Acne Paper Interview with Ken
September 05, 2006 18:42
Acne Paper!?! Yeah, I said the same thing when I first heard that Ken was going to do an interview with them. According to their website: "Each issue of Acne Paper is created around one key idea - a timeless theme that in various ways touches all those working in the creative fields regardless of age, cultural background or social status. In an eclectic yet coherent mix of portrait, fashion and art photography as well as interviews, memoirs, and prose the editorial narrative aims to unite artistic minds of all generations. It pays tribute to past luminaries whilst still keeping a firm grip on the present, evoking something timeless and something nostalgic yet refreshingly modern. By moving effortlessly between high and popular culture Acne paper is a glamorous and intelligent magazine celebrating personality, authenticity and style. Below, is a copy of the Interview Acne Paper conducted with Ken. Enjoy!
Ken Wilber – Intellectual Samurai
Interview by Adam Springfeldt
Self-described as the “defender of the dharma; intellectual samurai”, Ken Wilber has created a comprehensive and original framework of all knowledge of humankind - past and present, east and west - a synthesis of the world's great psychological, philosophical, and spiritual traditions.
Ken Wilber was born in 1949 in Oklahoma City, USA. He has a Master's degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. minus a thesis in biophysics, and is deeply immersed in spirituality through contemplative practices and meditation. This combination of science and spirituality has led Ken Wilber to delve into the depths of the human psyche to develop the Integral Theory - an approach going beyond postmodernism to form a complete and integral model of understanding evolution and the world. He is a storyteller and a mapmaker; his stories address universal questions and his maps integrate various perspectives of the “Kosmos”.
Hailed as the "foremost thinker in the field of the evolution of consciousness” by German newspaper Die Welt, and at a World Economic Forum, Bill Clinton said, “What the world needs now is integral consciousness as described by Ken Wilber in his book A Theory of Everything.”
His vast body of work contains ideas applicable to anything from law, medicine and business to art and psychology. It would be impossible to do it all justice in this, fairly brief - and for Ken Wilber, very rare – interview, so please consider this a mere scratch on the surface:
In an email you said that you put a lot of emphasis on The True, The Good and The Beautiful at the Integral Institute and that aesthetics plays a very important role in everything that you do. Could you expand on that a little bit?
Well, one of the things I really appreciated about your magazine is that, as I was saying, you are basically trying to deal with all three of these - The True, The Good and The Beautiful – and bring them together under one roof, which I think is absolutely extraordinary. It very much needs to be done.
Three of the most important judgments, or questions, that human beings can make when experiencing an event are, one: “Is it real?”, two: “Is it good - what should I do about it?” and three: “Is it attractive, is it pleasing, is it beautiful?”
These are three really fundamental judgments. They correspond to the four, or three, quadrants in our framework - “I”, “we” and “it”. Beauty being in the eye of the beholder, which is “I”. Morals and ethics dealing with how we treat each other, and that is “we”. And truth, meaning objective scientific truth, and that is “it” or an “its”.
Science, Morals and Art. The True, The Good and The Beautiful.
These judgments are very important. The whole point about the four-quadrant map or framework is that these four, or three, things always go together. They cannot really be separated. So the judgment, “Is it real or not?” is the realm of The True – it is a cognitive judgment, the realm of science. The judgment, “What should we do about it?” is the realm of The Good – morals and ethics. And then the judgment, “Is it pleasing, is it attractive, is it beautiful?” is the realm of art and aesthetics, or The Beautiful. Science, Morals and Art. The True, The Good and The Beautiful.
These are three aspects of every moment of experience. So what happens is if you abstract one of those out, it is very fragmenting to reality and to your own being. So you want to have truth displayed in a way that is inherently attractive, with a beautiful pattern to be seen. You also want truth to be part of the question, “How should I live my life, what is a good life and what is the right thing to do?” – which is the normative judgment.
The Good, The True and The Beautiful are things that should never let go of each other, because in reality they do not. It is just to our catastrophe when we let that happen. We have let it happen, it is a tendency to let it happen in an extreme way. When you see a fashion model you don’t think of that person as being spiritual, perhaps, or being a professor of mathematics or something. We have just got these really, really stupid ideas about how these things should be separated and kept apart from each other.
You have said that we are at the point in history where for the first time, maybe in the past twenty or thirty years, it is possible to create an integral approach because it is only now that we have access to all kinds of human knowledge and cultures in the world, past and present, east and west.
Right. There are two things that are very exciting, I think, about the past ten or twenty years. One is, indeed, that starting really after World War Two, but particularly in the last couple of decades, we have access to all the world’s cultures. For the first time in history we know everything that we have known up to this point. That is pretty astonishing! To realize that you can buy books that have the answers to all one thousand seven hundred and sixty Zen koans! It is just really all out there. Now wonder it is the information age, the age of the net and so on. That is one thing that is very encouraging. Of course it allowed us to sit down and say, “What are the common elements here?” and so on. That allowed us to create the integral approach.
