7/31 – The current state of Integral in Russia

Notes from the Field / July 2020

Eugene Pustoshkin

This essay was initially written for the Integral European Conference 2020 newsletter and blog in March 2020—it was published there in a significantly abbreviated form. The current version of the text was expanded and updated in June 2020. 

Eugene Pustoshkin
Eugene Pustoshkin

There are a few streams of the Integral movement’s emergence and growth in Russia. In this survey by Integral I refer to various developments around Ken Wilber’s AQAL Integral Theory & Practice as well as closely related/interlinked fields such as Spiral Dynamics (specifically, Don Beck’s Spiral Dynamics Integral). 

The spectrum of Russian Integral activities includes publishing, blogging & journal publications (as well as other online activities), professional activities in such areas as psychology & psychotherapy, mindfulness & meditation, coaching, business & leadership (including “Teal organizations“), embodiment, city development, academic activities, and arts.

This essay turned out to be quite personal, but I guess this is what should have been expected, given the nature of Integral perspectivism—a great deal of objectivity is in the I of the beholder. 

Publishing—and Adventures around Integral Books

Integral Publishing as a Central Activity

One of the central areas of Integral activities in Russia is concentrated around publishing. In my opinion, this kind of work is crucial in establishing any serious movement, even if one is aimed at “practice” rather than “theorizing“—especially when it relates to such really post-postconventional endeavors as Integral—because books and texts in general are among the leading ways our collective memories of these Integral resonances seem to be imprinted and inherited. I would argue, there is really no other way invented to convey complex thought and consciousness—and also directly transform it—other than book and pass it through generations. If we want to go beyond superficiality and shallow understandings, we have to build new integral cultures of reading. People get old and wither, but really good books live through many generations (we still read and seriously study books written in 19th century).

There are still quite few, if any, Russian authors who write their own books of substance, using the AQAL lens with any serious sophistication, although there were and still are precious authors who demonstrate their own solid second-tier, postformal, dialectical thinking. The main stage now is about translating the main corpus of Integral works to Russian, specifically the works of Ken Wilber, but also Integral works by various other authors. Since the Russian language is still spoken by around 260 million people around the world (with very few of these people being able to read in English fluently enough so as to grasp Wilber’s works in the original language), the world evolution seems to require such efforts to translate these works and make them of uttermost importance.

What’s difficult is that translation of these works—not just Wilber’s but also even “simpler“ works on business, for instance—to Russian (and probably to any other language) literally requires inventing and reinventing terms to denote concepts and notions which were either forgotten/repressed (during the atheistic Soviet era, when the ideology strictly repressed heterodoxies, and especially “spiritualistic“ thinking) or never there, in the culture, in the first place. Any novice translator, given he or she is actually competent at least in his own language, would tend to fail in terms of delivering a proper translation because of simply not knowing the numerous contexts, backgrounds, histories of terminology that are enacted at a regular basis in Integral literature. This sort of literature is by definition, well, encompassing, comprehensive and transdisciplinary (some even say, postdisciplinary).

On The Emergence and Unfolding of Integral Publishing (and Accompanying Events)

Here is a timeline of the unfolding of the Russian translations of Ken Wilber’s books as well as books by other relevant authors. Prior to 2000s Wilber’s early and still quite popular book No Boundary was translated (and then republished) in the “Transpersonal Psychology Books“ series published by Vladimir Maykov and those who helped him (this is the series which made Stan Grof and Arnold & Amy Mindell’s as well as other transpersonal theorists’ books accessible to many thousands of Russians).

In early 2000s (up to 2004) within the same Transpersonal series—organized and coordinated by Maykov—Alexander Kiselev translated or helped translating a few major works by Ken Wilber which set the scene: The Eye of SpiritIntegral PsychologyOne Taste, and The Atman Project.

Outside of this series there was also a very deficient, poor-quality translation of A Brief History of Everything (the quality of translation is indicated by the very telling error of mistranslating the term limbic system as lymphatic system). It was not related to Maykov and Kiselev’s efforts. Later on, I made a new translation of this book, which quickly became one of the most recognizable books by Wilber in Russia.

At around 2006–2007, being a freshman or sophomore student of clinical psychology with fluent English skill-set, I became intrigued by the promise of Integral psychology and began translating, at first, Wilber’s articles (such as “An Integral Theory of Consciousness“ and “Waves, Streams, States, and Self“) and also the blog posts from his official website. I started posting these works online to wider audiences. 

Later on I turned to translating Wilber’s books, for I was motivated to make his works more accessible than in previous translation (for in English these books and articles seem to be very lucid and accessible). In 2008, I translated The Integral Vision, which was published the next year by a Moscow publisher. This publishing house soon ceased to exist, but at that time through our and our colleagues’ efforts several other books were published, such as Peter McNab’s book Towards an Integral Vision, in which an Integral version of NLP is explored, Don Riso’s The Wisdom of Enneagram and Beck and Cowan’s Spiral Dynamics—the last book was published in collaboration with the BestBusinesBooks publisher. 

Now, when I reflect the past, I realize that I should mention that, in 2008–2009, when I collaborated with one entrepreneurial group, we co-initiated some important Integral events. In Fall 2008, I suggested to this group that we could invite Susanne Cook-Greuter to Moscow (before that I had listened to Susanne’s talk with Ken Wilber at the Integral Naked website and felt resonance with what I heard)—so I wrote Susanne my first email, introducing myself and describing our hopes and dreams of what we wanted to accomplish in Russia in terms of promoting the Integral Vision. This email launched what later became a genuine long-term friendship, and through this friendship Susanne has become a profound teacher of wisdom and humanity for me ever since. 

As a result of this exchange of correspondence, Susanne agreed to come to Moscow (together with her associate Beena Sharma) in December 2008—an addition to consulting this entrepreneurial group Susanne also read a lecture on Ego Development Theory for wider audiences. Susanne also initiated a conference call with Ken Wilber, in which I participated and was able to express my gratitude to the man. And, in Spring 2009, their second visit was organized; at that time her team was joined by James Ritchie-Dunham (the author of Ecosynomics—a very important book on the science of agreements—and also abundance—which deserves more attention in the Integral circles). These two events were—and still are, reverberating through all these years—important, if not pivotal, turning points in my life.

In 2009, our group also co-initiated the project of inviting Peter McNab as well as Diane Mush Hamilton to Moscow—as a part of our efforts to invite notable Integral practitioners. But in Summer 2009, alas, I became seriously disillusioned about the way things had been working out in our integrally-informed initiative, so I had to leave it—and even though McNab and Hamilton’s workshops did happen a few months later, due to probably lack of promo campaign they attracted only few participants (it is notable that upon Diane Hamilton’s suggestion her co-facilitator was Marc Gafni, so they both visited Moscow in Fall 2009). 

Eventually, as far as I understand, the initiative itself disintegrated. I do not want to dwell on the past (and I apologize for these autobiographical moments in this narrative, which I mention only because I feel obliged to write about what’s been happening at that crucial time in the history of Russian Integral movement), but 2008–2009 were intense in both intense joys and sorrows for me. (About ten years later one person—whose actions became a primary source of distress for me, which in turn led me to leaving that group—wrote me a letter of apology. Well, things happen, which is an integral part of life; and we all have to learn from our own experience and mistakes—and we all do mistakes. Being a very young adult at that time, in 2009, without having much experience of potential unconscious undercurrents, I made some mistakes, too—though eventually it all turned out quite well, as I can see now. I believe there is this deeper integral intuitive intelligence that could be a source of wisdom and guidance for anyone of us, should we commit to resonating with it with our whole embodied being.)

I should return to discussing our Russian Integral publishing adventures though. In 2009, I also finished translating Integral Spirituality, which we published only several years later as an ebook (in 2013). The printed version saw the light only in May 2020 (see below).

Both translations—The Integral Vision and Integral Spirituality—were edited by Alexander “Sasha“ Nariniani, and since then Sasha has been doing tremendous work in editing all my translations. Our friendship and collaboration continues to this very day.

Around the same time—through the efforts of Oleg Vavilov (who in 1990s brought Paulo Coelho and Carlos Castaneda to the Russians)—Wilber’s autobiographical book Grace & Grit was published in Russian. Oleg was also instrumental in publishing the Russian translation of the book Paths Beyond Ego (edited by Integral-transpersonal scholars-practitioners Roger Walsh and Frances Vaughan). Several years later, in 2013, it was reissued, when the internationally-acclaimed playwright, theatrical director, and filmmaker Ivan Vyrypaev staged an adaptation of Grace & Grit at the Praktika Theater in Moscow (I wrote about that for Integral Leadership Review). The book quickly gained audience, and many people say that they know Wilber’s work through this soul-touching book. After Sebastian Siegel has created a film adaptation, the book is planned to be re-printed the third time (more about that below).

