nationality are better than those of other races
  • preferring a particular race or culture to all others

Essentially this common definition equates to “racism”.

Now let’s take a look at the Integral Life definition (linked here):

Amber Altitude (Ethnocentric, Mythic)

The amber altitude began about 5,000 years ago, and indicates a worldview that is traditionalist and mythic in nature—and mythic worldviews are almost always held as absolute (this stage of development is often called absolutistic). Instead of “might makes right,” amber ethics are more oriented to the group, but one that extends only to “my” group. Grade school and high school kids usually exhibit amber motivations to “fit in.” Amber ethics help to control the impulsiveness and narcissism of red. Culturally, amber worldviews can be seen in fundamentalism (my God is right no matter what); extreme patriotism (my country is right no matter what); and ethnocentrism (my people are right no matter what).

Synonyms: mythic

From this definition of Amber Altitude I would recommend updating the Synonyms list for Amber to include it’s more common Integral uses as well: mythic, ethnocentric, racist, nationalist

Why does the definition matter? Instead of seeing shifts in meaning situationally, we can much more cleanly hold discussions if everyone is using a common language. As an example multiple discussions around Christianity have tried to enforce the ethnocentric and Mythic-Literal roots with seemingly little view into the reality of today.

When we contrast the reality today of Christianity and the Integral Community, just as two examples, should we look at millennia old assessments or actual populations today?
By fixating on Christianity as having been founded in an age of Mythic-Literal development of humanity, should we not consider where Christianity is today? Is Christianity in fact racist, nationalistic, and mythic-literal in the reality of the present?

Likewise, if we consider Integralism as being founded out of Post Modernism, is the present day reality of Integralism devoid of ethnocentrism, racism, nationalism, and mythic-literalism?
If we do a quick survey of those professing to Integralists, is the population not a vast majority of white males Americans with the second largest population being white European males? Even the 3rd largest demographic group would appear to be white female Americans?
Outside of these 3 demographic groups, all of which are white, the occasional person of color is essentially a Unicorn.

While we see Integralism so freely critique Christianity as “Amber”, “Mythic-Literal”, “Ethnocentric” based apparently on the origins of the religion 2000 years ago, should not Integralism introspect on the vast “whiteness”, “maleness”, “American-ness” of the movement in order to develop?

What is holding back Integralism from becoming a movement for brown peoples, non-Western peoples, non-male peoples?

Ethno - race
Centric - center, most important, primary

Question - Is your race the most important thing in your life and the primary lens through which you see the world and base most decisions?

If you do, you are ethnocentric while if you do not then you are not.
According to integral theory, this is an Amber world view.
Mythic is also a world view shared in amber, but ethnocentrism and mythic are not synonyms.
Racism I would say is Ethnocentrism put into action that harms. So if I were German and loved everything German and thought German people are the smartest and most well organized people on the planet, that is ethnocentrism, but not racist. There are many countries and nationalities that do this. Korea and Japan from my personal experience. It’s common among Europeans as well. I always liked the accuracy of the word “chauvinism” in describing Europeans. The don’t care if you are black brown or any other color, but when you go to Europe they expect you to do things the way they do them. In England you are expected to queue properly. Queueing is a great British tradition and British believe they are the best at queueing in the world. That isn’t racism, but it does have an element of “British is Best” - which is ethnocentrism.
If someone takes this an extra step, then we start to approach racism. It’s not that ethnocentrism is racist, but that if you turn the ethnocentrism dial to max, it will increasingly become more racist.

People and communities do not have to be all at one level in all aspects of their lives. A Christian or Muslim can believe in the literal mythic, but at the same time believe all people are children of God and equal. It’s when we combine the literal interpretation of the Bible and Koran with Nationalism or ethnocentrism that we get things like the Arab Israeli conflict, religious wars, crusades, terrorists, and all the rest.

I think you have to make the case that this is true.
Starting with non-male peoples - What data do you have that Integralism is not a movement for women, for example (the largest non-male demographic). I see lots of women.
Similarly, I’m curious how you come to the conclusion that Integral is not for non-western people, or non-white people?

I think as usual, in attempting to “flip the script”, you’ve come to conclusions that are pretty random and not based in reality.
The source of this for you, I believe is your continued attempt to push a false narrative that Integral is somehow just another postmodern philosophy.

And … If we don’t follow this false narrative, then the your conclusions don’t make sense, lol.
If we consider YOU, @FermentedAgave, as being founded out of reaction to Postmodernism and that you see everything through that lens … then we see that you are understandably confused.

