THE INTEGRAL COMMUNITY
The purpose of this
conversational 'letter' is to catalyze a transformation of the culture
that characterizes much of the community networked by the work of Ken Wilber
and his integral theory, and that of Don Beck’s Spiral Dynamics (SD). The
paper attempts to disrupt certain assumptions that sustain the largely
un-integral culture. Asserting that certain confusions are at the root
of troublesome beliefs and behaviors, it describes problematic aspects
of the culture and why they must be transformed. Because the SD language
and mindset permeates the culture’s thinking, the author employs the objective
'outsider' language and lens of cognitive science to supply new accuracy
to understandings of key stages of development and their transitions. The
paper is a well-argued effort to dislodge and confuse certain entrenched
assumptions inherited from SD’s presentation. Impelled by the basic moral
intuition to foster wholeness in the midst of change, it sketches ways
to love confusion while hating it, along with integral methodologies that
can gradually transform individuals along with the culture and practice.
It closes with the invitation, ways, and means for the community to launch
itself into a new integral age.
Dear fellow travelers,
image is a huge, beautiful bird, with powerful wings, rising up from the
ashes of something that has died. This image appears when I think about
this collection of folks networked by Ken Wilber’s writing and Integral
Institute (I-I) and Don Beck’s Spiral Dynamics (SD) work. The invisible
connective tissue linking us to one another is the spirit to be, become,
and accomplish more for ourselves, others, and the planet. Each of us may
describe it differently, yet this dynamic commonality is our link. This
interconnected community is the potential for a new phoenix rising.
My naked desire
in sharing this paper is to light a fire, a fire large enough to create
the deep pile of ashes the phoenix needs in order to rise. If an inner
attraction stirs at this image, what might each of us have that we are
willing to toss in that fire? What kinds of ashes are needed? Over time,
I have come to this conclusion: if enough of us can identify one or two
strong convictions we have about any aspect of this community, and are
willing to let go of their underlying assumptions, we can supply a raging
results from my observations of blockages that prevent us from being and
becoming an integral community, blockages that rest on shaky assumptions.
What do we need an integral community for? I hope a response forms in readers
by the end of this paper, as each asks if their desire for being, becoming,
and accomplishing more would be supported by the strong wings of a new
phoenix. I can imagine a networked integral learning, research and practice
community, built on a sturdy set of new assumptions, that does and shares
substantive work while stretching everyone in appropriate ways that lead
to further holistic development in self, others, and methodologies. Getting
there from here is the challenge. In this paper I cover the following territory
needed to clear the blockages and create new directions.
interrelated blockages are the un-integral culture we have created, confusions
about identifying stages of development and the hubris that characterizes
much of the confusion, and misconceptions about the nature of stage transitions. S.R.
its embeddedness in the SD worldview has rendered integral theory impotent
to employ interpretive powers to critically assess our culture and assumptions.
Applying the AQAL concept has been “disabled” by embedding SD as our “eye
on the world.” Therefore, I employ the lens of cognitive science with its
useful alternative vocabulary to shed new light in three areas: key stages
of development reflected in our rainbow, assessing our culture, and the
nature of stage transitions.
blockages means disrupting assumptions. If there are ever to be enough
ashes to raise a new phoenix, we need old assumptions to toss in the fire!
The basic moral intuition impels us to always put Humpty Dumptys together
again into a larger whole than they were to begin with. When favored assumptions
are dislodged it can feel like something is breaking open, and we often
hang onto them more tightly, especially if there is nothing new at hand
to consider. I address this with care by offering new assumptions throughout
the paper and a new slant on confusion with ways to love it while we hate
- A sketch of
integral methodologies serves as a support for confusion and as a proposal
for strong new wings to support development in each of us and in a new
culture and practice.
- Then, in shameless
optimism that this paper will have started a fire, I close with a vision
of our ashes giving rise to a new phoenix, and how to usher in a new integral
In the beginning
Because the approach
I am taking here covers a lot of territory, the overall length is a concern
as I begin. Here and there I will conserve space by taking a rather blunt
or condensed approach to get an idea planted so we can move on. In whatever
style or strategy I employ, please know my aim to dislodge assumptions
is just that, and is not attacking whoever holds them. Even so, to accompany
whatever reactions attend your reading, I remind us all of the perennial
wisdom from Psychology 101. Whenever we notice reactions in ourselves catalyzed
by others’ behaviors, “It” isn’t about the other person. “It” is about
us. “It” is letting us know there is something in us wanting to grow in
some way if we only investigate It more deeply, and fearlessly follow Its
lead. This is equally true for positive and negative reactions. If we happen
to believe Spirit is manifesting in all of us, It will help us internalize
and learn from this psycho-logic.
What leads me
think there are blockages?
The pervasive reliance
on SD to describe and discuss stages of development and their transitions
has resulted in an array of confusions that are blockages to integral community
in the Integral Institute and SD circles. They also prevent this community
from integrating with other integral circles. Since SD has become embedded
in this culture, it lacks interpretive powers for critical reflection upon
this culture. As a result, recognized or not, confusions are parading as
clarity. Many of the confusions are in how to identify certain stages and
what “second tier” or “integral” really are. Some people assume that if
they “get the theory” ? either integral or SD ? then they are “integral.”
Being at second tier has become the only “acceptable” place to be. Some
believe the leap to second tier can be the result of several days’ work
in a seminar. The practice of reducing others to “green” is rampant. People
who mention the usefulness of dialogical approaches are labeled green sans
inquiry into the intended structures, purposes, and products of such processes.
People at meetings trying to work their way through a challenge are looked
down on if they need more time than others to discuss it. SD’s laudable
principle of making particular inquiries of others in order to interpret
their behaviors’ motivations and figure out their “color” is violated,
unnoticed. The rich “memetic stack” that flavors different spheres of a
person’s functioning is forgotten as mental-egoic images of others sound
like one-dimensional paper dolls colored by only one crayon. Many folks
uncritically adopt the biases of their esteemed leaders. Openly operationalized
as a strategic move, the most obvious of those biases has resulted in the
hubris of in-group behavior and assigning negative labels to any thinking
or behavior that does not conform to the culture Don and Ken have created.
Questions, points of view, and criticisms are dismissed or deconstructed
and few feel motivated to try to be change agents of this prevailing culture.
Does this environment
sound “integral,” ? meaning, both integrated and integrative ? by any stretch
of the imagination? Or does it sound like the business-as-usual world we
want to transform via integral approaches? For the sake of the Spiral,
to use the current vernacular, this stasis is neither healthy nor conducive
to further development of any kind for anyone anywhere, much less for an
“integral community.” Ken and Don, you have co-created a monster. And this
uncritically susceptible community has compliantly helped you perpetuate
it. It is like the troll blocking passage over the developmental bridge.
It’s time to get unstuck so we can all move forward.
the cognitive lens
I hear this
community’s “party line” loud in my ears refuting my observations. Based
on ample experience, I know in advance my diagnosis above will be dismissed
as green by many readers. I also know from all my previous attempts that
integral theory itself has become an impotent tool for interpreting and
analyzing events and behaviors in the very community founded on it. The
prevailing SD filter blocks integral methodology in the very environment
we should expect to find it. Fear of dialogue sends people scurrying when
discussing how to work with left-hand quadrants. Therefore, I hand the
gavel over to the scientific community to diagnose this one. I choose,
from among many others, the domain of cognitive science because it has
an independent-from-us yet also authoritative reputation most people in
this community will respect. I use it because its examinations get underneath
the “presenting symptoms” of behaviors’ content and context. It gets under
the surface, down to the level where the sparse, deep structures of reasoning
operate like the skeletons supporting our bodies. With the concise words
and stark x-rays of cognitive research, we can compare SD’s familiar constructions
and our assumptions with a new lens.
investigates how people ? literally ? construct their reasoning or logic.
As always, each stage of development adds another reasoning capacity that
builds on the previous ones. The work of some (Commons, Danaher-Gilpin,
Goodheart, & Miller, 2002) has resulted in a mathemathics-based analytical
method of scrutinizing reasoning structures, which has further resulted
in a scoring method to identify where persons measure in their overall
cognitive development and the transition steps between them. Other researchers
take a different approach. Rosenberg (1988, 2002) provides a more “enfleshed-sounding”
examination of reasoning structures. These folks will teach us an easy
new vocabulary as we learn about two kinds of reasoning, compare them to
our experience and SD, and examine assumptions we hold. My reasons for
taking this approach will become quickly apparent as the discussion gets
We know each stage
of thinking is due to higher complexity. To make the notion of “complexity”
more tangible, I provide the mathematical illustrations of the hierarchical
complexity that can be calculated for the stages I discuss. These are only
‘tip of the iceberg’ peeks at the analyses that are like looking at the
brain’s machinations through a math lens. Through these examples, we will
see in vivid terms one reason for integral theory’s tenets that each stage
involves higher complexity, builds on the previous stage, and no stage
can be skipped. Each stage needs a lot of practice becoming masterful at
what it does, until it encounters sufficient difficult challenges it can
“stretch into” and new neural capacities begin to develop.
Commons et al (2002,
p. 24) report the mathematical structure of formal operations can be represented
this way: x * (y + z) = (x * y) + (x * z), where * = multiply (numbers),
intersection (sets), or ‘and’ (propositions). Thoughts start with a known
“given,” the first “x.” It literally “operates” on the objects it thinks
are other relevant “givens” to work on, whether numbers, sets, or propositions.
A practical example of this could be one of us noticing something going
on that seems to be a problem. We think of what we know or have heard about
that is causing the problem. We think about what we’ve seen or heard about
that are impacts of the problem. We might use something like SD to identify
any of those objects of attention, whether people, behaviors, institutions,
etc. The result of these logical mental connections may result in our having
a brilliant solution. That idea then becomes our new starting point for
another round of thinking, a new starting “x.” We think of all the actors
and things they could do to execute the solution. We probably share our
solution with others, they think it makes good logical sense, and we all
act on it. “We came, we thought our thoughts, we conquered” exemplifies
the “complete loop” of formal logic. It does not seek discovery of unknown
connections or objects to include, but works on what is concretely known
to it. There are no “?’s” in this logic.
The two sub-stages
of Piaget’s formal operations (abstract and formal) share a characteristic
in their reasoning structures that Rosenberg (2002) calls linear reasoning.
A person who reasons this way “is an immediately, concretely, and intensely
conventional social animal” (p. 133). I have extracted from his discussion
the most relevant characteristics.
- A simple process
of evaluating things, aimed at deciding what is good or bad, normal or
abnormal, right or wrong, acceptable or not acceptable.
- A need to determine
where cause, blame, and/or praise belong.
- Basing evaluations
on a central factor or framework [e.g., dialogue, SD], which leads to passing
broad judgments on categories of people, actions, or groups irrespective
of aspects that contradict the judgment.
- Strong loyalties
to the in-group and corresponding enmity toward out-groups.
- Dependent on in-group
and esteemed persons’ social influence and accepted social conventions
to arrive at judgments of what is desirable, normal, and acceptable.
- A limited degree
of reflection is possible, though not typical, structured along the same
categorical and accepted bases described above.
When people are reasoning
in this fashion ? as their center of gravity, or just in a particular domain
at a particular time ? they have a sense of security and surety in how
their worlds work, described in Piaget’s work as the equilibrium of formal
operations (Basseches, 1989). This stability comes from having “a place
for everything and everything in its place.” It underlies the ability to
create the mental, linear chains of causation and future impacts that contribute
to the strategic thinking capacities appearing at orange. This equilibrium
also serves as a base from which to repel any perceived assaults on its
rigid logic. Arguments contain expert, empirical, or logical evidence presented
in a linear, one-dimensional fashion (Commons et al, 2002). Rosenberg reports
these coping strategies include denial in the form of a refusal to attend
to the issue or question at hand, diminishment of others’ evaluations,
and buttressing the significance of favored positions or arguments often
by invoking or retreating to an expert or authority position.
characterizes the deep structure of reasoning employed by SD’s blue
and orange. While each operates on different content and contexts and with
respect to their abstract and formal operations, the general linear structure
of thought underlies both. Thus the dualistic thinking, the need for a
form of social acceptance/belonging, and the defense mechanisms described
above pertain to both SD stages. We can readily see from these qualities
that underneath the purported individualism of orange is actually conventional
stage reasoning. We can’t attribute just agentic qualities to orange when
its underlying structures lead the person to be such an “intensely conventional
social animal” as this. Graves’ term for this stage, “multiplistic” (Wilber,
1999a), implies that far more characterizes orange. The SD individualist
label masks the deeper operations of those socially governed behaviors.
These social needs surely underlie orange preferences to be in, or to seek
out, the security of the “expert position.”
Dear readers, the
gavel of cognitive science comes down on a vivid, all-quadrant diagnosis
of how the “integral community” behaves. We can see, in these impartial
snapshots, how some people’s attitudes (UL) and behaviors (UR) have been
functioning, what cultural norms (LL) have prevailed, and how institutional
behaviors (LR) have been constructed. If we further reflect on this community’s
prevalent attitudes, we can notice that the rainbow of developmental levels
that exists has been reduced to a new duality a la linear thinking,
a new polarity that divides us: people are now viewed as either first tier or second tier. The AQAL concept of levels has
been replaced by tiers. It would be a highly suspect rationalization to
propose that integral spiral wizards operating at second tier are masquerading
as linear thinkers. That would only prove the point, since second tier
is authentic and transparent, and doesn’t masquerade. Instead, a science
that cannot be judged first tier green (and thereby ignored) has objectively
described our culture and practice as classic SD orange. How integral is
This assessment holds
up a mirror to push our individual and collective reflection. That reflection
is the indispensable path to the higher consciousness we all desire, yes?
Yes, except we usually like it better when it doesn’t hurt! And it does
hurt, initially, when It challenges us to compassionately embrace our still-developing
personalities, when It invites us to humbly acknowledge our growing edges,
and when It beckons us to lay down our defenses so we can move forward
unencumbered. Transitioning out of this secure world can be wrenching and
confusing, inwardly and outwardly, and a later section discusses integral
methods to support and encourage transition.
is the first level of systems thinking. Again with the purpose of making
tangible comparisons of complexity, here is a glance at more equations.
(I realize this is a “turn-off” for some; nonetheless, it’s important for
contrast.) Commons et al (2002, p. 24) and Commons (personal communication,
1.20.03) represent the mathematical structure of systematic operations
x * (y + z) = (x
* y) + (x * z) then,
[(order 10 actions)
x] ? (y ? z) = (x ? y) ? (x ? z).
The ?’s can fall
into either of two different approaches (bear with me, here):
A. x 0 (y * z) =
(x 0 y) * (x 0 z), where 0 = “+” or “or” or union of all elements from
B. x * (y 0 z) =
(x * y) 0 (x * z), where * = multiply or and or intersection (overlap,
elements in common.
Note this thinking’s
character of exploring for unknown relationships among and between the
propositions and sets involved in the problem being tackled. Eventually,
over time, enough of the operations on and interrelations to objects being
considered with new iterations of the sequence get sorted out to whatever
extent the thinker takes it. This thought system is too complex for me
to offer a few sentences’ worth of a practical example. The following discussion
This stage of development
is made possible by a more complex deep structure that recognizes systems
of relationships, which some (e.g., Commons et al, 2002; Rosenberg, 2002,
1988) call systematic reasoning. By all accounts of those who research
adult development, this is found in a relatively minor segment of the population,
so we owe it to ourselves to get some idea of what this stage is like.
Rosenberg (2002) explains that “in its most industrious and sophisticated
elaborations, it yields very general theories of personal, social, and
political life and very self-conscious and careful strategies for observing,
interpreting, and judging events” (pp. 134-135). The complexity of systematic
reasoning is reflected in Rosenberg’s recognition that he could not summarize
it as is his more usual way of concluding chapters, nor can I do it justice.
Introducing its characteristics as “integration, abstraction, and interpretation,”
(p. 134), he goes on to caution that
forms of thinking, [it] requires effort. It may therefore be conducted
in a more or less methodical and elaborate manner. Where there is less
effort, the result will be conceptual systems that are partially or loosely
constructed and principles that are less abstract and less carefully deduced
and applied. Although deficient, the basic quality of thinking and the
structure of the understandings and evaluations in such cases are nonetheless
systematic (Rosenberg, 2002, p. 135). The primary feature
of systematic processes is the dynamic constant juxtapositioning in which
“specific events, interactions, claims, preferences, conventions, and rituals
are considered with reference either to the relevant individuals and communities
or to the relevant principles of social exchange” (p. 215). This sheds
light on the “?” functions in the illustration above. Every “invisible”
relationship the thinker can identify gets examined. This reasoning and
the evaluations it produces indicate social values of a more universal
nature, and it recognizes that even energetically-advanced conclusions
are constructed and subject to further improvement. We could expect to
hear vigorous arguments based on strong principles but they are not likely
to reflect a dogmatic attachment to the argument. The nature of this mental
process results in Rosenberg’s assertion that the familiar equilibrium-related
principle of cognitive dissonance does not apply to systematic reasoning
as it does to earlier structures. This is because the structure of the
reasoning is looking for what else needs to be considered. It is an open
thinking system in that regard.
The main limitations
of systematic reasoning arise from its own complexity. As we saw in the
math, it can conceive two different systems of analysis, and it can reason
both inductively and deductively, but it is not yet able to coordinate
these approaches to draw well-completed conclusions. This unresolved two-paths-to
choose-from-at-the-same-time is at the root of its relativistic quality.
New respect for
Yes, systematic reasoning
is relativistic “green.” It can be more or less sophisticated or efficient
depending on where a person is, and it has a built-in problem reaching
conclusions sometimes. Beck & Cowan (1996) do not recognize the existence
of systems thinking at green, while Wilber and cognitive scientists do,
with Wilber calling it early vision logic, the first post-conventional
stage (Wilber, 1999a, 1999b). From both the SD book and listening to Don,
it sounds as though systems thinking begins only at second tier, and he
has said that is why he thinks it is so important that people develop to
yellow. What actually develops at yellow, though, is meta-systems thinking,
and of course it is crucial in these times. I get the impression he and
others believe that learning to apply SD is complex enough to jump people
up to second tier. Linear reasoners can apply SD as a strategic or analytical
tool with ease, and when they do, the results will reflect that
thinking, not jump it to higher complexity. I’ve heard there are “cascades”
of people going into second tier these days. There is no research that
supports the possibility of such cascades. The stark difference I illustrated
between orange and green thinking shows why. Learning new material and
how to apply it, such as integral theory or SD value systems, is just learning
new material and how to apply it. Teaching a development model doesn’t
develop the people taught. First, we must learn to think and manipulate
information in systems terms with a lot of ?’s before getting to yellow’s
A significant contrast
with SD green arises in another Rosenberg (1988) discussion. Systematic
thinkers are flexible, independent, not reliant on social grouping or definition,
and conceive themselves as independent entities, though they are not anti-social.
They require a sense of independence and freedom of thought and action.
Readers who are familiar with SD might think he is describing orange or
yellow instead of green. His research does not reveal a deep structure
that seeks for itself warm fuzzy community. This is because systematic
thinkers are not bound by what they already know or have heard about; they
are the first “seers of invisible systems.” This detaches them from identification
with former groupings, and the resulting independence characterizes their
thought and self-sense. Because they see connections, overlaps, and interrelationships
not apparent to others, talk and concern about community and how others
feel and experience things can be a characteristic because those are among
the many systems it tries to include in its thinking and analyses.
It is consistent
with green’s awareness of systems-as-systems that a person also develops
a stronger sense of self-system, which is the accurate meaning of the term
“individualist.” Graves himself classified this stage as both individualist and relativist (Wilber, 1999a). Rosenberg’s research
agrees not only with Graves, but also with other researchers’ classification
of green as individualistic (e.g., Cook-Greuter, 1999; Fisher, Rooke &
Torbert, 2000). We can see a pattern emerging. Here, as in the orange
analysis, the surface features SD focuses on can lead us astray. Those
surface features of value systems ? the content of speech and behavior
? stem from opposite core “realities” in the deep structures. In both cases,
we find the SD characterizations misleadingly shallow to describe whole people. This is because value systems or vmemes do not describe whole people;
they describe the means people use to achieve ends driven
by the deep structures of reasoning and meaning-making, which may vary
by circumstance. There are no hard-cast people molds. With regard to green,
the cognitive gavel comes down on SD’s interpretation as not only inconsistent
with its own origins in Graves’ research, but also with well-respected
bodies of other research. The thrust of this argument is that the prevailing,
shallow caricature of green we inherit from SD misses the mark.
This caricature has played the starring role in creating ? and perpetuating
? the troll blocking the bridge.
The roots of anathema
That argument’s mission
was to get across that green uses the first level of systems thinking,
that systematic is a complex thought system, and most importantly,
why it demands our respect. Green is the highest order complex thinking most
us will encounter in our lifetimes, except for the minuscule percentage
of people evidencing second tier development. And all of the folks
in that second tier population will only have got there by being
damn good at thinking systematically green. Why is this community’s bias
against fostering green?
Well, we already
know the answer to that one. The bias against the discussive and/or deconstructive
behavior of some people in a particular transition step and/or particular
stage of development and/or discovering self-awareness and/or of extraverted
personality and/or who knows what else, has resulted in the pervasive impatience,
disgust, and/or fear of dialogue. Unfortunately, all of these variables
have been reduced to “green.” What’s really at the root of this reductionism?
There are three factors. All are related, and all virtually guarantee a
- The first factor
is time. Systems thinking at any of its levels takes time. By contrast,
linear thinking can quickly follow its mental linkages from point to point
to point in sometimes very rapid succession. Therefore, linear thinkers
tend to be very impatient with systems thinkers.
- Method is the second related factor. Collisions are inevitable because linear
and systematic thinking each “despise” the other’s approach to problem-solving.
Linear thinking with its periods (.) at the end of its logical conclusions
hates it when systematic question-marks (?) pick up the “x,” bump it to
a higher scale, and run with it to start applying a whole new sequence
of reasoning at a whole other invisible level that is almost nothing but
?’s. Likewise, systematic thinking may never really think it has reached
a satisfying conclusion, because it often thinks more connections are out
there. It hates it when “time’s up” is announced and it has to slap a period
on the end of incomplete thoughts and systems!
- It goes much deeper
than this, though. As we saw earlier, orange linear thinking’s growth to
its next stage requires it to think with many fewer periods so it
can move to green’s complexity. Green systematic thinking’s further development
requires it to discover where periods go so it can move to yellow’s complexity.
Now, basic psychology tells us we like in others what we like in ourselves,
and dislike in others what we dislike in ourselves, bluntly put. Remember
that our evolutionary spirit constantly searches out openings to help us
shift to higher complexity. For that reason, when we’re stuck where we
are, we sort of hate being where we are, and we hate it even more when
others have what we don’t have, but we can’t yet identify what that is.
Still, on some deep level within us, we know there’s something else, something
more, and we want it a lot. This very spiritual human dynamic is called
Projection. It tells us where we hate being stuck so we can get growing
again. It may sound nonsensical, i.e., non-linear, but I can’t say it any
plainer than this.
The very methods
that can be most effective helping systematic reasoning develop beyond
its limitations offer productive structure for its mental processing, and
are the very same methods needed for linear reasoning to develop beyond
its limitations. These are discussed together later.
What has this examination
of green systematic thinking accomplished? If it succeeded in its mission,
it has disrupted damaging, long-held assumptions and judgments by mounting
a strong counter-argument. Its arguments have been strong enough to resurrect
and catalyze critical thinking, in scarce supply lately. People should
feel compelled to voice old and new questions. Others should feel compelled
to answer. A good dose of confusion should remind us all that theories
are not dogma; they’re simply human constructions that can serve us as
long as they’re both useful and life-giving. They are not for wielding
like clubs over fellow human beings. We should see rigid perceptions begin
to relax into more open, multi-perspectival systems that can breathe the
fresh air of freedom to take seriously ? and fearlessly ? the steps necessary
to pursue development in self and others, naturally, one step at a time.
There should be some clarity emerging about what those steps are.
Where we spend
our time: stage transitions
Now that significant
contrasts between two stages are firmly planted, we need to move to the
next smaller scale ? the radical transitions needed to get from stage to
stage. This community does a lot of talking about “whats” but virtually
none about “hows.” This observation applies to the whole culture we’ve
created. Knowing “what” a stage is, is only static information. Understanding
“how” things happen is not only one purpose of Ken’s theory, but also adds
the dynamic “how” a thing becomes what it is. Even a modest amount of self-reflection
reveals we do not make stage transitions rapidly. Commons et al (2002)
find that people to the age of 24 “transition every two years at most,
sometimes even less [often]” (p. 8, emphasis added).
steps involved in all stage transitions This
table is taken from and adapted by combining Tables 6a, 6b, 7 in Commons
et al (2002), (pp. 31-32). Bracketed items added by the author.
|Step 0 - 'Faultfinders' |
[from step 4]
stage synthesis does not solve all tasks (deconstruction begins)
unfairness, can get stuck here. See the failures of the behavior of the
present order to obtain what others do. |
|Step 1 - 'Nay sayers' |
[RED and/or BLUE]
|Negation or complementation |
forms a second synthesis of previous stage actions
|May consist of those
who enter therapy, rebels, radicals, discontents. Have given up their old
ways. If A is wrong, then the opposite of A is right. Substitute behavior
B for previously successful behavior A. |
|Step 2 - 'Relativists' |
of thesis and antithesis): Alternate [chaotically] the coexisting schemes
but no coordination of them ||In [the academic]
culture, it is quite often the largest group. They stop progress by insisting
there is more than one way to look at things but cannot decide. This produces
anxiety, and uncertainty about roles, values, etc. |
|Step 3 - 'Movers' |
at synthesis): Comprised of [chaotic] sub-steps of a) incorporating all
possible elements, b) over generalizations, c) under generalizations. ||Moving from smash to consolidate. Create great
trouble for themselves and others by throwing ideas and actions together
in a creative haphazard way, taking a great deal of risk. |
|Step 4 - 'Un-shakables'
[to Step 0] |
|New temporary equilibrium
(synthesis and new thesis) ||Everything is OK
if it is not OK. Avoid: conundrums, contradictions, comparisons to people
looked up to. Everything is good enough. |
They also illustrate
how we spend our ‘stage-time’ in transition steps, and “every subject’s
behavior could be categorized to a transition step between stages” (p.
8). This is because the patterned nature of these steps consistently appears
in all adult stage transitions. As the chart suggests, these transitions
can make it even trickier business to pin a stage label on others. (So
how about we create a culture where people quit doing this?)
These steps are the
general mechanisms of movement through each stage of development. Researchers
and theorists employ diverse descriptions but the essential dynamics are
pretty much the same. The steps’ resonance with some of SD’s “memetic stack”
is no accident. This is what Graves probably did not have the vocabulary
for, back then. The “Spiral” is fractal, thus the whole spiral is within
each person, but not only at the main level of stages, in my opinion. For
now, I just want to plant the idea that when we become aware of this fractal
resonance between the transition steps and the main stages, it is obvious
that we tread on thin ice if we assume we can know someone’s stage of development
“at a glance.” We can’t. I seriously doubt most of us can know even our
own without professional, objective assessment (check the benefits of the
Leadership Development Profile on http://www.harthillusa.com,
and cognitive scoring on http://www.tiac.net/~commons/).
Study the chart above for insights into how someone can have a center of
gravity at one stage, yet operate out of other “colors” in quite a range
of situations. Complex beings, we are.
Since by its nature
evolution is toward increasing complexity, “adults are simply not meant
to ‘get stuck’ at these substeps,” and when they do, additional support
or treatment is needed (p. 8). Through this quick look at transitions,
recognize the real demand is for respectful and knowledgeable discernment,
not amateur diagnoses that we stick on others with permanent glue. Rather,
let’s sense the dynamic dance of Spirit that doesn’t necessarily hold still
long enough for us to judge what it is doing in others.
In the midst of
On the fervent assumption
that this paper is stirring up some confusion, confusion itself -- and
its kinship with our further development -- needs closer attention. For
most people, contradictions and confusion are hard to take, hard to figure
out, and provoke resistance aimed at maintaining the status quo. (These
are healthy reactions, compared to well-developed coping mechanisms that
'stuff it' before we even notice discomfort.) Yet these are literally the
internal chaotic conditions that lead to the greater complexity that leads
to further development. The tug-of-war between linear and relativistic
processes over those darn periods and question marks is really at the root
of all confusions and contradictions. So to help us love them while we
hate them, let’s return to the notion of transitions.
We saw there are
hints of fractal resonance between transition steps and all the adult stages
they lead to. Those with some exposure to Harris’s (2001, 2003) Temenos
system will already be familiar with the fractal concept embedded in
a stage theory. Harris’s is the only system I have yet found that fully
develops the entire fractal image in transition steps playing roles within
each stage. In his system, each stage has twelve transitions, and the powers
of analysis this affords is evident to any reader of his articles.
Fractals are mirror
images that occur at larger and smaller scales compared to whatever is
“anchoring” our attention at any particular time. That is why individual
human development frameworks mirror those studying larger scale human systems,
including our community’s culture and practice, organizations and large
social systems, etc. At smaller scales of human endeavor, they are discernible
in projects, meetings, agendas for meetings, and agenda items (Fisher,
Rooke, & Torbert, 2000). Once we are awake to fractals, they offer
a pattern to assist our powers of outer and inner observation and interpretation.
and the transitions chart put us on notice that fractals exist “inside
our skins” at even smaller scales. This is where recognizing fractal patterns
becomes personally useful, especially when dealing with confusion. Confusion’s
progressive dynamic is illustrated in transition steps 1, 2, and 3. Has
anyone ever noticed these back-and-forths going on inside when they were
confused about something?
That question leads
to the connection between confusion, transitions, and the sort of self-reflection
that supports us in the midst of them. I know Ken’s writing has influenced
a number of folks’ assumption that meditation is the only way to adopt
a Witness stance that observes what goes through the mind.
Self-reflective awareness is keenly observant, but not passively in Ken’s
sense. It notices the reactions, feelings, questions, resistances, bodily
sensations, skirmishes between punctuation marks, assumptions and their
origins, confusions and clarities going on inside in order to engage, explore,
and learn from them. Likewise, when transitions ? at any scale of inner
or outer development ? are engaged and supported rather than resisted or
just endured, we can play a conscious role in development. My experience
working this way with myself and others over many years suggests self-reflective
processes transform discomforts to insights (step 4, synthesis/thesis),
which leads to the next natural step, a next stage. This is why a culture
and practice of self-reflection can accelerate our development in, I suspect,
more radical ways than we currently imagine.
This circles right
back to my serious intent to jar some assumptions. On an equally serious
note: when we feel a conviction losing its grip and notice our instinctive
reaction to hang onto it, it is emotionally vital to know that whatever
is being jarred is also concurrently destined to transform in a next healthy
step, as long as nothing gets in the way of the process. Just as we saw
with main stage transitions, we are simply not meant to get stuck in any
transitions, so it helps to be able to recognize them. With that awareness,
we can seek support for ourselves as well as empathetically companion others
in whom we recognize potential for, or evidence of, these discomforts.
Transitions of almost any kind are clearly times for self-other support.
We can all learn to welcome the initial discomforts of “letting go” and
enter into a bit of inner and sometimes outer chaos that is just as much
Spirit in Action as anything else we might conceive.
What about “second
There is a vast amount
of confusion about what constitutes “second tier,” or put another way,
what integral “looks like.” A few ideas below point in the direction of
clarity. My observation is that the SD presentation of yellow is insufficient
to convey the meta-systematical ? systems-of-systems ? level’s enactment
of its value system and core intelligence. Reminder: no one theory describes
whole-person functioning, and curiosity should be satisfied by exploring
multiple resources. In regard to the path to second tier, my research finds
no support for the hypotheses floated over the last year or two about orange
and green being parallel paths. In agreement with a multitude of stage
theories, cognitive science and integral theory plant firmly in our minds
the impossibility of linear reasoning stage-skipping to meta-systematic
reasoning. Linear thinking must first learn to “see,” welcome, engage,
and process with “?’s.” My sense is that it will take a lot of work and
time to develop a holistic synthesis of what integral looks like. In the
meantime, there are two different clusters of folks in preliminary stages
of collaborating, one on an article, the other on a book, that will present
clearer notions of “integral” ways of being and operating in various domains
in day to day and moment to moment events.
My own practical
suggestion about second tier is this.
Let’s forget about it, and forget about achieving it, for a good long while.
Let’s assume that none of us are “there” yet, and that that’s okay.
Let’s transcend the old culture by including new alternatives with new
vocabularies (one suggestion follows).
Let’s create and enact integrally-designed means to foster healthy development
for all in the course of doing the work that attracts us.
Why? Because the
strive-drive to be at the top of the spiral and/or get everybody else there
quickly has backfired and created a monster that is blocking the bridges
of our individual and collective development processes. In so many ways
in this community, it is like holding out the coveted gold ring above the
revolving carousel, while also assuring no one grows tall enough to reach
it. I say this because orange will not grow tall enough as long as it is
sick and tired of dialogue and/or afraid of the ?’s required by all forms
of complex reasoning. Green will not grow tall enough because its ?’s are
not tolerated and therefore its thought-loops have no elbow room to break
the barriers into second tier.
The way to get rid
of the trickster-monster in a particular game is to learn from it so that
we can quit playing that game and find a more successful one. We can’t
get out of the game if we keep using the same language. Language sustains
cultures. It occurs to me that dropping stage references in our interactions
is crucial. More integral, developmental, and applicable across all stages
would be to use terms to describe how we experience things in ourselves
and others, for example: open, closed, and/or confused. This would change
our culture by requiring us to communicate, inquire, reflect back, and
be transparent. And it would leave no basis for damning judgments because
all of us are in those three dynamics at various times. However we language
a new culture, several integral practices should be at the minimum, requisite,
integrated core of any new game, and they are discussed next.
and healthy development
Yes, life’s day-to-day
occurrences tend to foster development in us all by themselves, at least
for most of the more fortunate members of the human race, like us in this
community. If we want to be more proactive about it so we can more effectively
foster development in others, we should consider all these practices (and
more, some of which need to be developed). Each of these are most
effective done intersubjectively, especially while developing proficiency,
before used alone. Yes, that means with others, and yes, that means dialogically
J. Each is different and all are productive, enlightening, and deepening
approaches that can help us develop and make life more evolutionary. With
a foundation established on sure ground and sustained practice over time,
eventually some of these can become such a way of “doing life” you might
no longer consider them “practices” at all. And you may even find yourself
attracted to teaching them to others (hint).
The In the midst
of confusion section gave a flavor of self-reflective awareness and what
it pays attention to, i.e., everything it can notice going on inside of
us. Seeing a good therapist, spiritual director, or life coach is probably
the best way to learn how to begin to notice, the heart of the practice.
Trained ears hear what we skip right over, and help us come back to it
to explore deeper. People should always check out the philosophy of such
helpers. What doesn’t foster self-reflection is for another to tell us
how to “fix it,” whatever the “it” is. My conviction is that listeners
who trust that others have their own answers, already within, are of high
service for helping others mine their own experience. We don’t need to
have “a problem” before we seek this kind of support; just growing in self-awareness
in daily life is ample agenda for sessions.
People who want to
pursue this new capacity on their own should really first ask themselves
why they want to do it alone. If nervousness about self-disclosure to another
human being is a concern, then that is really ideal material to start with
and explore with a therapist that feels comfortable and trustworthy. If
we have any fears of self-revelation to a trusted other, then it is highly
probable that we have a lot of inner stuff we haven’t even let ourselves
notice yet. Self-revelation, done appropriately in given contexts, is also
called “transparency.” Transparency is a hallmark of second tier behavior.
linear thinkers’ development by gently and safely helping them test the
waters of exploring important questions. Once they experience for themselves
the personal benefits of discovering questions and the unexpected, life-giving
insights that result, they are well on their way to becoming more open
internal systems, and that’s the path of development. It can also heighten
their awareness of what is going on around them that impacts them, giving
them first hand introduction to “invisible” systems, important groundwork.
