Sunday, September 16, 2012

The "Integral" Case for President Obama

Integral Life contributor Terry Patten recently published a plea for “integralists” to support Barack Obama’s reelection entitled "The Integral Case for President Obama."  I acknowledge that Mr. Patten’s call is a noble attempt to get his arms around the challenges of the current breakdown of the global order from as advanced a perspective as he could muster.  He deserves credit for being courageous enough to raise the matter of evolution of consciousness in the very real context of our actual political economy, and for being willing to expose his stand to analysis and criticism.

That said, I am happy to oblige.

It’s been a serious concern to me for some time now that people associated with Ken Wilber, the Integral Institute, and its various offshoots keep using the terms “integral movement” and “integral community” so casually, because  I have no idea what those words mean.

The lack of specificity about the common understanding of “integral” in these labels is a symptom of the general intellectual sloppiness that postmodernism and Boomeritis have injected into our public discourse.  It is unfortunate that Wilber and many associated with the Integral Institute both tolerate and often perpetuate this.

Let’s see if we can’t bring some clarity and specificity to the matter.

The Meaning of “Integral”

Wilber first began using the word “integral” in Up from Eden, where he referred to Jean Gebser’s application of it to the integral/aperspectival wave of consciousness that succeeded the mental/rational [Orange] wave.  Then, in Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality and The Marriage of Sense and Soul, he introduced “integral” to the AQAL model, referring primarily to the first levels of consciousness in the transpersonal bands.  In A Theory of Everything, Wilber presented the idea of First and Second Tier from Spiral Dynamics, with the First Tier comprising the prepersonal and personal waves, and the Second the transpersonal.  “Second-tier thinking . . . is instrumental is moving from relativism to holism, or from pluralism to integralism” [italics in original] (p. 12).