The Integral Vision

I’ve read two books by Ken Wilber:  Grace and Grit and BoomeritisBoomeritis was my first introduction to spiral dynamics and integral theory.  I read Grace and Grit primarily because of Wilber’s wife’s interest in ACIM. Both offered a bit of an explanation of the Integral Approach, but I just got a much better all-round introduction by reading a tiny little book I picked up at the HalfPrice Bookstore called The Integral Vision.

This was chock full of helpful stuff and was presented in a very non-intimidating way.

The very basics (which won’t make sense unless you already have some background)…

There are five elements called quadrants, levels, lines, states and types. These provide the Integral Map which is just a map, not a territory.

IOS stands for the Integral Operating System.

States are temporary, but stages are permanent. Stages are also referred to as levels or waves. Stages tend to move through I, we, it/me, us, all of us/ body, mind spirit/the beautiful, the good, the true/egocentric, ethnocentric, worldcentric.

Multiple Intelligences (cognitive, moral, interpersonal, emotional, psychosexual, kinesthetic, self, values, needs etc.) are developmental lines that unfold in progressive stages. (They grow.)

Quadrants are the inside and outside of the individual and the collective (I, It, We, Its).

States and types occur in all quadrants. Types are female or masculine and healthy or sick.

The book goes on to show how the map can be applied to various aspects of life, including medicine, business, spirituality, etc.  I feel exhilirated after reading this little book and am sure I’ll be referring back to it frequently.

But for now, it’s in my husband’s custody because I got him excited about it, too. This just makes so much sense to me!  I’m going to have to learn more.

Spiral Dynamics

Bumped into this breakdown in the Holons Blog. It has to do with the levels used in Ken Wiber’s Integral Spirituality. I’ve read Boomeritis and Grace and Grit and hope to go deeper into Wilber’s work soon so am posting this for motivation…

Beige: Archaic-instinctive—survivalistic/automatic/reflexological

  • From 100,000 BC on
  • “Express self to meet imperative physiological needs through instincts of Homo sapiens.”

Purple (or Magenta): Animistic-tribalistic magical-animistic Tribal order

  • From 50,000 BC on
  • “Sacrifice to the ways of the elders and customs as one subsumed in group.”

Red: Egocentric-exploitive power gods/dominionist

  • From 7000 BC on
  • “Express self (impulsively) for what self desires without guilt and to avoid shame.”

Blue (or Amber): Absolutistic-obedience mythic order—purposeful/authoritarian

  • From 3000 BC on
  • “Sacrifice self for reward to come through obedience to rightful authority in purposeful Way.”

Orange: Multiplistic-achievist scientific/strategic

  • From 1000 AD on (as early as 600 AD according to Graves and Calhoun)
  • “Express self (calculatedly) to reach goals and objectives without rousing the ire of important others.”

Green: Relativistic-personalistic—communitarian/egalitarian

  • From 1850 AD on (surged in early 20th century)
  • “Sacrifice self interest now in order to gain acceptance and group harmony.”

Yellow (or Teal): Systemic-integrative

  • From 1950s on
  • “Express self for what self desires, but to avoid harm to others so that all life, not just own life, will benefit.”

Turquoise: Holistic

  • From 1970s on
  • A sacrifice self-interest system which is still forming

Grace and Grit by Ken Wilber

I finished Ken Wilber’s Grace and Grit last night. I was crying so hard during the last few chapters. My husband came in from a dinner party and it was all I could do to pull myself together to find out how his evening had gone. I wanted to get back to the book!

The only books I’ve read by Wilber so far are Grace and Grit and Boomeritis. I’m told these books make him more likable than his other books because they are more biographical and less philosophically intense. I’m interested to dig into one of his more philosophically intense books, now.

I feel like I have a general understanding of integral spirituality but haven’t quite gotten into the nitty gritty of it. So far, it makes a lot of sense to me. Grace and Grit made me want to experience a Tibetan Buddhist center. We’ve gone to two different Zen centers, one based on Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings (Vietnamese Zen) and the other on Shuryu Suzuki Roshi’s teachings (Japanese Zen). It also made me want to get back to ACIM studies because Treya Wilber practiced it every day. It’s been a while since I’ve looked at the lessons at all.

Grace and Grit

I am still slowly making my way through Ken Wilber’s Grace and Grit. It’s about his wife’s life and journey through cancer and subsequent death.

I wish I had read this before my dad died of cancer. I think I would have known how to be with him better through all of the life and death decisions he had to face. It was such an excruciatingly confusing time for me. The idea that you need to work through all of the objections to a procedure before one is decided upon makes a lot of sense. I can only imagine how important it is to feel confident about which path it is you have chosen and if well-meaning people undermine that path with their own suggestions about what they think it is you should do, then that undermines your confidence in what it is you have chosen and the last little bit of control you have over your life is gone. Even if you are going to die, it’s far better to feel confident about the path you have chosen, however whacky, than always second guessing it. Nobody really knows what is best in a situation like that. You have to decide what is best for you, if for nothing else than peace of mind.

I think the understanding of pre-rational, rational and transrational awareness is also extremely helpful. Pre-rational awareness is based on magic and superstition. Manipulating God through prayer, casting spells or creating magic potions to alter reality, avoiding certain things like breaking mirrors, etc. are all forms of pre-rational awareness. It’s narcissistic because reality is viewed as an extension of the self. Rational awareness doesn’t need to be explained. It’s simply the idea that there is a logical explanation for all phenomenon. Belief in magic and manipulative prayer is not rational. But, there is also a deeper form of understanding called transrational which is often confused with prerational awareness because it is nonrational.

This fits with Huston Smith’s spiritual hierarchy. What we believe about the world gets mirrored back to us. If we believe in magic and spirits, then we’ll see magic and spirits. If we believe only in the logical, material realm, then we will see only the material, logical realm. But if we reach the level of transrational awareness, we are able to see both the spiritual, magical realm and the rational, logical material realm. But the difference in prerational and transrational awareness is that in transrational awareness, the world is no longer understood as an extension of the self. Transrational awareness recognizes the limitations of both prerational awareness and rational awareness. It is aware of a universal unifying force in everything.

Wilber uses an example from Berkeley students who protested the Vietnam War. A sample of students were given the Kohlberg test of moral development. What was found is that 20% were operating from postconventional stages (trans-conventional/rational). Their objection was based on universal principles rather than societal standards or individual whim. They were genuinely concerned about the Vietnamese people. Most of the other 80% were preconventional. The reason they didn’t want to fight was because they didn’t want anyone telling them what to do (not because they were concerned about the Vietnamese.) A very small number of trans/postconventional people attracted very large numbers of narcissistic preconventional people to protest the Vietnam war. Their motivation looks the same, but it is very different.

Many advocates of the New Age movement claim that their beliefs have a firm foundation in the world’s great mystical traditions. The thinking is loosely along the lines: since I am one with the Godhead and God creates all, I create all. But Wilber believes that the pre-trans fallacy that was true of Vietnam war protestors is likewise true of the New Age movement. There are maybe 20% of new agers who are actually transrational (transcendental and mystical). The other 80% are prerational (magical and narcissistic). The idea that you create your own reality is particularly troubling to Wilber. He says it has all of the hallmarks of “the infantile and magical worldview of the narcissistic personality disorder”. Yes, our thoughts influence reality. But to think we can single handedly create our reality through our thoughts – that we can manipulate the thought and thereby omnipotently and magically manipulate the object – is narcissistic. [This is where I have parted philosophical ways with my more new agey friends because it seems to me to be very similar to the thought process that lies behind fundamentalist Christian thought. It is motivated by a fear of suffering.]

Often, fundamentalist Christians will blame illness on sin. If you had simply behaved properly, then God wouldn’t have given you the illness. This can be an excruciatingly painful belief if you are going through something traumatic like a life and death illness or loss of a child, because what is implied is that if you had just done things right, this wouldn’t be happening to you. And why do people maintain this belief? Because it’s based on the narcissistic need to control and manipulate reality. “This happened to you because you did something wrong. It won’t happen to me because I’m doing all the right things.” “Behave according to my belief system and all will be well. Go against my belief system and you will be punished by God.”

Wilber points out that the same exact thing happens in the New Age movement. He says this is because lurking right beneath the surface of narcissism is rage: “I don’t want to hurt you, I love you; but disagree with me and you will get an illness that will kill you. Agree with me, agree that you can create your own reality, and you will get better, you will live.” Wilber points out that this sort of thinking has no basis in the world’s mystical traditions. It is based in narcissistic and borderline pathology.

This is slightly off topic but I really liked the Wei Wu Wei quote Wilber used…

Why are you unhappy?