Meanwhile, our team—Sasha Nariniani and I—were joined by Dmitry Baranov, who founded Ipraktik, a Moscow-based Integrally-informed initiative, and in 2012 we launched a crowdfunding project to support Integral publishing in Russia. Dmitry has played a very important role in the growing emergence of the Russian Integral field. He became interested in Wilber’s work while studying transpersonal psychology, Stan Grof’s holotropic breathwork method and Arnold and Amy Mindell’s process work. At first he developed an iPhone app for tracking Integral Life Practice. Then, his Ipraktik project expanded and included the crowdfunding-based publishing, an ebook online store, and Integral events. 

I have to pause here for a second and mention these Integral events, which still take an important place in my heart. In October 2012, Dmitry organized Bence Ganti’s workshops in Moscow, as well as a roundtable discussion on the intersection of “The Transpersonal, the Process-Oriented, and the Integral.“ The events were a success. 

In December 2012, together with us, he co-organized a series of events and workshops in Moscow which were co-facilitated by Colin Bigelow (Ken Wilber’s long-term personal assistant and close student of his work) and Clint Fuhs(advanced student of Wilber’s works and creator of Core Integral). For me, these workshops by Bigelow and Fuhs are still pretty much paradigmatic; and I still feel resonance from the field that was seeded back then.

In March 2013, Martin Ucik’s Integral Relationships workshop took place in Moscow, again organized by Dmitry Baranov. Later on, the Ipraktik publishing initiative had published Ucik’s work Integral Relationships as an ebook. In December 2013, Ipraktik also organized Pam & John Dupuy’s Integral Recovery and iAwake workshop, which was held at the Moscow School of Brain and Cognitive Sciences (I co-participated in the process of organization and in the workshop itself). When I look back at these events I recognize what a crucial contribution was made by Dmitry, and how many other things could have happened if not for the financial crisis that hit Russia in those years. Dmitry and his Ipraktik set the bar very high, and I am proud to have been a part of some of these occasions.

Now we can return to the publishing endeavors. Through our efforts at Ipraktik we e-published not just Integral Spirituality (as I mentioned above) but also Integral Life Practice, written by Ken Wilber, Terry Patten et al., as well as Wilber’s Boomeritis (translated by Olga Turukhina) and The Fourth Turning (translated by me).

I should also mention that through the financial help of Lev Gordon, who was exploring Integral city development in the Russian city of Izhevsk, we translated and published Marilyn Hamilton’s book Integral City in December 2013. This book and Marilyn Hamilton herself were instrumental in establishing at first the Association of City Development in that city; and later on it transformed into the Living Cities forums and overall network. Since then, Marilyn has visited Russia a few times, and spoke, for instance, to mayors of various cities. It is my hope that these activities would act as seeds of Integral awareness that eventually would grow and generate positive change in our urban environments.

Meanwhile, thanks to Oleg Vavilov, we were able to publish my translations of the four books by Ken Wilber in print: A Brief History of Everything (Wilber wrote a special foreword to this corrected Russian edition); A Theory of Everything (in the addendum of the book we included Wilber’s address to the Russian Integral community, which was publicized during Clint Fuhs and Colin Bigelow’s visit to Moscow); Eye to Eye (Wilber still calls it one of his favorite books; it is one of my favorites, too, that’s why I chose to translate it); and Integral Meditation (which helped to establish an entire paradigm of mindfulness).

2018 marked a major breakthrough in our publishing efforts. One of the leading Russian business publishers “Mann, Ivanov and Ferber“ (MIF) became interested in publishing Ken Wilber’s works. A few years earlier they had published Frederic Laloux’s book Reinventing Organizations which introduced the notion of Teal Organizations based on Ken Wilber’s Integral Framework and Spiral Dynamics. The book quickly became a bestseller, and even the head of the largest Russian bank Sberbank announced he wanted to create a “Teal“ organization. I will speak about it later. 

So, through Anastasia Gosteva, one of the notable Russian Integral practitioners (she has been working with Susanne Cook-Greuter’s organization—Anastasia met Susanne after we invited her and Beena to Russia in 2009—and later on also completed some courses at the MetaIntegral Academy), I became acquainted with MIF’s CEO Artem Stepanov and at first helped them as a scientific editor to correct the Russian translation of Daniel Siegel’s book Mindful Brain (as well as his other books). Later, they asked me to do scientific editing of Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey’s books on Deliberately Developmental Organizations (An Everyone CultureSeven Languages of TransformationImmunity to Change)—which is a profound introduction of developmental thinking into organizational transformation. (Kegan was to visit Moscow in April 2020 to conduct an organizational workshop, but the COVID-19 crisis, obviously, cancelled that.)

I also did scientific editing for the translations of Otto Scharmer’s powerful books Theory U and Essentials of Theory U. When Otto came to Moscow to give an open lecture, I told him about what a wonderfully authentic literature in the best sense of the word are his books—such is my opinion. MIF also published Bill Torbert’s book Action Inquiry (the translation’s scientific editor was Anastasia Gosteva).

The Russian cover of Ken Wilber’s Trump and the Post-Truth World

Eventually, MIF offered me to translate Wilber’s books Trump and the Post-Truth World (published in 2018) and The Religion of Tomorrow (will be published in 2021; the translation project for this 800-page book took me two years). In 2019, they also published the 20th Anniversary Edition of A Brief History of Everything (with a new afterword by Lana Wachowski and Ken Wilber) in my translation. MIF will also publish a new edition of Grace & Grit—to coincide with the premiere of the film adaptation by Sebastian Siegel (starring Mena Suvari—who also starred in my favorite movie of all times, American Beauty—and Stuart Townsend). This edition includes a new foreword, and I recommend our English-speaking readers to get acquainted with Sebastian’s “Note on on the Making of Grace and Grit and Adapting the Book to Film,” which will also be translated to Russian soon. 

In May 2020, MIF published Wilber’s Integral Spirituality. Ever since we published this title as an ebook I dreamed of its being published in print, because it is a major book in which Wilber lucidly introduces a postmetaphysical thinking in relation to spirituality, psychology, and everything else. His exposition of Integral Semiotics in this book changed my life forever. Now the book’s finally printed! 

The Russian edition of Ken Wilber’s Integral Spirituality (photo by Tatyana Parfenova)

In Russia, Integral movement has been developing alongside with the Spiral Dynamics (SD) circles and in cooperation (in fact, SD tends to be considered a part of the Integral movement). As I already mentioned, in 2010, the Russian edition of Don Beck & Chris Cowan’s Spiral Dynamics was published. The translation was edited by Anatoly Balyaev, who has been an active participant of both the online and offline Integral community in Russia and a major popularizer of SD. In 2019, the book Spiral Dynamics in Action (co-authored by Don BeckSergey Solonin, Rica Viljoen and others; interestingly enough, Solonin is a well-known Russian businessman, and, as far as I know, the book emerged largely through the dialogue of Solonin with Beck). Anatoly has done a lot of hard work to promote Spiral Dynamics as well as Integral Framework, and this should be mentioned.

Other Integral or Integrally-informed books were published as well, including Brian Robertson’s Holacracy (I first met Brian and Tom Thomison at their Holacracy workshop in Amsterdam, in Fall 2008), Fred Kofman’s Conscious Business and John Mackey’s Conscious Capitalism. A couple of months ago Olli Sovijärvi et al.’s book Biohacker’s Handbook (which is an AQAL-based manual for embodied self-development) was published in Russian, and I hope it will influence the Russian-speaking biohacking communities, driving them towards a more holistic approach to their bodies and minds. Some books by several other authors who are related to Integral (such as David Deida) were published, and we’re working on translating the Diamond Heart series by A. H. Almaas (the initiative will bring fruits this year). 

The Russian edition of Daniel P. Brown’s book Pointing Out the Great Way

It should also be noted that Alexander Nariniani (as an editor) and Anton Muskin (as a translator) undertook heroic efforts in translating Daniel P. Brown’s thick magnum opus Pointing Out the Great Way, which delineates states-stages of Mahamudra meditation. It is a very rare occasion when a book of such profundity is translated to any language. Alexander is not only the editor of all my translations of Ken Wilber’s books, but also probably one of the main publishers of Buddhist literature in Russia (with many books being devoted to mindfulness meditation). Daniel Brown, in addition to being a Buddhist scholar-practitioner and translator, is also a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist known for his work on Attachment Psychotherapy. Dan’s colleague (and co-author with him of Attachment Disturbances in AdultsDavid S. Elliott has been visiting Russia, teaching their Attachment work to psychologists at the Harmony Institute in St. Petersburg. It is not strictly AQAL Integral per se, but both Dan’s work on Mahamudra and Dzogchen and their team’s work on Attachment is closely linked to the Integral community (with quite a few Integral practitioners coming to Daniel P. Brown’s retreats). The ties are very close, indeed: At the Integral European Conference 2020 Online, which happened in May 2020, Dan spoke about metacognitive and postformal development through the lens of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism (specifically, Dzogchen).

In May 2020, we crowdfunded publishing a print Russian version of late Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche’s book TheInfluence of Yogachara on Mahamudra. I translated that book some years ago, because it is a very lucid explanation of the Mind-Only teaching of meditation and how it influenced both Buddhist Tantra and Mahamudra. The author speaks to his Western students without excessive references to mythologies, in a rational and pragmatic way. Traleg Rinpoche’s widow Felicity Traleg Khandro gave us her kind permission to publish and disseminate this book free of charge. Traleg Rinpoche was a good friend of Ken Wilber, and together with some other teachers they were pioneering Integral Buddhism in 2000‘s. In 2019, Sasha Nariniani and Anton Muskin also translated and published Traleg Rinpoche’s lucid book Moonbeams of Mahamudra (as an ebook, and, hopefully, we will crowdfund a print edition later this year).

I should also mention a different lineage of Integral books—that of Sri Aurobindo. His full Collected Works were translated to Russian by devoted students, which is a significant cultural achievement and it deserves an article/exploration of its own.

The Russian edition of Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche’s The Influence of Yogachara on Mahamudra

I have put so much stress on these publishing endeavors, for I truly believe that without a solid theoretical foundation in terms of a well-established intellectual culture (with cognitive intelligence being necessary but insufficient for further evolutions of consciousness) it is very unlikely that Integral Consciousness can genuinely take root in any society, for our cultural memory is best reaccessed via high-quality work with source texts which emit authentic vibrations of Integral vision.

Blogging & Journal Publications

As a great deal of today’s life, much of Russian Integral activities have grown around online social networks (at first, LiveJournal and now Facebook, VK and increasingly Instagram). People collaborate and engage in conversations with each other, and even organize entire massive online conferences via such mediums as Facebook (for instance, in the beginning of 2020 there was a Russian online Trauma conference, where folks discussed various perspectives that had been offered at the 2019 Online Trauma Summit organized by Thomas Hübl’s team—the interest in the field of Trauma Studies is rapidly growing, especially now, when Bessel van der Kolk’s bestselling book The Body Keeps the Score is finally published in Russian). Facebook groups allow creating learning environments to consolidate educational materials and communications. I founded or co-founded such online pages/groups functioning as the Russian Integral Forum on Facebook, Integral Studies on VK/FB, Ken Wilber Authorized Page on VK/FB, the Russian Vertical Adult Development page on VK/FB, there are also various personal blogs and pages (e.g., the integrally-informed No Bullshit Psychology group co-founded by Ekaterina Novisova and some others or Anastasia Gosteva’s integrally-informed Mindfulness Practice project), etc. 

For the English-speaking audiences it could be of interested that several years ago I co-founded the English-speaking Integral Space group on Facebook, and everyone seriously interested in Integral Theory and Practice are welcome to join. It is a no-advertisement space (you can post announcements, but only after checking in with a moderator). Integral Space, incidentally, is a name of the Russian initiative I also co-founded (with Tatyana Parfenova); it is a space for promoting Integral Vision in Russia and the world. Everything I do I consider a part of this Integral Space (for instance, a series of international interviews entitled Integral Dialogue).

One of the leading sources of information for the past several years has been Eros & Kosmos (http://eroskosmos.org), the primary—and only—Russian online magazine/journal on such topics as Integral, mindfulness, psychology, philosophy and spirituality. E&K was founded by Victor Shiryaev, Gleb Kalinin and myself (Eugene Pustoshkin) in 2014. Many people tell us they connected with these postconventional perspectives through our online publication.

Psychology & Psychotherapy

It is widely known that the areas of Integral psychology & psychotherapy are among the most well-developed in terms of applying Wilber’s Integral Framework—perhaps, because psychotherapy was initially a key focus of Wilber’s work ever since The Spectrum of Consciousness, his very first book.

In Russia, Integral psychology & psychotherapy is becoming more and more grounded through such postconventional cutting-edge courses as Holoscendence (a meta-paradigm of therapy, self-growth, contemplative development, and multidimensional communication established by Sergey Kupriyanov, MD, PhD in Medicine, a Helsinki-based Russian therapist). In Russia, Sergey Kupriyanov’s Holoscendence courses are co-facilitated by Eugene Pustoshkinand Tatyana Parfenova

There is a number of other specialists who increasingly include Integrally-informed perspectives into their practice (including, as I already mentioned, Dmitry Baranov and also Alexander Girshon, one of the leading integrally informed dance therapists).

Transpersonal psychology, through the efforts of Vladimir Maykov and his colleagues, has been grounded in Russia as well. Even though it cannot be said to be based on Wilber’s work in any essential fashion, many people still learn about Integral through the transpersonal psychology program at the Moscow Institute of Psychoanalysis led by Maykov and his team. (Vladimir invited me to teach AQAL Integral Framework, Holoscendence, and Integral Meditation to this program’s students, so maybe it would grow into a further Integral collaboration; since EUROTAS 2018, which was held in St. Petersburg, I was invited by Vladimir to become a member of the board of the Russian Association for Transpersonal Psychology and Psychotherapy. His motivation to invite me, as he told me, was to ensure Integral Vision gets more voice there.) 

It should be noted that, in June 2010, Vladimir Maykov and the many people who helped him organized a very large gathering—the 17th International Transpersonal Conference—which took place in Moscow. It was an extraordinary event, which was attended by many transpersonal theorists and practitioners who are incidentally very known in Integral circles as well (such as Brother David Steindl-RastAllyson and Alex GreyAndrew CohenStanley KrippnerJenny WadeStan and Christina Grof, and others). I attended and presented at that conference, too (specifically, I presented the Altstates.Net project devoted to academic studies of altered states of consciousness [ASC], co-founded in collaboration with Dimitry Spivak, a famous ASC researcher from the Human Brain Institute in St. Petersburg—this project is still functioning and from time to time I do my best to renew and update it). 

I should also mention here the work of the psychotherapist Dinara Badaeva and physician Alina Chumakova, who developed their particular Integrally-informed model of vertical development (based on their therapeutic experience and theoretical insights). Also, they have been the leaders and co-founders of the Moscow Integral Club which has been having regular meetings for several years. Alina Chumakova and her team organized two Integral conferences in Moscow (held in 2010 and 2011).

Some other people are doing important work in bringing integrally informed psychology to the Russian noosphere and practical communities (such as explorations of Field Intelligence by Ekaterina Novisova and her team; explorations of theories of vertical development by various individuals and groups, myself included, and so on).

Mindfulness & Meditation

Mindfulness movement has been growing in Russia just as in the rest of the world. Numerous Russian companies now exhibit their interest in training mindfulness-based programs to their staff. Victor Shiryaev, probably the only Russian who has graduated from the JFK University MA in Integral Theory program, has been bringing Shinzen Young’s Basic Mindfulness/Unified Mindfulness approach (as well as his own developments) to Russian-speaking audiences. 

As for explicitly Integral orientations, after I translated the book Integral Meditation I started to combine Wilber’s insights (how to work with meditatively making objects out of hidden subjects) with psychotechnologies brought forth in Sergey Kupriyanov’s Holoscendence as well as with my own explorations of the nature of consciousness. For several years I have been practicing and teaching (and now co-teaching with Tatyana Parfenova) workshops and entire courses on Integral Meditation. This work uniquely combines the paths of Waking Up, Growing Up, Cleaning Up, and Showing Up, while tapping into profound states of awareness that emerge not just in a secluded introverted practice but also in intersubjective interactions. 

There are also some other integrally informed mindfulness practitioners who increasingly start to explain their practice using the AQAL Framework.

Business & Teal Organizations

Frederic Laloux’s book Reinventing Organizations, when it was published in Russian, kind of stirred local business communities who saw the notion of Teal organizations as a means to escape ineffective organizational structures as well as pathological hierarchies of domination. Unfortunately, at the moment the interest in Teal organization is still mostly superficial, and people usually do not differentiate between pathological hierarchies of domination and healthy hierarchies (holarchies) of growth. Mostly, people don’t even notice that the foundations of Laloux’s work are AQAL Integral Framework, Spiral Dynamics, and Adult (Vertical) Development. What they focus on is primarily external forms of organizing company’s activities.

