Looking for the Integral perspective of Our Direct Relationship with the Earth


Thoughts while listening to Corey, Diane, Gail and Rob on the topic of “Climate Change Solutions: Adapt or Transform?” I was going to post there but realized there may be a better place to post. I will try here. What struck me in this conversation is the lack of the use of the word Earth. Isn’t All This about our direct relationship with the Earth - which is us? For me, Integral Evolution is: How to grow from the indigenous heart/mind right up through the spiral, through science and integrate those wisdoms in order to reclaim out Indigenous Mind. How to let it inform us and therefore transform the way we interact with the Each… our own container for life.
I undersand that Integral Theory is the map, not the territory, I would like to hear more about the territory people are negotiating in regard to the Earth. I happen to be pretty involved with the local public lands agencies. These are real people at various developmental stages who have their own relationship to the land. Most of them really love it. The corporate developers have a different relationship with the land, as do the conventional farmers, as different from the organic ones. Then there are the recreationalists that get righteous and want to love nature to death.
Maybe I am feeling it deeply because Barry Lopez has passed away. Here is a piece he wrote last year for Orion Mag. https://lithub.com/barry-lopez-love-in-a-time-of-terror/

Enjoy. Maybe we can talk about it and how Integral can articulate our relationship with our own body, the Earth.


Welcome AElliot, and thanks for the Orion Mag link. Barry Lopez’s article is beautiful, captured my own thoughts and feelings. I agree with him that many people think it “unsophisticated” to explore the non-human world, to relish the direct experience and relationship with it, and to love it. “Most of the problems afflicting human beings are due to the failure to love” he says, and this failure certainly extends to loving the earth.

While I thought they were really useful and there were a few touching/felt moments in some of the conversations, I too had some concerns about some of the Integral climate change conversations not focusing very much on Earth itself. There were some good conversations about how humans can become more resilient or anti-fragile during climate crises, and there were plenty of statistics and facts about rising sea levels and deforestation, etc., all of which is necessary and helpful, this orange-rational perspective and its facts, but I don’t think that perspective is enough. Somehow, direct earth-connection, regard, appreciation, love, even reverence and awe for the earth, or oneness with, seem to be stuck in the (“unsophisticated”) magical-mythic stage, transcended but not always included.

I think many people are actually afraid of the earth. I once took a friend from New York City on a hike in Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona along the creek. Barely a quarter-mile into it, he was nearly freaking out. Granted, we were hopping the creek on rocks and boulders and there were tall sandstone cliffs on either side and lots of forest, so it was darker in there than the broad daylight we’d come from, and strong earthy smells, and quiet–so I could understand his anxiety; this was not a typical experience for him. I felt a similar anxiety riding the subways in New York back then! So some of it is simply fear of the unknown or unusual. Or fear of chaos. I heard someone recently use the word “chaordic,” referring to chaos and order; they spoke of the order beneath the seeming chaos of jazz, for instance. I think some people experience the earth and biosphere as chaos, without feeling attuned to any underlying order. Another way of looking at it might be that the freedom of spaciousness (exemplified by the sky) is more appealing to some than the fullness exemplified by the earth. Doesn’t have to be an either-or though.

I think Ryan Oelke’s “Inhabit” programs at Integral Life are a step in the right direction, with a focus on embodiment, being grounded and centered in our own human bodies. Besides our own bodies being made of earth-elements, the earth is the world’s body, as I see it, so the challenge is the world becoming more grounded and centered, directly connected to the earth. In a sort of tragic way, the (un)natural disasters we’re seeing more and more of, may aid in this.

How can Integral articulate our relationship with the Earth, you ask. That’s a good question; don’t think it’s ever been addressed systematically as far as I know. Hopefully more people will respond to this topic you’ve started. I personally think people have to have had a direct experience or two of actually being awed by some aspect of the natural world, experiences that profoundly affected them, in order to cultivate if not love, at least an appreciative relationship with the earth and its other-than-human inhabitants. Maybe just people sharing here some of these kinds of awesome or “enchanting” experiences would direct more attention to “our direct relationship with the earth.” (And sky–the earth’s “community”). I have a ton of them, but I’ve said enough for now :slightly_smiling_face:.


Hello LaWanna. It is most gratifying to get your response to my query. This conversation could go in so many directions, and that is exciting!

In college I wondered if the human species was turning out to be some kind of parasite - a cancer on the planet. I am not the only one to have thought this, I know. Or, is this a time of a great turning? I was listening to Nomali P. and Jeff S. talking about the Integral Shadow. They spoke about transcend and include that reached all the way back to beige, highlighting the key aspects of each step in the evolutionary process. It was a beautiful conversation about growing up. I believe acknowledging, embracing and integrating our embodiment with the planet is a necessary step in our growing up.

I have wondered if we can become native to this planet. What does that mean?!?! To me it means deeply Knowing the systems that we depend on and to be humble in the fact that we are not the center or the point of the whole system. Much that way that Galileo moved us out of the center of the solar system. I believe that will take a big lift in the process of Transcend and Include.

Recently I was listening to the wonderful Wade Davis speak about indigenous wisdom and other ways of Knowing. My heart cries out to be able to include that sort of mythic wisdom into my teal (on good days) level self. What does the ecstatic love of nature look like after science? A pre/trans question.

Your story about exploring up a creek canyon with a city dweller is illustrative of the wide range of human experience that occurs on this planet. None of them are wrong or better than any other. Each is a limited experience. Although, I would wish that more of us could experience the living system of the Earth more directly. Or at least have it reported in the media more regularly and with reverence. (we have dash boards in our cars) One way to illustrate this is that we identify as humans first and as Earthlings maybe never. I feel that is an identity gap that has become every Earthling’s problem. Whether they know it or not.

I am dreaming of sort of truth and reconciliation with the Earth. Or a “come to Jesus” moment between the Humans, other Earthlings and the Earth. In the same way that white privilege has been looked at and learned from. Human Privilege is the blind spot that needs to be seen. It is us looking at the damage we have done to our own body. It is a very fundimental sense of separation. It is a way of becoming Earthlings. To become Native to this place again. Not a parasite. At a different, higher altitude.

I agree that Ryan Oelke is addressing this issue in his programs. I will follow along as he explores.

That’s it for now. I am sorry that I was not able to respond until now. I am grateful that you responded to my query. I hope others join the discussion. Cheers!


Hi again Allison. I felt a wry smile inside myself reading your comment about a “coming to Jesus” moment between humanity and the earth and it’s other-than-human inhabitants. I would like to see that too! Even as I acknowledge that probably much of the disregard for the earth has derived from the fundamentalist ideas of mainstream religions that man is to “dominate” the earth. Some believe the Christian faith has undermined an environmental ethic and spirituality, not to mention, practice. Fortunately there is a minor movement, within Christianity at least, an ecotheology, that is trying to bring about reform around these issues, so maybe there will be a “come to Jesus” moment, literally, for some people! And there has long been a mystical Christianity that holds the earth and the natural world and body in general as beloved parts of the Whole, so I am not criticizing the whole of current-day Christianity, but those old ideas do not serve a healthy earth, or humanity’s connection and healthy stewardship of the earth. And Christians of course are not solely responsible for current circumstances.

I also think that contending with disasters related to climate change–fires, flooding, food and water shortages, heat waves, sea rise, mass migrations, etc.–will bring about some “truth and reconciliation,” or encourage a greater respect for the earth and its systems (and its power/force). If we survive. Definitely a need for some major changes in many areas.

Your point about ‘human privilege’ being a blind spot is well-taken. Humans being at the top of the food chain, and being the most complex and conscious organisms does not equate, in my mind, to being the “center” or the “whole point” as you say. If anything, it makes us more responsible for the planet and its other life forms, and should call forth our caretaking. And certainly it does in some people. It’s sort of like being an Integralist and having more responsibility in interactions with people at earlier stages of development.

With every step and every breath we take, we are indeed in direct contact with the earth. The problem is a lack of awareness of such. Just a basic awareness that when we take a sip of water, for instance, we are taking in the earth, would go a long ways in people being more attuned to the planet and all it offers, and our total dependence on it. Actually, it’s an interdependence between humans and the planet, moreso these days with so many creatures poised to go extinct, air and water and soil all compromised. But you know these things…

You mentioned the anthropologist Wade Davis. I have followed his work over the years, from his early days focused on ethnobotany and shamanic cultures/communities, through his stint as ethnographer and photographer with National Geographic magazine. I know he’s now teaching in B.C. Have you read his political commentary about the U.S., “The Unraveling of America”? https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/political-commentary/covid-19-end-of-american-era-wade-davis-1038206/. Indigenous people, imo, are on the whole, pretty much “at home” on the earth, and yes, I think there’s a lot to be learned from them, and Wade has made that one of his callings.

Look forward to hearing more from you on this topic! Take care.


Good article from Wade Davis. Sometime last year David Brooks wrote about the downside of the Nuclear Family and the unraveling of American culture. It spoke to me.

Again, the way we treat the Earth mirrors the way we treat each other. And no doubt, ourselves. Below is a quote from a man whose deep wisdom comes from a deep relationship with the land.

Wendell Berry: Sexual Capitalism and the Preservation of Wilderness

“It’s impossible to care for each other more, or differently, than we care for the Earth. This will be obvious enough when it’s considered that the Earth is what we all have in common. It’s what we are made of and what we live from, and therefore we cannot damage it without damaging those with whom we share it. But I believe it goes further and deeper than that. There is an uncanny resemblance between our behavior toward each other and our behavior toward the Earth, between our relation to our own sexuality, and our relation to the reproductivity of the Earth…the willingness to exploit one becomes the willingness to exploit the other.

Looking at cultural relationships with the land is most interesting. While Gail has been looking at this through the Integral lens, there is so much more to be looked at. I hope it continues to expand… out of our heads and into our bodies. Culture needs to move closer to its source of life. What changes to our systems will come from this whole Covid thing? We will shorten our supply chains? Will we grow food and manufacturing more regionally? Will we move towards interdependence and redundancy, more like natural systems? Can we see the toxicity appearing in our bodies is reflected in the toxicity found in the greater environment? Do we have the courage to face the trauma we have inflicted on ourselves and the Earth? These are the sorts of things that I look for.

We have spent so much energy trying to get away from the messiness of being Earthings. We enslaved other humans and now we have enslaved ourselves to a system that takes all our life force to maintain. While some amazing things have been brought forth by modern life, it is ultimately untenable and we know it. How to be native to this place has been a question for me for a long time. Can we become a beneficial species rather than an invasive species. Can we be humble enough to participate in a larger system rather than trying to impose our will onto this larger system?

I see it as similar to the difference between allopathic medicine and holistic medicine. It sure would be nice to develop a truly integrated medicine. Something that honors ancient knowledge and systems, along with modern science. Like hospice and palliative care.

At times I think in bumper sticker slogans. Here is the latest. “Hang in there Earthlings, at this rate Humans will be gone soon”

Good to exchange with you. It is a shame that we were not joined by others.


Corey refers to ‘the global holon’ in the Ken Show episode on Globalism and an integral federation. Gets me thinking, because it may be that the Spiral Dynamics people are right to call Turquoise ‘Global View’. We don’t know exactly what form society and culture will take at 3rd tier and it seems to me that there is an opportunity for us to carve some grooves into the Kosmos in a direction that brings together the whole planet with all it’s higher and lower holons into a single greater entity governed by Kosmic law. A law which makes room for the consciousness of every deer, green environmentalist and Integral Life poster! Even the prehensions of the constituent molecules of the planet could be moved into harmony with.

The Daily Evolver and Ken Show episodes about extraterrestrials also bring my thoughts this way. That, perhaps, we haven’t got full open contact because the extraterrestrials don’t want to make contact with individual humans but rather think in terms of planet-to-planet or even star-to-star relationships and so wouldn’t begin to manifest for us until we were ready to act as a global holon.

This is an ecological message but it has to be a futuristic four-quadrant message too. There’s no going back to earlier stages of development that we’re fuses with nature and therefore incapable of inflicting significant damage. There’s this sense among some green people that if only we could recede back to beige then we would be pure and in harmony with the planet. My personal vision-logic experiences of seeing everyone and all the flora and fauna in a seamless integral symbiosis are too beautiful for me to want to agree with a luddite worldview that is contrary to the flow of Eros. Rather, we should be growing upward from the ground and outward to the stars, as the plants do. There is something to be learned from their way, after all, and shamanic experiences confirm it.

One far-fetched idea I have is that Google is right to call their operating system ‘Android’. We are actually entering into a relationship with our artefacts which is so intimate that some of us prefer the company of our phones to that of real people. So the next step beyond the neocortex is the evolution to a stage of development where our mind is extended into our computers and devices, which activate higher and more universal modes of thought in us. Like we are doing now by participating in an online community which is intended for the tetra-growth of its members. The fact that I can know almost any fact or datum I choose to search for online within 5 minutes at most actually augments my mental range such that life is no longer about remembering and knowing but about understanding and Remembering and Knowing. And who knows what social and cultural modes this paradigm is going to bring about? We are at the cutting edge, and our every act is noticed by the Kosmos as a trend-setting, habit-forming Act. And who knows what upper-left correlates this new mode has? Some kind of flick-fast dial-switching information-data feast? Or a much more meditative mode when we take some time out to reflect on the globe-spanning information we have received? And why is it that both ecological consciousness and interest in UFOs has increased so much since the internet came about? What can the plants teach us about this? I can sit under a tree, and ask it a question in my mind, and it replies. Put my phone in front of my face, screen off, and enter into a fascinating state of consciousness where it feels like the causal ‘roots’ of the tree are programming the Kosmic Komputer through me.

I believe that the internet could be the beginning of the arising self-awareness of a new, higher holon which is global and reflects the inner workings of perfectly logical zero-and-one machine minds which are coextensive with our own minds and which will begin in earnest the extraterrestrial contact interface once we begin to symbiose with tech-aware plants. Will we take the responsibility to grow into this new mode of awareness?

Or am I completely misunderstanding the picture? I do have a feeling that there is something incomplete in what I have said, so I would love to hear some friendly criticism.


Sankui, I like your futuristic thinking very much! There was some work done in the 70s by a psychologist who worked with a few thousand people in the U.S. and France, conducting “future-life progressions” (vs. past-life regressions) using hypnosis. She died, and the work was completed by a colleague who published a book called “Mass Dreaming.” What I remember is that the congregate data showed the study participants’ answers for what future life on earth would look like fell into 4 distinct categories: (1) those who saw a future in which humanity would be seeking life on other planets, possibly living off-earth, very “space-age” (2) those who saw a very hi-tech future, mechanical and cold and robotic to some extent (3) those who saw the planet being regenerated, re-spiritualized, humans living in harmony with nature and one another, and (4) those who saw lots of “doom and disaster” with illness, dysfunctional systems, perhaps nuclear war after-effects, a lot of bleakness. (All four groups saw a smaller global population.) My own sense reading about it was that the future would probably manifest all four “visions” at least for a while, and indeed, today it seems to be doing just that. Your speaking of extraterrestrials, advancing tech, and “everyone and all flora and fauna in a seamless integral symbiosis,” seems to indicate your futurism includes all of these too (and I would guess that you’re not in denial about the “bleak” piece).

I like your thought about “carving some grooves into the Kosmos in a direction that brings together the whole planet.” I think that anticipatory 3rd-Tier-world work is already being done, but by so very few individuals that the effects are all but unnoticeable. We’re not even at 2nd Tier teal or turquoise yet as a culture or world; still, never too early to anticipate or begin! So your enthusiasm is appealing (to me).

Along with the current-day increased interest in extraterrestrial life and exploration (the Mars Rover, for example), there has also been a marked growing interest in another planetary area, astrology. In fact, astrology and wicca and other forms of neopaganism or earth-and-sky based spiritualities and shamanism as well, are the fastest growing forms of “religion,” outstripping all mainstream forms. This is mostly true for millennials and younger. While there are many reasons for growth in these domains, I personally think it does speak to some kind of foundling vision for the future of the world, one that encompasses a greater wholeness and a greater respect for the interiority of other-than-human life forms. I agree with you that we don’t want to regress to earlier stages of development, but to retrieve from those earlier stages what has not been fully included is part of the integral project, for individuals and cultures as a whole. And, while to “grow upward from the ground” may be the overall direction, plants also “grow down.” In fact, the root systems of many trees and plants–aspens for instance, or the creosote bush (chaparral)–provide the most startling evidence of a singularity or oneness.

Even in shamanism, there is a “lower world” as a cosmological reference point, along with the “upper world” and “middle world” (which, as you may be aware, your experience of relating to/questioning a tree would be considered in traditional/classical shamanism–a middle world experience). I agree totally that shamanic experiences have much to teach us. Traditionally, shamanism would hold that information such as you gained from a tree or a plant is coming from the “spirit” of the plant itself. But the more psychologically-minded might say that this was an imaginal experience, coming from your own unconscious (which can still be highly potent, powerful, and seem to absolutely be the tree speaking). What is interesting is that in fully shamanic cultures, such as the Huichol Indians of Mexico, who have never been “conquered” or Christianized, things have been discovered through shamanic practices that make the “imaginal” seem a questionable explanation, at least in certain situations. The Huichols were incorporating the DNA double-helix form into their yarn art and paintings, and calling it “the source of life” long before DNA was ever discovered. They “saw” the helix in their visions with the help of their animal spirits and the spirit of their sacramental plant, peyote. One could argue, of course, that this was still coming from their own unconscious, but that argument is usually coming from people who a priori discount the reality of spirits, or the interiority of plants and animals, or the ability of humans to “at-one” with non-human life forms. Also, many of the medicinal uses of plants have been discovered by indigenous peoples whose culture is shamanic. Some people say that it was just a matter of trial-and-error to find these medicines, you know, ingest the plant, see what happens. While discoveries through these gross means have undoubtedly happened, I don’t think we can discount the role of subtle states and subtle seeing in true shamanism common to some of these people.

Still others would say that the communication you received from the tree was the result of the interaction itself, between you and the tree; this is more along the lines of maybe what Lovelock hypothesized around Gaia, humans playing the role of the senses and the nervous system for a planet in which all life and elements and such are in some form of communication.

Regardless, I talk to trees and plants too (and get replies) :slightly_smiling_face:.

As for tech, all I will add on that subject is that I recently read an article in the “National Review” in which the writer defined technology “basically and generally…as allowing humans to shape reality in such a way that it conforms to their own needs and desires.” “Starting with the spear and the shelter, technology emerged as a method of taming, cajoling, and coercing nature to bend to the will of mankind…” He cited other writers who claimed the ideology of modernity was to have technology replace nature. While I don’t totally agree with that, there is some partial truth in it, and this is another area where some definite re-examination is in order, the basic question being how can technology now and in the future better exist harmoniously with nature, including human nature. (And the inverse of that, how can human nature better exist with tech? Development, maybe? Which any truly helpful futuristic “machine-minds” would have to account for, don’t you think? But I’ll let someone more knowledgeable than I about AI and such talk to you about those last ideas of yours.)

Glad you’ve joined the conversation! The more the merit.


Allison, first of all, just wanted to make sure you’ve seen the “Integral Ecology” article at this site? Under the ‘Media’ category. Also wanted to say that I’ve read a little of Wendell Berry’s poetry, so your quote by him brought back a fond memory or two.

From your comments and “living the questions” (and the types of questions you’re living), it sounds like you’re well-attuned to what’s been spoken of around ‘regenerative cultures.’ A good step up and beyond mere sustainability, for sure. From what I understand, the commitment and action of regenerative cultures can be seen on a spectrum: at one end, the term applying just to land use and at the other end, applying additionally to self, community, and life as a whole. My guess is that you’re at this latter end of the spectrum, which seems to me the most holistic place to be.

Speaking of holistic, there are pockets of integrated medicine here and there, not enough, but it does exist. When I lived in California, my physician practiced integrative medicine, combining allopathic with primarily Ayurveda. He was also familiar with Ken Wilber’s Integral theory, including developmental psych or “growing up” work. He was a part of Deepak Chopra’s extended circles, so spiritually-oriented as well. I miss him; it’s been all downhill since, have not found another individual health care provider who could offer so much. But, my point is, it does exist, a little, and yes, more is needed.

I’ve been trying to think of a bumper sticker slogan for myself; haven’t thought of one yet. But you’ve inspired me, and look! another person has joined the conversation. The earth is happier already :slightly_smiling_face: