France—The Integral Year in Review

January 2013 / Notes from the Field

Brian Van der Horst
Paris  Bureau Chief

Brian van der Horst

One of the most well-attended integral studies meetings in Paris this year was the “1st International Forum on the Evolution of Consciousness.” Organized by Eric Allodi and a team from Andrew Cohen’s group, EnlightenNext  France. Around 700 participants gathered to hear a combination of European and American limelights such as Steve McIntosh, Andrew  Cohen, Ervin Laszlo, and Edgar Morin from a variety of integral perspectives.

Patrice van Ersel, Editor of France’s largest new age magazine, Clés (keys)  gave the keynote address, retelling  Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s  philosophic saga.  Those adorable French are always footnoting  new philosophies with historical references of their own culture to prove that new approaches, after all, were always French to begin with.  But in this case van Ersel brought up a good point.

De Chardin’s  (1881-1955) background (as you integral leaders probably know) as a Jesuit priest, geologist and paleontologist and who took part in the discoveries of Peking and Piltdown Man, evoked the concept of the Omega Point, the universe’s eschatological target of maximum complexity and consciousness. Hey, he was Mr. Evolution on many fronts, for which the Catholic Church frequently condemned and sanctioned him, from the Holy See to the Magisterium, a history of struggle and repression right out of The Da Vinci Code. Teilhard also incorporated Vernadsky’s concept of the developmental Noosphere (an all-encompassing field of consciousness) into a model  of the Great Chain of Philosophy, and offered a vector of evolution from embedded levels of  the material, through the biological, the cognitive, and the spiritual planes—another take on integral holonography. His major work was published, of course, posthumously.

Clés, by the way, is another magazine renovated by Jean-Louis Servan-Schrieber’s group, which astonished European  publishing during the last decade with the phenomenal success of  Psychologies  that has  editions now out in eight countries and which has a light new age slant.  Clés, on the other hand is a somewhat similar magazine, marrying human potential issues with general entertainment topics like movie stars, nutrition, tourism, beauty and other cosmopolitan concerns—but takes on more leading edge topics like Wilber, Cohen, and Spiral Dynamics.

Next on the program, Edgar Morin, the prolific French philosopher chronicled in ILR a few issues ago, teamed up with Andrew Cohen, the American guru, speaking on “The Big Idea of Evolution.”

Cohen called for a “new moral philosophical context, which can embody science in a new spiritual mode.”  Morin suggested why: as a Spanish and French resistance fighter combating genocide, he has written that the principle of life is also the principle of death – in  biological and botanical evolution for which “one can say there is an intelligence active in this process.” Morin called upon Decartes: “We created gods and became their slaves.  We need a dialog with our own myths of globalization,” he proposed. “Civilization brings barbarism, contempt, torture and war.  We need a renaissance of new passions to confront the cold, glacial calculating approach that is trying to handle our world-wide ecological and economic crises. I, too, am responsible for not fighting against barbarism,” he concluded, noting that even after being liberated from the Nazis, France subsequently conducted a heinous war in Algeria.

“I bring the good news,” said Andrew Cohen, speaking next after Morin. “There is a creative process that is an emerging driving force of the evolutionary impulse.” Gesturing to the audience, “You and I being here are proof that this is true.”

Morin concluded the discussion by averring, “I’m an ‘optim-pessimist… there are two types of conscientiousness.  First, an ecology of action—every action has a ‘price.’  Second, there must be a will to fight barbarism. Calling on Darwin and holonic evolution,” he concluded, “suggests an inherent ‘Principle d’ Esperance,’ or hope, that guides us all.”

Belgian economist Marc Luykx Ghishi was next on the program.  A former senior futurist with the European Commission, and author of books – Emergence of a New Worlds and New Consciousness, New Society – Ghishi rolled out current trends in continental business, including the French version of “Cultural Creatives.” These are evidence of paradigm shifts in business: five levels of renaissance including new cultural values and economic visions, post-national societies, and transition of trans-national companies. He next presented a cornucopia of evidence for business transformation, including decentralization, cradle-to-cradle design, open-source computing, the trade of knowledge “like love,” networking, win-win strategies, and the fact that Europe has been war-free  for close to 70 years. (not including the cold war.)

