What does Integral activism mean to you?

Reflect on the question above and share your thoughts with the rest of the community.


This is a good place to plug Terry Patten’s book “A New Republic of the Heart: An Ethos for Revolutionaries.” This is an excellent book, encompassing the inspirational as well as practical information and resources for facilitating and effecting, at the individual and collective level, “whole-system change.”

The book has an adequate dose of optimism that Integral is known for, without blowing off the edgy iffiness of the times. It assumes a smart and relatively informed readership, so while there is plentiful reference to the crises, breakdowns, and disconnects the world is facing–particularly emphasized are the ecological crises, political divides/tribalism, and lack of conversation across tribes and specifically between three blocks of influential potential game-changers, which the author refers to as innovators (rational level), ecologists (post-moderns), and evolutionaries (integralists)–it doesn’t get bogged down in enumerating problem after “wicked” problem.

The “revolution” is in the end, Patten says, (and as most of us know) a transformation to an integral approach to reality. (For more on this listen to the July 14 conversation at Integral Live between Ken Wilber and Corey deVos regarding this being a jump to a second tier of perspecivalism, a move never before experienced in the history of culture.) This approach requires a focus on Wholeness, not just fragments and parts. (In some contexts, the word “wholeness” as used by Terry refers to God/Goddess, Source, etc.)

As an integralist himself of course, he encourages integralists to not lose sight of “epistemic humility” or ‘knowing that we don’t know’ in order to offset the arrogance integralists are often accused of demonstrating. He also suggests the need for integralists to take more of a moral leadership role when it comes to environmental/ecological issues, such as climage change, species extinction, etc.

Great material on We-Space, and perhaps the central gift-idea of the book is the focus on the need for conversations between those three groups he mentioned: innovators, ecologists, integralists. I hope he and/or Integral Life can facilitate some of these conversations in the future.

The author’s loving regard for the living earth/nature is evident; there is also a call for a “feminine heroism” based on receptivity, relationship, conversation,and care as a political value. He includes a little bit more than a token reference to earth-based spiritualities, and the importance of tuning in to indigenous wisdom. He includes soul work as a significant piece of the revolution, with the caveat that it should be contained/understood in the larger context of a non-dual transcendentalism. He also recognizes the many forms of activism; beyond just protesting/marching/rallying (all of which serve a purpose), one can be an activist through such things as ceremony and ritual. I would add to that, also through art, including performance art, and music. Corey’s project on collecting movie scenes representative of the different stages of development (see that topic in this community forum) is, in my mind, a form of creative integral activism.

I highly recommend this book. My own sense of an integral activism is represented here, and then some.

  • What would this conversation sound like?

  • How would we systematically integrate, activate and mobilize this triple activism?


These are great questions. I think they would be better addressed by Terry himself. He has a website specifically related to this book, where you can download a free excerpt and audio, and maybe you’ll be able to ask him at some point. [https://www.terrypatten.com/a-new-republic-of-the-heart/]

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Well, how would you articulate your own take based upon your “sense of an integral activism”? If you don’t have words, perhaps you have an image which captures your sense?

As I see it, people enact the phrase “integral politics” in at least two very different ways, each of which informs our activism differently:

One is “emergent integral” — people who want to see new integral policies, institutions, systems, etc. These folks tend to fit under the “progressive” label, since they are by definition working to create systems and solutions that do not currently exist. They are more aligned with Eros.

The other I often call “universal donor integral” — people who want to use integral ideas not to necessarily transform our systems, but rather to make our extant systems more healthy, more effective, and more efficient. This will often qualify as a more “conservative” enactment of integral politics, since they are not trying to replace these systems, but instead strengthen and streamline them. They are more aligned with Agape.

Both of these are incredibly important polarities, both have different views and priorities and strategies, and both need to be transcended and included in our mutual visions of the integral path forward. Hopefully this community can be a space where that integration can actually take place, based on a capacity and willingness to listen, empathize, take different perspectives, and offer evidence-based arguments for their views.

Creating and sustaining platforms like these are my main form of activism in the world :slight_smile:



Eros (Progressive)

* Emergent Integral

  • Innovation of systems and solutions

Agape (Conservative)

* Universal Donor Integral

  • Strengthening of systems and solutions

  • Streamlining of systems and solutions

@corey-devos are there a methodologies for strengthening & streamlining?