But the other thing that I find really fascinating is that for the first time in history, we appear to be approaching not just the emergence of a new stage of development, but the emergence of a new stage that is also the emergence of an entirely new tier of development. Briefly what that means is: developmental psychologists - when they are looking at the unfolding of various developmental stages, levels and waves in human beings - every now and then find an unfolding or emergence that is so dramatically different than anything that came before it that they named the earlier stages something like first tier, and then the beginning of these other stages they call second tier, and occasionally there is a third tier.
One of the first people to find this was Abraham Maslow, who’s needs hierarchy went from physiological needs to safety needs to belongingness needs to self-esteem needs to self-actualization needs to self-transcendent needs. What he found is that by the time people get up to self-esteem needs and then they move to the next one, which is self-actualization needs, there is an entirely different type of motivation that comes into existence. So he called all of the first tier stages by the name deficiency needs, because one’s motivation was from a lack – “I lack food – I wanna go get it”, “I lack sex – I wanna go get it”, “I lack self-esteem – I wanna go get it”… But the needs and motivations that started to emerge at the second tier he called being needs, or be values – because motivation was then not out of a lack, but out of a fullness. People were motivated to do something because they were overflowing. This fullness was going out into the world – it was not a hunger that they needed something to complete them. So that is a very important shift.
And Clare Graves, who did extraordinary work on values systems, found essentially the same thing. He discovered about eight value levels, or stages of development, and of course there could be higher ones. It is just that these are the ones that they could find with their own data. The higher the stage you go, the fewer people at it usually, so it is harder to get data on it. So if we say there are eight levels it does not mean that there cannot be more. But he found eight. When the seventh stage emerged he said there was a monumental leap in value that was just staggering. And his data really supported it. So he called all of the first stages first tier, and all the second stages second tier. And the leap from first tier to second tier was very important for many reasons. One was that the definition of first tier stages and first tier values is that each value thought that its value was the only correct value in the world. And so you have values that he called archaic and then egocentric or power, and then absolutistic, multiplistic, relativistic and then holistic, basically. And so individuals at second tier had an intuitive understanding of why all of the other stages and values were necessary. They were not always trying to cut down these other values because they realized that everybody is born at square one and these other values will exist in the world. It was the first stages that began to integrate the other values, to find psychological models that included them all. They did not take one of them and say, “This is healthy, and all these other things are sick or unhealthy or illusory.”
So the thing that you find in particular with the emergence of stages is what several developmentalists, including Jane Lovinger, have started calling integral or integrated. Again, it does not mean that there are not higher stages, sort of super integral. But across the board, they are looking like they are integral. So what we are finding is that individuals at second tier are ten times more efficient in tasks that are given them than individuals at first tier. So we are at a point now where about ten percent of the population is reaching second tier. In the past, whenever a leading stage reached ten percent there is a tipping point in the culture. So about three hundred years ago, when about ten percent of the population reached a level that is called, variously, multiplistic, modern values, or scientific-rational– when it reached that stage there were the French and American revolutions and the whole worldcentric forms of governance came into play. Then about thirty years ago, when ten percent of the population reached pluralistic, postmodern or relativistic levels, there was a huge shift and the civil rights movement came in and so on. And now we are about to see ten percent of the population reach second tier. Not only is it ten times more efficient, it is the first time we are going to see the emergence of a tier and not just a stage. So this looks to be a very very interesting period.
We have a lot of data about this so it is not just a pipe dream or some sort of wishful boomer “greatest transformation the world has ever known” kind of thing. But it does look to be incredibly significant.
Do you think the periods between new stages will come at ever shorter intervals?
So it’s 300,000 years, 30,000 years, 3,000 years, 300 years and 30 years. So the next one will take 3 years… And you know, there are some pretty sober, responsible theorists who believe that. I do not believe it the way it is normally stated. I mean, some people even believe, like Jay Kurtzwell, that there is going to be singularity - because the rate of technological innovation it is going to approach infinity - and then when there is a singularity, and the laws of physics could change and we could go up in light and that kind of thing. I don’t think so. Even if it is an accelerated rate, it could well be that what happens then when you get down to, you know, from 300 years to 30 years to 3 years, is that you really are leaping to the next tier. Then it kind of starts all over again. In other words it could take then another 300 years for the next stage, and then 30 years, and 3 years and so on, and then a new tier could emerge. So even though there might be this accelerated rate I don’t think we are going up in light or anything.
