Transforming Self, Society, and the Spaces Between Us

In this fascinating episode of The Ken Show, hosts Ken Wilber and Corey deVos embark on a profound journey through the multifaceted realms of systems theory, communication, and social evolution. They dissect the nuanced perspectives of “inside” and “outside” views in systems, delve into the transformative power of communication paradigms throughout history, and critically examine the influence of social media on the overall emergence of integral consciousness. The conversation ends with a powerful discussion on the symbiotic relationship between personal transformation and social transformation, advocating for a holistic approach to finding radical wholeness in an increasingly fragmented world. This dialogue serves as a beacon for those navigating the complex interdependencies of self, society, and the emerging global community.

Part 1: Introduction – Finding Radical Wholeness
The episode begins with a profound contemplation on the quest for radical wholeness, setting the tone for a deep dive into integral theory. Ken shares some details about his latest book, Finding Radical Wholeness, and the importance of embracing a holistic perspective that acknowledges the interconnectedness of all aspects of life, from individual consciousness to societal structures.

Part 2: Two Kinds of Systems Theory
In this segment, Ken Wilber explores the 8 zones of integral metatheory to articulate the distinction between the “inside view” and “outside view” within systems theory. The “inside view” refers to the subjective dynamics of members within a system, encompassing the internal relationships and dynamics that are felt and lived by groups of individuals. In contrast, the “outside view” is an objective analysis of the system from an external vantage point, focusing on how the system operates as a whole and interacts with other systems.

Part 3: Base and Superstructure in Diplomacy
The conversation explores the Marxist concept of base and superstructure, first explored in Ken’s essay, Revolutionary Social Transformation, applying these ideas to the Israel/Palestine conflict and the realm of diplomacy as a whole. The hosts discuss how economic and technological foundations (the base) shape and are shaped by the cultural and political superstructures, influencing international relations and global cooperation.

Part 4: The Evolution of Communication
Corey presents an engaging overview of the historical evolution of communication paradigms and their impact on human development (click the link to see the full map). From the emergence of language to the digital revolution, each shift in communication technology has profoundly affected how societies develop and interact, as well as how individuals perceive and interpret their reality.

Part 5: Integral in the Social Media Age
Here Ken and Corey explore the unique challenges social media has presented as a platform for the emergence of integral consciousness, especially its inherent resistance to big-picture views and greater social cohesion. Ken and Corey consider the potential of social media to both hinder and advance the development of a more integrated, aware, and cohesive global community.

Part 6: Personal and Social Transformation
The final segment of the episode emphasizes the importance of integrating personal growth with societal development. Ken and Corey argue that meaningful change requires a concerted effort that addresses both the inner transformation of individuals and the evolution of social systems and structures.


The Evolution of Communication Paradigms

Corey’s map of the evolution of communications paradigms over history, taking a look at the most significant translative and transformative technologies at each stage, how those technologies determine the generation, preservation, and distribution of knowledge, and how they shape our individual perceptions and behaviors, as well as our collective sense of meaning and shared discourse.

Introducing the 8 Zones

A map introducing the 8 Zones of Ken Wilber’s Integral Methodological Pluralism, describing the eight kinds of phenomenological experience available to human beings. Each of these zones represents a unique horizon of consciousness, determining the kinds and qualities of reality that we experience.

Key Questions:

Here are some questions you can contemplate while listening to this discussion. We suggest you take some time to use these as journaling prompts.

  • Personal vs. Social Transformation: How do I understand the differences between personal transformation and social transformation, and why are both important? How can I work to bring them together in my own life and community?

  • Information and Perception: In what ways have I internalized the communication paradigms of my own era, and how might they be limiting or expanding my perception of reality? How can I become more conscious of the ways in which the current communication systems influence my interior perceptions, interpretations, and sense-making processes?

  • The Responsibility of Co-Creation: In what ways am I co-creating the environment I perceive, and how does this give me a role and power in the world I inhabit? How can understanding this relationship between personal enactment and the co-creation of the world help me contribute more effectively to social transformation?

  • Integral Complexity: How can I embrace the complexity of integral theory while still appreciating the simplicity of direct perception? How does this complexity help me to navigate and understand the various dimensions of reality?

  • Quadrants and Polarities: How do the core polarities of integral theory, such as individual vs. collective and interior vs. exterior, manifest in my life? How can identifying and integrating these polarities enhance my understanding of various situations and challenges?

  • Phenomenological Richness: How can I bring more awareness to the nearly 10,000 phenomenological experiences available to me? How might this awareness change my perception of everyday objects, social issues, or even concepts like enlightenment?

  • Impact of Technology: In what ways is my use of technology, such as social media, training me to forget my body and become out of touch with my sensory world? How can I counteract this tendency and integrate my physical experience with my digital interactions?

  • Information and Perception: In what ways have I internalized the communication paradigms of my own era, and how might they be limiting or expanding my perception of reality? How can I become more conscious of the ways in which the current communication systems influence my interior perceptions, interpretations, and sense-making processes?

  • Subject to Algorithms: How might the algorithms that govern my information feeds on social media be affecting my worldview and my ability to perceive reality beyond the digital echo chambers? In what ways can I, as a consumer and potential creator of content, contribute to a more nuanced and integral use of social media platforms?


Hallo, Ihr Lieben!
Ich würde mich gerne im deutschsprachigem Raum an diesen Aspekten co-operativ mit euch austauschen. Mein Fokus ist zurzeit die Entwicklung einer integralen Zugangsweise im Begegnungsfeld Migration & Integration in Europa. Meine Werkstatt könnte auch ein Buchprojekt sein. Hat jemand Interesse, mitzugestalten?
Ich freue mich auf Antworten

Hello, my dears!
I would like to discuss these aspects with you in a cooperative manner in German-speaking countries. My current focus is on developing an integral approach to the field of migration and integration in Europe. My workshop could also be a book project. Is anyone interested in getting involved?
I look forward to answers

Speaking of systems theory, here is a formulation I came up with recently:

Progress - systemic adaptation in the service of systemic continuity.

My specific reason for formulating this is to sort out US politics. (Are “progressives” really forward-looking in any substantial way?) That said, the definition above is based on very recent systems theory and Big History evolutionary thinking. I’m trying to ground the political in the evolutionary, because I’m looking for matter/energy analysis of different political cultures and factions (the Marxian “base”).

Love to hear how all that plays across four quadrants or eight zones!

Hey Robert, I imagine you’re thinking of modern progressives in the US with your question, for there is a bit of difference in focus between historical progressivism and modern-day. Spotlighted in current political progressivism are racial equality and minority rights and anti-US imperialism, but that’s not the whole story. Recent UAW and SAG-AFTRA strikes (and achievements) are progressive “causes”, following a long history of progressive ‘wins’ around labor issues: workers’ compensation, child labor laws, minimum wage legislation, occupational safety, a limited work week.

Income inequality has been both an historical and current progressive cause as well, with recent substantial gains such as the Dodd-Frank law in 2010 (stronger Wall Street regulations following the financial crisis). Minimum wage increases at state and local levels in recent years are due to progressive advocacy. Health care reform is another issue; the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in 2010 is considered a progressive achievement.

Current progressives also advocate for social safety nets and workers’ rights in general; oppose corporate influences on democratic processes (e.g. Citizens United); support public education; and advocate for both the environment and environmental justice. Teddy Roosevelt was a Progressive and is credited with the environmental conservation movement, and establishment of national parks and national monuments. Other significant historical progressive achievements include women gaining the right to vote and the professionalizing of welfare and charity work.

Science and technology have also been within the realm of progressivism’s purview. Whatever one thinks of the Green New Deal, pro or con, it has the progressive seal of approval.

@LaWanna, thanks for the well-considered examples. Let me approach just a couple of them to test my adaption-for-continuity framing.

In the case of Theodore Roosevelt, the adaption (National Parks) also has a literal conservative purpose (preserving what was left of the North American wilderness).

With respect to more recent wage gains (or should we say wage catch ups) by the UAW and SAG-AFTRA, preserving the social status and purchasing power of the workers was clearly at play. Again, there is a continuity driving the progressive action.

It would be fun to go case-by-case through all the examples you mentioned. Not all of them will be so obvious or tidy. But my general thesis is that change programs that sink their roots into deep continuities are the ones that will carry through the best.

I thought of you last night Robert, unexpectedly coming across a passage in a book I was reading, a passage speaking of how speckled Arctic hares adapted over generations to become white in color in order to blend with the snow, and help assure the continuation/continuity/survival of the species.