I liked your request for an image, and the one that came immediately to mind is of Quetzalcoatl, a Meso-american god known in earliest times (perhaps 3,000 years ago) in his zoomorphic form as the “Feathered Serpent.” He was pictured as a snake with wings. In later centuries he took on human traits, a human form. He was revered by the Nahuatl-speaking people (Toltecs and Aztecs) as well as by the Mayans who called him “the vision-serpent.”

Although you may already be aware of the stories around Quetzalcoatl, I thought I would share some because (ego here) I simply like talking about him! This is pieced together from my own memories/knowledge, books I’ve read, teachings I’ve received, and Wikipedia research many moons ago.
If you don’t want to read all this, just skip to the last three paragraphs for my more succinct explanations of how I see this as a good image for integral activism.

In Toltec myth/stories, it is said he incarnated as a human many times; he was variously known as the Solar Musician, the Star Maker, Lord of the Earth, and the Penitent among the ancient Toltecs. One mythological story goes that he was the result of a “virgin birth” to a 17 year old girl named Chimalma, a birth that had been prophesized by the seers using omens involving a magical deer (current-day Huichol Indians of Mexico, who some scholars consider descendants of the Toltecs, still work with and revere the magical deer spirit, which they call the “Elder Brother.”) Chimalma had been thought of early on as an unusual girl, as her interests lay in weapons and shields and being a warrior, rather than taking up the usual gender role of her time.

Anyway, one day Chimalma was bathing in natural waters and saw a beautiful jade stone. She put it under her tongue for safekeeping and accidentally swallowed it while dressing, and immediately became pregnant. Jade was the stone extraordinaire of the times, highly valued as a symbol of divine female fertility. Seers of the time, again reading omens, cautioned the king to guard Chimalma carefully, as she was carrying “the essence of heaven come down to earth.” The King planned to marry her, but alas, his two evil brothers killed him, wouldn’t you know. Chimalma went off to a cave alone, had a difficult 4-day labor, finally cried out something to the effect, “Out, Out! you Jewel child!” Quetzalcoatl was born, and Chimalma instantly died (wouldn’t you know).

Quetzalcoatl (pronounced ket sal koa tl) was raised by grandparents, and as a young man had the typical hero journey, with challenges and a “fall from grace” with the subsequent purification and redemption. He became the spiritual leader of his people; he is credited with civilizing and unifying them (something Integral is trying to do with folks now, right?).

(Now, in ancient Aztec culture, Quetzalcoatl was called the Lord of Transformation, the Dragon of Light, the Lord of Time. He was associated with the gods of wind, with Venus, with the dawn, with merchants, arts and crafts, and of course, knowledge. He was credited with getting the Aztecs to relinquish their human sacrifice ritual; they sacrificed birds and snakes instead. When Cortes invaded Mexico in 1521, the Aztecs are said to have thought that Cortes, with his white hair and beard, looking very “otherworldly,” was the return of Quetzalcoatl and were therefore initially submissive to Cortes and his many battalions. It is said the Aztecs, out of desperation, resumed their human sacrifices to their gods. It was a bloody time. To this day, the Aztecs still worship Quetzalcoatl as one of many gods. Among certain people in Mexico, Quetzalcoatl has the same stature as Jesus Christ does for Christians, or the Buddha for Buddhists, or Mohammed for Muslims.)

Back to the Toltecs–their Quetzalcoatl god is said to have promised each time he died that he would return. On one such death, he promised there would be a sign: a “Tree of Unity” that would have the mark of a cross on it. (which has led some Christian sects to believe that the stories of Quetzalcoatl are really references to prophecies of Jesus Christ, particularly since there are writings about Quetzalcoatl 100 years before the birth of Christ, a virgin birth, and because both deities are known as gods of peace and unity. However, people of Mexico point to the Tree of Unity as the “axis mundi” or World Tree, and the cross as symbol of the four winds/directions.)

On this death in which he promised a sign of his next return/incarnation, he also gave his people three commandments. For a period of quite a few years in my life, Quetzalcoatl was a significant energy/archetype that I honored and worked with, and these 3 commandments were guiding lights. They also are partly why I think of the zoomorphic Quetzalcoatl image, the Feathered Serpent, as an image for integral activism.

The 3 commandments:
Make friends with the Lord (divine) inside you. (Arrogance, anxiety, and cowardice were believed to particularly interfere with this “making friends,” so were to be relinquished.)
Make peace with everyone you meet. (Interest in peace is the deep work of both the true warrior and a spiritual leader; “everyone” includes all inhabitants of the earth, human as well as other-than-human.)
Do not waste your time on the earth. (Because you do not know if you will “come again,” return, or, that you will recognize “your own face” on the other side of death.)