If all this sounds a little too familiar, let me tell you about the current of European business. I recently had a talk with the head of the leadership department of Europe’s largest training organization.  He told me that companies here don’t want to talk about transformation these days. They want to talk about survival. And as for current developments in management theory, Will Schutz’s  FIRO personality profile first presented in 1958 and Peter Drucker’s 1954 model of  “management by objectives”  are the hot new trends.

“Meetings like this create evolution,” said Steve McIntosh, author of the keynote volume Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution.  Up next was Carter Phipps, executive editor of the Andrew Cohen publication,  EnlightenNext magazine, and author of Evolutionaries: Unlocking the Spiritual and Cultural Potential of Science’s Greatest Idea.  The two authors criticized Darwinian theory as  an “ethnocentric justification for colonialism and imperialism,” and proposed a new “moral understanding of vertical evolution without falling into ethnocentrism.”  Although the program promised a panel discussion here of “an expanded set of values, a new way of seeing and… the evolutionary worldview’s specific applications to cultural development,” their talks did not meet my expectations.  Presenting such abstractions as the push/pull of values and “a second enlightenment,” there were few pragmatic strategies offered here.

Much refreshing concreteness was presented by the next speaker, Elza Maalouf, a Lebanese attorney and co-founder of the Center for Human Emergence—Middle East. She presented how she was using Spiral Dynamics in Palestine and other countries to working with Arab Youth and infant mortality, along with fascinating  statistical analysis of the problems of unemployment, hunger, education among societies representing a spectrum from feudal Mohammedism to enterprising, progressive Islam. Next up, French philosopher Genevieve Fraisse, Director of Research at France’s biggest governmental think-tank, the Centre Nationale de la Researche Scientifique, where she is an expert on “the battle of the sexes.” Fraisse and Dr. Elizbeth Debold a founding member of the Harvard project on Women’s Psychology and Girls’ Development and a senior editor of EnlightenNext Magazine, threw the ball back and forth about respecting gender differences, the female condition, various 70s  U.S. women’s moment slogans, and Fraisse’s research into a feminism that was “hors de temps,”  timeless and/or outside of history. However, very little was exchanged about the evolution of consciousness.

Andrew Cohen wound up the day in a conversation with Ervin Laszlo,  author of more than 120 books, several about integral philolosphy and spirituality.  Cohen promised to speak on the experiential implication of evolution, or what he personally lived through in evolution, and then pulled an epistemological bait-and-switch by defining an “evolutionary impulse as a big bang explosion of…  overwhelmingly positive… creative genius.” Pretty non-experiential, in effect.

“I was not changed by evolutionary consciousness, “ said Laszlo.  “ I was born into it. What we are seeing is in the cosmos… My first book 50 years ago was on the evolution of consciousness.  And it wasn’t a big bang,  but a big bounce from prior universes, a creative urge across cycles of multiverses.” Laszlo has had a tendency to explain the world by current trends in physics. At one time or another in his voluminous publications, he has explained reality in terms of relativity, quantum theory, wave-particle duality, supersymmetry, M-theory, superstring and so-forth, which make reading his opus a terrific way to keep up with popular physics.  However,  most of the thinking of the conference was stalled in a period between the 50s of Teilhard De Chardin and a mosh-up of 20th century quantum mysticism.  I can only hope for a future when these conversations might, one could say, evolve.

