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.