The symbolism of the Feathered Serpent is rich, complex. It suggests the integration and unification of dualities towards Wholeness. The wings/feathers suggest the path of transcendence and Eros, while the snake, creature most close to the earth, suggests the path of immanence and Agape energies. Earth is freed and exalted through spiritual ascent; the descent of Spirit into the earth enlivens and makes full all earthly forms, creatures, and beings. The serpent is for me and many others also a symbol of kundalini shakti, which when awakened, provides an evolutionary impulse. And voila! transformation (well maybe, for some).

I hope this is useful.


Good that you brought up ego - need it be eliminated from the integral activism equation?

Elimination is not the goal, but I do think it’s useful to observe/witness/notice, be aware of the operations of our own egos to the extent that we can, whether in integral activism or anything else. Don’t ya think?


I find myself having a “allergy “ towards the word activism. I acknowledge that a lot of good has and is being done by activists. There is also a lot of baggage that comes along with that term. I have listened to a lot of activists pushing their values on people and trying to shame and belittle people who have different values than them. I definitely wouldn’t use the word activism when speaking with someone with a conservative leaning.

I really appreciate Terry’s perspective. I also appreciate David T. Nicol’s perspective. He shares what he calls Subtle Activism

“Subtle activism refers to the use of consciousness-based practices for collective transformation, such as a global meditation intended to support the peaceful resolution of an international conflict. It represents a bridge between the consciousness movement and the movements for peace, sustainability, and social justice. It is not a substitute for more overt forms of action but rather a potentially crucial component of a more integrated approach to social change.” ~ Nicol



I’ve been meaning to come back to this topic, and am finally here… jjfirecracker, I’m curious if you have heard any term(s) used by conservatives to describe their social-political activity? I admit, the term ‘activist’ doesn’t hang easily on me either, doesn’t quite fit; it has a lot of connotations about march/rally/protest and that’s not what I do (although I do think that kind of street activism has a role to play). All words seem to eventually become hackneyed; one day, even ‘Integral’ will meet the same fate. If you have any ideas for new words/phrases to replace ‘activism,’ please do share.

Yes, this is good. I do think Terry mentions it in his book, maybe not by the term ‘subtle activism,’ but in referencing both individual and collective spiritual/consciousness-based methods for transformation. It’s a part of my repertoire, for sure.

This being a We-space and all, I’ve had thoughts over the last month about what this very Integral Life online community might discover should it experiment with simultaneously “being awake together” on transpersonal levels, participation voluntary, of course. Not necessarily geared towards social change, but towards simply finding out ‘can we do it,’ and what are the results for individuals and the community as a whole. What might emerge? I haven’t given it much more thought than that, but it keeps coming around…


This would be a great experiment. I’m reminded of an online WE space platform that Todd Jason, one of the SuperHuman OS guys was working on. Amplifield.com its a coordinated global meditation platform. He had to put it on the back burner to focus on other things, but something like this would be stellar here.



Probably think tanks or conscious/responsible capitalism. Those terms can be equally as problematic for people on the left though. I can’t think of any term that encompasses the entire political spectrum with out negative connotations. Maybe something like strategic problem solving or something like that.

To bring this topic a little up-to-date, I wanted to add the website for Terry Patten’s non-profit organization, just recently up and running. It is https://www.newreplublicoftheheart.org. The organization is seeking volunteers in the effort to “address global challenges (in non-oppositional ways),…and heal cultural and ecological crises…through integrating the inner work of personal transformation and the outer work of civic engagement.” (all paraphrased) If anyone’s looking for an avenue for integral activism, you might check it out.

And here’s an appropriate quote:

“What you are, the world is. And without your transformation, there can be no transformation of the world.”
J. Krishnamurti

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oneworldindialogue.com/owbw is the link to the “One World Bearing Witness” website where anyone interested in SUBTLE ACTIVISM can find out more and register for a 24-hour online meditation vigil December 8-9. There will be guided meditations from various disciplines and diverse lineages throughout the event, including from integralists. You can participate in any or all of the events. Donations are appreciated, but there is no fee.

I agree. Activism has become a loaded term watered down by “cyberactivism” and the like. Most activists have little or no real power, so they feel empowered by adopting the term and attempting to play the part.