You are trying to evaluate Integral only through Postmodernism, and trying to flip the postmodern script (which, yes, is easy to do). But the fact is that Integral is NOT postmodern, so your points just fall apart.

A few facts to make sure we are getting our story straight.

  • The majority of our regular audience is female, according to our analytics. It’s close, but skews somewhere around 55/45. This is a big shift from the first 5-10 years of the company, when our demographics skewed toward men by about 70/30. So I see this as a very welcome evolution.

  • Our audience spans six out of seven continents on this planet. Don’t worry Antarctica, we’ll be coming for you soon.

  • That said, our audience is indeed primarily English-speaking, because the resources we make available are primarily in English, which is going to make it more accessible to certain individuals/cultures around the world than others. (Though we are opening chapters in Latin America that can hopefully help with this language barrier.)

  • And yes, the majority of our audience is American, not only for the reasons above, but also because Ken himself is an American philosopher, and the publishing/influence-generating systems that disseminate his work are largely targeting American audiences. That said, Ken is also one of the most widely translated philosophers in modern history, so he is also able to generate influence in other regions, but that influence typically does not get fancy things like “marketing campaigns” to expand that influence further.

  • Is the integral audience predominantly white? Yes, sure is. Which is absolutely not to discount our non-white audience, of course. Now we can ask the more interesting question — why is that? Ken has talked about this before, the socioeconomic pressures and conditions that allow or prevent certain groups from developing more of their potential. In other words, you are only going to be able to grow into the higher rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy after the lower rungs have been satisfied/fulfilled. And while not all unequal outcomes point to unequal opportunities, this is likely the sort of outcome that should make us pause and consider whether or not all people truly have “equal opportunity” to grow into their fullest potential, and if not, what that might say about the cultures that integral is emerging within. We know there are two primary factors that restrict our personal autonomy (i.e. opportunities) — development, and socioeconomic factors. So if there are certain groups who, for whatever reasons, find it more difficult than others to make it into “middle class” with the comforts and disposable time/income that come with it, they will be less likely to grow into integral stages.

  • That said, ethnocentric does not mean “happens to be mostly white”. My close family is white, that doesn’t make us ethnocentric. Hockey teams are predominantly white, for all sorts of interesting reasons we can unpack together — many of those reasons being the inertia from previous ethnocentric periods — but that doesn’t mean all hockey teams are therefore ethnocentric.

  • We can also find healthy ethnocentric structures and impulses within ourselves, no matter how much we’ve transcended that stage in our own development. In times of crisis, I’m going to save my family first. Is that “ethnocentric”? Maybe. Hell, I’d argue it’s downright magenta-tribal. I get happy when the Colorado Rockies have a good season, because they are representing my home turf. I have a patriotic love for my country. I might even support the occasional exclusionary social structure, such as a men’s group. These are all examples of healthy ethnocentrism, properly integrated into a deeper/wider morality and identity that come online at orange, green, teal, turquoise, etc.

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Great response, Corey.
The actual factual data about women is especially interesting. I’m finding that in many “Teal” aspiring waking up, and growing up groups, women outnumber men by 3 to 1. Only in my shadow work cleaning up groups do I prefer only men. I’m curious about co-ed, but find certain shadows seem easier to bring to light and clean up in an all male group.

One thing I’m interested in is redefining family and community, particularly in the age of the internet. I see my family as those who I choose to nurture that relationship with. I don’t really see the point of fandom to a sports team. I remember about 30 years enjoying sports competitions but now I find them just strange, like I’m observing primitive rituals, lol.
I only see myself as loyal to the United States insofar as the United states deserves that loyalty, for example. A case in point was the invasion of Iraq which I fully opposed and resigned my commission (honorably discharged) and contributed instead to another country for about a decade.
I feel it’s healthy for me to not just “automatically” give my loyalty to any family, community or nation “just because”, and to question my membership in all groups at all levels of society.

These are very good points Ray, which I think are lost on many when they start strawmaning “those people”.

As my mind wandering during my Mythic-Literal Ethnocentric gathering on Sunday I was struck that the black Pastor was speaking with a congregation just about as proportionally representative of Arizona as you could get down.

Then I thought of all the discussions on Integral Life about Christians “stuck in a world time has forgotten” - Amber, ethnocentric, mythic literal - and wondered “How many brown people are Integralists?”

As my mind continued to wander, I started trying to find ANYONE of color that’s into Integral Theory. Maybe I’m missing someone, but I couldn’t think of a single Integral Elite of color, and only 1 or 2 women.

So whilst the Integralists talk a good game, they might be one of the most ethnocentric groups in the United States based on percentages. Just something to ponder.

You’re personally very harsh with all of “those people”, with very pointed “fixes”.

Are you actively taking steps to correct this Integral Cultural and Structural Racism?

You do realize we have FAR more content on this site encouraging Christian spiritual practice than we do criticizing the tradition, right? Just last week I published a piece where we talked explicitly about prayer as a primary spiritual practice, and a celebration of the teachings of Jesus Christ. I was even very revealing about the role prayer has played in my own life and healing.

As my mind continued to wander, I started trying to find ANYONE of color that’s into Integral Theory. Maybe I’m missing someone, but I couldn’t think of a single Integral Elite of color, and only 1 or 2 women.

I guess you didn’t allow it to wander very far, because we also have a ton of content with people of color, and especially with women. Hell, one of our primary and most popular Practice leaders is a woman from Sri Lanka. But I’m guessing it’s easier to make your point here by ignoring everything I said above about the idea of “developmental privilege” :slight_smile:

So whilst the Integralists talk a good game, they might be one of the most ethnocentric groups in the United States based on percentages. Just something to ponder.

No, it’s really not worth pondering at all, because you are twisting the definition of “ethnocentric” and the vast majority of people who engage with this community do not have an ethnocentric center of gravity, or think in ethnocentric ways. These are developmental stages, not demographic statistics. I think you are trying to use woke logic against integral ideas, but it doesn’t work, because integral is inherently post-woke :wink:

To say “integral is one of the most ethnocentric groups in the US” has got to be one of the most tortured arguments you can possibly try to make. And it’s clearly coming from an inadequate understanding of the term, as well as an inaccurate perception of our audience, as I’ve already corrected your belief that there are no women here.

I’m harsh when it comes to placing ethnocentric thinkers in positions of power that deal with worldcentric concerns. So is Ken :wink:

“At any point in history, the political ideal is to let each stage be itself, and govern from the highest reasonably available at any given time.” —Ken Wilber

Just to further underline the point, amber doesn’t ONLY consolidate around ethnicity, but rather defines its “us vs. them” around any number of shared characteristics — especially if there is a “code” at the center of the group that reinforces cohesion and conformity within the group. That “code” can be anything from the Bible, to the U.S. Constitution, to political belief systems, to military chains of command, etc. Perceived adherence to the code determines your social standing within the amber group. “We believe this, while they believe that, therefore we are superior” is a central fault line at the amber stage.

I remember about 30 years enjoying sports competitions but now I find them just strange, like I’m observing primitive rituals, lol.

Same, actually. I was never very interested in sports, and it’s no coincidence that my kinesthetic line is one of my most difficult to grow :slight_smile: I played football for a year in high school, but that was mostly to bridge my relationship with my dad. I do have a very romantic fondness for baseball, however, which is why I used that example :slight_smile:

I encourage you to check out the film clip examples I used for the Amber stage on this page, where I try to demonstrate healthy, unhealthy, and neutral examples of Amber. The video game clip is a lot of fun too.

Maybe try moving.
Hawaii is brown as hell

Thought I would share some paragraphs I wrote a few weeks back, which gets into how/why different typologies might show up differently in different aspects of the integral project.

Reminds me of the ongoing conversations I have with Ken about “equal opportunity vs. equal outcomes”. Ken is often critical of the “outcomes” argument, often framing it as a conflict between orange and green, and likes to point out that you generally cannot have both simultaneously. But I’ve begun to enact this a bit differently — not as opposites, but as a critical polarity between Zone 5 autonomy and Zone 7 social self-organization: we expect that truly equal opportunities in Zone 5 would result in essentially equal outcomes in Zone 7, but only after accounting for typology, proclivity, development, etc. Which to me means that…

a) Unequal opportunities tend to create unequal outcomes,

b) Unequal outcomes can then reinforce unequal opportunities,

c) Outcomes can therefore be a useful measure of just how equal our opportunities are,

c) But unequal outcomes does not necessarily mean that opportunities are also unequal, because of the whole typology/proclivity/development thing.

All of which is to say, considering that our own internal analytics suggest that our own Integral Life audience is pretty evenly split between men and women in terms of overall web traffic (about 55% women to 45% men, according to GA), I think we see different typologies engaging differently with different nodes within the larger integral project. The “talking head” podcasting space does seem to lean toward men, while our practice platform, for example, is skewed pretty significantly toward women (both in terms of who shows up to practice, as well as the practice leaders that attract the largest practice groups). Which makes a certain amount of sense, considering masculine and feminine typologies. I also notice that certain live shows tend to attract different kinds of audience — when I do a show with Dr. Keith, we tend to have more women then men joining the live call (granted, Dr. Keith is a hunk of sexy man meat).