Could you go into the concept of the AQAL model – “All Quadrant All Levels” model, or as you have described it: "one suggested architecture of the Kosmos"?
What we try to do with the AQAL approach is look at as many fields of human knowledge and human disciplines as we can find and look for reoccurring patterns and elements. This is done in, what we call, a generalized approach. We are not in any way denying that there are all sorts of details and patterns that are culture specific and that cannot be translated, or that there are a rich multiplicity worldviews that cannot be reduced to each other and so on. We move beyond the postmodernists into a space of integral pattern recognition and look for these elements that are common in the various fields.
We found five major elements. There are more elements but we use five major ones that, if you touch bases with all five of them, you really are taking a very comprehensive and integral approach. Those five elements are quadrants, levels, lines, states and types.
The four quadrants are the fundamental dimensions or perspectives that any occasion or event has. These quadrants are the inside and the outside of the singular and the plural. What that really comes down to in terms of pronouns is; the inside of the individual is usually represented by the pronouns “I” or “me” or “mine”. These are phenomenological spaces in your own awareness. You have an “I” space and a “me” space – you can actually spot it, feel it, see it. Then the plural first person is “we”, “us”, “ours”. We often put “we” in the lower left quadrant, for the inside of the collective because it is related to you, so second person “thou” and first person plural “we” is what we use for especially representing the lower left quadrant.
So there is the view of how groups look from the inside and what they look like from the outside, and what an individual looks like from the inside and what an individual looks like from the outside. The outside view is often a third person view. Third person singular – “it” - in the upper right quadrant. Third person plural – “its” - in the lower right quadrant.
The four quadrants are then “I”, “we”, “it” and “its”. We often use just one of “it” and “its” to cover both of them – so “I”, “we” and “it” are the quadrants.
These quadrants turn out to be very similar to validity claims used by Jürgen Habermas for example, and also very closely related to the concepts of The Good, The True and The Beautiful. So these are recurring patterns in different types of disciplines and human knowledge that you find, in different types of judgments that human beings make. So that is quadrants.
In each of these quadrants there are perspectives that actually grow and develop. In the “I” space, in the upper left quadrant - if you follow this “I” - you find that it will go from perspectives that are egocentric, to ethnocentric, to worldcentric, and even to something we call kosmocentric. Kosmos with a ”K” to mean more than just the physical cosmos - possibly even transcendental or mystical states of actually feeling one-ness with all beings. And certainly, preconventional, conventional and postconventional are well-researched stages of development in the “I” space. So those are representative of levels. We find those levels in the other quadrants as well and can get into examples later if you want. But egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric – going from “me” to “us” to “all of us” is a very typical type of series of levels of development. And if you say, “levels of what?”, well its levels in various developmental lines.
People are familiar with developmental lines, there is, for example, the cognitive line, and the moral line of development, there is the interpersonal, there is emotional intelligence, some people have advocated that there is a spiritual intelligence. What you find with these intelligences is that they, indeed, grow through these levels of what we call altitudes. They are levels of degree of complexity, degree of consciousness and so on.
Cognitive development will move from being able to take a first person perspective, which is egocentric, to be able to take a second person perspective, which is ethnocentric, to being able to take a third person perspective, which is worldcentric, and so on. Lines often go under the name multiple intelligences. Because people have, at least, it looks like, a dozen intelligences. All these are ones that you want to keep in mind when you are approaching any phenomena.
So that is quadrants, levels and lines. Finally, we have states and types.
States just refers to states of consciousness - altered states, peak experiences. The state, or mood, of an individual is very important to track. There are types of states, such as meditative states, that are said to deliver very important or deep types of information of human knowledge. So we simply do not want to rule that possibility out.
Finally there are types. Type is just a general category. We can use a typology to approach an individual. Some people will still use astrology as a typology. We think the empirical evidence for that is a little bit… thin. But there are all sorts of typologies: Myers-Briggs, the Enneagram, and so on. These can be applied in any stage or level.
So quadrants, levels, lines, states and types are the five elements.
What you find is that when you go into any discipline - such as law, medicine, art, consciousness studies, politics, science, psychology – you will find that there are often at least three or four major schools. You will find, almost always, that these major schools focus on just one of the four quadrants. So we sit down and take the truths from that school and combine them with the truths from the other schools that are focusing on the other quadrants. You get a much, much more comprehensive, balanced, and fully flushed out approach to the discipline. You find that most of the resources for this can be found within the discipline itself.
In law for example, there are large schools of thought that developed the approach to law that is called basic positivistic. And so, like the right hand quadrants, they just look at exteriors - they believe there is a very positivistic answer to every legal and judicial question. And then there are those like Donald Dworkin who insists that law is a hermeneutic or interpretative event. The view that you cannot set out an algorithm that will explain every single case because law is in part not just monological - it is dialogical. Those are covering the interior, or left hand, quadrants. So we say that both of these views need to get together.
