Trajectory of Development: Why does the trajectory of a line of development necessarily have to be progressive?



Why does the trajectory of a line of development necessarily have to be progressive? Isn’t that building progressive values into the model to the exclusion of other value systems? How in fact do we know what the trajectory would look like if we aren’t supposed to understand the higher level of development when we are at a lower stage?


Hi tio9966. May I bid you welcome and thank you for your post. You rightly point out that by our choosing to use the word “development” rather than “change” we have already presumed that there will be progression. However we use the word development as we understand the change is the progression of the ability to handle complexity. We identify a line of development when we see a line of increasing capacity to handle increasing complexity.
My understanding is that the concept “line of development” is values free in the sense that values are the way a particular level of complexity is shown in a particular culture. So we need to be clear what we mean by the the phrase “progressive values”. The phrase " progressive values" can be used two ways: one where we are saying there is a discreet set of values which distinguish themselves from all other value sets by virtue of being progressive. There is then a different use of the same phrase. Here we are saying that when we compare this set of values to that set of values, one is described as progressive. Here we need to have some information as to what we mean by progressive so that the comparison can make sense. If we start to put a fixed value into the word progressive, rather than letting it be a simple comparator taking on a value according to its context, then, as you say, it causes problems.


I am drawing my question after reading this article: Here is an excerpt that put conservative lower on the trajectory than a progressive: “At the integral stage of development, according to Wilber, you are able to perceive the virtues of all the previous states, to transcend and include them. But before you get there it is almost impossible to understand the ‘higher’ stage. How do you tell a tribal person, for example, what a nation means? Or a conservative why gay marriage is a good idea? People at different stages of development will not understand each other! A conservative is an extra-terrestrial to a progressive, and visa versa. In previous stages you are unable to see beyond your own orientation, be it tribal, traditional, modern, or postmodern. But at Wilber’s integral stage (which he calls second tier) you are able to integrate all the previous stages. For example, you could be an environmentalist and support gay rights, and still be an orthodox churchgoer and respectful of your tradition — no problem. And nobody will burn you at the stake if you don’t go to church.”


Ok, firstly the question you ask goes to the root of Integral Theory. Whilst I will offer my two penneth worth , I really do suggest you continue to immerse yourself as much as possible in Integral Theory, read stuff by Integral Thinkers, watch videos and so on. The more perspectives you expose yourself to, the more this begins to make sense. Don’t let your discernment go out of the window though. It’s good that you question. Your questions help those who answer (e.g. me!) get a firmer grip on their thoughts.
My understanding comes from what Ken has written in the past about the importance of the intellectual line of development. As I understand it, it goes something like this. Generally someone who is not seeking to develop themselves will have a static stage of development. That stage doesn’t understand the stages of increasing complexity that it can grow into and sees the stages of lesser complexity (from which it has grown) as criminal. For example Green doesn’t understand and therefore can’t fully live at Turquoise. If it has a peak experience of Turquoise it will interpret it from a Green perspective. Similarly Green sees the Orange behaviour of, for example, fracking as criminal.
Those seeking to develop themselves will rely on their intellect to read about, listen to, watch stuff at a higher level of complexity. This is where the intellect comes in. They will create a map of what the territory looks like. But the map is not the territory. Over time they develop and start to embody the territory. The map then changes from something to show you the way, to a way of holding together the disparate parts of the territory.
So far, so First Tier.
When we move to a level of complexity greater than Green it’s a whole new ball game. We no longer look below as criminal and fail to grasp that there are higher levels of complexity. Where we embody this level of development we can deal with/tolerate/embody the level of complexity that allows us to integrate all previous layers. At first tier we simply cannot hold the level of complexity required to integrate all those levels. At second tier we can. And sufficiently to be able to look beyond ourselves and wonder what the next level of complexity looks like and wonder what we need to do to embody that.
Thanks again for your questions, I’ve really enjoyed thinking about them and putting those thoughts onto these posts.