Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Ken Wilber puts his integral spin on the proliferating categories of people predicting cataclysm.

I'm not conversant in Wilber's system of consciousness classification, but Wikipedia (not surprisingly) seems to provide a pretty good entry-level summary:


Edit: Actually, the Wikipedia entry doesn't explain Wilber's use of color or his references to altitude to describe styles of consciousness. If you know of any good ("good" meaning free and concise) references that would help someone not already versed in Ken Wilber's jargon make sense of his talks, any and all links would be most appreciated.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 22nd, 2008 04:15 pm (UTC)
i'll find you some. My degree program was in Integral Sustainability, so I'd better know this stuff pretty well by now. Although liek any philosophy, it has its holes.

to get you started, the color stuff is based on a system called "spiral dynamics," which was first proposed by Clare Graves, and then was elaborated on by Don Beck and Chris Cowan, before Wilber found it and latched on. Wilber wrote his own version, which he calls "SDi" for Spiral Dynamics integral. The colors are just short-hand for, well, what I would call "worldviews," although they are social as well as personal/individual. In fact, it's way more interesting to me to look at the dynamic interplay of these levels /colors /vMemes on a world society scale.

One of the coolest things about SD, which often gets lost in the descriptions, is that the developmental levels move back and forth from individualistic to collective-focused, like a wave. If a society gets too focused on the desires/needs of the individual, the good of the collective will be ignored, which will spark a desire/need for balance, which results in a move to a collective-centered society, but then the good of the individual may become subsumed, which results in a resurgence of individualism, etc etc. i think the wave analogy is good, a wave moving through history, shifting the deep attractors of consciousness back and forth.

back with some links in a bit.
Feb. 22nd, 2008 04:36 pm (UTC)
OK, let's start here:

There's a split in the current SD folks, that basically happened because of Don Beck's association with Wilber. Chris Cowan was very critical of some of what Wilber & Beck did with SD to make SDi, so he split off with many of the original SD folks. This is their group:

Meanwhile, there are some reasonably good introductions to the Wilber/Beck SDi to be found here:

If you are the type to really dig into something like this, let me recommend two things:
First, get a copy of Wilber's "A Theory of Everything" (let me know if you can't get it by, like, interlibrary loan, and I can probably send you one. I have a spare somewhere.) It's fairly brief, and more of an easy read than some of Wilber's stuff.
Second, go to Frank Visser's website, http://www.integralworld.net , and just... poke around. This site is where most of the critical meat of issues with Wilber and Integral are getting worked out. Some of the most important documents there are actually linked off that Wikipedia entry on Wilber, down at the bottom.

I still haven't listened to that YouTube talk, I'll go do that now.

I have to say, this is something of a meaningful coincedence to me, as I was just thinking of Wilber this morning when listening to the C-Realm episode where you talk about meditation vs. entheogens (and Max F & the Seeker's dialogue, which I also listened to part of this morning). Wilber is *all* about the meditation - he pretty much is one of those who say it's the ONLY way to achieve enlightenment. I've never heard him say much of anything about drugs at all. But then again, if you are making your living off helping people to get enlightened ("Integral Life Practice"), then you might not be too supportive of a shortcut around those long years of sitting. I'm just guessing here. If you know what I mean.

Feb. 22nd, 2008 04:44 pm (UTC)
Explanation of Altitude
Here is one of the better synopses of Altitudes of Consciousness:


Please note--the colors that Ken uses to depict certain levels of consciousness do have some overlap with the Spiral Dynamics system, but has been modified in order to deal with some of the shortcomings of that particular model.
Feb. 22nd, 2008 08:45 pm (UTC)
HA! So, i just watched this clip. He only talks about the "altitudes" (gotta love it when they change their terminology mid-stream) from the perspective of individuals, as in how your worldview will affect the way in which you interpret any particular "fact". (let's not get into defining "fact," shall we? where's my postmodernist translator? )

You are obviously quite aware of this already, as you do a great job of contrasting the interpretations of transhumanists and, oh, say, relocalizationists, just as you did with the meditation/entheogen discussion. However, it's pretty revelatory to those who are just arriving at that knowledge for themselves, and it's an awareness that can be very very useful when dealing with communities that are particularly, um, committed to their worldview.

along those lines, what Wilber doesn't mention in this clip (but may later on), is that individuals and societies both evince these "altitudes." Don Beck works a lot with this on the world stage. My preferred example is one from a discussion about Iraq: as a nation, it had managed to overcome a long history of ethnic-warlord-driven conflict (red), by imposing a very strong system of order (Saddam, blue or amber, depending on your chosen color system), and on that foundation was making tentative steps toward building up orange entrepenurialism, when we showed up and bombed them right back to red again. This same concept could be applied to Afghanistan, substitute Taliban for Saddam. This also tells us why the US will never "fix" Iraq - the order has to be strongly enforced and seen as "legitimate" (not necessarily liked but legitimate) to work, neither of which the US alone will be able to impose. Anyway, that's something of an aside.

going back to Wilber's take on interpretations of the Apocalypse /Eschaton /Collapse - he sort of shoots himself in the foot when he starts talking about Michael Crichton and global warming. However, the core of the concept is still useful: there are lots of different ways to look at what's happening, and which one you gravitate toward says as much about your own personal worldview as about the facts of the matter.

if you want to change things, you gotta learn to meet people where they are, not try to pound them with facts from where you are. if facts alone could make a difference, don't you think our drug laws would be very different than they are? :-/ anyway, if you want to chat more about this kind of thing, just drop me an email or an IM.
Feb. 23rd, 2008 02:32 am (UTC)
It has been a long time since I've heard such pro-Wiber rhetoric. He doesn't seem to have much clout outside of his little bubble (literally).

I find it difficult to take a movement seriously when it mostly consists of disenchanted white males, the semi-wealthy and intelligentia. I've met a few women who didn't get turned off by the integral movement, but the pedantry seems to do a fine job of keeping it a boys club.

On top of that, every time Wilber and Cohen get together I expect a circle jerk. Eventually I stopped regularly reading WIE? due to the Wilber/Cohen love-fests.

I'm curious - you mentioned attending a "degree program" in "integral sustainability". Did you attend this through the Integral Institute? Distance learning?

Feb. 24th, 2008 10:26 pm (UTC)
Cheers for the link! I'm confused though - did you go through the environmental studies program? I can't see an 'official' connection to the Integral Institute, but maybe I'm missing it. Is Prescott College independent?

Feb. 24th, 2008 09:23 pm (UTC)
I don't know that I would claim myself as producing "pro-Wilber rhetoric." I simply try to get past his being overly infatuated with himself, and see if the ideas he puts forth have any value for helping the world.

From the postscript to my thesis:

"[I]n many ways I could care less if Wilber has found in Integral a way to cash in on a good idea, especially not if there’s any possibility of the offerings of his Integral Institute also spreading a meaningful new model of holistic problem-solving to the world. I see nothing particularly wrong with Wilber making a living off his life’s work, or even with (as I perceive it) cultivating a perception of himself as a guru, because some people want gurus, and that’s an excellent way to reach them and help create positive change in their lives. However, nobody is perfect, and certainly when working with very large and complex theoretical models, there should always be space for refinement and criticism to occur. [...] This process of critical analysis and refinement is part of nearly all academic and intellectual discourse in the world today. Unfortunately, given what I’ve seen of his responses to critics, I do not believe this to be the case for Wilber. And while I am deeply appreciative of Ken Wilber’s works and feel they have great value as a basis for continuing thought, I have no wish to isolate myself intellectually by putting on blinders to the problems within them.

I’m sure that my personal emphasis on seeking “what works” rather than concentrating on the deeper theoretical grounds of the effort will be interpreted by some as a lack of intellectual rigor, or a personal deficiency of understanding. I freely admit that I am no philosopher, and there are many aspects of integral theory that are well outside my realm of expertise. However, as I said earlier, I believe that there is value to be had from integral ideas regardless, and we need good, inclusive ideas now, to help us with real problems in real communities. [...] Just as espousing a pacifist philosophy doesn't mean you stop using a hammer to pound a nail when a nail is needed, disagreeing with Ken Wilber or his methods doesn't have to mean throwing out the potential value of tools created using Integral theories, either."

Feb. 24th, 2008 10:28 pm (UTC)
Well said!

It seems our perspectives aren't very discordant. :)

Feb. 23rd, 2008 02:12 am (UTC)
I've read a bit of Wilber. He kind of annoys me.

His correspondences - primarily through a bastardized version of Clare Graves' Spiral Dynamics - don't bother me as much as his narcissism.

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

Latest Month

August 2017


Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Ideacodes