If you use just one perspective or focus on just one of the quadrants, then what you see is true, and you will include that data, but you are only getting one perspective. Say maybe you have been investigating the upper right quadrant. You think that is the only quadrant that is real. So the data we get from the upper right quadrant is acceptable - we say that that is good stuff. But when a person starts saying, “well, these other quadrants are not real”, we do not pay any attention to those kinds of comments. When a person steps outside of the bounds of their own legitimacy then we are not disposed to include their reductionisms.
We can do the same things with levels. You go in and often find, in art interpretation for example, that the artist is at a particular level or wave of consciousness and the value structures at that level can be read in their artwork and so on.
We see levels, lines, states and types in literally any disciple. We have yet to find a discipline where this integral approach does not help - from business and medicine to politics and art. You can turn a discipline into an integral approach and at that point it becomes truly revolutionary.
That is what is happening now around the world. We have at the Integral University twenty-four colleges, and all of them have applied this with extremely fruitful results. We have two fully credited master’s degree programs and one fully credited doctoral program already and will have many more. That is one way for people to join us.
Would you describe this as a theory, a model, a system, or a framework?
We are comfortable with framework mostly. I think that is what it is. In the first instance this is just a framework. The framework itself is without content. So the first person, second person and third person are just perspectives. If I say, “Include a second person view of consciousness, or include the third person view of consciousness”, they do not tell you what data or content you have to include. That is what we go in and try to find, in a scientific way.
The same thing with levels and states. We say there are waking, dreaming, sleeping, and deep sleep states of consciousness and you should include those if you are looking for a complete psychology. We are not saying what you should dream, or what you should think while you are awake and so on.
In the first instance, it is this content-free framework. And people find it to be an extraordinary indexing system. It gives you a way of really taking virtually all the data and all of the approaches, often conflicting approaches, in a discipline, and just basically indexing them. Then people can say that they are really focusing on the upper left quadrant, and that they are focusing on data that are level ten and higher and so on. It just really sorts stuff out. Beyond that you can start adding your own content. You can say, “We believe that there are this many lines and these are the stages that we found.” People can use it as a content free indexing system for virtually anything, and that is one of the really useful things that it has done.
You say that it is a map of a territory, not the actual territory…
It is not the territory, right. The territory is the territory of your own direct, immediate experience right now. You can feel, literally feel, every one of the elements of that AQAL framework. There is a first person, a second person and a third person awareness that you have right now.
You and I are taking. We each have a sense of “I”. There is an “I” space, a phenomenological “I” space. As you and I talk we are forming a “we” space and we are attempting to reach mutual understanding, and to understand each other. That is our lower left quadrant. In your upper left quadrant is your “I” space – some questions you are asking me, and I am asking you some questions, and you have a whole sense of “I- ness”. As we continue to talk there is a sense of “we-ness”. As “we” is a cultural holon or our lower left quadrant, then it is actually a dimension of us. As we feel this “we”, each of our “I”s are really bound up in it. In the upper right hand quadrant we have a series of exteriors. I have my physical body here, it is talking on the telephone, it is sending physical sound waves over physical lines to you. And then, by the time it gets to you we have a social holon because there are two of us. So the “we” itself has exteriors. We are talking on a phone system right now. It sends this material – signifiers - across the Atlantic. That is a whole series that forms out of our lower right quadrant. We are impinged, every day, every hour, or ever minute, by hundreds of thousands of signifiers. The signifiers are what we will actually create interior worlds from. In terms of right now, you and I are filling out a “we” space of mutual understanding and there is a physical correlation in the lower right quadrant.
The four of these quadrants are something we can directly, immediately see, touch, feel and think right now. That is something that I think is important – you can certainly use it as an index for anything, as we were saying, from law to medicine. But fundamentally, it is representing a map of the territory of you: of the things that you can actually touch and feel yourself. This is why this map, or framework, also has become very very useful for people who are undertaking some form of growth or transformation process. Because this is a map of all the different elements that you can engage in if you want to grow and develop. Develop leadership, develop any sort of spiritual training, develop intellectual training, and so on. It is a map of the territory that is you.
So, it is a map of reality, or how I perceive reality?
