CODA: Pop Goes the Wilber

Coda / June 2009

Jurriaan Kamp interview Ken Wilber
“Speaking in Tongues,” Ode Magazine, April 2009

Jurriaan Kamp is the editor of Ode, a magazine “for Intelligent Optimists” it proclaims on the cover. This special issue focuses on “Travel for a Small Planet,” turning tourism into life and economy enhancing activities. Structured in the mode of other popular magazines these are articles aimed at the general public, albeit, those that are both optimistic and intelligent. (Is that an oxymoron these days—Forgive me, I may have been spending too much time with my Brit friends lately!) And, actually, there is very intelligent material here, including an article on complementary currency by Bernard Lietaer who influenced Jordan Bruce MacLeod in his new book, New Currency. Dave Pollard encourages entrepreneur-ship in the face of the financial meltdown. And there are articles on microjustice, hydrogen as energy and a number of features.

The subheading of the interview with Ken Wilber reads, “Philosopher Ken Wilber says that to solve the world’s problems, we need to change the way we talk to people from other cultures.” Kamp has been interested in Wilber’s work for 20 years, particularly as Wilber’s work helps us to understand the crises we face in the world and potential actions we can take to ameliorate them. Nevertheless, Kamp had difficultly understanding Wilber and was, at first, reluctant to interview him after catching up with Wilber’s more recent work, particularly A Theory of Everything. This is reflected in his description upon entering Wilber’s loft in Denver:

“Wilber’s apartment reflects the integral approach that is the theme of his books. Modern technology and sleekly designed furniture seamlessly blend with images and artifacts of ancient Asian spirituality. Even Wilber’s appearance expresses his thing. His tall, strong body isn’t the body of a philosopher who sits around reading and writing books all day. It’s clear that his brain isn’t the only thing Wilber, 60, exercises. His integral philosophy is more than an intellectual exercise, too. It’s an urgent answer to stubborn, practical problems.”

Essentially, the remaining description of their conversation, not presented in interview format, is about the need to develop ways of communicating in the face of diversity in the world. This is not just a need based on communities and cultures, but one that needs to address values and worldviews. These develop in stages. We need to take these stages into account if we are to address our challenges.

As a bonus, there is attached to this interview a piece by Jim Garrison on The State of The World Forum (

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Integral Philosophy DVD

Steve McIntosh and Jeff Salzman: Foundations of Integral Philosophy

Steve McIntosh, author of Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution and President of Zen & Now is interviewed by Jeff Salzman, founder and lead teacher at Integral Boulder and co-founder of CareerTrack Training.

A product of Now & Zen (Steve McIntosh’s company of innovative products) and Boulder Integral, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering the emergence of integral consciousness and culture. For more about Boulder Integral, go to Steve McIntosh is one of members of the Board of Directors.

Integral is a worldview. A new way of seeing evolution and consciousness. It transcends previous worldviews and includes them by harmonizing and integrating them, when historically we have seen them as being in conflict. Integral sees traditional (30% of US population), modernism (50%) and postmodernism. Integral arises out of postmodernism and is friendly to all three. We can think of these as stages (they do form a kind of structure, sequential in time) each fosters the conditions for the arising of their successors.

McIntosh and Salzman layout this process and the factors involved. The integral approach is attempting a synthesis of those that came before. This becomes very practical in that it has great relevance for how we go about “making the world a better place.” This involves evolving consciousness, subject to many definitions. It includes feelings, thoughts, values, intention, the subject inner life. Sentient subjectivity. These emerge in stages over time, although they seem a bit uncomfortable with the rigid structure implied by the concept of stages. This ambivalence about concepts seems to be characteristic of integral theory and philosophy, but they serve to introduce vitality to the ideas, rather than frustration.

The dialogue explores implications for making meaning out of the political dynamics in the world today and the relevance of the past. They explore the integral “movement” in offering a worldview that can demonstrate a set of values that is novel and offers approaches to solutions to the issues arising out of traditionalism, modernism and postmodernism. It focuses on the evolution of human consciousness and our active involvement in the evolutionary process.

McIntosh traces the origins of integral philosophy to Hegel, Darwinian science in relation to evolution, Bergson’s work on creative evolution, Whitehead, Tiehard, Gebser, Sri Aurobindo. Breakthroughs in systems sciences and hard science emerged in the 1970s. Wilber made a major contribution through his integration of these earlier perspectives. The discussion closes with the inclusion of spiral dynamics, particularly Graves’ work as popularized by Beck and Cowen. McIntosh states that the tier notion is likely to breakdown as integral is explored moving forward.

Steve McIntosh and Michael Zimmerman: A Conversation On Evolution

Michael Zimmerman is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Çenter for Humanities and the Arts, University of Colorado. He is a co-author of Integral Ecology: Uniting Multiple Perspectives on the Natural World.

McIntosh opens with the idea of progress, an unfashionable idea. Zimmerman prefers the idea of development, increasing complexity with trajectories, but not a given purpose. There is a need to posit additional principles to that offered by Darwin (without an acknowledgement of the work of David Loye). McIntosh sees the emergence of a metaphysical category that indicates that things are getting better, as in the emergence of consciousness.

McIntosh argues that evolution has purpose. The difference between matter and life is that the latter has purpose. He cites biologist Lynn Marglois, “Life is matter that chooses.” Zimmerman expands on the idea of the anthropic principle: there is something about how the universe was set up at the beginning such that humans show up. This cannot be explained by physics that the initial conditions were what they were. Theists see this as evidence of a creator. The multiverse hypothesis is offered as a counter argument. This is an example of teleology, the search for answers to the question of how the universe has turned out as it has.

McIntosh suggests that an integral point of view offers evidence for the cutting edge of evolution, where we are now. It helps us move beyond relativism. Our conception of the good expands, evolves. Zimmerman points out that less evolved behavior is a manifestation of the diversity of the pace of evolution among human communities and individuals. McIntosh sees a dialectical progress and a need to understand that dynamic. Zimmerman wonders about the concept of the strange attractor from chaos theory that is pulling us in progressive directions. Modern science does a way with concepts of final cause and formal cause, e.g. ideas in the mind of God. That leaves us with efficient cause and material cause, laws of nature, and upward causation. What the 20th century has been about is positing principle out in the future (Eros of cosmic strange attractor) that permeates the universe and draws it more subtlely into the future. McIntosh suggests the idea of final causation being within ourselves. Integral theory will be served by exploring the physics of values as an attractor for survival value, adaptation.

Zimmerman sees consciousness as a critical factor. Modern science wonders can we get away without including consciousness and purpose. Morality is only possible in first and second person interactions. No account of mind can occur without a phenomenological perspective. This parallels development in evolutionary theory and the space for new realities and possibilities of creativity and free will.

These questions and issues are now prevalent in cosmological and scientific discourse. We are developing a deeper capacity for figuring it out and identifying the potentials of human beings.

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Integral Life Takes a Step Forward

Just announced is a new offering (new to me, at any rate) from Integral Life’s new partners, Integral Coaching Canada. In this case, one of the partners, Joanne Hunt is introducing an integral perspective on why meetings don’t work that is, in part, built on a model of differences in type as represented by a personal orientation to each of the four quadrants. Thus, the quadrants are now being used to explain behaviors according to a typological model based on these quandrants.

Your Native Perspective: Why Meetings Suck
Joanne Hunt

The Four Perspectives

Here Joanne gives an explanation of the four Native Perspectives, personified by four characters in a meeting representing the interior-individual view (the UL quadrant), the exterior-individual view (the UR quadrant), the exterior-collective view (the LR quadrant), and the interior-collective view (the LL quadrant).

  1. UL—meaningful and of value to me
  2. UR—engagement with the world, action, getting things done
  3. LL—shared resonance, relationship, connection, belonging
  4. LR—access to a coherent whole and all its parts, how things fit together, how things work

Joanne’s presentation and demonstrations of these types in a meeting are presented in video format. You have to be a member of Integral Lifeto view the videos.

Joanna adds value by doing a commentary on her observations of what is going on in the meeting. This involves bringing participant perspectives for getting what they want, but also in how they understand the others’ contributions to the meeting. Videos then take us “inside the heads” of the four perspectives. This is interesting because it parallels the technique of capturing not only what is said in a conversation, but what each person is thinking as they make their statements, a technique developed by Chris Argyris.

There will be additional installments.