I finally got around to listening to the podcast. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it stimulated a lot of thinking. Just a caveat, I did listen to it while I was delivering food on a bike so I apologize in advance if I misrepresent James or misremember something.
I think a big thing we need to remember is that going into the past to find the origin of something can be a bit of a double edged sword. On one hand, going to it’s origin can help us track it’s development and figure out what went wrong, when it went wrong, and what we need to focus on to fix the problem. However, it can also backfire because once we’ve located the origin we tend to assume that this origin always leads to the same conclusion, or that if we’ve arrived at the same conclusion it must have come from the same origin. With the Hegelian dialectic we shouldn’t assume it always ends up in Wokeism nor should we assume that all forms of Wokeism emerge from the Hegelian dialectic. Reality is far more complex than that.
Moving on from that, the first thing I want to point out is that I think James Lindsay’s understanding of mysticism and the perennial philosophy is different than Integral’s. At least as far as I understand the perennial philosophy is pointing to enlightenment experiences, that all religions are founded on the process of awakening to one’s True Self, that God realizing itself as God is the Universe realizing itself as the Universe is you realizing you are one with a Universe in a constant state of becoming. I’ve experienced something like this before and I can say that knowing about this and experiencing it firsthand are two very different things. I have experienced myself as the Universe and it is the strangest thing I have ever experienced, and yet I can’t even begin to experience it in the same way I did then.
So when Lindsay talks about mysticism he is conflating that experience of awakening with magical thinking, he is making a pre/trans fallacy confusing transrational experience with pre-rational mythic literalism (or lower). He is operating in the world of the relative, where all that exists are our rational understandings of the world. I think this is also true of the people he is criticizing. The idea of Woke Utopia, of the final society/philosophy or Critical Social Justice, is the conflation of transrational experience with some sort of idea or politics that is supposed to make the relative world perfect.
Funny enough, I believe that in “Sex, Ecology, Spirituality,” Wilber criticizes Hegelian idealism for lacking a specific injunction to realize in his direct experience the philosophy that his vision-logic had allowed him to create. He couldn’t bridge that gap between vision-logic and transrationality. That’s why the Hegelian system was ultimately refuted, because the truths it pointed to couldn’t be realized in absence of transrational experience.
This is also why this kind of thinking is so dangerous. These truths can’t be understood in language because language is ultimately rational and we’re talking about that which transcends rationality, “The Dao that can be told of is not the eternal Dao.” This points us to Freinacht’s criticism of spiritual communities that rely purely on internal transformation, on the unfalsifiable claim that you are more developed than I am and so are privy to truths I have yet to realize in my direct experience. Such experiences are real, but we can’t easily prove that one has had it. At least not with our current technology.
Point being, when we talk about the Woke idea of the Absolute Utopia they are not simply acting as if the Eternal Dao can be named. They are completely unaware that the Eternal Dao is not really an “idea” or a “politics,” but is instead an experience. They are talking about spiritual enlightenment as if it’s a political system. They are saying a subjective state is a political system, which is like saying happy is a republic. That makes no sense at all because again, neither Lindsay nor the Woke have a fucking clue what transrational/egoic/etc. even mean. That’s just woowoo spirituality to them that has no bearing on what they’re talking about, which is absolutely right: mysticism, the Absolute, the Dao, are not systems they are an experience that is ultimately ineffable.
Another thing is that they are talking about the dialectic as thesis plus antithesis equals higher order synthesis. This is a metasystematic (Model of Hierarchical Complexity) way of thinking to me because it’s about creating a higher order system out of two seemingly disparate systems. Metamodernism is all about Both/And thinking, about taking two things that seem like opposites at one level of cognition and realizing that they’re aren’t mutually exclusive when you view them from a higher level of cognition. We see the ways in which they can be coordinated and consolidated into that new metasystem. The issue here is that 2% of people are operating at metasystematic. That means that if dialectical thinking is metasystematic, then only 2% of people have the ability to use dialectical thinking.
In “Integral Psychology,” Wilber criticizes Postmodernism for having failed it’s original reconstructive purpose and devolving into a solely deconstructive enterprise. Thesis + Antithesis = Higher Synthesis simply became Antithesis, Negation is Positive. They could only operate at the level of systematic cognition. All they could do was deconstruct the system and then called that synthesis. Down with Capitalism, down with Patriarchy, down with Phallogocentricism, and yet now we have nowhere to go. This is why it seems like they’re just chasing their own tail in circles.