I think so. It started out really just as a kind of index or a map. Then what happened is the more we looked at it, the more it became apparent that the reason it was such a good indexing system, or such a good map, is because it looks like the actual structure of reality is this sort of AQAL structure. Moment to moment there is an occasion, as Whitehead called it; we have our experiential moments as they are unfolding right now. Whitehead called that an occasion, which he defined as a drop of experience. So these occasions are the reality moment to moment, and each of those occasions has this AQAL – or four quadrant – structure. And so we have really pursued that, all of us at Integral Institute have looked at this very hard and our conclusion is that this is the actual structure of reality all the way down. We do not have to believe that - you can use the AQAL map simply as an indexing system, as we were saying, and then philosophers would call it a good heuristic device - but if you want to use it more and get into something that might be called metaphysics or post-metaphysics, then this map will certainly do it.
It seems like the AQAL framework also brings to the table a view that all of the four quadrants are scientific, not just the upper right quadrant as is conventionally, or traditionally, the case. Because in each quadrant there are procedures and methods with which to reproduce experiences, or data.
Absolutely. I think you brought up probably one of the very most important points about it. Once you start to see that there are methodologies, or techniques, or injunctions – and that is also the meaning of paradigm, a paradigm was not a theory, it was an actual practice – that will disclose different data or phenomena in the four quadrants. And it is repeatable. By and large, many of the techniques that are used in these quadrants have been used by the people who specialize in that particular kind of knowledge for hundreds of years. They are really fundamental types of methodologies. So, the problem only comes when people tend to think that you cannot prove interiors like we can prove exteriors. We go, “Well, that is right – if you are going to use the technique that brings forth the exterior, like a microscope or a telescope – then no, you cannot prove the interiors.” But we do not do that. We use the techniques that are designed to disclose the interior, and have done so, reproducibly, for decades or sometimes centuries. Types of phenomenology, specific types of interior introspection and meditation and contemplation – there are whole schools of how to do interior work, including even psychoanalysis. That knowledge is passed on from teacher to student because there is something to pass on! You can get a correct answer or a false answer on a test because there is true and false data. A whole lot of problems just go away if you use this integral approach!
So all kinds of negative views on levels or quadrants other than where you yourself are at are counter-productive?
Very much so. They are actually carrying different worldviews at different levels. It is just simply a waste of time to have individuals at different levels, or where their consciousness are at different levels, arguing. Because what they are going to do is present the data from their level that they know is true, so they are convinced that what they are saying is right, and about 90 percent of it is. The data from their level is probably right on the money. But then somebody else might be arguing from a different level. Somebody is arguing from a modernist level, that believes only in forms of rationality. And then somebody else is arguing form a pluralistic, relativistic level, and the data there is real data. The stuff that somebody is looking at for that altitude is very real.
So somebody from a pluralistic, postmodern altitude is seeing data that they are looking at in all the systems around the world, and they are highlighting those areas where these systems really are incommensurate with each other. There is a vast, exquisite, multiculturalism – and you cannot simply reduce one culture to another. You have to be very careful with any interests that can disturb knowledge, whether they are anthrocentrism, sexism, racism, Eurocentrism, etc.
Somebody from a modernist, rational level is looking at other data. They are looking at those aspects of cultures and individuals – they look at the exterior components – like biology for example, and they are finding aspects that are universal. So they are arguing that “everybody has the same biochemistry so that means there is only one truth”. And then you are Edward O Wilson talking about consilience when you bring all knowledge together – but he is not bringing all knowledge together. He is bringing all knowledge into the upper right quadrant and usually just a level from that.
So we take the data from where they are working, from their side of the street so to speak, but we reject most of what they have to say when they try to force everybody else to use their methods and accept their data for other areas.
You talk about holons and holarchies, could you describe the basic premise of these concepts?
Yes. Arthur Kessler coined the term holon. It is just a wonderful term that means “a whole that is a part of another whole”. So a whole atom is a part of a molecule. A whole molecule is a part of a cell. A whole cell is a part of an organism, and so on - that is a holon.
Basically, reality is composed of holons. That is the fundamental unit. Whether it is in interior quadrants or exterior quadrants, you pretty much find the holons to be the fundamental particle if you will. When they get together it does appear to be this drive to higher levels of complexity and higher levels of unity. We can try to give it a scientific name, in the upper right quadrant they are always looking for a reductionistic angle on approaches, which is fine, but even they come up with the fact that matter itself has a tendency to self-organization. In the upper right quadrant you don’t need god or any of that, but matter does have to wind itself up. Because we went from atoms all the way to Shakespeare – something is going on…
So that drive, or Eros by any other name, brings holons together. Then there are hierarchies, but so many people terribly misunderstand hierarchy that we tend not to use it. The correct term for it anyway is holarchy. Because atoms come together into molecules, molecules come together into cells, cells come together into organisms. That is a holarchy. Holons tend to operate holarchicaly. Each higher level does not oppress the lower level, it includes it. It transcends and includes it. So holarchies are these vast structures of embrace and, in an anthropomorphic way, of love. Molecules don’t hate atoms - they love them! They enfold them. It is the same with cells and organisms, etc. Cells don’t go around oppressing their atoms, but people seem to think that all holarchies have something to do with oppression. That is very very rare. There are dominator hierarchies, and there are growth and actualization hierarchies. Nature is full of growth hierarchies. It is a fundamental structure. In some human societies there have been dominator hierarchies and of course we don’t like those and we don’t want those to happen. But a lot of postmodernists who get upset about the dominator hierarchies completely throw out the growth hierarchies, and indeed they managed to stop growing themselves, but that is another story… Ha ha ha!
