3/7 – Steps towards an Integral Tomorrow

January-February 2016 / Feature Articles

Alexander Malakhov, with Eugene Pustoshkin

Alexander Malakhov

PUSTOSHKIN Eugene 2016 smIn the past hundred years numerous thinkers around the world—from the United States to the Soviet Union and India—came to believe that if the human civilization wants to survive and reach new horizons, societies and people that constitute those societies must overcome fragmentariness and prevailing prejudices and learn to see the total abundant diversity of perspectives that comprise reality. In synchrony to that, a rediscovery of the realm of spirit happened, the inexhaustibility and multifacetedness of which has manifested itself with unprecedented uttermost clarity. Insights and systematic studies conducted in the past years have convincingly demonstrated that these tendencies seem to be not random fluctuations of history but a genuine manifestation of the evolution of the Kosmos which discloses itself in emergence of new levels of consciousness.

The avant-garde of studying this new Integral consciousness has included a number of scholars and activists, among whom Ken Wilber has been the most important figure for the past few decades. In 1995, he published his monumental book Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, in which he suggested an effective and all-inclusive framework, now known as Integral Theory or AQAL. Soon it acquired proponents among representatives of various fields—scientists and religious activists, business leaders and artists—and the emergence of the Integral Institute fostered talk of the beginning of an Integral movement.

Despite this movement’s heterodoxical and amorphous character, it seems undeniable that its natural and unitive goal is a comprehensive assisting of the coming of the Integral Age.  Even in the case if some optimistic estimates are right, and the Integral Age is the next step in the evolution of humanity, its arrival is not predetermined and relies upon overcoming extremely serious problems. In our opinion, today the Integral movement uses only a part of its potential and has insufficient influence in order to have a tangible impact on global processes. Its potential can be actualized and deepened, but in order for this to happen we have to start discussing difficult questions and be prepared to correct our standpoints. In this text we will begin a discussion of four issues which have crucial importance for the Integral Movement.

The first issue is related to Integral identity. Who can be considered “Integral”? In no way we should speak about establishing some sort of “Integral inquisition” or developing of infallible dogmatics; however, we witness a sharp necessity of establishing a minimal set of worldview, ethical, and practical criteria which give one the right (and privilege) to belong to the Integral movement. So far, we could distinguish three approaches to identity: (1) based on solidarity with Ken Wilber’s works; (2) based on a broader Integral intentionality towards synthesis and all-inclusion; and (3) based on interior intuitive resonance which emerges when you get acquainted with someone’s views. It is noteworthy that one often encounters also a negative identity, when a person exists in the field of Integral and asserts him- or herself almost exclusively through criticizing Wilber.

What is a minimal “Integral credo”? It would hardly include agreement with Wilber’s approach, even with its central tenets, such as the existence of quadrants and post-metaphysics. Too many people who constitute “the glory and joy” of Integral thought (Ervin Laszlo, Allan Combs, Steve McIntosh, etc.) might prefer their own maps and theories. We also doubt that one can be a participant of the Integral movement and at the same time be a proponent of reductionism or hard physicalism, fundamentalism or some sort of ideology which is based on xenophobia. Participants of the Integral movement would hardly disagree with the necessity of such limitations. However, there are standpoints with an ambivalent status in the Integral worldview: is there the transcendental reality (God, Spirit); does consciousness cease to exist with the death of the brain; does mystical experience bring forth genuine knowledge; what is the meaning and nature of evolution; are there levels of consciousness? An alternative variant would be to develop a credo based on a shared vision of the future—of the Integral age—and also based on specific principles of its actualization, while bracketing a major part of worldview-related issues. Given a certain painfulness of the question of identity and boundaries, especially in the people who are prone to boomeritis, one should enact a maximum-level delicacy and transparency in defining such a credo. In an ideal situation such an initiative would be arise from uncontested leaders of Integral thought.

The second issue is related to achieving a truly global vision. The majority of Integral activists live in USA; some number of individuals live in other developed countries; at the same time the major part of the world has virtually no voice in the Integral movement. This results in that the Integral discourse tends to be tailored for America, it is often grounded in mainstream American media, not always reflecting the situation in other parts of the world. We see a genuine solution in cultivating native Integral communities around the world. These communities would be capable to equally participate in the fraternal-and-sororal dialogue with Integral communities of America and Europe. In many regions a significant problem is posed by language barriers and a lack or insufficient amount of Integral literature in native languages, which seriously undermines popularization of Integral views in the world. The opposite is also true: Integral and integrally-informed works, written in languages other than English, could for decades remain unknown to the English-speaking Integral community. When one takes into consideration these circumstances, it becomes obvious that we need to create an international translation hub that coordinates this specific direction of work.

It should also be noted that development of Integral thought in the countries which do not belong to the category of “developed” can have a series of unpredictable emergent benefits, often related to apparent deficits of these cultures. The usual modernist idea about the supremacy of the West and the tendency towards monological westernization, despite all efforts of postmodern, is still solidly ingrained (after being indoctrinated by mass culture) in minds of not only Western citizens, but also representatives of native traditions. Despite the fact that West does seem to have scientific, technological, mass-culture and economic advantages and also larger populations of people that represent Integral levels of consciousness, the lands which do not belong to the mainstream of developed countries of the Western world, nevertheless, still can serve as a crucible for smelting awareness into Integral consciousness. Economic and social hardships could create serious obstacles for well-being of individuals and entire societies, yet they could also serve as growth opportunities.

For example, in some regions (such as, perhaps, Russia) frustration of consciousness under the conditions of “stable instability” and “half-decay” of predominant ideologies could, ideally, foster rapid dis-identification from the trance of ordinary conventional life and return towards deeper and more integral foundations of culture. General functioning and conducting Integral research in such countries could be less financially costly, while Integral leadership, executed in a proper way, could have greater impact in the long term. Furthermore, in such countries integrative breakthrough could occur in practical cultural and phenomenological approaches (such as in psychology and psychotherapy) do not require large technological and economic investments, but long-term (often life-long) commitments on the level of individuals and entire research groups. The growth of consciousness itself does not necessarily require being plugged into and dependent upon the mainstream of techno-scientific progress and economic prosperity.

Another side of this issue is the process of deep integration of the entire spectrum of available perspectives. While some perspectives were carefully studied and transcended by Integral scholars, other perspectives have received much less attention. For instance, has Integral though really included all essential things which can be found in scholastics and kalam, imyaslaviye and irfan, and dozens of lineages, schools, and traditions which could be found in Christianity and Islam? Almost from any point of view the answer is “no.” There is still a possibility that, having studied only a part of the whole territory, Integral scholars excessively hurried to compose a general map, while relying upon extrapolations and dubious generalizations. At an initial stage it was justified and inevitable, but now the maps that we currently have require further detailing, refinement, and checking. Who knows, it may be that whole new continents will be drawn on the Integral map.

The third issue should be added to what is said above—that is, the issue of scientific application of Integral Theory and Integral Studies. Even though now we have access to hundreds, if not thousands, of publications that are based on the Integral framework, we should understand that this is only an initial stage of a huge amount of work that requires efforts of a ten-fold greater number of Integral scholars-practitioners than what we have now. Due to this reason special efforts should be directed at introducing academia to the Integral framework and training new scholars and scientists within the Integral movement. We think it would be useful to compose a catalogue of “unsolved problems” and “blank spots” of Integral Theory—various topics which are to be of research and exploratory priority for Integral scholars, especially in the conditions of limited resources. Specific attention should be paid to critically important tenets in order to make sure that they have an impeccable evidence base and could serve as foundations for further development of the field.

Despite the importance of the academic direction within the Integral movement, we should note that academic appreciation cannot be an end in itself for the Integral movement. From a long-term perspective, unless a tendency towards radical shift in values of scientific community emerges, we should give preference to creating an independent research infrastructure which would serve as a container for actualization of the Integral vision and, particularly, supporting transpersonal experience.

At last, the fourth issue: the question of development and accepting a program or road map, without which it is impossible to transform the Integral movement into a significant force. If our shared goal is to accelerate the coming of the Integral Age, then what tasks and challenges should be resolved on the way towards it? How would we determine how many steps have already been made, how many steps we still have to make, and where we stumbled and have to get up and resume our journey? As in the case with the credo, such a program would be effective only if it becomes supported by a majority of leaders and participants of the Integral movement. Annually, the world sees emergence of numerous declarations and manifests that practically lead to nothing. In order for the Integral program not to join their list, its developers must have a high level of competency, and its signers must have the willingness to act in accordance with it, sometimes revisioning their previous plans and making compromises for the sake of accelerating the coming of Integral Age, which, without a slightest exaggeration, would be beneficial for all sentient beings.

In addition to supporting native Integral communities around the world and creating our own research infrastructure, an especially important task for the future Integral movement will be the creation of media platforms and large-scale educational projects that are capable to transmit the Integral message to every human being on the planet.

* * *

Most attempts to change the world have failed. Most visionaries and revolutionaries failed to actualize their dreams, and they themselves were forsaken. But there are also examples of the opposite: how the few inspired millions, and persecuted ascetics became founders of a millenium-old civilization. The period of bifurcation in which we have found ourselves in, with its total unpredictability and supersonic rates of change, gives us a chance for realization of the bravest dream which could only be contained in our mind. Those who aspire for transformation of the human being, for discovering new reaches of consciousness, for transfiguration of the entire Kosmos share this bold and audacious dream. If you, just like us, belong to this kind of people, then this text is addressed to you.

With love and in prayers,

Alexander Malakhov
Eugene Pustoshkin

About the Authors

Alexander Malakhov, M.S.W., is an integral scholar-practitioner & PhD Researcher at Pacific National University (Khabarovsk, Russia). His main interests include Integral Theory, world philosophy, relationship between religion and science, altered states of consciousness, and human liberation. He is the founder of “Quadrants: Integral Lab” and an Associate Editor of Eros & Kosmos (see: http://eroskosmos.org/english). Contact email: alex@malakhov.link

Eugene Pustoshkin is an integral psychologist, translator, and integral scholar-practitioner. He lives in St. Petersburg, Russia, and currently serves as the Chief Editor of Eros & Kosmos (see: http://eroskosmos.org/english), the Russian Integral online magazine he co-founded; he is also the Bureau Chief / Associate Editor for Russia at Integral Leadership Review. Eugene graduated as specialist in clinical psychology from St. Petersburg State University, and now maintains private practice, offering counseling in Integral psychotherapy and mentoring in Integral Theory. He translated several books by Ken Wilber and works of other Integral authors. Since 2014, he has been organizing and co-facilitating (together with Helsinki-based therapist Sergey Kupriyanov, PhD in Medicine) Holoscendence workshops in Russia and other countries. Contact email: eapustoshkin@gmail.com

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