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Christine Marsan, hosted her “Jounee les Ateliers de la Mutation—a Think, Be, Do Tank” in Mid-November in Paris. Mutation in French means radical, profound, evolutionary change. Christine, author of over a dozen books on business change, poetry, and a few novels, including mullti-tomed science fiction, runs a cluster of French consulting, coaching, and leadership training organizations. She kicked off this conference for industry leaders and strategic planning executives with her idea of a new “RenaiSens” aborning in Europe.  If you read French, or don’t mind Google’s machine translations, a tour of her websites ( http://christinemarsan.org  http://christinemarsan.eu http://23h.r.mailjet.com/c7282f72/21IHK1/iPv2rA/muteetsens.org/) gives a good idea of how transdisciplinary topics are being used in French business. At the conference, which gathered under the slogan “Daring reasonable optimism: committing ourselves to ‘Mutation,’” all the usual suspects of paradigm change in business were gathered together, with the line-up including micro-finance, sustainable development, biodiversity, and collective economic systems.  A vegetarian lunch, violin performances, poetry and bodywork inductions filled out their quest for an integral business day.

The event was also a publication party for their collective book,  entitled S’approprier les Clés de la Mutation, which also included most of the presenters on this day: (Edited by Christine Marsan), Amandine Barthélémy, Christine Behain, Frédéric Bosqué, Philippe Brizon, Gauthier Chapelle, Bertrand Collomb, Emmanuel Delanoy, Philippe Derruder, Olivier Dubigeon, Christian Gatard, Alexandre Guillard Olivier Haertig, Sophie Klein, Henri Lachmann, Philippe Leconte, Christophe Lemaitre, Marc Luyckx Ghisi, Emmanuel Marchant, Edgar Morin, Anne-Sophie Novel, Arnaud Poissonnier, Denis Reymond, Stéphane Riot, Brigitte Roujol, Jean-Luc Roux, Sybille Saint-Girons, Eric Seulliet, Marine Simon, Romain Slitine, Raphaël Souchier, Pierre-Eric Sutter, Patrick Viveret,  and Guillaume Wehrlin. This work, summaries of their previous presentations, is part of a triology edited and written by Marsan, including L’imaginaire du 11 Septembre, with a cover depicting the exploding twin towers, written to “demonstrate how a new world is emerging from the ashes of the fall of the World Trade Center.”  The third volume comes out in February, La Vitalité d’une Néo-RenaiSens written to “explain our new paradigm of society.”

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At the Universite Integrale in Paris, L’approche intégrale dans l’Art et la création contemporain was the topic of a February conference on art and spirituality. Another in November was entitled “Education et Co-Evolution De quelle éducation avons-nous besoin pour co-évoluer et changer de paradigme?” A running blog on the Paris Integral University can be followed at: http://universite-integrale.blogspot.fr/ or Michel Saloff-Coste’s http://universiteintegrale.ning.com/.

Kevin Solinski, an Integral Coach(TM), and Software/Functional Architect at Orange Telephone in Lille, has been creating a group called “Integral France”, (integral-france.org), which also includes some integral coaches engaged in building another organization: the European Consortium Of Integral Coaches (ECOIC), with more than 35 members from all over Europe.

For another look at a new group trying to create an integral association, take a look at:
http://www.integralvision.fr/Integral_Alliance.pdf  And for an overview on a visiting philosopher, Tom Steininger, try  http://www.integralvision.fr/evenements-integralvision/conferences-vision-integrale/page33/conferences-vision-integrale.html

Overall, the best source of integral doings in France is at http://journal-integral.blogspot.fr/, run by Olivier Breteau. It’s in French, but well worth the detour.

About the Author

Brian Van der Horst has been an executive coach since 1977, and an NLP trainer since 1984 when he began to live and work in Europe, based in Paris where he founded Repère, an international NLP training institute, with two French consultants, designing and teaching practitioner and master practitioner certification programs to more than 10,000 people world-wide. In 1994, he founded a coaching school, and has certified around 300 coaches. For the past few years, he has been an Program Development Director for Renaissance 2; and a founding member and Chief Facilitator, Europe, for Ken Wilber’s Integral Institute.