At every higher level in the holarchy there is increased depth. That is really one of the miracles of evolution and emergence. In the upper right quadrant we talked about atoms going to molecules going to cells going to organisms and so on. In the upper left quadrant you have sensations that are taken up in perceptions, and perceptions are transcended and included by images and images are taken up into symbols, numerous symbols are represented by concepts, hundreds of concepts make up rules, and hundreds of rules are taken up by formal-operations or meta-rules.
What you find in any of the quadrants as a higher level of holarchy comes into being, it is a higher level of care and consciousness… and love, again if you want to think of it in that way, certainly in the left quadrants. The work that Carol Gilligan did in A Different Voice is usually cited as showing that women do not use hierarchies, but it is actually exactly the opposite! Carol Gilligan found that men tend to think using hierarchies and women tend to think not using hierarchies, but both women’s thinking and men’s thinking develops through four hierarchical stages - four holarchical stages. Carol Gilligan identified the four stages or levels of female growth, and the female hierarchy, as selfish, care, universal care, and integrated. Selfish of course means you can only extend love and care to yourself – it is egocentric. Care means extending love and care just to a group and not to everybody equally. Then universal care means just that. Integrated means that you draw together both feminine and masculine types of care and compassion. That is what we find increasing depth, which is in turn increasing consciousness and which is then increasing complexity, increasing embrace and increasing love.
You say different people are at different stages or levels of development. How can one find this out?
There are many tests that individuals can take. We have to remember that this is what we call levels and lines, that you could be rather highly developed in some lines, and not very well developed in others. So it’s not this linear thing. It’s not just a single ladder that you are clanking up stage by stage…
People can be very advanced in cognitive development and not very advanced in moral development. Others can be very advanced in spiritual development, but not very advanced in mathematical capacities and so on. It is a very idiosyncratic psychograph for everybody. So we do not want to pigeon hole people.
But there are tests that are pretty reliable that you can take to determine where you are in these lines. You can certainly take those. But what happens when you study any of these developmental models and you start to get a feel for them is that you then start noticing certain keywords and phrases that are indicative of where your friends are. Particular if you look at the general terms for many of these developmental levels, Gene Gebster use the terms archaic to magic to mythic to rational to pluralistic to integral. The middle levels are based on traditional values, like fundamentalist Christianity for example. Then modern values, then postmodern values and then integral values. Traditional, modern and postmodern also happen to be three of these levels. So a lot of the culture wars are by individuals at these different altitudes that are pressing their values – not just as being values that are good for their level, but as values that should be good for everybody. We call that line absolutism. Or level absolutism. There is also quadrant absolutism.
It is when you take your data from your quadrant, or your level or line, and you don’t just say, “This is great data.” You say, “This is the only real data – everybody else is wrong.” That is what the integral approach is here to categorically stop. We just can’t do things like that anymore. It is wrong!
But you can take tests, and you start to get a sense yourself of where individuals are.
So a culture basically has a world-view that they agree upon or start out from, like a centre of gravity, but then there are certain individuals within that culture that are at much higher states, as well as other individuals that are at much lower states.
Right. In culture for example it is helpful to remember that everybody in a society is still born at square one. For example, as an individual, in the value’s line of development, you start out from physiological values and archaicvalues, and then you move to magic values, and then mythic and then rational. Rational values start to emerge at the earliest at around fourteen or fifteen years old – adolescence. Then from rational into pluralistic. And then from pluralistic into integral.
What is happening is that even if a culture had all of its laws and all of its educational systems coming from integral levels, people are still born at square one. So there is always going to be someone who is at the egocentric level - power levels. There is always going to be people who are strict conformists. People at the strict conformists level, which is the traditional values and often mythic membership level, tend to be very aggressive sometimes because these levels are very ethnocentric. We all go through these levels of development so we cannot be judgmental about people at different levels. But there is always going to be pockets in the culture that are not at the dominant mode of discourse, or the predominant level or altitude that the culture is working from. For example, most western democracies emerged somewhere three hundred years ago with the western enlightenment. Prior to that time the highest level that cultures where operating from was basically right around the traditional, conformist, fundamentalist levels – very ethnocentric and militaristic. What happens is that the way a culture operates is that - even tough people are at different altitudes – the reigning laws tend to stem from one level. So we would say that the laws of these traditional cultures really were conformist, often driven by a monarch. Slavery occurred in 97 percent of these agrarian cultures.
So that is the structures that western enlightenment met. What this shift did was that in moving from ethnocentric to worldcentric. It began a process of judging people fairly regardless of race, color, sex or creed. It took a while to get a lot of the remaining remnants out of the system. In America for example, one of the more notorious examples is that many of the founding fathers owned slaves. This is while writing that all men are created equal in the constitution – we hold these truths to be self-evident. Those inequalities were not caused by the modern level of development, but by the premodern traditional level. They were still a holdover from the previous level. So in culture you had this modern level of scientific business, egocentric, ego-rational wave of development emerge that could take a third-person perspective. Government systems were created that said, “What you do in the privacy of your own home is up to you. You can have a magic belief, a mythic belief or a rational belief - we don’t care - but what you do in the public sphere need comply with the laws.” And these laws stem from the modern level.
So in the privacy of your own home you can still think that Jesus Christ is the only personal savior and that people who don’t believe that will burn in hell. You are allowed to believe that in your own home, but you are no longer allowed to burn them or hang them in the public sphere. So you can have those beliefs, but you can’t act on them.
So all we have today is basically a set of laws and institutions that are operating roughly from this rational and in some cases pluralistic levels of morality, ethics and legal norms. And I think that it basically works pretty well. It is going to be very interesting to see what happens when we get this ten percent tipping point from the second tier stages, that presently are in about five percent of the population. Second tier is the integral level. We have reason to believe, looking at the data, that about ten percent of the population in western democracies will reach second tier within a decade. That is going to be very interesting. We are going to have laws, behavioral codes and governance systems that will be operating to some degree from second tier. That is really fundamentally going to change a lot of things. We can’t predict exactly how it is going to happen, but it almost certainly will happen.
Briefly, the same thing goes for an individual. Individuals have what Whitehead called a dominant monad. All that really means is that if my dog gets up and walks across the room, 100 percent of his atoms, molecules and cells go with him. Individual holons have these dominant monads, which are usually at a particular level of development. It does not mean that you don’t have sub-personalities that are at other levels – everybody has sub-personalities – you have split off impulses, unconscious, subconscious. An individual may be very good in some lines of development, some people are very highly developed cognitively, but not very developed morally, interpersonally, or spiritually. But their dominant monad is operating at a set of these particular psychographs. There can be other aspects of their personality that are kind of all over the place. Where an individual has a dominant monad, a social holon has a dominant mode of discourse. And that dominant mode of discourse generates its own set of laws, its educational system and so forth.
Does every culture always evolve? Is that something that is inherent in individuals and cultures?
Well, philosophers have argued for at least two thousand years on the relation of an individual holon to a social holon. In other words, is a society itself an organism or is it just an assembly of individuals. Some people of course believe that the society or state is indeed a super whole and that it should be treated as a holon, as we are all members or parts of it. Others believe that society is nothing but a collection of atomistic individuals, so society has nothing that cannot be found in individuals. I believe that it is really something in-between that. They are both holistic systems for sure, but an individual holon has a dominant monad, and social holons simply have a dominant, or predominant mode of residence or mode of discourse. A dominant monad shows necessary stage development, social holons don’t.
I can give a really quick example: you can have a poker game with five players. The players are all red - red is the color of an altitude we use. They are all at egocentric stages of development, or looking for safety needs. Three of them get sick and drop out. Three more friends come from work, and they are all operating at self-esteem needs, which is two levels higher. All of a sudden the group has gone from being all one particular type to a group whose average is two or three stages higher. As a result the group appears to skip stages. So development in groups or cultures - social holons - is a very much more complex thing.
It is true, that in the long run you can see this progression going from archaic to magic, mythic, rational to pluralistic today to what looks like integral tomorrow. You can see that over the long haul. I think that does happen. But remember it is not a necessary development. It does not occur in rigidly predetermined stages or anything like that, but we do tend to see that kind of development in culture. That is what we are looking at right now. It is a strong possibility that we are going to get some sort of tipping point as this leap to second tier occurs.
Would you say that after hundreds of years of science and the contemplative traditions being separated we are now entering an era where they are starting to integrate again?
Yeah… well, you have to be careful about what we mean by science and what is being integrated. If we mean science like we talked about it earlier, that science is that which works with direct evidence and direct data, which means immediate experience, and has reproducible results that gives the same data, and see if there is any way that you can falsify it and so on… If that is what we mean by science, then we are having a science of contemplation.