So it’s interesting to me, just noticing the patterns of our own social self-organization, and who chooses to show up for certain activities within this space.

Especially interesting, considering 15 years ago our audience was probably more like 70% men to 30% women, so our outcomes (and opportunities) are feeling much more equal these days.strong text

All of which is to say, I think we do see unequal outcomes in the integral podcasting space, but that doesn’t mean there are unequal opportunities, just different types and levels of interest!

Excellent point!

Are you ok that almost all Integral Elite are white males?

I’m not trying to “do woke” on Integralism, but it is a bit unusual that you’ve referenced no Integral participation by any of our under represented minorities.

Do you think broadening the Integral Intelligensia to include a minority or three might add some richness to Integral?

If nothing else introspection into why such a bottleneck exists might yield some richness, yes?

“Are you ok that almost all Integral Elite are white males?”

Again, I think this is inaccurate. I suppose it depends on your definition of “elite”. Over half of our practice leaders are women, as are most of our practice attendees. One of my shows is co-hosted by a Jewish man (I guess Jews count as “white” these days?) The co-host before him was Diane Musho Hamilton, and we did a series of long-form shows that explored race and racism, and included a number of prominent black voices. We’ve even talked about this exact issue right here on these shows.

As for my concern, I am constantly trying to bring integral ideas to new audiences, and always hope to bring more representation to our offerings. Thankfully we’ve already shifted the male/female ratio — again, there are more females in our audience than males, and more females leading and participating in our weekly practice sessions.

“Do you think broadening the Integral Intelligensia to include a minority or three might add some richness to Integral?”

Sure, to a degree, which as I just explained, we already do :wink: But this is also largely a self-selecting space, which is going to be more appealing to some typologies more than others.

In fact, funny enough, one project I am actively thinking about is doing a new series with a good friend of mine, an integral Shambhala Buddhist practitioner and Black Panther member who is also a fellow hip hop dj. We are both madly in love with music, but come from very different backgrounds — and because “cultural exchange” is such an important Zone 3 intervention to get us out of ethnocentric thinking, I was thinking of doing a series that basically imitates the highly popular “reaction videos” we see on YouTube, where folks listen to music from way outside their usual musical idiom and share their appreciation. I bet we’d have a lot of fun with that format, while also exposing our audience to a wide variety of new musical influences.

“If nothing else introspection into why such a bottleneck exists might yield some richness, yes?”

Yes, exactly as I did above. Did you read the whole spiel about socioeconomics, middle class developmental privilege, and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs above? That’s the result of years of observation and introspection — including introspection into my own conditioned biases, blind spots, privileges, etc. and how that might influence my ongoing content production.

I think the whole confusion here is that @FermentedAgave is trying to appeal to unhealthy Green Postmodern meta in a “gotcha, you aren’t woke because your group is mostly white”

All the while not realizing that Integral isn’t a community that places Green Meta as the priority.

It’s not about the efforts, which I think noble in intent, but more about outcomes.
The visible participants would seemingly be White males, with Diane as about the only active top stature woman engaged in Integral.

I’m not saying you do anything to exclude anyone, it’s just that it ends up with majority of the Deep Integral thinkers being white males. And no :slight_smile: don’t think the odd Jew or Gay changes the underlying White male basis.

Just something to consider as the demographics for you community change over time.

And just perhaps Integral is a decidedly masculine ideology at the core. Tthe “benevolent observer” performing critical assessments on humanity might itself be decidedly masculine, decidedly Western/White.

Yes, and well considered. This is an interesting conundrum. If remembering past conversations, Integral Theory is essentially focused on implementing a cognitive trickle down. IT is really only focused on the top few % cognitively gifted in order to trickle down/out to rest of humanity the ideology. I would include a knowledge domain fanning out to this as well when IT focuses on those that self select to psychological, sociological, government administrative, legal activist, social activist domains. It would then fan out to various domains such as health care, political, perhaps communications/marketing domains.

In short not much focus, on bringing forward say a kid in a ghetto, but focusing on the social activist working to determine what’s best for the lower tiers.

You mention self observation and introspection. Are there review boards or procedures to enable these introspection? Or is it based upon personal inights and epiphanies?

Of course the marketplace assesses ideas and votes with adoption as a feedback loop.

Again, I think much of this comes down to the “equal opportunities vs. equal outcomes” comment I made above, where we are seeing how different typologies showing up differently for different facets of the integral project. Our two main ILP teachers, who do practices every single week with our community, are both women. In many ways, they are even more “prominent” than Diane, in terms of their visibility and frequency of contributions to the field. While the podcasting space does indeed tend to be dominated by males. Which makes a certain amount of sense to me, actually — women tend to be (but not always) more interested in 1st-person practice and 2nd-person relating, while the men tend to be more interested in 3rd-person ideas.

We also have a new show gearing up that will be hosted by Kelly Carlin, so yes, we are always looking for ways to diversify out talking heads. We’re not going to enforce a quota system or anything, but are constantly looking for new voices to add to the chorus.

That feels a bit narrow, in terms of describing our audience. The roles that you identify as our primary demographics are all exterior-facing, when in reality, the vast majority of our audience show up here for the interior-facing principles and practices (e.g. waking up, growing up, cleaning up, etc.), and THEN applying those insights and wisdoms to the exterior world. So it’s more of an inside-out evolution, than an outside-in revolution. Honestly, if we had more government administrators, social activists, etc. we would probably exert a lot more influence than we currently are :wink:

So our political conversations, for example, are not really the primary focus of the site (even though they seem to generate the most discussion, maybe because there is more room for disagreement). In a sense, discussions like those are secondary — what we are doing is taking folks who have done the work within their inner quadrants, and creating a space where they can use that inner-work to help the rest of us make better sense of the exterior worlds we find ourselves in. They represent various views from the integral stage, but not the rungs of the ladder that lead people to those views.

So really, I’d say that Integral Life has five primary and intersecting types of offering, all five of which factor into the sorts of views we share in these discussions:

  • Integral metatheory
  • Psychological health and wellbeing
  • Spiritual awakening
  • Sense-making
  • Community of practice

That said, many of our favorite integral scholars, professionals, and intellectual ambassadors have done a fantastic job of applying this material to just about every knowledge domain in existence, as seen in our weekly Journal of Integral Theory and Practice offerings. The basic idea here is, just like the Renaissance allowed all these fields of human inquiry to mature into their rational orange versions — alchemy to chemistry, astronomy to astrology, phrenology into psychology and neuroscience, etc. — the “integral renaissance” will do something very similar, revolutionizing these fields from the inside out, while also showing how all these fields “hang together” within the frame of integral methodological pluralism.

A simple way to think about it:

  • once upon a time all these fields were all fused together, with a single or very limited set of authorities (the Church, the King, etc.) governing all knowledge, and even forbidding certain kinds of knowledge.

  • Then modern orange and green stages allowed us to differentiate these fields from each other — we can talk about physics separately from psychology, separately from morality, separately from spirituality or mathematics or anthropology, etc. Each of these fields then uses rationality to illuminate some corner of the Kosmos, revealing something important about our inner and outer universe. So we get an entire school of science devoted to the elephant’s tail, another devoted to the elephant’s trunk, another to the elephant’s leg, etc., and then they fight among themselves around which body part is most fundamentally real.

  • And now the integral renaissance allows us to re-integrate these fields back into a cohesive and coherent whole that reflects our total understanding of life, the universe, and everything, so we can finally see the full elephant and understand that it is one single living organism. And in fact, this process of fusion -> differentiation -> integration can be seen at every level of evolution; this is just the most recent iteration of that ongoing evolutionary process.

I think you may overestimate the size of our organization :slight_smile:

We are basically 3 full time employees, and a small handful of part-timers, contractors, and volunteers, trying to hold all of this on our shoulders. I’m actually regularly astonished at how much good work such a small team is capable of doing together!

So some of our primary contributors include a Jewish man, a gay man, a lesbian woman, and a Sri Lankan woman, but we still don’t win any diversity points at all? Damn, now we’re never going to win the woke olympics.

Got any practicing Christians or maybe a Republican in the wood pile?

Robb Smith is our resident Republican. Though I believe his voting record is more independent in recent years.

I’m working on getting Rollie Stanich, my dear brother, former employee, and author of Integral Christianity The Way of Embodied Love, to possibly host his own Christian-focused program. I just featured him in our most recent episode of Inhabit, published last week:

You might also check out our regular Centering Prayer practice sessions, here:

For more Integral Christianity resources, here are some additional links for you:

If you’d like to read a short piece describing my own personal encounter with Jesus Christ, you can find that here:

Another short piece I wrote several years back: