Possibly Best Post on Integral Ever

From my buddy Juma Wood.  If at all interested in this topic, this is a must read.  Every word of it.

A snippet:

As the old Wilber guard scrambles to find distance from its toxic personality cult, there is a danger of watering down the central insights of the integral model: namely, that every moment arises in four fundamental dimensions (or eight, splitting it finer with IMP), that worldview determines vantage, and that collapsing the context into any of these areas produces partiality by definition.

This last point is where I’d hope the conference would veer itself: the basic Integral Model is the starting point for each and every perspective or action. It is what Hargens in the WIE interview meant when he said that integral was ‘content-free’ (to which critics might agree, but replace the word with ‘empty’). The model should not be asked to do more. That is the work of other theory, other work. Torbert’s work, for example, fits well within this context, including many if not most of the central insights and promises. But it should neither attempt to replace the integral model, nor assume it operates outside its scope.

This is not a debate of either/or, but rather effectiveness and applicability. The integral map does well when it is static, over-arching. It is the scaffold into which the pieces take shape and arrange themselves rightly. There is no ‘integral politics’ or ‘integral ecology’ or ‘integral art’. These are each arenas within which wisdom and approach are exclusive to the field of study, but through which insight and integration can be gained with other disciplines once having oriented properly, via the integral map.

Which is to say this works on (at least) two levels.

One, the model simply clarifies/organizes what already is taking place within a discipline.  This is why the best stuff applying integral (see here for economics, here for biology) are from those already well versed within the confines of the discipline to which they offer up an integral simplifying/clarifying view (but simplification). Those who read Integral (read: Wilber) first and then think they have reached the end have the mental cart before the horse.  Then end up spouting on all manner of topics without being grounded in the knowledge community first.

[When such healthy coherence is achieved within different disciplines–and again this is a sorta second-order type move it in no way replaces or substitutes for the canons and methods already established within the disciplines themselves–then they could finally cross-fertilize with a common language.]

Two, the model is a mental yoga.  This is what Juma describes as every moment arising in four dimensions and to collapse the context is inherently partial.  Wilber often cites the Bhagavad Gita and Krishna’s famous admonition to Arjuna:  Remember the Lord and Fight.  That is, Remember the Truth about the Spiritual Nature of Reality and yet you still have to battle in this world of division.

To play off that notion, we are always going to be collapsing the context–that is always having to specialize and enter the disciplines and one or the other of these dimensions (principally) on their own terms.  Nothing ever is achieved otherwise.  But in so doing one can not forget the prior move and the ground.  Or else there is nothing integral and it will simply be whatever the general tendency therein reduces it to (modern, postmodern whatever).

So weirdly put (but not weirdly intending): Remember the Quadrants and Collapse the Context could be the rallying cry.  And by remember not some nerdy mental recollection but rather remember the space of consciousness in which the four co-arise.  Actually think-feel them.  Remember that you are purposefully entering one and then worlds open up within those  (quadrivia).  Embrace limitation from the position of transcendence.

As a final note, Juma is appropriately loving and critical to all sides in this debate, aware of the strengths, but not (over)hyping the value.   What Heidegger called the basic stance of dasein as Care.  He models Care in this post.  And others would do well to heed what he is saying.  Integral will bumble and stumble along as it has to date until his message gets through in a serious way.

Published in: on July 6, 2008 at 3:37 pm  Comments (4)  
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  1. “As the old Wilber guard scrambles to find distance from its toxic personality cult.”

    Chris, you were so clear on the Derrida issue I find this disapointing.I think you might reconsider this view. It looks like a massive projection to me. I-I doesn’t qualify as a cult by any rational standards, and it’s certainly not toxic, notwithstanding a polemic blog post or two directed at Frank Visser and Integral World. What is toxic is Frank Visser’s and some of the other Integral World author’s (not your’s) mean-spirited obsession with Ken Wilber. It seems to stem for Ken Wilber’s relative popularity and stature. I can’t imagine there would be the same response if it were some obscure group in the mountains.


  2. David,

    I agree with you (and Juma) that Integral World is in general its own toxic anti-Ken personality cult. Frank has always been very cordial with me in our interactions, but yeah what Sean said about the site in his recent post there is I think basically right. It wasn’t always that way, but its really go down the toilet imo, which is why I really don’t check the site out anymore.

    On the I-I front/your pushback to me. I should be clear that I have a lot of friends (including Ken) whom I love dearly over at I-I. And there a lot of good people there who aren’t so afflicted but there are affiliated wider hanger-ons that are creepy. I’ve met some, interacted with them (I even can even love and have compassion on them) but we have to be willing to put our egos aside (all of us) and face some hard facts. Integral has not achieved very much to date. It was never going to be as gang busters as people thought, but more could have definitely been done. Those of us in the community need to hone up to our part of that reality. It’s no one person’s fault. There’s plenty of blame to be shared on that front. Including my own.

    So it’s not like they are guilty and I’m standing in righteous judgment. Or Juma who called himself out in the piece. I linked to it because I think we need as a group to get much more honest and clear in our self-perceptions.

    cult is a strong word no doubt, but he doesn’t mean it like a like psychotic brainwashing cult. Jim Jones, etc. As he and I often say “everybody is in a cult.” Just kinda depends on whether you are in a healthy one, benign, or negative one–but even the latter has light years worth of gradations. And in the large scheme of things, the integral one, if you want to call it that, is not awful. But there are elements of the MO (if you don’t like cult) that are preventing the work/ideas from getting out seems to me.

    That’s the crucial point that I think honestly most of us would admit, no matter kinda labels we put on it.

    peace. cj

  3. “But there are elements of the MO (if you don’t like cult) that are preventing the work/ideas from getting out seems to me.”

    Could you say what these elements are?

    I’m not sure the argument about the “creeps” is necessarily an indictment against I-I. Don’t most large organizations have sketchy types around the edges? And perhaps it is actually in favor of I-I that they keep these people around. Perhaps they are showing them care and compassion by keeping them around. Perhaps they are trying to help them.

    Also, I think we have to have a lot of patience with integral. It is so threatening to other worldviews and to many disciplines and traditions that claim absolute authority or knowledge. That it hasn’t gained more traction than it has isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault. Integral has the same problem with postmodernism that modernism had (and still have) with fundamentalism. Robert Kegan has said that an individual can take 5 years to move to another stage–if they are working on it. So I think we have to give it some time. A lot of people feel that it has really changed their lives for the better and could do the same for the world as a whole.


  4. David,

    I think a much more lucid explanation of what I was trying to get at (but I don’t think expressed as well as I would have liked) is if you read Sean Hargens actual piece that Juma referenced in Integral World. That is the kind of thing I’m talking about especially relative to closed-thinking.

    peace. cj

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