What Is the Integral Movement?

June 22nd, 2012
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Something amazing is happening right now.

All around the world, a new culture is beginning to emerge.

It's a culture of people like you—people who are bringing more beauty into the world, more love to our human family, and more wholeness to lives. People who understand that we are all still evolving, and that growth and self-discovery is a life-long journey.

It's a culture of people who are creating an entirely new vision of who we are and where we are going—a positive, inspiring, radically hopeful vision of the future.

Integral Life is ground zero for this emerging culture.

At Integral Life you will discover everything you need to unlock your own deepest potentials, and will gain access to the most powerful tools, practices, and perspectives on the planet—all designed to help you to upgrade your own health, happiness, and work in the world.

Integral Life is home to the most provocative and insightful conversations on the planet. Here we feature some the world's most prominent teachers, leaders, artists, and visionaries—all of whom are part of the emerging Integral Renaissance that is already sweeping across the globe, and transforming every known field of human activity.

From art to sexuality, to psychology and spirituality, to politics, business, and leadership, to education, medicine, and personal development, to literally every other corner of the human experience—there is an integral revolution occurring in every single dimension of our lives.

And it's growing fast.

We know that problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. As our problems become ever more complex, more interconnected, and more global, it becomes increasingly clear that we need to find a whole new level of thinking and problem solving in order to meet the great challenges of our time.

This is the next level. The next major stage of human evolution.

This is Humanity 2.0.

Welcome to the Integral Movement.

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I agree with Susann (06/24/12), that Corey's video/audio is a wonderful, culturally specific, integral message.

I also agree with her that, "[w]hat this view [i.e. integral/AQAL] does not have is a perspective on its own, deep-seated[,] cultural assumptions" (bolding is mine).

We in western cultures tend to have a sense of superiority over other cultures, and we need to remember, as far as we can be conscious of our own views, that they are embedded in our way of thinking, and in the language that has arisen from that way of thinking. Different languages, even within the Indo-European based ones, make for different perspectives and approaches, different ways of 'seeing' the reality of the living world, that don't coincide, and we need to keep this in mind as we come into contact with other perspectives as they arise from within our own, and other, cultures.

With great respect and love,
Richard.

I think we must be sensitive to the ease with which we slip into patterns analogous to monolingual superiority-tinged cultural tunnels AND the ease with which we slip into pluralism, doubt, concern that we cannot locate any absolute truths. To be open minded we must remain open to the possibility that we can know, that we might be right, even the most right. It is a certain kind of hubris to be tempted into these feelings and the reciprocal hubris to think we can or must avoid such temptation.

It may be that we are far more embedded in our linguistic reality tunnels that we realize. Or it may be that this sense is itself a product of certain language temperaments and that the danger of such embedding is far less significant that our sensitivities make it appear.

While remaining open on all sides, I am personally not so concerned about the alternative realities offered by various language traditions. I am more concerned the possibilities and patterns by which any particular language might be able to universalize itself to a greater or lesser degree.

What does a more universal English, for example, look like?

Is there the possibility of a planetary language tradition forming itself, coming to the table with the inherited languages?

Do we, for example, honor Arabic when we say the Mohammedans worship "Allah"? Or does our failure to translate merely keep a subtle barrier in place so that no one has to risk going too far in the direction of a rich, uncertain, new production of languages which will lean toward expressing the ongoing life of humanity rather than the inherited life of humanity?

The stage conceptions involved in Integral thinking suggest the possibility that certain forms of supra-English & supra-Kwakiutl (a local native language where I'm from) & supra-Chinese will have more in common with each other than the regular forms of these languages possess differences from each other.

At any rate -- we are wide open in all directions.

With great respect & love,
layman pascal.

There was so much said here that it seems difficult to hold and act on all of it at once. I intend to focus on this "bringing ... more love to our human family".

A gift that the integral movement can bring to this endevor is that we can learn to love others the way they need to be loved as opposed to trying to impose our specific worldview upon others.

A good place to practice this kind of art is upon the canvas of the Integral Movement Forum. Hope to see you there.

Love,

Stan

I wasn't able to edit my previous post and correct typos, and there was one typo in an Aurobindo quotation. The correct quotation, without the typo, is:

“Language creates and determines thought even while it is created and determined by it, and so long as there is difference of language there will be a certain amount of free variation of thought, of knowledge and of culture.”

Corey, that’s a great video. Beautifully written and delivered.

Susanne, thank you first of all for your wonderful work. I think you have made a wonderful contribution to the integral community and to the Indo-European way of life. :)

I also think your comments about the interpretative differences among languages are important to keep in mind. I think we can not only imagine a plurality of AQAL interpretations, but also a plurality of integral visions or models.

However, I have some questions about a few of your other points.

For example, you say, “English in particular is a language that reifies (makes into things) what are essentially processes.”

But don’t we need both ideas? Can we have “things” without “processes” or vice versa? Doesn’t one always imply the other? And isn’t “process” still a “thing” in a sense, just an abstract, amorphous thing?

Also, you say: “E. O. Wilson (2004 Harvard Press) once said that ‘the evolutionary epic is probably one of the best myths of all.’ Unlike evolutionary integralism, Wilson does have an explicit perspective on his own field of inquiry as a myth rather than the Truth.”

But I think at least some evolutionary integralists have this same understanding.

Wilber, for example, has described evolutionary spirituality as a “useful myth” in the notes to Excerpt A:

http://wilber.shambhala.com/html/books/kosmos/excerptA/notes-3.cfm#fn26

Aurobindo as well had this understanding. He frequently said things like the following:

“The human mind. . . . lives in a closed prison of constructions and representations that are necessary for its action but are not the self-existent truth either of Matter or Life or Mind or Spirit.” [The Synthesis of Yoga, p. 297]

Aurobindo also understood the postmodern insights you mentioned about language not only expressing thought but creating thought and how knowledge will differ somewhat from language to language:

“Language creates and determines thought even while it is created and determined by it, and so long as there is difference of language there will be a certain amount of free variation of thought, of knowledge and of culture.” (The Ideal of Human Unity, p. 143)

(I understand that Wilber has said that Aurobindo didn’t understand postmodern insights and also that his philosophy is “metaphysical,” but I can actually show that there is very little truth to those criticisms and will publish a paper about that at some point.)

But I think you’re right that hubris is a potential pitfall here. I don’t believe I have heard of a spiritual orientation that doesn’t have hubris as a pitfall in one form or another, but evolutionary spirituality is certainly no exception, and I think it is good to point that out and raise awareness about it.

Thank you again, and blessings,

David

I like the modesty in Susann`s perspective. And it reminds me that each one of us has a unique perspective on integral.

We`re informing it even as it informs us. Good that we don`t take it as something set in concrete, but as a creative act we`re co-creating, a thing of beauty we`re building together.
How sweet it is to have collaborators.

Our own contributions can be lost, just as the contributions of other cultures and times can be and are lost. We`re creating integral today, as we go.

thx, Andrew

Hi - the edit function is temporarily caput from this site. The last sentence of my prior post was from you and should have been in quotes.. Also, I wanted to give aloud , "Yeah! " to it.

Hi Susann, This is a beautifully expressed perspective to bring to an integral tenet that has made me a little uneasy over time - that we "now have access to all that the human spirit has created since the dawn of history".

This doesn't seem to consider what we actually know about human communication. As though all the expressed knowledge, awareness and wisdom over the years is like some giant slurpee, and if we only had a big enough straw we could take it in.

As we are learning so well right now, particularly in the spiritual teachings, the limits to evolving are not what is available or not "out there" but what our internal wiring is actually able to do with it.

As you so eloquently point out, our interpretive capacity as humans, located in a particular time and culture is extremely bounded, and incommensurate with the abundance of knowledge and perspectives that are newly available to us as a seeking species.

Where Integral teachings continue to be enormously helpful is in reminding us of the ongoing importance of engaging the work of expanding our seeing, and teaching many paths to do so. Thanks for this very valuable one. Jean

Hi, again, Susanne. I'm taking some more time now to respond more specifically to some of your helpful critiques and admonitions.

"It channels our attention to what is important and thus conceptualized and labeled and what is not important and thus outside its radar."
I really like this reminder of a basic phenomenon and mental function that has such profound and on-going influence on our perspectives and our underlying perceptions. Though often with enthusiasm, hopefulness, feelings of caring, creative engagement with new and in strong ways helpful ideas and possibilities, and with a resultant stabilization and growth of our senses of self, WE ARE BEING CHANNELED. This is of course potentially 'good' and potentially 'bad'. We so take this daily and even second-to-second function that it is almost invisible to us - outside of our radar, and apparently through the attentional process that could to a significant extent remain within our will to choose to be channeled or not, if we remain aware.

"Also, the view of language just presented assumes that all named objects are human constructs, especially abstract ones. Thus, notions such as quadrants, types, and lines - even purpose, self and ego - are all invented concepts. They are essential for our survival and personal development in the Western mindset. It is fair to assume that “ego”, too, is an arbitrary and intangible concept although it seems necessary for us to communicate our experience to each other. To an aboriginal denizen of the Australian outback living along song lines in dream time, such a concept would have been utterly meaningless. But in our Western context, it serves a vital purpose."
This sounds logical to me, and it is a stretch for me since I probably am so, in Western fashion, presuming the objectivity of, as you are suggesting the subjective self-reinforcement of the ego. Given my bias perhaps, or perhaps not, I felt a glitch when I read your word "arbitrary". Because the ego, and individual, lower-case-s self, as a construct and as a developed social-subjective reality seems to have some powerfully leveraging survival value and usefulness, with the accompanying creative-for-action autonomy, it does not seem to arise quite "arbitrarily". It seems to be a possibility that flowers given contexts and perhaps needs. I.e. "You, Lightfoot [pointed to] climb the sacred hill and boulder by where our ancestors have been buried and clear the debri from the spring so that our water will flow clear and strong again." "No, [shaking head and beginning to mildly tremble]. I can not. The ancestors will kill me in a fire - you all have said so." "Yes. Usually so. Now you must do it. You are young, strong and light of foot and our best chance. If YOU do not, we will have no water and the other demons will prevent our crops from growing and the young and old kin to be unhealthy. YOU must go, our son." Is this at all persuasive, Susanne, towards this tiny point that ego is not fully 'arbitrary' :)

"Furthermore, the evolutionary perspective is touted as the only true way we should look at human existence and explain who we are and where we are headed. Although it is world-centric in its care, it is anthropo-centric in its overall message and in the role it assigns humans in the cosmic order. More than a mere conjecture, this view prides itself to be a comprehensive model of consciousness. It puts second-tier folks and spiritual evolutionaries at the center of action and salvation. It requires that we believe we have a major impact on what is happening in the future. Moreover, we are invited to see ourselves as co-creators with god of an emerging order of consciousness that will lead to a better and saner world."
This interests me also and it sounds important to a newer part of me that is considering that, yes, my educational blindness may have been restricting my imagination and openness to evidence to allow in myself more and powerful influences that have created this world and our realities. Initially when I came to Integral and heard Ken speak on such a wide variety of topics, I would hear some things that I thought were woowoo, magical thinking, maybe religious myth. "Involution" was one of these, specifically with supportive reference to Aurobindo. Evolution, and Involution. Through spirit from the ground up, and from the top down. Huh? I had more trouble with allowing even the word "spirit" to frequent my vocabulary except for narrow contexts. I still do to an extent. And I also have found myself wondering about other huge contributing forces, fields, organizing principles, or encompassing and imbuing contexts, which co-create this manifest realm along with evolution. I do think that, though often lost in the dark broad outlining strokes of normal integral conversation, teaching, and persuasion, integral theory has provided room for more than simply evolution. And to add how much on-board I am with your suggestions, I have commented often on the inadvertent perhaps atomizing and reifying tendencies that find there ways into the models, maps, and illustrations as we speak of them and use them, and that brings with it loss. Along with powerfully leveraging cognition, and perhaps the novelty stimulating entertainment value.

"Can you hear the potential for hubris in this framing of who we are and what our place in the universe is? What this view does not have is a perspective on its own, deep-seated cultural assumptions. E. O. Wilson (2004 Harvard Press) once said that “the evolutionary epic is probably one of the best myths of all”. Unlike evolutionary integralism, Wilson does have an explicit perspective on his own field of inquiry as a myth rather than the Truth."
I sometimes hear and feel the self-confidence in my cognition wielding and something like a valued small-s self-groundedness, and this probably is at least cousin to hubris. Sometimes I get a glimpse of my hubris - usually its easier for me to see in others here on the forums :) great reminder!

Thanks for this great addition. ambo

"On the other hand, I invite us again and again to look at our own culturally-mediated and cherished view of reality as one viable view, but not the final view on spirit and what it means to be a significance seeking human being." Yes, Susanne!

Hi all,
I am happy to see that my comments invited some reflections and some very valid observations and comments in their own right. That was part of my purpose. I love Integral and Ken, and I am fully embedded in this, our western worldview. I had the good fortune, to learn several languages, even one non-Indo-European one. With very poor results, I might add, in terms of performance, but vital to my understanding of just how tough it can be to undo the automatic structures laid down in our brains by our native tongues.

To be more precise, Ambo, I should have said "arbitrary but not capricious" as I do in other places I have written about language. Something like the sense of ego does grow on other soils, not just in the western world. Arbitrary refers primarily to the naming. If you look up abstract psychological words like spirit up in the dictionary they tend to have circular references, each is explained by reference to the other (Psyche, soul, spirit....). We couldn't grow and learn from others without these concepts, but there is no such "thing" as the ego per se. It is an abstraction of something experienced and agreed upon by a group of people to have a specific meaning or a range of meanings.

Sometimes labels are an artifact of translation and tradition. Loevinger chose to translate the Freudian term "ich" with ego, and thus, in order to carry on her tradition, I have been talking about ego development instead of self-development. In hindsight, I wished I had chosen differently. But then again, ego as that function of our meaning making that integrates and always tries to tell a coherent story works well as a "theory".

I was pointing out that some in the integral community objectify and reify (= make real) AQAL and evolutionary spiritualit as the only way to look at experience and consciousness rather than one important and useful way. Ken and Aurobindo and many others have presented their models as conjectures, possibilities for orienting ourselves, not as the final Truth as you rightly emphasize. Indeed, one can judge someones theorizing through the lens of how much perspective do they have on their own theory and theory making.

My concerns are reminders to remain open and tentative and not get totally enthralled by the "evangelistic" overtones of some of the proponents of the evolutionary integralism.

Good news: The National Geographic Magazine just published a major article on the death of languages (Vanishing Voices) in its July edition that considers similar concerns to mine in a much more eloquent and detailed way. (National Geographic, pp. 60-93). So perhaps this concern is timely along with such as Davis W. (2009). The wayfinders: Why ancient wisdom matters in the modern world. Toronto: Anansi Press. another beautiful voice in this symphony.

Read, weep, laugh and wonder!

Yes, it is a loss, these deaths of language and culture and various solutions to solving old problems. I'll check out the national geographic mag - I hope I remember and get around to Davis with his finely titled book. We are "Wayfinders". Finding our ways.

I follow you on the arbitrary naming of ego.

I think you might like the DVD that is an unusual documentary called, Saltmen Of Tibet, about another way of life that will be gobbled up by modern momentums. I introduced the film that I got through my library system here: http://integrallife.com/node/200492

Thanks for your interest and following up on responses to you. I wouldn't be surprised to know that we feel somewhat honored by your forum engagement. Hope all is well in your life. ambo

PS - if you find yourself with some extra time on your hands and wanted to watch an unusual TEDx talks, I linked one here. I'd be interested how you express what you see going on developmentally with this man. Just to hear you meta language it to the extent you feel comfortable would be fun :) http://integrallife.com/node/200518

Susanne, I thank you for this.

Your comments, Susanne, are great addition to this commentary and huge topic. I often think similarly about how we slice the root burl of life, perceive the grain patterns, and then try to convey and even capture the apparent reality. Thanks. ambo

What a beautifully narrated and inspiring message Corey gives of the integral movement. Believing that we do now have access to all that the human spirit has created since the dawn of history, however, is overlooking some crucial facts about human meaning making that I would like to address here in a longer reponse. I recently offered a similar note of caution in a speech for the integral forum in Germany.

There is an abundance of vital human experience and wisdom out in the world we are not privy to because we do not have access to the reality conceptions formed in all other speech communities. This is especially so for wisdom accumulated over centuries of oral transmission in remote areas of the world. W. Davis, in The wayfinders: Why ancient wisdom matters in the modern world brought this humbling insight recently again to my attention. Why my interest and concern? As a young linguist I used to do field research in on dying-out Italian dialects in the Swiss alpine Today we have enough evidence from linguistics, brain research and from semantics and anthropology–ethnology that both the language instinct (Pinker) and the language habit are aspects of our meaning making propensity.

To wit: Each culture and each speech community divides the original, unstructured continuum in sometimes similar and sometimes very different ways according to its specific traditions, beliefs, needs, and imagination as well as its context. Each group uses its particular language to induct new members into the particular reality view that it embodies. At the most basic level, each speech community transmits its accepted answers to our fundamental questions about life. It channels our attention to what is important and thus conceptualized and labeled and what is not important and thus outside its radar. Being able to use specific terms and to agree on their meaning creates a sense of belonging. It also subtly and not so subtly excludes those who do not know the special lingo. Integral concepts and jargon are no exception to this observation.

So let’s not forget: Almost everyone in this community is a speaker of one of the languages belonging to the Indo-European language family that originates in Sanskrit. According to Wikipedia estimates, more than 40% of the world’s people speak an Indo-European language from Hindi to Russian. Though not visible to most native English speakers, each language that is remote from the Indo-European branch may see very different realities from ours and articulate its conception of the world and of being a human being in sometimes powerfully different ways.

It is a fact, that English has become the lingua franka of the 21st century as it spreads and colonizes much of the international communication and commerce. Many of the chief advocates of the integral scene in the USA seem to be monolingual. Like fish in water they are not even aware of how the structure of English may itself influence their thinking and message. It would be a tragedy to assume that AQAL and integral evolutionary spirituality become the only answer to the human predicament and our innate striving for meaning.

As speakers of rare languages die out, and more and more people share information via English, a vast treasure of past human answers to: who we are, where we come from, where we are going, why we are here in the first place, and how we can survive our being in the world is permanently lost. What this loss of wisdom means for humanity seems at least as tragic as the loss of biodiversity.

By losing languages and cultures we also lose part of the legacy of the human spirit. I wonder to what degree the integral community is aware of these wider possibilities of our rich interpretive heritage. I wonder also what we lose by focusing merely on conceptions of reality originating from our Indo-European heritage.

As speakers of English, our thought is generally characterized by objectification, linearity, and a logico-deductive preference. That is, we rely on an analytical process of differentiation, and clear inside-outside or subject-object divisions. In addition, we tend to define the growth of the mind by its capacity to make ever finer distinctions and categorizing the information in ever more complex, and logically organized ways. English in particular is a language that reifies (makes into things) what are essentially processes.

How does this automatic analytical framing of reality show up in integral theory? The AQAL model separates human experience into four distinct quadrants. It’s true that the quadrants are said to co-arise and influence each other. Yet overall the model is teaching its components as separate entities. Also, the view of language just presented assumes that all named objects are human constructs, especially abstract ones. Thus, notions such as quadrants, types, and lines - even purpose, self and ego - are all invented concepts. They are essential for our survival and personal development in the Western mindset. It is fair to assume that “ego”, too, is an arbitrary and intangible concept although it seems necessary for us to communicate our experience to each other. To an aboriginal denizen of the Australian outback living along song lines in dream time, such a concept would have been utterly meaningless. But in our Western context, it serves a vital purpose.

Furthermore, the evolutionary perspective is touted as the only true way we should look at human existence and explain who we are and where we are headed. Although it is world-centric in its care, it is anthropo-centric in its overall message and in the role it assigns humans in the cosmic order. More than a mere conjecture, this view prides itself to be a comprehensive model of consciousness. It puts second-tier folks and spiritual evolutionaries at the center of action and salvation. It requires that we believe we have a major impact on what is happening in the future. Moreover, we are invited to see ourselves as co-creators with god of an emerging order of consciousness that will lead to a better and saner world.

Can you hear the potential for hubris in this framing of who we are and what our place in the universe is? What this view does not have is a perspective on its own, deep-seated cultural assumptions. E. O. Wilson (2004 Harvard Press) once said that “the evolutionary epic is probably one of the best myths of all”. Unlike evolutionary integralism, Wilson does have an explicit perspective on his own field of inquiry as a myth rather than the Truth.

I celebrate the integral movement. As a member, I have benefited from many of its discoveries. I feel blessed to have in our community a viable group of peers. As I have said elsewhere, I especially find AQAL a fantastic and comprehensive western model for exploring any topic in any field of inquiry at any level of granularity.

On the other hand, I invite us again and again to look at our own culturally-mediated and cherished view of reality as one viable view, but not the final view on spirit and what it means to be a significance seeking human being. I pray that we remain open to a more historical and global perspective on our field and remain aware of losses as well as its precious gains.

With a deep bow
Susann