Because 99.9% of everything you think,

And everything you do,

Is for your self,

And there isn’t one.

Treating Borderline Personality Disorders

I always knew something wasn’t quite right with my mother, but it wasn’t until my father died that I truly realized it. I was going to a spiritual therapist when my father got sick, and she said it sounded to her like my mother had NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). I read several books on the subject which definitely described my mother, but most equated people with NPD to vampires. They claim NPD is untreatable and the only thing to be done is stay away from people with NPD unless you want to allow your life to be sucked dry by their emotional needs and demands. My mother probably has done her fair share of "sucking people dry", but it seems to me unloving and unforgiving to equate her to a vampire!

I’ve been reading Ken Wilber’s Grace and Grit and and he says NPD can be treated. His focus is actually on Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) but he claims Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is closely related.

According to Wikipedia, a Personality Disorder is a class of mental disorders characterized by rigid and on-going patterns of thought and action. The underlying belief systems informing these patterns are referred to as fixed fantasies – beliefs or systems of beliefs that an individual holds as genuine but can’t be verified in reality. The inflexibility and pervasiveness of these behavioral patterns often cause serious personal and social difficulties, as well as a general impairment of functioning. It includes overwhelming narcissism. The patterns don’t typically start showing up until early adulthood, but in rare cases can be traced back to adolescence. (It is typically inappropriate to diagnose someone as having a personality disorder if they are less than 18 years of age because rarely can it be proven that a personality disorder pattern exists before that age.)

The DSM-IV lists both BPD and NPD under Personality Disorders in Cluster B (dramatic, emotional, or erratic disorders). They occur in early (primitive) pyschological development and because the conditions are so primitive, they were historically considered to be untreatable. (NPD is considered to be more primitive than BPD.)

According to Wilber, at a very young age (by 2 or 3 years old), the individual has to make the separation from the material world and establish a higher-order identity with the body as a separate and distinct entity in the world. Margaret Mahler calls this the “separation-individuation” stage of development. There has to be a separation and individuation from the mother. If this doesn’t happen, difficulties like BPD and NPD can occur. It’s called borderline because it exists on the border between psychosis and neurosis but isn’t quite either. Boundaries of self remain vague, fluid, confused. The world seems to “emotionally flood” the self which makes the self very volatile and unstable.

Most of psychology attempts to treat disorders by digging up something from the unconscious. But this doesn’t work for people with BPD and NPD because they haven’t yet reached that level of psychological development (that happens at the next level.) In otherwords, BPDs and NPDs haven’t yet developed a dynamic unconscious so there isn’t one to dig up.

Mahler, Kohut, Kernberg and others have created structure-building techniques which have been fairly successful at helping individuals develop stronger ego boundaries. This helps the individual differentiate self and other by explaining and showing that what happens to the other does not necessarily happen to the self. (Wilber’s example – you can disagree with your mother and that won’t kill you.)

In the borderline conditions, the problem is not that a strong ego barrier is repressing some emotion or drive. The problem is that there isn’t an ego barrier or boundary in the first place. So what you have to do is get the person up to the level where they can repress and then psychotherapy techniques of digging into the unconscious can be used. But until then, the self isn’t strong enough to forcefully repress anything.


Boomeritis – Integral Transformative Practice (ITP)

This should be the last of my notes on Boomeritis…

Physical: about 50% of the changes that occur in transformation actually occur at the simple physical level. Weight lifting offers the best physiological benefits but swimming, jogging, hatha yoga, etc. work well, too.

Emotional: Getting in touch with vital-emotional aspects of your being, getting in touch with spontaneous feelings, vitality, and emotional expressiveness, can be done through dreamwork or counseling. Or through subtle energy exercises like t’ai chi, qi gong, bionergetics, reiki, bodywork, etc. Or can also occur simply by becoming more attentive to the emotional aspects of life – how you live your relationships with your friends, family, colleagues, mates, etc. Emotional Intelligence.

Integral Studies: Read A Brief History of Everything and A Theory of Everything (in that order).

Meditation: Key spiritual exercise.

Post-rational spirituality/religion: Pre-rational religion/spirituality involved believing the myth: believe that Jesus was born from a virgin, believe that he will personally save your ego eternally, profess belief in the Apostle’s Creed, and so on. If you believe correctly, you will be saved; if not, you go to Hell. Post rational spirituality involves the direct and immediate experiences of a quiet, silent mind, a trans-rational contemplative awareness that opens itself to realities that are beyond turquoise. These are direct experiences, not mere beliefs.

Boomeritis Buddhism: proponents claim that their approaches are egalitarian, pluralistic, anti-heirarchical… all the standard boomeritis ploys, ploys that allow narcissism to flourish. If ever there was an oxymoron it is narcissistic Buddhism. But the Boomeritis approach to Buddhism is widely influential.

All is Spirit: All sentient beings are fully Spirit, but only with higher evolution can some beings awaken to this fact. That is the ultimate meaning of first tier, second tier, third tier. Third tier, or Spirit itself, or the ultimate Omega, is both the highest rung on the ladder of evolution, and the wood out of which the entire ladder is made. So once you climb the ladder, you throw it away. You realize that Spirit is literally everywhere, everywhen. There is nothing that is not Spirit.

All sentient beings are pure Spirit. That is indeed the game, the cosmic game, the great and grand joke that we are all playing on ourselves.

Enlightenment: To study enlightenment is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be one with all things. To be one with all things is timeless enlightenment. And this timeless enlightenment continues forever, it is a ceaseless process, absolutely perfect and fully complete at every moment of its being, yet also unfolding endlessly…

A few more notes:

The Last Word by McGinn gets very close to the heart of this matter: universal truths curb narcissism; they constrain the ego; they force us outside of our subjectivist wishes, there to confront a reality not merely of our own making. It has become increasingly obvious that extreme postmodernism, pluralism, and relativism are the grand refuge of boomeritis. Wanting nothing to violate one’s egocentric priorities – the ‘misguided ideal of freedom’ – it is necessary to make facts plastic and truth sliding, and thus reduce reality to a construction of somebody’s ego, a construction that can therefore be just as easily deconstructed: reality made and unmade by the omnipotent ego. And the big fat bloated Boomer ego once again creates and dominates all of reality. 

Hierarchy: Dictionary definition is simply any value rankings. Thus, even the harshly anti-hierarchy critics have their own hierarchy, namely, they value not-ranking over ranking. They have a hierarchy that hates hierarchy. To loudly denounce hierarchy is thus to implicitly support ethnocentrism, racism, and sexism. That is exactly the effect of the politically correct, green-meme liberals who are actively fighting the genuine increase in compassionate embrace. The result of their activity is the flourishing, as never before, of an intellectual celebration of ethnocentric prejudice, racism, and hatred. That is not their intention, but that is their effect.

Statistics: 10% of the world is green (20-25% of Western culture). In order for individuals both here and and abroad to get to green, they have to go through the blue meme, which green hates. But developmentally, you have have to go through a conventional structure in order to arrive at a postconventional understanding. Likewise, the importance of green should never be overlooked. Only 10% of the world is green and in order to get to yellow (integral), you have to go through green. Only 2% of the American population is now at second tier. About 20-25% are poised to leap into the second tier – that’s 40-50 million Americans. If the 2% at second tier goes to 5%, we will start to see some profound shifts in the culture. If that 2% goes to 10% – that is, if 10% of the population reaches integral consciousness – we will see a major cultural revolution, comparable at least to that of the sixties.

Boomeritis – New Age Spirituality

More notes from Boomeritis …

The core of New Age spirituality is the belief – “You create your own reality”. The New Age movement is attempting to get in touch with an all-pervading spiritual and creative source, but the idea often gets filtered through boomeritis and comes out slightly loopy: part good cognitive psychology, part emotional narcissism and prerational magic, and part what seems to be a rather complete misunderstanding of mystical traditions.

Perversion of mystical stance: According to cognitive psychology, people’s belief systems help to determine their experiences. To change your beliefs is to help change your response to life. True. Although I cannot choose my sensations, I can choose how to think about them, and by consistently altering my beliefs and reframing my experience, I can change the very nature of my outlook on life. There are limits to what my beliefs can accomplish, however. But boomeritis recognizes no such limits. “Thoughts influence reality” becomes “thoughts create reality”, therefore my egoic thoughts govern all of reality. This is a narcissistic perversion of the mystical view.

Mystical stance: The world’s great post-turquoise spiritual traditions maintain that the deepest part of your awareness is one with Spirit, and that this divine oneness can be realized with enlightenment – satori, moksha, cosmic consciousness, unio mystica, etc. This is the truth that many New-Agers are attempting to embrace, but the Self that is one with Spirit has little to do with you; it is, in fact, transcendence of your ego that allows this Spirit to shine forth. That Self is the absolute opposite of Boomeritis.

