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.
With the presumed success of the Paris COP21 Climate Accord, are we beginning to see the socio-cultural dawn of the Turquoise value system? This is a level of human existence that recognizes the finite resources of our planet and looks to restore the damage we’ve done over the last 500 years to our only home.
There is no doubt that the deal reached in Paris by 200 nations represents the dawn of a new level of global cooperation. Many participants dubbed the last day of talks as a “Momentous Day.” In the Graves-Beck-MEMEnomics model, humanity needs many of these momentous days to create what Dr. Graves called a “Momentous Leap”; a sustained level of human development from which there is no return to the lower levels of existence that we’re experiencing today.
This entry and the Paris COP21 serve as a confirmation of Dr. Graves’s research on how cultures evolve. It is also a validation of his Level of Existence Theory (ECLET), which proves its superiority to other models on issues that deal with the dynamic relationship between human and cultural emergence.
Unlike many models that believe that the primary driver of change is the evolution of human consciousness, the Graves model places change in the hands of Existential Reality as the triggering mechanism for higher levels of psychological development. Sadly, in developmental psychology today, there’s little attention paid to the study of systems and cultures, which, in my opinion is a disservice to humanity.
So, what does that have to do with this unprecedented Paris deal that has the potential to define the future of global governance? Most psycho-spiritual models on the evolution of consciousness are absent the implications of the social psychology aspect of Graves’ model. Graves believes that in most cases, we ascend to higher levels of sustained bio-psycho-social development when solutions to our Existential problems can no longer come from the current system. As a result, we propel ourselves into the next system out of necessity. Conscious evolution rarely influences the political class that runs the world. As proof, Paris COP21 came out of overwhelming evidence that the planet is in trouble. It came out of “survival needs” and the necessity to resolve that, not out of “voluntary evolution of consciousness” of a few highly evolved people who rarely influence the political process.
Paris was about survival of the human species in a complex world. Much like the first level of human existence, the Beige/Caveman system that seeks the survival of the individual, this time around, evidence is pointing to survival values in the much higher Second Tier of the Graves model. Challenges from our current Existential Reality have triggered the intelligence needed to solve problems of existence. This time around, the problems are of exponentially higher complexity. The A-N Beige-Survival of the Individual values, repeats in Second Tier as A1-N1-Yellow, but this time around it’s the Survival of the Planet values. And, if humanity doesn’t become extinct, Third Tier A2-N2 might be the fight for the Survival of our Solar System values. Of course, any talk beyond the Yellow value system at this point, is pure speculation. We will never fully know the content of what evolves that far ahead while we’re still fighting the subsistence values of the lower six levels.
To the point on whether cultural emergence happens out of evolution of consciousness or necessity, if the top 3 polluters, the US, Europe, and China could sell their products on another planet they will have no incentive to evolve their views on economics, capitalism and endless growth. They would very likely continue to separate their actions from any sense of responsibility towards restoring the damage done to the planet. Thankfully, there are no extraterrestrial markets, nor is there another planet we can pick up and move to. Because of these facts we are forced to evolve our ways, not voluntarily, but out of the necessity to survive and adapt to new realities.
Based on the Graves model, I contend that if Paris COP21 laid out the potential road map for a Turquoise level of human existence, then it is the hard work of the Yellow system (The Gravesian Platform for Functional Capitalism), to build a road map from that blueprint. This is what lies ahead for the foreseeable few decades.
The fact that the developed world has taken responsibility for our current carbon footprint is a good start. Inward reflection and holding ourselves accountable to our past actions is the first step towards healing a broken planet. This realization however, cannot be punitive towards the emerging world. Advanced countries cannot shut the door to modernity on their younger siblings. First world economies have the responsibility to provide the rest of the world with tools and methods learned from the lessons of their own journey.
To help the world meet the targets of Paris COP21, Western nations need to engage more in creating disruptive technologies that will hasten the end of our carbon-heavy Industrial Age values. That disruption must be brought to an all-systems application, from the way we govern to the way we run global finance, and to how we design new management systems, harness energy and reinvent manufacturing processes.
The challenges to our survival today are far more complex than those we faced when the first coal-fired factory started belching black smoke over London 350 years ago. The trials and tribulations that brought us to Paris since, may never be repeated again in history.