We are finding that long-term meditators, people who have been doing it for ten, fifteen, twenty years, have learned to train their attention and their awareness to such a degree that they really gain profound insights into the human condition. They are using it as their interior telescopes or microscopes. In that sense, Zen is scientific and so on, and I believe that is absolutely true. We are having phenomenology as a science of higher states and stages of consciousness.
If the question of whether science and religion can get together means things like the documentary What the bleep do we know? and The Tao of Physics and all that, then I think no - I think every single one of them are deeply confused because they are always trying to qualify the absolute. That is when they get into trouble because the absolute is non-dual. It has no opposites. It is not over here versus manifestation, which is over there. Yet that is what they end up doing. They end up saying that spirit is the quantum potential, for example. They try and identify it with some manifest, finite thing – that is set apart from other things – and that will not work. Every single one of them tries to do it. So that is not happening, although there are a lot of people who are trying to do that! But those things are starting to get a great deal of critical attention that they deserve – meaning negative critical attention. So I don’t think this description of how science and religion will integrate will happen, but the first one - definitely.
Is that also part of your critique of the New Age movements’ reductionistic views of the world?
Well, yes. I think to the extent that those kinds of things are happening it is just a huge problem. In the long run it hurts the field, in my opinion. It really is just what we were talking about a little bit earlier: it confuses methodologies.
Basically, all you are looking at with quantum physics, for example, is a string of mathematical equations. That is the only thing that you are aware of. You are not looking at, staring, gazing, contemplating, directly feeling and experiencing, you know, quarks that smash into a photon. It is basically a series of mathematical equations and then some experiential research that supports or does not support those particular equations. I think that is a very valid methodology.
Then there is Zen, for example, or following Christian contemplation using Saint Theresa or Saint John the Cross - injunctions and paradigms that are just entirely different from quantum physics. It is like actually using a telescope to try and find the experience of love! They just mix these things very badly in my opinion. And I got caught up in it myself in the beginning. It is very tempting because you can look at quantum mechanics and there is just so much goofy stuff going on in there. You go, “Ahh! There’s the doorway to spirit!”. But it does not work very well… it does not work at all to put it mildly.
Is consciousness the basic drive of evolution itself?
Again, I think you have to be careful about that part of it. The people that probably got the best handle on it are Nagarjuna and the Buddhists talking about the theory of emptiness, which is actually an experience - not a theory. Generally, the way that they approached this is by claiming if you are going to start making assertions about the absolute, about god or spirit or something like that, then you are really dealing with absolute truth. There is absolute truth and there is relative truth. In relative truth, and the world we normally live in, is a world of opposites, so any concept we use is dualistic – it has an opposite. Therefore most languages are very inadequate to deal with the absolute. Basically, you can’t talk about the absolute – you have to experience it. You have to awaken it. It is like saying “Describe what water taste like.” Well, just drink a glass of water and you will know. Trying to describe it in concepts is just not going to work very well.
So I think when we come down to what drives evolution, we are getting close to an absolute, and I think we have to be careful there. The concepts don’t work as well. But what we say is that all four of the quadrants evolve together; they are four dimensions of each occasion. Each moment has these four dimensions of these four quadrants. So if you look at the upper left quadrant it looks like consciousness is driving evolution. If you look at the upper right quadrant it looks like physical forces and increasing complexity are driving evolution. If you look at the lower left quadrant it looks like increasing levels of love are driving evolution. So you have to be a little bit careful about that. But there is an Eros in the Kosmos and I think it is pretty hard to deny that.
How has this integral approach been received within each of the four fields of the quadrants, within the humanistic sciences, the arts and within conventional science?
Well I think, really, quite extraordinary. I can just give you a few examples. The four quadrant model was released in 1995, so it has been out for about a decade. Usually, academic books like I write - like Sex, Ecology and Spirituality, or Brief History of Everything - might sell two or three thousand copies, and if they have an impact it is very slow. But, Brief History… sold well over a hundred thousand copies, which is pretty unheard of, and it got some very immediate acceptance. We got so many disciplines using it that we created Integral University. In literally just a three-year period we are ready to go live with Integral University this summer, early fall. It has twenty-four colleges where the AQAL model is fully applied in these disciplines to show how it really flushes them out and makes them exquisitely functioning, very fulfilling, and precise disciplines. So I think it is pretty good.
If you look at Integral Naked you see an awful lot of people who have contacted us, who really love the material. Like Michael Crichton and Larry Wachowski, who did The Matrix, and on and on. Then at the recent World Economic Forum, Bill Clinton said, “What the world needs now is integral consciousness as described by Ken Wilber in his book A Theory of Everything.” I think to go from just a little kind of academic stuff ten years ago to this kind of acceptance is really quite unheard of. So I am very happy with it. It has been a very fast ride.