Tag Archives: Integral Theory

What Can Evolution and Spiral Dynamics Tell us About the Coronavirus?


Let’s not bash the integral community

To my colleagues in the Spiral Dynamics community, please, let’s not be too critical of our friends in the integral community.  WE ARE different members of the same tribe. It is only a difference in philosophical opinion on which quadrants/triads are more important than others. A few days ago, I posted a link to the upcoming online Integral conference with a  comment that was intended as a joke to accentuate our philosophical differences, but apparently it was taken as a criticism by some.

It is the SD community, not the the Integral community that lags behind on moving its own work forward.  Bence Ganti and Dennis Wittrock, the organizers of the European Integral Conference, were very gracious to invite Don, Elza, and me to be keynote speakers at the 2016 Integral European Conference. We were grateful for the opportunity. It was also at that conference that we celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the launch of the original Spiral Dynamics book. A 20th Anniversary event for the book never materialized in the SD community due to many reasons, but primary because of too many diverging egos wanting to claim ownership of the SD legacy.

Our own community’s division has also been our Achilles heel in moving our work forward. But this doesn’t absolve the Integral community from all responsibilities.  At the core of our continued differences remains the fact that the Integral community still has a  marginal understanding of Graves/SD. They approach SD as an opportunity to expand on how Wilber sees it, and are disappointed when they see that our work stands alone as its own whole systems approach and chose not to unlearn the Wilberian version of it. This is what’s at the heart of the division. Wilber pacified our important stuff, accentuate the stuff that makes his stuff look good and intentionally made our stuff an increasingly smaller part of his evolving theory that explains everything while we stood back defesnelessly and allowed it to happen.

There’s no dispute that one of the most successful systems application of Integral theory is reflected in the highly successful work of Frederic Laloux. Other than Wilber’s books, Laloux’s  book Reinventing Organizations is the most successful in integral literature that has penetrated organizational culture at deep levels. But what would you say if I told you that Laloux based his book on Spiral Dynamics, not Integral. The man is a consultant who understood systems not a monk or a therapist. It was due to Don’s insistence that he be named as co-author that Laloux chose to change the colors and approached Wilber to write the Foreword. Wilber, desperate for someone who understood systems, welcomed Laloux with open arms. Strangely, Wilber’s foreword reads a lot like the foreword that Don wrote for my book. Just change colors and add quadrants.

This is an example of the power of how the Spiral with the added elements of the Quadrants  can expand the use of both models into the mainstream, while respecting both as independent frameworks. There has to be more people who fully understand verticality and systems  the way Laloux does in the Integral camp, and more people in the SD camp who can understand the complementary aspects of Integral and reinterpret them through SD, not allow Integral to swallow SD whole.

But, sadly, our division comes from the very top. In my opinion, there is very little inclination within the integral community to understand the systems and Large Scale applications of our work. We also shy away from their fuzzy circling stuff with arms raised to salute something or someone, or nothing or everything, etc… These are differences that need to be tolerated and even respected instead of criticized in order to develop tolerance and respect for both models separately.

While the Integral community is organized, we are everything but. We are a greatly divided community as demonstrated by the wide division and the huge ego flexing at the 2018 Spiral Dynamics Summit. I set up that conference to be a unifying event, and to formulate a legacy plan moving forward. Instead it turned out to be the point of entropy to the SD Constellation in its current form.

In order for SD to become the legacy it deserves, there needs to be a rebirth that sees its long term use by world leaders to solve world problems, and augmented by new academic rigor. It won’t survive just in the world of consulting and training. There has to be a long-term deliberate plan that requires serious commitments  by people who are detached from their egos. I believe there needs to be a return to academic rigor that needs to be housed at a globally respected US institution for higher learning that will become the global clearing house for everything Graves/SD.

This will be a homecoming for the three American academics, Graves, Beck and Cowan, met by American academic exceptionalism not some watered-down version from some obscure places injecting the framework with local colloquialisms and calling it science. Without that, we have little credibility moving forward.



God Help the World if Integralists are in Charge

This post is in response to a Ken Wilber interview by Raquel Torrant that took place in October 2016, and the reaction of the integral community after the election of Donald Trump.

The more I read about Wilber’s perspective on so called Second Tier, the more I realize that Integral Theory is mostly philosophical/Intellectual and out of touch with political, economic and social reality. Its elitist views are rarely applied to solve problems in a First Tier world. The only exception, of course is if we believe that individual advancement and shadow work are ways to save the world from impending cataclysms. To me those pursuits are representatives of a very narrow and unhealthy expression of both the Orange and Green systems of the First Tier. Because of their thin, elitist, and personal growth focused nature they can easily become closed systems that only embolden the very shadow they’re trying to come to terms with. Well, it seems that the shadow of most of the integral movement has broken and it’s manifesting in very unflattering ways. The universe couldn’t have picked a more befitting event than the election of Donald Trump to show how un-integral the movement is.

My assessment could be somewhat subjective and I must say that I was shocked by Trump’s election for a few days. While I have since regained my stratified Spiral view of the American electorate and refrained from engaging in polarizing conversations, I have not seen the same coming from the integral community, or my blindly liberal-progressive friends. If they were really centered in Second Tier values, we wouldn’t be experiencing the visceral anger and hate coming from so many online integral groups worldwide. What has helped me regain my perspective is the reminder of what was instilled in me over the last 15 years, that it’s always about Value Systems.

My primary gripe with Wilber’s followers is what they were taught about Second Tier values, and more specifically how vastly different they perceive the Yellow system than the original Spiral Dynamics theory does. Wilber has naively overlooked the important work that the Seventh Level of development has to do in aligning the healthy expressions of all the systems in First Tier. Yes, systemic Second Tier consciousness is not going to appear magically, nor would it appear by us passively waiting for more people to become Second Tier thinkers. We have to role up our sleeves now and fix the damage that the First Tier systems have done to our planet. This is half of the mandate of the Beck-Graves Yellow system that rarely appears in integral consciousness.

The work is not just environmental or psychological. It’s cultural, political, and economic. We have to design healthy habitats for tribal Purple in rural America, for egocentric Red gangs in inner cities, for nationalistic and patriotic Blue in white suburban America, and enterprising and scientific Orange and humanitarian and egalitarian Green in big cities and urban locales.

The problem with integral practitioners is that they have relegated this entire Gravesian conception to a “values line”, which again shows the closed system views of the elite and explains their post-election suffering and dysfunction. To solve problem in the age of Trump, followers of Integral Theory have to acquire a deep understanding of an essential part of the Gravesian model called Life Conditions. To put it in language integralists understand, we call it the functional quadrant.  It implies that you start in the trenches where dynamic change is taking place. You study the challenges facing people at every level of development mentioned above. Then you begin to design solutions commensurate with that particular level of development. This is what was meant by “transcend and include” that is at the heart of both frameworks. Sadly, it seems that the integral crusade has unconsciously moved into a psychology of “transcend and ignore.” That’s where the healing begins, not with the integral community suddenly realizing their shortcomings and begin to hastily consult the Gravesian model to get a quick intellectual fix that will be relegated again to a “line” on an elitist and out of touch model for development.