Yesterday evening I went online to YouTube looking for a particular something and this video showed up first thing, so I watched the full episode. The first thing I would say is that I think your conversation met a goal laid out by Ryan when he introduced Integral Crossfire at the IL Community forum–the tone of your conversation was quite civil and laced with consideration and kindness towards one another. I would also say I think Ryan did an excellent job of moderating/facilitating; he held everyone to time limits set beforehand and the questions he asked of Theo and Jeremy, for example, were exactly the questions I myself would have asked, for clarification purposes. What is lost through Ryan’s moderation of the conversation is that we don’t get to hear much from him on his own perspectives around the subject matter, and Ryan, I missed that.
I found the conversation very energizing; I don’t think I would watch Crossfire (if they’re all this energetic) as late in the day as I did this time, as the mental stimulation actually kept me awake part of the night! Having gotten a little sleep and this morning, reflecting on it all and watching another related YouTube video, I’m ready to make a few comments (or maybe a lot of comments, we’ll see how it goes.)
Perhaps the most intriguing statement (for me) was made early on by Jeremy, when he said rather off-handedly that ‘Rebel Wisdom has written the post-mortem on Integral.’ I’ll come back to that later.
I thought Theo’s early comment about Integral being “only a model” was spot on, and a necessary reminder we all need from time to time to help us keep everything in perspective, and hold things a little more loosely. “The map is not the territory” has been said or written by KW and other Integral leaders so many times, and yet, we can still lose sight of this. I still lose sight of this.
Another comment by Jeremy was/is to me the crux of effective Integralism: that everything needs to be folded into a larger awareness. Theo later seconded this by saying we need a greater sense of the Whole. Karen too spoke of the need to include everything about the Integral model in a larger awareness of unity. If I had to choose one idea that I feel best represents Wilber’s own Integralism, and the message he goes to great lengths to get across, it is exactly this: Wholeness.
I personally never tire of hearing/reading Wilber riff on Wholeness, Spirit, Nonduality, Presence, the Totality of the Painting of All That Is. I actually sometimes tear up hearing him talk on these subjects or reading these sections of his books. Partly this is because I “get” (i.e. have experienced) some of what he’s talking about, and what I don’t get, I long for, as I think many people do. It is in/as this Wholeness, that we are all, not equal, but absolutely The Same, identical–One Self. So yes, we definitely need to keep the Whole in mind.
That said, and at the risk now of being thought of as engaging in what my friend Paul the LionLamb funnily calls ‘ass-kissery’ or otherwise defending Wilber, I’m going to go on a little tangent here about some of my views on him, who I ‘know’ only though his books and videos/audios, in response to some of the comments made during this Crossfire.
I have never thought that Wilber is writing just for me or people like me or for our small niche Integral community. Certainly he is writing for us, but also for academia, and for high-powered leaders in every field, and for posterity. This has to shape his writing to some degree. I have immense respect for someone who can write so prolifically about so many subjects for so many different readerships, while holding to his own integrity. For example, some people find the talk of chakras and subtle and causal bodies and such and spirituality in general off-putting, and yet, he hasn’t compromised on these subjects. He’s not stupid; he knows many people think this is “woo-woo,” and yet, there it is, his authentic voice, his “more-truth.”
Some people don’t find the repetition in his books or online talks useful, but repetition is one of the primary ways in which we learn. Not only is the Integral model complex, but some people may read only one book, and the basic tenets of integralism need to be there. I personally always find something new in material he is repeating; he shines a new light on the knowledge I possess, adds to it. The Institute of Noetic Sciences did a study some 10-years ago of leaders in an array of spiritual traditions, from paganism and Wicca to shamanism to Judeo-Christian religions to various Eastern traditions, asking what were the primary elements in their practices. Repetition was one of the top five. So I don’t think it can be underestimated as a teaching/learning tool.
Also, some people don’t find the lengthy books useful; while I agree the average person will not delve into 800 pages on an unfamiliar subject, and I too would like to see a brief Integral “primer,” for those with a deep interest in the subject matter, 800 pages is not enough!
Some people object to his favoring or emphasis on Buddhism in his writings/teachings. I have never felt he is trying to convert anyone to Buddhism, but he has stated in his books that he finds the philosophy and teachings of Buddhism more comprehensive and in-depth than any other tradition he has looked into. And I don’t think we should forget that Wilber is still human, still an individual, and he has the right for a preferred spiritual allegiance of his own. We shouldn’t deny him that. He makes plenty of room for other spiritual traditions. My own spiritual grounding is in the shamanic-yogic traditions, and yet, sensing the universality of all traditions; I find some benefit in all of them, and I am not bothered by his Buddhist leanings, and do in fact learn from what he writes on the subject.
I personally find tremendous heart and feeling in Wilber’s writings and talks, tremendous heart and feeling, and I have to repeat that, tremendous heart and feeling. And given that he has practiced hatha yoga and weight-lifting and has dealt with physical illness, I don’t think he’s out of touch with body. Have you read his pages in “The Religion of Tomorrow” on obesity? Genius application of integral theory to a bodily issue. He also uses nature metaphors extensively in his writings; I don’t think he’s out of touch with earth and nature.
That said, when I first started tuning into Integral online probably 12 years ago, I too questioned the “headiness” of integralism. But I see things differently today. Integralism is a complex model, and cognitive awareness is necessary (but not sufficient) for development in any of the other lines, be that values or morals or psychosexuality or spirituality, etc. I think a lot of what I and others have called headiness could more accurately be described as highly-developed, exquisite cognition combined with an intellectual brilliance. As Jeremy said, intellectual talk can be viewed as an art form, and I agree, whether it’s an individual talking or a dyadic conversation.
As for the conversation on Crossfire about the ‘arrogance’ towards other (non-integral) levels of development, I wasn’t clear as to who or what the term was being applied to–to Wilber’s integral model? to Wilber himself? to other integral leaders or personalities? to members of our own Integral Life community here? Once again, I think we have to ask some questions around this–is it arrogance or is it possibly that most integral leaders speak from a highly-developed sense of autonomy and conviction? Do we really believe integralism is arrogant, or are we responding to others saying integralism is arrogant and incorporating their views? There is arrogance everywhere, and again, 12 years or so ago tuning into Integral online, I too thought there was some arrogance, but I just don’t see that much of it today. I do remember some 10 years ago, taking one particular integral leader to task over his arrogance. We exchanged several lengthy and somewhat heated emails around a situation; not only had I found him very arrogant in unnecessarily trashing a particular Buddhist teacher’s work who he had not even read, but he was arrogant and condescending and patronizing in his initial assumptions that I was a know-nothing dummy. To his credit, he ultimately acknowledged I was right. I’ve taken another one to task over their use of F-bombs every 15 words; so many integral talks are in the public domain, that I do think we have to at least consider how others might view our language, and I’m pretty certain there’s a large group out there that would find so much F-ing language offensive. You know, use it for emphasis if you choose, but we’re way past needing to prove Spirit exists in the profane as well as the sacred, so I say, clean it up a bit. I’m a little conservative that way.
Some other statements that stood out for me in this Crossfire–Theo’s comment that perhaps there is a “sensitivity avoidance” among integralists, that we shouldn’t be caring, etc. Ryan added that perhaps we reject too much of the green altitude consciousness. I see some truth in this, and I think that we on this site can start right now correcting this. Theo, I love you! You too Ryan!! Seriously, I think exchanging positive regard with one another is totally legitimate here or anywhere, and while I personally have observed quite a bit of this actually on this site, there’s room for more.
And speaking of green consciousness, yes, I did feel this conversation was oriented to some extent from that perspective (that perspective as we know it from the Integral framework). A pivotal point in the conversation came when Charles raised the question to differentiate between dominator hierarchies and growth hierarchies, and Paul spoke as an advocate for hierarchy. That’s when I thought the conversation really began to take a turn towards being more fully Integral, because if you can observe that your conversation is exhibiting hallmarks of what we typically call the green altitude (anti-hierarchy, anti-hierarchical development), then that suggests a higher (greater, larger, more encompassing, whatever word seems appropriate) perspective than green, i.e. Integral. I thought Heidi made a wise comment about how in a single day, people can move from stage to stage, i.e. aren’t always stable at integral or any other stage. They indeed are sliding for most of us.
But what I would also say is that we do have to accept where we are, and in some cases, include more of the prior stages in our beings when we recognize our having short-shrifted them. I recently heard Jeff Salzman of the Daily Evolver speak of wanting to fill out his own green consciousness; I’ve heard him speak of wanting more of the magical-stage experience as well. What’s wrong with this? Nothing, in my opinion. And I do think that we who are identified with integralism could possibly affect unhealthy green consciousness by ourselves modeling healthy green.
And when it comes to metaphors for the hierarchical stages of development, I thought Karen’s suggestion of the spine a good one; it’s also closely related to the chakras. But you know, Wilber has offered numerous metaphors himself: there’s the Russian eggs when we’re talking about the enfoldment of structures in a nested holarchy; there’s the ladder; there’s the rainbow which I like really well–as he points out, the stages aren’t rigidly ‘marked,’ rather, they sort of blend into one another as do the colors of the rainbow. He’s also spoken of belts in Aikido or the martial arts in general, how everyone can accept that there is a different degree of capacity in someone with a white belt than someone with a black belt. This is a developmental hierarchy. So, yes, the more effective metaphors we have, the better.
I did want to say something to you Max, thank you for your comments about awakened kundalini “skipping around,” not being totally linear. Speaking from personal experience as well as the academic literature, this is true; kundalini can jump from chakra to chakra in no particular order. And yet, I would add, the overall ultimate direction and “destination” of awakened kundalini is upwards towards the crown of the head.
And finally, Jeremy, nice to see you back in the Integral community! I remember our conversations from last year and enjoyed them and was educated more about Gebser’s work. I remember the sense that his work had a bit more emphasis on what have typically been called feminine values, and on immanence. If you show up at the Daily Evolver again, I’ll be sure to watch.
But I do want to ask about your comment on Rebel Wisdom’s post-mortem on integralism. That’s what I did this morning, is go in search of that. I had watched Jeff Salzman’s interview with David Fuller about Fuller’s interviews with Wilber, and I had watched Wilber’s interviews with Fuller. My impression was that David Fuller at least found great value in Wilber’s developmental stages. What I watched this morning was Fuller’s interview with Jamie Wheal: The Legacy of Integral. Probably you’ve seen this, and perhaps others in this Crossfire conversation as well. Is this one of the Rebel Wisdom talks you’re referring to as a ‘post-mortem?’ If not, can you steer me to what you are referencing?
I had numerous problems with Wheal’s comments. His main objection to hierarchy, as far as I could tell, is “the problem of people’s egos, that everyone wants to be at the top.” To me, this was kind of like saying, “I object to the sun because some people get sunburned.” I thought he had some pretty significant blind spots; for instance, one of his main criticisms of Wilber’s integralism is around the chakras and subtle body, which the inclusion of in Wilber’s work he referred to as “far off the reservation.” I tell you, in my experience, it is Wheal who in this case is far off the reservation. Just because he has not experienced chakras or his own subtle body does not mean they don’t exist.
I did not view Fuller in this interview with Wheal as writing Integral off. He in fact said that he thought Wilber’s inclusion of developmental stages and vertical development was a “great addition” to the current intellectual conversation.
So yes, this turned out to be quite long, you Crossfirers stimulated me! As I want to sleep well tonight, I needed to burn through these responses to your conversation. There…I’m already yawning. xo, xo