The aspect of interiority (subjectivity and intersubjectivity) tends to be overlooked or explored in a flatland way (by not acknowledging the depth of development which is necessary for any genuinely second-tier organization to emerge). In this sense, consciousness actually comes first, being (i.e. organizational being) comes second. That is, it is highly improbable that an avantgarde Teal form of organization can emerge without at least some significant presence of a Teal-altitude consciousness (especially in a society which still has a severely limited access to healthy Orange and Green altitudes). Yet, despite its severe limitations (related to the hype factor), the Teal Organizations movement helped both Integral and SD circles a great deal by bringing more outside awareness into our work in Russia. 

I have written on this state of affairs in my Integral Leadership Review article “Transformations on the Path to Really Teal & Turquoise Organizations” (2016).

Coaching

St. Petersburg Coaching Institute’s leaders (Marina DanilovaAlexander SavkinPhilip Guzenuk and others) have done a great deal in promoting the Teal Organizations trend and helping Integral Business to emerge at least as a notion in Russia. They also promote the ideas of vertical development of leaders. One of my favorites, though, is Anastasia Gosteva, who has been representing Susanne Cook-Greuter’s work in Russia (specifically, in business) and has been leading numerous integrally-informed leadership, business, and mindfulness programs. She has founded the Mindful Business company in Moscow. There are also some other individuals, who joined the Integral trend more recently and are fairly active in the field, offering their private courses and services.

Embodiment

Mark Walsh’s embodiment courses (EFC) took a good rooting in Moscow (thanks to the efforts of Alexandra Vilvovskaya and her team). At the recent Russian online Embodiment conference which was organized by Vilvovskaya panel discussions on Integral Embodiment, Vertical Growth & Embodiment and also Spiral Dynamics were held. 

I participated in the Integral Embodiment panel, where we discussed the importance of seeing embodiment as an All-Quadrant affair that also involves all levels, all states, and all types. We also spoke about the controversial topic of subtle energies—which is a cutting-edge theme for many practitioners of somatic as well as Integral psychotherapy.

In terms of body/somatic/dance psychotherapy one should also note Alexander Girshon, who is a leading authority in authentic movement and dance therapy in Russia (being Integrally informed, he co-authored a book on Integrative Dance Therapy). Alexander as well as Dmitry Baranov and I were the speakers at the Integral Embodiment panel discussion.

In overall, Integral movement, and especially Integral psychotherapy, are very aware of the issues of embodiment, trauma, and various body phenomenologies, so the area of embodiment, in my opinion, is one of the fields where AQAL-based awareness can do miracles.

Integral City Development

As I mentioned in the section dedicated to our publishing activities, publication of Marilyn Hamilton’s book Integral City as well as skillful leadership exhibited by Lev Gordon helped in establishing an all-Russian Living Cities movement. At first it was a kind of festival, but later on it turned into a series of systematic activities aimed at bringing more wholeness towards our understanding and co-enactment of city development. Marilyn Hamilton has visited Russia and its different cities (including Moscow, Izhevsk, and Nizhniy Novgorod) a few times, read lectures and led workshops there. She is a charismatic speaker who always brought forth both cognitive and heart-based insights in common audiences who came to listen about recent developments in urban practices. At this moment the Living Cities initiative is represented by a core activity group as well as a loose network of practitioners who come from multiple sectors of society. They conduct activities both online and offline, and now we can speak of Living Cities as not only an all-Russian but also an international network of people and events. See Marilyn Hamilton’s interview with Lev Gordon.

Academia

If one does a quick search of the Russian scholarly Internet, one could see that over the past decade or so there were a number of academic articles and even books published where Wilber’s Integral Framework is mentioned. For instance, the Institute of Philosophy at the Russian Academy of Sciences published the book The Philosophy of Transdisciplinarity (by Larisa Kiyaschenko and Viacheslav Moiseev) in 2009. It explicitly explored works by such authors as Ken Wilber and late Russ Volckmann (the founder of Integral Leadership Review). 

In 2015, Milana Ragulina, PhD in Geographical Sciences, published her scholarly book Cultural Landscape: An Integral Perspective (which Alexander Malakhov and I reviewed for ILR). “This book is concerned with an integral understanding of the concepts of Cultural Landscape Studies. An approach is proposed (based on Ken Wilber’s theory) that synthesizes theoretically different and contrasting branches of studies into one integrated research interface. Milestones of landscape tradition’s emergence in the main schools of the world’s geographical science are reviewed, origins of formation of a conceptual spectrum for studying cultural landscape in mid-20th and beginning of 21st centuries are explored, foundations for its systematization are proposed. The author’s analysis of the cultural landscape and ethnic identities of Baikal-region Siberia serves as an illustration of the prospects of applying the integral framework that is proposed in this work.”

Alexander Malakhov is one of the leading fully integrally-informed scholars-practitioners who is a brilliant multidisciplinary researcher, interested in transdisciplinary, social sciences, philosophy and theology. He helped me in co-editing the Integral Leadership Review’s Special Russia Issue.

Some other academic publications can be found that make references to Wilber’s work as well as the notions of adult development (including Dmitry Leontiev’s team’s research into Jane Loevinger’s original work on Ego Development Theory).

Arts

Arts have always served as an avantgarde of consciousness evolution in society. Artists’ works can be seen as sometimes symbolic and sometimes literal embodiment of innovative trends of awareness intensification and spiritual transformation. Ken Wilber’s Integral vision has attracted a lot of interest from artists of diverse field, especially since he explicitly outlines an Integral theory of art and literary theory.

In Russia, probably the most important figure in terms of Integral Art is Ivan Vyrypaev (also spelled: Iwan Wyrypaev), who is an internationally-acclaimed playwright, theatrical director, and film maker. He filmed such beautiful movies as EuphoriaKislorod, Dehli Dance, and his most recent film Salvation. But he is most known for his plays which are staged all over Russia and in many Western countries. What is important to know is that Ivan has been adopting Wilber’s Integral ideas. His plays implicitly and sometimes explicitly refer to such themes as states and stages of consciousness, perspectives, cultural wars. When Ivan became the art director of the Praktika Theater (Moscow), he organized an Integral Theory course for actors and directors (it was taught by Victor Shiryaev, MA in Integral Theory). His recent play The Iran Conference has been staged at the National Theater in Moscow with a cast of star actors. It became a major success. Incidentally, my written conversation with Ivan became a foreword for the book edition of The Iran Conference, and in this conversation we explicitly discuss Ken Wilber’s concepts. And, as I mentioned above, in 2013 he made a stage adaptation of Grace & Grit.

Another influential figure, this time coming from the Russian underground hip hop scene, is Ilya “MC 1.8” Kuznetsov. Ilya was among the founders of this rap scene in Russia in 1990s. In 2010s, as a result of existential and spiritual crisis, he re-emerged as an explicitly Integrally oriented artist-musician. In his new album 4Q (in Russian: 4K) he explores his existential journey through various dimensions of human life, which is essentially an attempt at an all-quadrant self-reflection. 

There are also other young poets and artists who are inspired by Ken Wilber’s vision, among whom I would like to mention Kaikhan Salakhov. Kaikhan has been working on what he calls “cosmocybernetic art.” While he still works on refining and deepening his fundamental style, his paintings already convey a significant degree of spiritual awareness.

Conclusion

A consummate exploration of the current state of Integral in the Russian Federation as well as other post-Soviet countries would require looking into a cultural-historical background of the Russian-speaking society, going back at least into 19th century. Without taking such a historical (and trans-historical) metaperspective it is impossible to gain a comprehensive Integral understanding of the complex dynamics that play in the emerging of Integral Consciousness. In this presentation I only barely scratched the surface and focused mainly on explicitly AQAL-based strands of growing Integral Consciousness in such areas as publishing, psychology, psychotherapy, coaching, business, academia, etc. I apologize to my colleagues whose names I failed to mention. It doesn’t diminish the importance of their work. I also probably didn’t mention some of the important events which led to the emergence of the Russian Integral scene as it is today in its actuality and also in its powerful potentiality.

For further reference on the state and history of Integral enterprise in Russia please see 2016 Special Russia Issue of Integral Leadership Review (co-edited by me and Alexander Malakhov, an integrally informed social scientist and transdisciplinary scholar).

One thought on “7/31 – The current state of Integral in Russia

  1. Marilyn Hamilton

    Eugene – thanks so much for your panoramic history of Integral Life in Russia – I am deeply grateful to be mentionned (and to be so beautifully translated by you and published by iPratik). I have also enjoyed learning of all the other (parallel) integrally-informed activities that have been ongoing. Your contribution to the many translations with such a high ethic and clarity of intention, is inspiring and has no doubt created a momentum for the whole Integral field – not only in Russia, but Europe and other parts of the west as well. Thank you also for such a beautifully crafted article – which should be tagged as a significant curation of Integral history in Russia.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *