Invasion Day viewed through the lens of Integral Theory


I would appreciate any thoughts corrections or suggestions regarding the below article I wrote. TIA.

So I’m not an expert on Integral Theory but have read enough to understand how it could be used to deconstruct Invasion Day sentiments and perhaps point to ways we can move forward.

For readers outside Australia, on 26 January each year is the anniversary of the landing of the Brittish “First Fleet” into Sydney Harbour in 1786. For modern Australians it marked the beginning of our nation, but for some indigenous Australians, and some mainstream Australians, it is now being labelled as the day their sovereign nation was invaded.

In recent years marches have been held on Australia Day to protest the celebration or call for the date to be changed. Recently there have been clashes between police and the marchers who, by and large, are well behaved.

So what is Integral Theory, and how can it help? Integral Theory has been recently attributed to the US philospher Ken Wilber who is a widely published author who first came to notice in 1996 with his book “Sex, Ecology and Spirituality”. It has also been described as the Theory of Everything on the basis that it can be used to explain in simple terms every thing that happens in the universe including messy human society with all its baggage.

Here are the main points about Integral Theory:

  • Human society is characterised by two developmental axes, namely cognitive development and, for want of a better descripter, consciousness development.
  • Cognitive development at a societal level has been described from low levels to high levels with descripters for each level. You may have heard of Red, Amber, Orange and Green Levels of cognitive development. Much of society is at Green at the moment, developing onwards to Teal, Turquoise and Indigo. I won’t go into detail of all these levels… you can look them up.
  • Consciousness development has also been broken down into several levels described as psychic, subtle, causal and non-dual.
  • Human cultures and institutions can also be charted on a 4 quadrant board. Top Left is the Internal “I” with the top right the “I” viewed from external. Bottom left is the Internal “We” and bottom right is the “We” viewed externally. This is a simple model but every institution has aspects of each quadrant to varying degrees. E.g. the political Right is somewhat “I” centric whereas the Left is more “We” centric.
  • All things contain some value. Integral Theory aims to extract the value from each level of development and throw out anything which is of no value or counterproductive. Therefore no past culture is disrespected or rejected, only those aspects which do not serve. Kind of like keeping the baby but disposing of the bathwater. The “Live and Let Live” thinking of green (think 60’s hippy culture) is being replaced by “Lets learn what is of value from those Others” of the Teal pluralism.

So how can we apply this philosophy as a lens to help us undertand the Invasion Day “Mexican Standoff”?

Here are three aspects to consider:

Firstly, we need to elevate our position to objectively view the opposing positions. We need to go bottom Right to the external view of the “We”. Be sure we put aside any notions of racism or ethnic superiority from either side. Respect one anothers’ cultures for the amazing values they contain. Respect the differences between cultures and the potential for different concepts of moral codes. Respect the various degrees of opportunities afforded to minority indigenous communities compared to mainstream society. Respect the history and development of both cultures and their succinct moral codes.

But we also need to go bottom left to the Internal “We”. Together we are Australian. My indigenous brothers and sisters help me to understand and navigate this land. Their abilities to live fulfilled lives in this harsh environment are due deep respect. Australia without a healthy aboriginal community is not Australia to me.

Secondly, western society is haemoraging over its impact on the planet and the impacts technology is having on its own society, to the point where more and more are seeking tree or sea change and yearning for a simpler life. Perhaps the indigenous community can teach us something about that and how to care for the land.

Westerners seem confused by the failure of institutionalised religion on many levels and yearn for connection and spirituality and all the time the indigenous community have been quietly content in their deep spirituality and connection to nature.

In some respects indigenous consciousness development runs rings around our generally european consciousness which has deliberately discouraged mindfulness and meditation but is now trying desperately to catch up. OK this is the woo woo part of Integral Theory that some won’t be comfortable with because it goes against our orange thinking of logic and economic values. Orange is the colour given to the industrial revolution when science told us that by applying logic we can advance our lives and become economically well off. Not to criticise science, because it has brought us many many wonderful labour and life saving advances and will continue to do so. However we are learning that economic success does not necessarily bring fulfilment.

Thirdly, our colonial past inherited from our brave Brittish naval adventurers was a period of our planets development that served across the globe for a time. It brought solutions for the colonisers, economic growth, agricultural development and opportunities for convicts to build lives in a new land. OK it brought some downsides too. The documented atrocities perpetrated by our colonial authorities cannot be understated or ignored. In hindsight globally, colonialism is now considered a poor model of human societal development. It is repeated in many parts of the world and continues to provide challenges for indigenous minorities. Unfortunately it is a reality this generation is left to resolve. We are still inexplicably tied to Britain but thats a discussion for another day.

However it can be argued that todays mainstream Australians are no longer colonisers and invaders and the Australia Day celebration is about the achievements of the nation as a whole and indigenous Australians are encouraged to take this into consideration. Mainstream Australia is sympathetic to issues affecting Indigenous Australians and are keen to manage those issues to address inequalities and lack of services and opportunities. A public apology has been made in response to the Stolen Generation matter and work continues on achieving “reconcilliation”. More could arguably be being done.

Perhaps Integral Theory can help elevate the conversation. Clearly there is a lot of misunderstanding and emotion between the cultures which hamper the dialogue and the path to solutions. Perhaps it can help us recognise the good in the individual we’s, the commonalities we share and the need to work towards a collective “We”. A “We” that we can all be proud of. That can be an example for other countries around the world.

The challenge for us is to lift ourselves above the “We” verses “Other” mentality. Re-evaluate what we really value. Integral Theory has the potential to help us navigate these conversations and many other dilemmas our modern society currently faces. It challenges us to evaluate our individual selves as well. It may even help us understand our own personal and work relationships by giving insights into others’ thinking.

P.Warren Sydney Australia.