While I can follow your general thesis thinking, and applaud your inventiveness, I think it’s a little tricky in that you wouldn’t want to rub elbows with social Darwinism. I think there are also questions about what is the starting point for continuity. For instance, the Declaration of Independence has a beautiful preamble (e.g. “all men are created equal…”), yet in the actuality of constitutional rights, many people were excluded as “equal.” So what is the starting point for the continuity of regarding rights: the abstract ideal in the preamble, or the actual practice? I think arguments can be made for both sides. With the racism (and sexism and classism) embedded in the Constitution, one could argue that systemic adaptations were made along the line in state and local policies and practices to assure the continuity of that structure of racism (e.g. slavery, Jim Crow, red-lining, voter suppression and such). If the starting point for continuity is founded in the preamble’s ideal of equality, then there too there are plenty of examples, including federal, of adaptation in service to that. So “progress” actually lies in the eye of the beholder, to some extent, although you and I would agree in the example I’ve given on the forward view of more inclusiveness being what we’re after and that that is the continuity we want to serve through the various change programs/adaptations.

Outside of or beyond only political considerations or any specific systemic changes or change programs, I do see some relatedness of your thesis to Integral’s stages of development, the “transcend-and-include” motif. Transcending the amber stage towards the orange stage, say, does require some adaptation, and to include does suggest some kind of continuity, and one could say that the adaptation/transcendence is also, at least in the ideal, in service to some kind of continuity/inclusion of the amber stage. So there’s that.

Absolutely! That’s one of the takeaways from green/postmodernism. The challenge for going beyond that relativistic perspective is to transcend zero sum game notions of progress (like two groups fighting to the death over the same piece of land) and to identify more generalized notions of progress that can win wider acceptance.

On a global scale, the challenge of identifying species-wide progress (or better yet, inter-species ecosystemic progress) is not to be underestimated. Yet aiming for anything less than that seems lacking and not equal to the actual challenges we face.

You are absolutely correct in noting that from a white southern point of view, Jim Crow was a sort of “progressive” adaptation to preserve what southern whites saw as the correct order of things. This process is not really over. A lot of commentators on the left miss the “progressive” nature of MAGA and allied movements. These do radical things in the name of preserving deeper continuities. They are more than willing to borrow the green/postmodern toolkit, in the service of doing battle against “woke” or whatever their boogeyman of the moment is.

I found it interesting in reading McIntosh’s Developmental Politics that he gives all four main US political cultures exactly the same shadow tendency: “cultural bias and tribalism”. Shadow work, in my view, involves acknowledging that shadow energies are there for a reason and the “cleaning up” process involves owning those energies, making them explicit, and incorporating them in a more conscious sense of self. So I’m not hating the idea that our competing political cultures have a common core of tribalism. (Different tribes, of course). To me, that actually points the way to what serious solutions might look like.

Like I said, the deeper the continuity, the more truly progressive the adaptation. I’d like to ground “progress” going forward at least as deep as species survival. There are any number of cultures and practices that are maladaptive for that purpose. But in all honesty, we each view these matters through our own lenses (this author included) so casting judgment on what needs to stay and what needs to go should be approached cautiously, with an open mind to additional evidence. In any case, there are others who will come to differing and opposing conclusions about these same questions, which is why history is far from over and politics will continue to play out.

Playing devil’s advocate here: so if an entire particular group of people, say Blacks or Whites or Jews or Arabs or Hispanics, you name the group, etc… were totally destroyed, died out or were killed off (admittedly, an unlikely scenario, but I’m hypothesizing), the species itself would still survive, and you could see some situation in which that was a progressive adaptation?

P.S. I have to check out for now. TTYL!

No, personally, I do not see genocidal “solutions” as progressive. But plenty of others might. Hitler’s Nazi’s for example, thought they were setting up a glorious 1000-year future. In my opinion, from a biological standpoint, species diversity is an adaptive strength, not a weakness. So social Darwinists who want to cull this or that race are not just evil, they are also bad Darwinists.

My personal point of view is that global equity, diversity, and inclusion is the right way to go. Those holding the levers of power, at least, need to take a wide view of humanity’s requirements going forward. Saying that in the abstract does not resolve anything specific about current shooting wars or revolutions against oppression however, so the devil is very much in the details. Hence my interest in political shadow work.

Agree with what you’re saying here, with a few comments about political shadow work.

While I think political shadow work is important, I don’t think it’s going to provide much salvation for the ills of polarization/tribalism that we’re seeing in the world at this time given that psychological and political shadow, and shadow work, are pretty sophisticated concepts for a population that is 50-60% (in the US) or 60-70% (worldwide) at pre-rational levels of development. Which doesn’t mean that we should stop trying, particularly with individuals or even some receptive groups that are at rational or later stages of development.

I remember Wilber, in an early paper on shadow, saying that when one has an emotional reaction or an energetic charge around something, that’s a pretty good sign that one’s shadow material is being triggered. My own sense is that for many people who are heavily invested in polarization dynamics, whether that be some leaders or many of their followers, emotional reactions and energetic charges are actually desired; intensity of feeling and sensing can be a great substitute for depth of understanding and perhaps particularly, love or love’s derivatives, such as friendly or cooperative relations toward resolution of differences. When it comes to political tribes, I’ve always thought that there is an excitement/entertainment factor at play, along with a needed belongingness, which isn’t to say that some subset of these groups doesn’t have some deep moral conviction around their ideologies. But for many people active in protests and rallies and such, the combination of belonging to something bigger than themselves, intensity of feeling, excitement and entertainment play major roles in their activism, it appears to me. And that’s okay, but I don’t think it bodes well for shadow work making much real world headway in remedying what ails us. But let’s not stop trying where there’s a wisp of a hope.

Agreeing with this and the rest of your fine post.

I like the first half of McIntosh’s Developmental Politics (the diagnosis) better than the second half (the proposed solution), because his proposed solution is quite idealistic: to unify the tribes around a shared vision of goodness, beauty, and truth. To me this skates right over everything you just said about intensity of feeling, sense of belonging, etc. Politics to me seems far more about dark passions than fine ideas.

To clarify - when I say “political shadow work” there are two parts to that. Part one is do your own shadow work first, because leaders can’t afford the luxury of constantly being triggered. Part two is, as a leader, to work with everyone else’s shadows. Work “with” is not the same as work “through”. Working through shadows is an inside job all the way. That’s personal growth or therapy, very interior, not especially political at all. Working with the shadows of others means, by contrast, understanding the hopes, fears, loves, hatreds, and charged symbolism of the people you wish to lead. Political messaging needs to target the heart, far more than the head.

If integral theory is to be believed, teal or higher leadership should be heartwise about what moves other altitudes on a feeling level and should demonstrate the ability to express complex ideas in simple, resonant gestures that work across many developmental levels. The challenge of unification for US politics is to speak to more than one tribe at a time in ways that reassure and inspire, understanding that the deepest fears of each of these tribes are symbolized and triggered largely by the others.

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Again, largely in agreement with you about most of this (are we in an echo chamber now? :slightly_smiling_face:)

I think McIntosh’s proposed solution, which I agree with as a Big Picture or Long Arc view, highlights the difference between transformation and reformation. Integral, as the first word of this thread indicates, is about transforming (self, society, spaces between us) whereas the major change agents (or wannabe change agents) in society at the moment are simply or mostly about reforming it.

‘Reform’ means to improve forms or conditions through change, usually through removal of faults and abuses. Most of the emphasis/focus from both the political left and right worldwide is on removing what they respectively perceive as faults and abuses (thus we get all the complaint, grievance, scoldings, and bloody conflicts/wars).

While Integral also incorporates/includes reform measures in its vision, wants to reduce faults/abuses and improve things (i.e. transcends and includes), a transformative vision goes beyond simple riddance and improvement (changes which can often be made through translative applications). Transformation is a vertical change, having a taller ladder (to use an Integral motif), not just helping to fix a broken rung on the existing one (although that too). As a statement in the Insight Maps attendant to this thread states (in the LR of the quadrants, if I remember), “transform” is related to “catalyzing and supporting the next stage of social development.” Emphasis on “next stage.”

An Aristotle quote I just read this morning comes to mind: “Our problem is not that we aim too high and we miss. Our problem is that we aim too low and hit.” Integral, in my view, is aiming high, even if at the current moment its span is inadequate to have the necessary influence. But I do think the 1st tier stages aim too low (but, alas, that’s where they are) and achieve too many hits.

Definitely agree. I think Obama’s recent remarks about Palestine-Israel was an attempt to do this, to “regulate shared experience” (Insight Map of the quadrants, LL). He has received a lot of backlash for his comments, but it’s refreshing when a leader shows this kind of depth and attention to polarities.

If not more than the head, at least as much as the head. The “feeling” that much messaging targets is simply outrage, and what’s the opposite of that? Commendation, praise, accolade, acclaim. Those acts are only applied to one’s own tribe, rarely to the ‘other.’ But you/we know this.

Yeah, what is it?–society supports growth up to the conventional stage, then you’re on your own.

Ah, a new artist to check out (which I’ve been doing, and enjoying; a great soft jazz vocalist). Thanks @Sidra !