The typical New Age notion is that you want good things to happen to you, so think good thoughts; and that you create your own reality, those thoughts will come true. The mystical notion, on the other hand, is that your deepest Self transcends both good and bad, so by accepting absolutely everything that happens to you – by equally embracing both good and bad with equanimity – you can transcend the ego altogether. The idea is not to have one thing that is good smash into another thing called my ego, but to gently rise above both.

Which I am I listening to? I need to be very careful when I start claiming that I create my own reality because which “I” am I actually listening to: my ego or my Self? the ego in me or the Spirit in me? For the Spirit that is me is not concerned with just me. The Spirit that is in me is likewise in all beings great and small and that Spirit does indeed create the entire universe; it creates its own reality… But when I start claiming to create my own reality and that reality is about nothing but getting a new car, a new job, more money, fame, health instead of disease, happiness instead of sadness, joy instead of pain, light instead of dark, then perhaps I might start to question just which “I” is getting a hearing, because I am no longer being one with everything… I am only being one with a small slice of the universe governed by my small desires and wants. That is not Spirit, that is the ego, plain and simple.

In Boomeritis, God can be captured by merely thinking. All you have to do is think you are one with the Goddess, the Web of Life, etc. Boomeritis wants to think that it is Divine and Sacred, not as a prelude to practice, but as a magical substitute for it. And an absolutely massive industry has grown up to produce this word magic for Boomers; to produce, that is, reasons for Boomers to think that their egos are Divine.

Boomeritis on Physics: Since you can’t predict anything about the small particles until you measure them, then they don’t exist until you measure them. Therefore it is the very act of measurement that brings the particles into existence, and that means you are responsible for their existence. Since all things are made of these particles, then you create all reality. Your big fat ego creates the universe.

Dana Zohar: Spokesperson for Boomeritis physics: The idea of a “quantum society” stems from a conviction that a whole new paradigm is emerging from our description of quantum reality and that this paradigm can be extended to change radically our perception of ourselves and the social world we want to live in. A wider appreciation of quantum reality can give us the conceptual foundations we need to bring about a positive revolution in society.” In other words, subvert the old paradigm, transgress the old society, usher in the world-shaking revolution. Boomer ego saves the world.

Paradigm: The term comes from Thomas Kuhn and was misunderstood through the lens of Boomeritis. Since “paradigms” govern science, and since paradigms are allegedly not anchored in actual facts and evidence – but instead “create” them – then you needn’t be tied to the authority of science in any fundamental way. Science is arbitrary (it is not the result of actual evidence but of imposed power structures), relative (it reveals nothing that is universal in reality, but simply relative to the scientific imposition of power), socially constructed (it is not a map corresponding to any actual reality, but a construction based on social conventions), interpretive (it does not reveal anything fundamental about reality but is simply one of many interpretations of the world text), power-laden (science is not grounded in facts, it simply dominates people, usually for Eurocentric and androcentric reasons), and nonprogressive (since science proceeds by ruptures or breaks, so there can be no cumulative progress in any of the sciences). Kuhn argued vehemently against most of these views. But the misunderstanding took hold in Boomeritis: we can abandon the straightjacket of science and evidence by merely thinking up a new paradigm – sixties narcissism.

The new paradigm is something like systems theory which has been around in serious fashion for at least half a century, and has been used by many sciences for most of that time, including various schools of sociology, psychology, biology, ecology, and cultural anthropology. Nevertheless, Boomer writers all seem to agree on these points: there is definitely a new paradigm emerging, and this paradigm might very well serve as the catalyst of an unprecedented world transformation, which will be led by those who have the new paradigm: deep ecology, transit astrology, the quantum self, the quantum society, holistic health, postmodern poststructuralism, ecofeminism, quantum psychotherapy, neo-Jungian psychology, channeling, pre-modern indigenous tribal consciousness, crystal healing, rebirthing, ecopsychology, holotropic breathwork, aura cleansing, psychic network, revisioning transpersonal psychology….

Kuhn used the word paradigm to denote both the established and admired solutions that serve as models of how to practice the science, and also for the local social structure that keeps those standards in place by teaching, rewards, and the like. The word was catapulted into prominence and now seems a standard item in the vocabulary of everyone who writes about science – except Kuhn himself who claims it is a dead metaphor.