Some systematic thinkers may have begun exploring self-reflection and its
benefits, even as a byproduct of their ability to observe self as system
in some cases. Yet practically all of us get periodically stuck in rigid
positions in some life domain or another, and rigidity holds back our growth.
I encourage everyone who hasn’t yet, to experience the benefit of finding
a qualified listener to help them deepen interior exploration. Like everything
else, self-reflective practice evolves through its own stages of development.
inquiry and transformative learning
Bill Torbert has
developed the action science he calls timely action inquiry (TAI) (Torbert,
2002). In Personal and Organisational Transformations (Fisher, Rooke, &
Torbert, 2000), the authors describe its triple-loop reflection process
that attends to four “territories of experience” and begins with the “trans-cognitive
territory of intention” (p. 18). The other territories cover plans or strategies,
the outward action(s), and the outcomes of an effort. The “effort” reflected
upon can be anything at any scale, and this process is essential for individuals
as well as work groups and other collective endeavors. TAI encompasses
all-quadrants, with attention to first-, second-, and third-person layers
of experience. Their research has shown some users of this form of action
inquiry over a period of time increased by one stage in their development.
Torbert has shown how a relatively large organization can be run as a “liberating
discipline” that juggles productive work with personal and organizational
transformation (Torbert, 1991). I have taught this to small group endeavors
that put it to lasting transformative use. The fullest benefits of this
practice are derived when it is institutionalized in some way, by intentional
inquiry communities or integrated into organizational processes, for example.
The intentional community approach seems likely to be the kind of environment
where deeper self-reflection can be supported and fostered.
processes are valuable, alone and with others, for taking a structured
approach to identifying and suspending assumptions. This is also called
critical reflection. Some authors take it to deeper subjective depths than
others; some worth checking out include Boyd (http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/anthro/faculty/boyd/Publications.htm),
and Brookfield, Cranton, and Mezirow (see references). Good material that
provides a structure for getting started on transformative learning integrated
with self-reflection includes Kegan & Lahey’s (2001) four-column exercise
for exploring underneath assumptions, and Jordan’s website articles that
include a conflict awareness mandala and conflict as yoga (http://w1.522.telia.com/~u52220602).
These forms of personal
and group inquiry are impossible without persons developing their self-reflective
capacities to some degree. They support development for both linear and
systematic reasoning in ways quite similar to those described above. Using
these approaches in group contexts fosters capacities for developing more
transparency with others on matters of interpersonal significance.
Toward an integral
The very term “processes”
has been associated with the anathema of dialogue in this community. It’s
time to get over it. To be AQAL ? and include UL and LL ? methodology
has to be processual, by definition. Processes can be informal or structured.
But to begin to spread into wide usage, we need integrally-structured formats
in replicable (and customizable) forms that can be used to not only assure
AQAL areas of attention, but also foster development while producing results.
The two objectives
of this section are quite space-limited. The first is to introduce some
general principles of integral methodology and provide a link to one application
example designed to be productive while fostering transitions in worldviews
and thinking complexity. Many variables are involved in applying appropriate
methodologies; this is to start a discussion about what we need to develop.
The other objective is to show how processes can intentionally foster development
in everyone’s thinking. This rounds out my promise to cover the range of
integral methods to foster development in not only linear and systematic
thinking, but also all people and their endeavors.
This is a partial
list, and we should begin developing a comprehensive one to guide us. These
would apply to research methodology, policy development, educational settings,
and numerous public or organizational settings.
- Critically assess
the entire effort from beginning to end ? TAI’s four territories of experience
? through an objective lens, as in the Jordan & Turner What is Integral?
checklist (in the library at http://www.gircorp.org.)
- Critically assess
the whole and each phase of the effort through both subjective (UL) and
intersubjective (LL) lenses.
- Assure clarity
and commitment to behavioral ground-rules, the process itself, its objectives,
- Assure all-quadrant,
all-level aspects of the “whole” being addressed are included.
- AQAL efforts do
not treat others as objects to move around the chessboard ? efforts need
to reflect that others are the subjects of their own experience, else the
integral test is failed.
- Assure thorough
multi-perspectival approaches, from outside and from within each perspective
(walk in others’ shoes, especially when they aren’t in the room).
- Assure multiple
layers of depth and interrelated factors are incorporated into attention
and treatment, particularly when complex issues or questions are being
- Embed intentional
shared reflection on learning, to foster effectiveness and development.
- Embed a spirit
of collaborative inquiry, to foster learning, effectiveness and development.
The only way to learn
what any of this really means and accomplishes, is to do it. One replicable
process designed on these principles is described in a short paper on the
integral public practice I developed for complex public issues (in the
library at http://www.gircorp.org). Such approaches are transportable across
diverse settings. One set of materials is posted on the Integral Politics
SD lends itself well to fostering such multi-perspectival deliberation
through the tensions and trade-offs between and among different people’s
life conditions and value systems, from within their worldviews and experience,
and should be widely used for that. My action research and other experiences
consistently suggest that skillfully embedding developmental insights into
processes is a positive support and catalyst for transitions.
Rather than running
away from any stage’s reasoning, integral methods must engage it in order
to benefit from and develop it. There is general agreement that cognitive
development “leads the way” to next stages of development. For integral
methodology to be evolutionary, then, in addition to addressing structural
and other environments with core need and life condition components of
issues, it should incorporate intentional design to encourage cognitive
and worldview development in participants. This is another reason for processual
approaches. I will sketch my view of how these support and further develop
linear and systematic reasoning in a symbiotic way, while also increasing
overall effectiveness of efforts. Notice that the other integral
practices discussed earlier play necessary integration roles in the overall
When we remember
thoughts have transition steps too, we realize we all use linear and relativistic
thinking dynamics, on particular subjects and at particular times. Therefore,
an essential point about well designed processes for collective developmental
efforts is that the back and forth needs for both clarity (periods) and
open discovery (question marks) are each met by linear thought and systematic
thought at alternating and intervening points. The way those shift points
are discoverable is by regularly assessing what stage of thought the effort
is in, in relation to meeting the overall objective, e.g., problem solving.
This assessment needs timely action inquiry integrated with features of
transformative learning’s assumption identifications and suspensions. In
order to know when to do any of that, self-reflective qualities are necessary,
including being tuned into intuitions and mental processing that are still
developing inside. This takes time, often best achieved by walking away
from the effort for a while, or simply thinking about the thinking to date.
These are like background processing that yields no tangible outputs until
the processing has reached ? what else? ? a punctuation mark! The entire
process depends on a culture of respect, trust, patience, interpersonal
skills, and flexible pacing.
The range of integral
practices I have covered ? self-reflection, timely action inquiry and transformative
learning, and structured processes ? serve as crucial foundations if our
desire is to develop throughout the spectrum of our human experience while
we also impact our environments positively. Progressively over time, they
bring into conscious attention our meaning-making systems, increase our
complex thinking capacities, teach us how to consider and work with multiple
perspectives, enrich our capacity for healthy human interaction, and reveal
our formerly-hidden coping mechanisms as well as our limited or erroneous
assumptions. All of these are transformative changes that result in Spirit
emanating ever more effectively in our uniquely embodied ways of being,
and that further enables our endeavors to foster the healthiest and highest
good in and for all life.
And so . . .
As I draw to a close
this love’s labor to start a fire, my heart is full of hope that it has
achieved its goals. In recognizing that our embeddedness had left us blind,
it employed a different gaze to take us on a ride above it so we could
all see it. In doing so, it gave us an opportunity to examine our assumptions
about ourselves and others, and critically reflect on our individual and
collective behaviors. It helped us see the active roles played by our beliefs
about development, its stages, and its transition dynamics. It recognized
the possibly painful confusion some may experience in letting go of important
old assumptions and trying on new ones, and drew our knowledge together
by encouraging integral ways and means of loving confusions while we hate
them. In doing so, it made its best effort to put all Humpty Dumptys
together again into more hopeful and enlarged wholes. Then, and only then,
it laid out ideas for new ways of thinking, languaging, and practicing
the construction of a new integral culture, and suggested additional resources.
Throughout, it modeled an integral way to turn “whats” into “hows” in all
quadrants and relevant levels, so that we can all begin to internalize
what our commitment to integral implies, requires, and promises. As that
happens, the troll at our bridge will begin to dissolve into the deep waters
from which it came, and we can all move forward together. If this mission
has been accomplished, let’s turn our attention to that fire.
A New Phoenix
Throughout this writing,
I have referred to us as a community. We really haven’t been much of one
in any meaningful sense of the word. But I believe we need to become one.
I think the current invitation is for a new kind of community to rise from
the ashes of the old paradigm. What do you think?
What might such
a community look like? I don’t know! But I’d sure like to see
our imaginations get to work on it! I can imagine a mission to create a
networked integral learning, research, and practice community that does
and shares substantive work and where everyone is encouraged and stretched
in appropriate ways that lead to further incremental and holistic development
for themselves and their efforts. All of the work would be imbued with
individual and collective action inquiry to consciously foster development
as it produces high caliber integral efforts. All of those involved would
observe and reflect on their learning, meaning-making, and reasoning. The
substantive nature of the work could be: developing needed integral methodologies
through research and development efforts integrated with educational workshops
extended over time with interim practicum assignments (little of enduring
value results from one workshop, in my experience); periodic work-producing
meetings; research projects that have been waiting in the wings for a long
time and newly conceived ones; consulting efforts that further the work;
cyber-and-in-person networks of interrelated mini-think-tanks that apply
dedicated research and development thinking to systemic aspects of issues
challenging the planet; and powerful conferences and publications that
push collective co-creativity, knowledge, and practice. Such a community
would gradually become integral by virtue of the process of learning to
do, and doing, the work in an integral way.
How might it begin
to evolve? First, we need to find out if there is a “we.” By
synchronous grace, we have a new mechanism to find that out, so I am starting
a threaded forum on the re-launched IntegralAge website. We can use this
for exchanging questions and reactions, and for exploring why we want a
new phoenix rising and how to give it a lift. Certainly there are various
paths and constellations possible, available, and upcoming. Does anyone
feel like going on a long walk? We can get a start on path-maps on the
new forum. How? To join the Phoenix Rising Forum on email me know you want
to be added to that forum’s member list, and I will send you the URL when
it is available, shortly, along with forum etiquette ground rules. My email
is [email protected]. New forums to pursue
in-depth discussions can also be created on IntegralAge by members subscribed
to the site after it is launched. Please also see the postscript below.
we want to? This is an “I” question before it could ever become
a “we” question. I know why I want to. I am not an island. My thinking,
my work, and my person do not evolve in a vacuum without challenges from
peers and the world at large. It’s been sad to lose my earlier hope that
I-I would be a dynamic community of research and practice that would push
and support my own and be a way I could contribute to others.’ Even so,
having its network of fellow travelers around the planet has been invaluable
in many respects. I wish that same, and more, for others: stimulation,
nourishment, and support for their productivity. My primary interest revolves
around developing integral ways to address the confounding issues that
face and impact humanity while and by also fostering individual, collective,
and institutional development. How well I know how much we need help to
tackle this stuff! We need to create incubators that teach and help develop
such efforts and people, including ourselves. And that requires multilateral
efforts of multi-scale members in a networked community committed to such
Why wouldn’t we
want to? If not us, who?
May we all contribute
to a new phoenix rising and be Spirit’s dance into a new integral age!
P. S. We’re older
and wiser now. One of the ways to build an integral network is to start out by being a transparent community of inquiry. A couple weeks ago, I
sent this letter to Ken and Don, as well as to a handful of other colleagues.
In my cover note to all of them, I asked them to please consider sending
a public response to this paper to IntegralAge’s VOX section for posting.
VOX is for brief written pieces. In this way, IntegralAge enables us to
begin as and become a transparent community of inquiry and exchange on
subjects of shared interests. The forum can be used for discussion of this
paper and the initial responses to it, and any who wish can email a short
written piece for VOX posting to [email protected].
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Posted 15 Feb 2003