Sacred Activism: The Practice of Civic Engagement

Terry Patten Ethical, Free, How should we relate to the social justice movement?, Integral Life Practice, Integral Live, Lifestyle, Perspectives, Practice, Presentations, Spiritual, Values, Video 4 Comments

Our collective challenges are so enormous and often so abstract, while our individual actions feel so small in comparison, which leaves many of us with a sense of helplessness that can quickly slide into apathy, cynicism, and civic paralysis.

As Terry asks in his introduction, “The alarm is sounding, all hands on deck. Okay, I want to be a part of that solution, I want to embody the health of everything good, true, and beautiful. I want to enact that, here in the world. How do I do that?”

That is what we are here to explore.

Watch as Terry, Corey, and our live viewers discuss the integral moral imperative to engage more deeply with the many systems we are governed by, and to show up more fully in a world that is getting better and better, worse and worse, faster and faster — and crying out for the sort of integral solutions that only you can begin to provide.

Topics include:

  • How previously abstract problems like climate change are now beginning to have more obvious impacts in our lives.
  • How the integral map allows us to identify and frame our global problems, but integral wisdom is needed to find the solutions.
  • How “waking up, growing up,” and “cleaning up” is all about doing our own personal work, while “showing up” requires us to share the fruits of that work with the rest of the world.
  • How to tell the difference between genuine “sacred activism” and egoic “virtue signaling”.
  • The different activist roles for younger and older generations.
  • Are integral political analyses too embedded in postmodern views? Or do anti-postmodern allergies prevent some people from receiving integral views?
A New Republic for the Heart: An Ethos for Revolutionaries — A Guide to Inner Work for Holistic Change

A vision to address our environment, economy, politics, culture, and to catalyze the radical whole-system change we need now

Recasting current problems as emergent opportunities, Terry Patten offers creative responses, practices, and conscious conversations for tackling the profound inner and outer work we must do to build an integral future. In practical and personal terms, he discusses how we can all become active agents of a transformation of human civilization and why that is necessary to our continued survival. Patten’s narrative focuses on two aspects of existence — our dynamic but fractured and threatened world, and our underlying wholeness and unity.

Only by honoring both of these realities simultaneously can we make sustainable changes in ourselves, our communities, our body politic, and our planetary life-support system. A New Republic of the Heart provides a comprehensive understanding and inspiring vision for “being the change” in a way that can address the most intractable problems of our time. Patten shows how we can come together in our communities for conversations that matter and describes new communities, enterprises, and forms of dialogue that integrate both inner personal growth work with outer awareness, activism, and service.

Purchase now.

Terry Patten

About Terry Patten

An integral coach, consultant, teacher, and author of four books, Terry's work focuses on serving "the integral heart" by evolving the leading edge of leadership and practice. He was the senior writer and co-author, with Ken Wilber, of Integral Life Practice: A 21st-Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening.

Corey deVos

About Corey deVos

Corey W. deVos is Editor-in-Chief of Integral Life, as well as Managing Editor of He has worked for Integral Institute/Integal Life since Spring of 2003, and has been a student of integral theory and practice since 1996. Corey is also a professional woodworker, and many of his artworks can be found in his VisionLogix art gallery.

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    I’m stepping outside the Overton window.

    Great conversation Terry and Corey. I value your contributions to your respective fields tremendously. Confession – I haven’t read your book yet Terry but will soon have a copy winging its way to me in New Zealand.

    Terry, I appreciate the way you take time to outline different aspects to our global predicament, including the ‘ consensus trance’. It is necessary to understand the nature of any problem before finding possible solutions. And I liked your suggestion of reclaiming the power – but from who?

    Former president Jimmy Carter has stated that the US is no longer a functional democracy because 90% of elections are won by the candidate that spends the most money. Thus most elected officials are ‘bought and paid for’ and if they act against the wishes of their benefactors another candidate will be bankrolled next time – another candidates children will receive scholarships to a prestigous university…

    The other reason the US is no longer a functional democracy is the concentration of power in unelected, entrenched, red / amber level power structures sometimes collectively called the Deep State. This term refers of course to elements of government, of the elite in TBTF banks, of the military industrial complex, elements of the CIA , FBI and big (mainstream) media… in short, the usual suspects where wealth and power reside. Regulator capture is part of the picture as the big players are increasingly seen to be above the law and in fact own the law. The endemic lack of honesty I would suggest is not so much the post-modern, post-truth, multi-perspectival variety. It is just good old fashioned red / amber level lying.

    The concentration of wealth and power in this (relatively) small group is highly problematic because these guys pull the strings. They basically own the politicians so Republican or Democrat doesn’t make that much difference. And on some level most people know this. Year after year many Americans (think they) vote for less foreign military interventions, less wars, less young Americans killed overseas And yet each year you seem to get more of it! Election after election the same policies persist despite changes in government – because, in certain areas, the elected government no longer sets the agenda. The illusion of democracy and control is an important facet of the consensus trance that has been deliberately manufactured then is endlessly disseminated by the main stream media

    So, in the Q and A section of your presentation I found myself agreeing with contributor Clint who suggested we’ve got to get beyond party politics. And this, really, is the point of my post. We can’t get meaningful change while the deep state remains. They are blocking any change they percieve as impacting their own interests negatively. They don’t intend going anywhere, and, make no mistake, some of these individuals are a very special combination of level and type – Grade A psychopaths who will do ANYTHING to remain in power. I suspect these deep state elements will only dissolve in a societal collapse which, ironically, seems inevitable long as this toxic conglomeration of self-interest persists.

    To be clear I’m not just picking on the US. China and Russia are ruled by governments at the same (red/amber) level. Parts of Europe aren’t far behind.

    I’d like to suggest that waking up out of the consensus trance and clearly seeing our intractible global predicament is somewhat analagous to waking up spiritually. One contacts emptiness initially in brief glimpses which can be confusing and disorienting. And sometimes it can scare the sweet bejesus out of you (antipodean slang)! Over time deeper experience and understanding slowly unfolds – not that I claim to be very far down that track.

    Similarly, one starts awakening to our predicament with a sense of unease – a realization something is deeply amiss. At first is a strong cognitive dissonance, a sense of disorientation – what should I believe – I feel one thing to be true but tv and my culture tell me the opposite. Over time illusions are graduallyseen through and a coherent picture once more emerges.

    Corey, I was also interested to note your use of the perjorative term ‘conspiracy theorists’. The term is generally used to trigger an emotional response which tends to discourage critical thinking and shut down discussion. According to Dimitry Orlov the term was concocted by the CIA to do just that. Seems plausible – but on the other hand that might just be a conspiracy theory.

    Of course my concerns about the so called Deep State could easily be seen in the same light. And while we don’t want to go down the 9/11 rabbit hole – suffice to say I’m with the thousands of Architects and Engineers For 911 Truth who find the official narrative anything but convincing. Anyone wondering why can watch Youtube video of Building 7, which wasn’t even hit in the attack, collapsing later the same day – falling without support for 2.25 seconds (ie in free fall just like a controlled demolition)

    At first glance it seems inconcievable that elements of your own government could have been complicit in the planning, execution and cover-up. But in a bigger context John Stockwell estimates the US empire has murdered 40 million people since WW2 and has ‘suppressed social change in dozens of countries whilst overthrowing and assasinating their leaders’. Killing 3,000 in the twin towers is small change to these power-corrupted sociopaths. Know your enemy.

    Looking forward to reading the book Terry. Keep showing up!

    Warm regards, David

    By the way, I do get the difference between Democrats and Republicans, Its just that in the context of saving our wondrous planet andthe rich diversity of its ecosystems (not to mention our own problematical species) I don’t find the differences to be that significant.

    1. Corey deVos

      Thank you for your comment David. I think we likely have some dissonance between our views, but that is okay. Invited, even. I appreciate the opportunity to explore some our views together.

      Of course conspiracies happen. They happen all the time. And until they are proven to have happened, they are considered “conspiracy theories”. This is not pejorative, it is plainly descriptive.

      And the problem with conspiracy theories are, for every one that is proven correct, there are a thousand others that have absolutely no evidence behind them whatsoever — yet people continue to believe them regardless. That’s because a large portion of these folks are not “following the evidence wherever it takes them” as they claim, but are exercising their own confirmation biases by turning their own pet theories into a bonafide belief system, and dismissing any data that does not confirm or conform to that belief system. 

And this belief system is often itself a defense mechanism used to make sense of a tremendously chaotic world, as the idea that some evil group is secretly in control of everything is a far easier pill to swallow than “the world is going to shit, and no one has their hands on the wheel”. (Which, of course, is untrue — the world is demonstrably getting better for the majority of people on this planet, and every single one of us has our hands on the wheel.)

      Which is why it can be quite entertaining to read many of these conspiracy-theory threads, because one person’s pet theory quickly spirals off into dozens of other connect-the-dots theories. For example, I just witnessed a thread on FB about Trump’s hiring of John Bolton, posted by an individual who posts all sorts of unsubstantiated theories (including the “Hillary Clinton has a disease from literally eating dead children” theory I mentioned in the episode), and it only took 10 or so comments before we were quickly swimming in “the global elite is conspiring with four different alien races” waters.

      Then there is the fact that these theories are often presented in stark contrast to genuine journalism, and typically require a complete rejection of any and all “mainstream” journalistic sources. In my mind this is actually part of an even deeper and more sinister conspiracy, which is to force a large enough plurality of Americans to completely distrust our journalistic institutions, muddying the waters, and relativizing “truth” — which, history tells us, is the typical move when trying to pave the way for autocratic control.

      So there’s the irony. The loudest “conspiracy theorists” believe they are working to prevent autocratic control, but in their total rejection of conventional institutions, they are actually making us much more susceptible to autocratic control.

      Now, I’ve been around the block long enough to know that reality is seldom what it seems, and certainly not what it presents itself to be. There is all sorts of chaos and conspiracy behind the scenes, which is the inevitable result of absurdly rich people competing and collaborating to protect and increase their wealth and power. 

      However, here is an inconvenient truth — the larger the conspiracy, and the more people who would need to be in the know in order for the conspiracy to work, the less likely it is to be true. Which is why I reject the notion of some global elite illuminati who are all working together to pull the wool over our eyes. There are too many weak links in a conspiracy that large, and it defies the base opportunism of the human condition, particularly at these levels of power. So I do not believe there is “once global conspiracy to rule them all” — rather, I believe that these everyday conspiracies are the result of a perpetual tug-of-war among multiple elite individuals, and ad hoc factions among these elites, who are each trying to secure and augment their own power. 

      As such, the only conspiracies that turn out to be effective are the ones where the fewest people possible are involved. And preferably those people are all family, because when it comes time to bust up a conspiracy, it falls apart rather quickly when everyone begins looking out for their own self interest. They only dependable loyalty we can find in these circles are among family members, and even they are often eager to throw one another under the bus. (Which, by the way, is why Mueller always targets the family of his criminal suspects, in order to force them to weigh their loyalty against their own self interest.)


So yeah. Conspiracies are real, especially in the digital age. The problem is when people believe in any of these unproven theories with any certainty at all. And this problem is compounded when opportunists like Alex Jones, Mike Cernovich, and certain elected GOP congressmen are able to hijack the conversation completely for personal benefit and for political influence. And it becomes even worse when undeniably toxic places like 4chan become the main platform where these theories are cultivated.


Now, it is widely known that Vladimir Putin’s regime is perhaps the world’s greatest and most effective disseminators of conspiracy theory. It has become politics-as-usual in Russian society — take a look at the book Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible for more about this. They create massive elegant networks of intricately connected conspiracies, typically based on some distorted kernels of truth, as the best red-herring conspiracies are. They often use charges like pedophilia to create extra emotional charge, and almost always target “liberal” or “progressive” or “pro-West” groups. And when I look at the sort of conspiratorial thinking that surrounded the rise of Trump, from GamerGate to PizzaGate, I see the EXACT same patterns. Which tells me that many of the most passionate “alternative research” advocates are themselves caught like flies in an even bigger psy-op web.

      See? I couldn’t even prevent my own post about conspiracy theories from sliding into even more conspiracy theories. It’s conspiracies all the way down.

      Thanks again David!

  2. Avatar

    Hi Corey, thanks for engaging.

    Up until a few years ago I would have agreed with just about everything you wrote. Much of it still rings true.

    My initial comment was sparked by Terry talking about our global predicament and one aspect in particular which he calls the consensus trance. My understanding of what he means here is that there are many physical indicators of imminent crisis – depleting resources, a degrading environment, species extinctions, a financial system that requires exponential growth, humanity in population overshoot etc. The Club of Rome predictions that Terry mentions are absolutely terrifying.

    Most people are unable to integrate the implications into their world view – most expect a future of growth and progress far into the forseeable future assuming technology will solve all our problems, we’re too clever as a species to get into trouble now etc etc. Hence the consensus trance.

    It seems to me that Terry, in his gentle and thoughtful way is mounting a desperate call to action in the face of a civilizational calamity that most cannot see.

    I believe there is another dimension to the consensus trance – that of manufactured deciet. It runs the gamut from those paid to discredit climate change data, say, through to (in my opinion) large scale deceptions. At Integral Life we tend to focus on the ‘leading edge’ and quite rightly so. I still maintain that much of the deception stems not from the post-truth post-modern level but from the power level.

    I hesitated to raise 9/11 in my first post because it immediately puts me in the nut category with 90% of the population. But it demonstrates some things I think are really important. I only looked into it myself after an aquaintance I trusted, also a qualified engineer, suggested I do so. He pointed to 2 glaring technical difficulties with the official story
    1. The melted steel in the twin towers. No combustibles in the buildings at the time including the jet fuel will burn at a temperature high enough to melt the structural steel (which was widely reported on the day)
    2. The failure of WTC 7 which was filmed from multiple angles collapsing without structural support for more than 2 seconds. Oh, and how did the BBC come to broadcast it’s collapse 20 minutes befor it actually happened.
    Prior to 9/11, worldwide, no buildings of this construction type had ever collapsed due to fire. And as far as I know none have collapsed since. So three in one day was pretty bad luck.

    The NIST report failed to answer key technical issues and as I researched the incident more fully the official story completely fell apart. Anyone with a degree of discriminating intelligence can follow the trail if they are so inclined. The internet is a wonderful tool.

    In hindsight even the larger narrative seems implausible – 19 arabs armed with box cutters hijacking several air-liners, evading NORAD air defense systems and destroying several iconic buildings in the heart of America. It seems like a mythic level myth to me. And we all know what actions it’s since been used to justify.

    Maintaining a consensual reality is important because it lets us orient ourselves in the world. It tells us who we might rely on, whose judgement we can probably trust. To arrive at a consensus that accurately relects the circumstances we need accurate and truthful information, We can’t reach an accurate socialized consensus if we can’t rely on the integrity of the data.

    So who is gullible? Those who research and critically evaluate the data available to the best of their ability. Or those who are herded into a position of manufactured consensus without ever having suspected the manipulation. Of course no-one ever thinks they’re in the latter category – blind spots are blind after all.

    What would it mean then, if the official version of 9/11 is actually an orchestrated litany of lies? Imagine how that would change your outlook? What if a lifetime of conditioning is stopping you from seeing what’s hidden in plain sight?

    Here is our main difference Corey. You largely believe the narrative of the US mainstream media. I largely disbelieve it. I don’t automatically disbelieve – that would be reactive and silly but I do like to know who is driving the story.

    Your assertion ‘Now, it is widely known that Vladimir Putin’s regime is perhaps the world’s greatest and most effective disseminators of conspiracy theory.’ is an opinion I don’t share. Not that I am sympathetic to Russia but I find the whole ‘demonization of Russia’ campaign thats been running for the last few years alarming. The Russians hacking the elections, the Russians killing children in Syria, the Russians obstructing peace efforts in Afganistan, the Russians using chemical weapons to poison the Skripals in England, the Russians planning to disrupt the power system… We are being bombarded with it daily. When you next see these stories, just for fun try stopping a moment to examine them critically. What is the tone, the languaging, the unspoken assumptions. What can you be SURE is fact.

    Where does all the information come from? Primarily the US intelligence services – the same people who told us Saddam had vast stores of chemical weapons and was planning to use them imminently.What happened back then is there was an agenda for war with Iraq. To justify this to the public and to get the UK onboard a detailed and convincing false narrative complete with photos of chemical bombs was concocted and disseminated through the mass media. When it later became apparent no such weapons ever existed the conspiracy was revealed – one even you can believe in.

    So naturally I am cautious when presented with information from sources with a proven track record of lying. I suspect there is again an agenda – this time it seems to be war with Russia (though why I can’t fathom). It feels like we are being prepared for something. This is the same old pattern again, tried and true. There’s more than a grain of truth in H L Menckens famous comment “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginery”

    I’ll close with one last observation about (the relative level of) the consensus trance. There’s a buddhist saying about the path to enlightenment “In the beginning mountains are mountains and streams are streams. Then mountains are not mountains and streams are not streams. In the end mountains are again mountains and streams are streams” So it is with waking up from the consensus trance – the middle stage is very confusing, many unquestioned assumptions of the culture are revealed to be wrong. Strong emotions are triggered and letting go of life long beliefs can be difficult. In the end the world makes a degree of sense again – but with a radically different understanding.

    Warm regards, David

    By the way don’t expect any more long posts – I’m primarily here for Kens work in order to deepen my own understanding and practice at the ultimate level. Getting caught up in writing comments is a distraction I need to curb.

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    To both/all, I just had to post this link to a (15 min). Mooji video clip I saw once entitled “Saving The Planet”…..
    I have felt for some time and continue to feel that there is something “in-between” activism and spiritual bypassing that may be the only truly useful stance, and I felt that Mooji nailed it in this video. … .

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