The bigger issue comes with the fact that systematic level cognition only appears in 20% of the population and 40% of the population is at formal operations (these numbers are coming from Hanzi Freinacht’s books, which are based on research with the Model of Hierarchical Complexity). That means that only 20% of people have the cognition to even think about Postmodern ideas, which according to Freinacht takes systematic, in the way they were intended. That means that the majority of people that Postmodernism and by extension Critical Theory is being taught to aren’t thinking with sufficient complexity to actually understand it.
At Systematic - there is a system of variables that tend to be White-biased which means that chains of events tend to lead to white people being privileged over black people.
At Formal-Operations - we live in a White-biased society, therefore all White people are privileged.
At Abstract - all white people are racist.
Perhaps an overly simplistic analysis, but that at least points us toward how this can get as messed up as it has.
The issue that I have with Lindsay is that he is operating with a Modernist Code, or Orange Code. The concept of “Code” is a Freinacht reinterpretation of Spiral Dynamics. Lindsay may be a very complex thinker, but the system of symbols he is using is primarily Stage Orange. That means he reacts against anything that isn’t Orange, but so does Postmodern Green. Both think they are at the top and everything else is just bullshit.
Integral/Metamodernism is different than both of these because they are at the next higher stage, and realize they are not the highest there is. They seek to find the best in all the previous Codes. Lindsay actually recommends this when he says to find the golden mote and prevent the fallacious alchemy of lead into gold. Again though, he is not using Integral/Metamodern/Teal Code. He is using Orange Code and so his thinking is defined by that system of symbols.
Now coming to your worries about Integral being overly influenced by Wokeism, I think this may be largely unfounded for the reason I just stated. Integral seeks to find the best in all stages, whereas Green Wokeism seeks to deconstruct everything and hates Orange. Integral keeps the best of both and rejects the rest, transcends and includes, negates the bad and preserves the good.
Integral is also metaystematic or higher (based on a Future Thinkers interview with Wilber, he and Freinacht seem to disagree here, so Metamodernism says Teal is Metasystematic, whereas Integral says Teal is Paradigmatic, I am more inclined to agree with Freinacht) so it is reconstructive in the sense that it brings things together. It doesn’t necessarily deconstruct everything, but is able to use deconstruction to root out inequalities and other negative elements that we can likely agree to dislike (racism, sexism, gross income inequalities, lack of healthcare).
This is where we get to the final point I want to make, which is the dialectic as an engine for progress. The dialectic is a great engine for progress. We shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Beyond level of cognition, a major difference between Integral dialectic and Postmodern dialectic however is that Postmodern dialectic seeks revolutionary change. Lindsay talks about this in the Critical Social Justice need for the dialectic to move as fast as possible. The faster we can deconstruct everything the faster we can get to the Utopia.
Integral and Metamodernism, at least as I see it, are not about revolutionary change, but are instead about evolutionary change. A caveat is that we shouldn’t conflate the revolutionary leap into second-tier consciousness with the revolutionary change of the Postmodern dialectic.
Look at what Integral has to say about the lower stages. Yes, we need the world to develop, but we shouldn’t force the lower stages to change if they don’t want to. In fact, Integral even does away with the name “stage” and has replaced it with “altitude” in an attempt to convey that no one altitude deserves more dignity (compassion?) than any other. Each higher altitude is instead merely a higher view of the world. The point of Integral thinking and political action is to create the conditions for societies to evolve on their own, to clear the path so that when someone is ready there is somewhere for them to go. This is very different than the Orange demand for everyone to become a liberal democracy yesterday and the Green demand that liberal democracies are inherently oppressive and must be deconstructed.
As for Metamodernism, Freinacht talks about how Political Metamodernism is more egalitarian than Socialism, more Liberal than Liberalism, and more Conservative than Conservatism. Small, incremental change is necessary. We use the dialectic to create higher order syntheses, but not as fast as possible in a downward spiral of deconstruction come hell or 100 million dead. We must change society for the better, but not at the expense of the good we’ve already attained.
I hope all of that makes sense. I look forward to any disagreement or addition anyone has. Also if I’ve misrepresented any ideas from anyone please let me know so I can correct my knowledge.
And so the dialectic progresses