Integral Consciousness and Academia


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Presentation at the 6th Spanish Integral Conference
Barcelona, October 2008.

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Integral Consciousness and Academia

  1. 1. Integral Consciousness and Academia Presentation at the 6th Spanish Integral Conference Barcelona, October 2008 Paul Marshall ( Introduction At present, the integral movement is very much outside mainstream culture and mainstream academia. This is perhaps to be expected as it is still relatively young. Although Wilber’s Integral Model has been developing for over thirty years now, its first mature version, with the presentation of the AQAL map, only emerged in 1995 with the publication of SES. Even more recently, it has expanded to its next, more expansive and developed post-metaphysical stage and outline of an integral methodological pluralism. Nevertheless, over the last two years there are encouraging signs that the integral movement is moving into a new, more diverse, expansive and legitimising phase. Such an expansion of the integral movement, both informally within the general culture and more formally within academia, is important for several reasons, I believe. First, it offers individuals a comprehensive map with which to understand self, others and world, as well as offering an integral practice to enable greater embodiment of integral consciousness, greater freedom and fullness. Second, it offers society and humanity as a whole a sophisticated framework with which to understand and help solve the complex problems that have emerged together with the ever-increasing globalisation and interconnectedness of our world. It is a truly global model that includes, for 1
  2. 2. example, all the different worldviews that are held by different individuals and communities, brings together insights and knowledge from all the different cultures and eras, and makes room for every methodology used to disclose reality. This global vision has emerged just as the world is moving into a new global, planetary era and offers a new way in which to address the new problems that the new era brings forth. A new phase for the integral movement and integral consciousness There are several ways in which integral consciousness has been gaining ground and credibility in the last couple of years. First, there are the recent changes at integral institute which, after several phases, some seemingly quite difficult, appears to be coalescing into a more robust organisation. Wilber now dedicates most of his time to writing again, remaining just a consultant at I-I rather than its active President, and the new management has just launched Integral Life, which acts as a kind of virtual community with emphasis on the promotion of both theory and practice. Second, in addition to Ken Wilber’s books, there is a growing number of writings by professionals and academics who are fleshing out more detailed analyses in their particular fields (e.g. the very recent Integral Life Practice book, André Marquis’ and Elliot Ingersoll’s work on Integral psychotherapy and Sean Hargens and Michael Zimmerman’ Integral Ecology, in press) as well as by those who are constructively critical of Wilber’s model (e.g. Steve McIntosh’s Integral Consciousness (2007) – which I will discuss in a bit more detail later). Third, by people who are actively applying them in real world settings like Gail Hochachka’s work on international development, Laura Divine and Joanne Hunt in Integral Coaching, and, in human organisations, Brian Robertson’s Holacracy, Torbert’s Action Inquiry and many different leadership model. And finally, in physical and online salons throughout the world; in national organisations like the Spanish Integral Association and transnational ones like Integral Europe that is creating a focal point from which to advertise integral 2
  3. 3. events and connect people; in Integral Centres like the Boulder Centre for Integral Living and another in Santa Monica; and in conferences such as this one and the ground-breaking Integral Theory Conference held in August of this year in San Francisco. That conference is part of a general move to legitimate integral theory within academia, which will be the main focus of the rest of this presentation. All of these developments are still in their initial phases but bode well for the integral consciousness and suggest a new phase in its overall development. I will concentrate here on the developments within academia. Integral Consciousness in Academia First, I will briefly discuss the importance of establishing integral consciousness and integral theory within academia and how the atmosphere in academia is now more conducive to its integration. Then I will outline some of the obstacles to integration and acceptance, followed by a look at what progress has been made already. Finally, I’ll give a brief explanation of the new method of integral research and consider a few further developments related to integral theory and academia. An idea will not be taken seriously on a wide a scale in today’s world without practical applications that are shown to be effective and abundant evidence to support it. Universities play a vital role in providing such evidence and critically examining and challenging new ideas. Moreover, of great importance is what Ken Wilber said yesterday in response to one of the questions during the teleconference: that the only system capable of promoting an integral consciousness on a large scale is the education system. To a large extent it was the education system that moved ‘green’ consciousness, in the West, from 2% thirty years ago to 25% today. And it will be able to do so with integral consciousness only if integral theory first becomes integrated in academia. Like every other organisation, academia is embedded in the dominant culture which operates within the confines of specific worldviews and these dominant worldviews - at present modern and post-modern worldviews - very often 3
  4. 4. determine what questions are asked, what research is funded and what evidence is taken seriously. For something like the integral worldview, or at least significant aspects of it, to become accepted, the time has to be right. If the behaviourism and logical empiricism of the 1950’s, for example, dominated in academia, then there would have very little likelihood of acceptance. But there are many signs that the time is now more propitious. The modernist worldview and its purely quantitative, third person, right hand quadrants approach to methodology, has taken a battering from postmodernism over the last thirty years or so, which has introduced a more interior, left-hand quadrant qualitative approach to methodology. However, thirty years has been enough to show its limitations (e.g. its absolute relativism) and the natural dialectic has moved from a paradigm clash between these two antagonistic, either/or perspectives and methodologies to the solid emergence, in literally the last three or four years, of a both/and, mixed methods methodology based on an underlying philosophy of pragmatism. This approach eschews dogmatism and selects those methods, whether qualitative or quantitative, that best serve to answer the specific research question. Mixed methods and pragmatism have much in common with an integral approach and integral research, which emerged just two years ago. Integral research is an extension of mixed methods approach, which is explicitly grounded in integral theory and integral methodological pluralism. As a result of these paradigm changes, some research areas that were previously out of bounds are now experiencing an upsurge of research and have even become trendy. These all involve interiority and subjective experience – the legacy of advocates of the qualitative approach - and include, for example, spirituality (e.g. spiritual emotions like awe, elevation and gratitude; states like flow); the nature of consciousness (which has become a major hot topic) and meditation (where numerous and rigorous studies have made it virtually mainstream). There remain some very controversial notions like developmental stages that are not generally permitted outside developmental psychology – and has been challenged within developmental psychology for the last couple of decades of 4
  5. 5. postmodernism - but even there some progress has been made recently. In addition to these paradigm changes within academia, the rapidly increasing complexity of life is screaming out for a new, more global and integrative approach, and integral theory fits that bill nicely. Integral in Alternative and Mainstream Universities There are currently two ways in which integral is being introduced into universities. One is through alternative universities like the CIIS, JFK, Naropa and Fielding Institute – all in the USA. Here there are programmes which include integral theory and practice or which have programmes devoted exclusively to integral theory (e.g. JFK and Fielding). The other is through individuals introducing integral components within their research theses and dissertations at mainstream universities. In the US there have been 55 integral- inspired dissertations and theses between 1987 and 2007. I have no figures for the UK or Spain or the rest of Europe but there are no doubt a fair number. All this is important, I believe, since it is likely that the more aspects of integral worldview and theory become mainstream, the more impact it will have on the general culture – especially through its eventual integration in the education system. Obstacles to legitimising integral theory in academia Arguably the biggest obstacle to legitimising integral in academia is the equation integral = Ken Wilber. At the ITC in August, one of the panels discussed that very topic. Many of us attracted to the integral worldview have felt that the integral movement has been a little too dependent on the figure of Ken Wilber with very little critical debate within the movement and within I-I. There has been critical discussion in Frank Visser’s site, Integral World, but this has not always been constructive, by either side. Critical debate is one of the essential requirements of academic discourse and the birth of integral theory outside of the academic community, along with Wilber’s semi-academic, semi- popular style, often without sufficient evidence, has meant a lack of such 5
  6. 6. debate. The ITC is an important move in the right direction, as are the other moves to legitimise integral theory in academia that will be discussed below. Forman and Hargens (2008), the organisers of the ITC, believe that Wilber needs to be decoupled from Integral Theory and state that that was one of the major aims of the conference. The only previous big US conference, held in 1997, was specifically about Ken Wilber’s work whereas this 1 st biennial conference was about integral theory. It included many important constructive critics of Wilber’s work: Bill Torbert (who calls Wilber’s quadrants the ‘Flat Four’ and his territories the ‘Deep Four’), Sean Kelly, Steve McIntosh, Bonnita Roy and Mark Edwards. I think that such a decoupling or loosening is important, for several reasons. While it is doubtful that such a radically different worldview and philosophy could have been created within academia, and a creative maverick like Wilber was probably inevitable to produce his huge synthesis and model, in order to enter academia there are certain basic norms and requirements. First of all, mavericks and, especially, those perceived as gurus, are not looked upon kindly in academia. Second, a movement with one undisputed figurehead is not likely to get a hearing. Third, abundant evidence is needed and Wilber often does not provide enough by academic standards. Finally, there are certain norms that need to be followed. Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (1999), the author of flow, discusses what is necessary for a new creative idea to become accepted in academia. Important among these are access to a knowledge domain, willingness to perform by the rules and the ability to convince the ‘gatekeepers’ of the field of the virtue the idea. Sean Esbjörn Hargens’ efforts, discussed below, have already made several important steps forward in this direction. What is needed, says Hargens (2008), is to find a way to “honour our great debt” to Wilber and at the same time “transcend and include him”, “situate him in such a way that actually facilitates his own vision”. Loosening the Equation Integral = Ken Wilber (1) This can be done primarily through a loosening of the exclusive association on integral with Ken Wilber, and one way to do so is to place Wilber within a larger 6
  7. 7. context. This has been done by one of the ITC presenters and constructive critics, Steve McIntosh, in his recent book Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution (2007). He discusses the ‘founders of integral philosophy’, outlining an intellectual and developmental history of the integral worldview, seeing Wilber’s model as the latest expression of this new worldview. I think this is a very useful way of viewing integral consciousness as it shows how integral consciousness has emerged gradually, through many different avenues. Michael Murphy (1998) also outlines a very similar integral history, also placing Wilber as its latest proponent. He calls this new ‘integral’ worldview ‘evolutionary panentheism’. Panentheism (not to be confused with pantheism, which sees God as immanent or synonymous with Nature /the Universe) sees the divine as both immanent and transcendent to the universe. This new worldview essentially means says Murphy, quoting Lovejoy (1936), the “‘temporalisation of the Great Chain of Being’ by which the manifest world with all its hierarchies was conceived ‘not as the inventory but the program of nature’” (Murphy 1998, p. 56 – embedded quotes are of Arthur Lovejoy). Wilber’s integral vision follows this worldview, but placed within a postmetaphysical framework. Both Murphy and McIntosh point to the same philosophical pioneers of integral, each offering their unique contributions: Hegel (who observed that consciousness develops through stages and explicated the dialectic process whereby conflicts are negated and preserved - Wilber’s transcend and include); Bergson (who described evolution as a creative process and gave the first spiritual interpretation of the findings of evolutionary science); Alfred North Whitehead (who claimed that all outsides have an inside and that both evolve together, as well as seeing evolution as being guided by ‘gentle persuasion through love’); Teilhard de Chardin (who saw complexity and consciousness as emerging simultaneously as exterior and interior expressions of evolution as well as developing the notion of spheres or evolutionary thresholds – physiosphere, biosphere and noosphere); Sri Aurobindo (who was the first great realised contemplative to synthesise the findings of modern evolutionary science with the timeless revelation of enlightenment as well as giving a phenomenology of higher structures of consciousness); and Jean Gebser (who outlined a series of hierarchically organised worldviews from the stone age to 7
  8. 8. the emerging integral worldview). [Note: McIntosh also includes the developmental psychologist Clare Graves (due not so much to the data he collected, which was limited, but to his interpretation of the data, especially his grasp of the systemic, dialectical nature of development) and also Jürgen Habermas and James Mark Baldwin. Wilber also explicitly discusses some integral pioneers in Psicología Integral (1999), highlighting these last two. Wilber considers Baldwin the foremost modern integral pioneer, the great founder of developmental psychology who saw consciousness as evolving through universal, cross-cultural stages and outlined developmental stages in all quadrants and almost all-levels! Habermas, while outlining only three stages, has done so in all quadrants – his objective, subjective and intersubjective ‘worlds’]. This broad history of integral pioneers in philosophy – who in essence address the unity of evolution and spirituality and evolution’s directionality – also connects to a larger, contemporary network of individuals and communities that embrace some form of evolutionary spirituality. These include people like, to name just a few, Andrew Cohen and WIE magazine (now called Enlighten Next) and Michael Dowd (2007). Closely related as well are agnostic evolutionaries and those who give a less explicitly spiritual interpretation to evolution, like for example Robert Wright (Non-Zero, 2000) and John Stewart (Evolution’s Arrow, 2000, Evolutionary Manifesto, 2008). They all emphasise that the universe has a direction and purpose and stress the importance of humanity’s role as co- creators in the process of evolution. Although they are not within academia, they represent a growing community that will help to spread elements of a more positive and integral worldview. So Wilber’s model can be seen as the latest expression of integral consciousness. Nevertheless, his expression is clearly the most complete, most comprehensive and most coherent to date, one which not only brings together all of these previous, pioneering insights but also an enormous amount of other premodern, modern and postmodern knowledge and findings. He has managed to do this through his own unique map that acts as a fully blown world philosophy. Furthermore, he has recently extended that map to embrace all 8
  9. 9. existing methodologies, an IMP which would seem a promising wedge into academia. Loosening the Equation Integral = Ken Wilber (2) Alongside this broader configuration of pre- or non-AQAL visions, a second, more specific way to loosen this equation, is to ‘democratise’ AQAL integral theory and create a ‘lineage’ of scholar practitioners. This is what Sean Hardens (2008a, 2008b), especially, is concentrating on. If the integral movement is going to become a social movement, it is not possible for just one person to create it – a combination of a broader movement within general culture, together with a specific body of knowledge and group of scholar- practitioners within academia is necessary. The concrete moves that have been made in the last three or four years, in the United States, to legitimise integral within academia, to create, in other words, a solid lower right quadrant within the academic world, will now be discussed. The building of a lower right quadrant in academia Sean Hardens (2008b) sees four main pillars that are needed for the construction of a solid foundation for AQAL to gain acceptance and respectability within academia – and a great deal of progress has been made already on all four. The first is the publication of an academic, peer-reviewed journal. The Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, originally called AQAL journal, was first published in 2006. The main editor is Osborn Hardens and it is linked to the Integral Institute. This is complemented by another academic, peer-reviewed journal, Integral Review, which is online and biannual and began in 2005. Second, the creation of accredited academic programmes. At present there are three centres offering such programmes. At the John F. Kennedy University there is now both an accredited one-year post-graduate certificate (2006) in Integral Theory and a Masters (2007). The former doubles as the first year of 9
  10. 10. the latter. There is also a certificate in Integral Studies and a Masters in Organization Management and Development with a concentration in Integral studies offered at the Fielding Graduate University. Finally, this year there will be an integral track within the Phd in Transformative Studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies, requiring students to use integral theory to guide their thesis research. Third is the holding of regular academic conferences. As already mentioned, the first Integral Theory academic conference was held this August and concentrated on Integral Theory rather than Ken Wilber and had some 500 attendees and 120 presenters. This conference will now be held biannually. Finally, the promotion of an integral approach to research. Just a few months ago the integral research center was launched by the ubiquitous Sean Hargens in conjunction with the Integral Institute. Its aim is to support scholar- practitioners throughout the world in using Integral Methodological Pluralism and a new multi-method approach to research. As mentioned, this approach expands the mixed-methods approach, an increasingly popular method that combines quantitative and qualitative research. As we can see, the last two years has seen a huge move forward in legitimising integral theory in academia and can be seen as a new phase in the development of the integral movement. The essential lower right foundations are now in place and it is hoped that these foundations will facilitate the growth of concrete contributions to integral theory that adhere to formal academic discourse. Integral multi-method research The integral take on mixed methods research is particularly interesting. Although there has been an increasing number of theses and dissertations based on Wilber’s work – 55 between 1987 and 2008 – most have used Integral theory as an interpretative framework, e.g. via the quadrants, to understand data and positions (Esbjörn Hargens, 2008b). With an integral research methodology based on integral methodological pluralism scholars now have a 10
  11. 11. means to produce integral research on any topic they choose. Thanks, again, to Esbjörn-Hargens (2006), IMP has been developed into a concrete research method, and the Integral Research Center acts as a support and resource centre for integral scholar-practitioners. Hargens teaches a specific course in integral research in several programmes. Essentially, integral research uses IMP to develop a research method which normally includes two, or at a very minimum one, methodology from each of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd person methods (and up to 8 or more). This represents the latest expansion of methodology that has moved from either quantitative (basically right-hand quadrants) or qualitative (basically left-hand quadrants) approaches to, in the last decade or so, mixed methods research that combines both. Integral research effectively becomes a new approach to mixed methods and combines IMP with Torbert’s Developmental Action Inquiry. Torbert’s DAI is a fully integral yet non-AQAL vision which emphasises praxis to Wilber’s AQAL emphasis on theory, and thus make for a very fruitful combination. The figure below shows the eight primordial perspectives and methodologies of integral methodological pluralism. These eight perspectives and methodologies are the internal and external views of the four quadrants. (From Wilber, 2006. © Integral Institute) 11
  12. 12. As an example of integral research (Hargens, 2006), the researcher would first go through a 1st person self-assessment of their strengths and weaknesses as a researcher, including a basic assessment of their integral psychograph via several key lines, their capacity for different states of consciousness and their personality type. For the 2nd person, researchers study how to conduct interviews and code transcripts and then perform an interview, which they code. They also use ethnomethodology techniques to ‘participate’ with their topic. Finally, for the 3rd person part, researchers create an empirical survey through a questionnaire that they distribute and then analyze quantitatively. They also look up systems analyses related to their topic. Thus 6 of the 8 methodologies of IMP are used. This is an exciting new development and one that is likely to make inroads in academia and attract researchers who wish to use a more integral perspective, And since it is an expanded version of an already accepted and ever more popular research method, the chances of success are greater. Other obstacles and developments Perhaps the greatest block for integral to gain respectability and acceptance in academia is the question of stages. This is anathema to postmodern consciousness, especially, but also to modernism – i.e. the two worldviews that dominate academia. Outside developmental psychology the notion is very controversial, and even within developmental psychology there is still a very large camp that rejects the empirical evidence of stages. Constructivist developmental psychology (with the hierarchical stage conceptions of Piaget and Kohlberg at the forefront) had a lot of influence until about 1980, but this influence then declined as it failed to account for the increasing evidence of variability within domains and individuals. But the tide may be changing again as extreme postmodernism loses strength and new theories, specifically Kurt Fischer’s dynamic skill theory and organismic-contextualist model (2006), are beginning to gain influence. Similarly, new metric’s have emerged, like Commons’ Hierarchical Complexity 12
  13. 13. Scoring System and Theo Dawson’s Lectical Assessment System (2005), which act as general rulers that measures aspects of development across domains (developmental lines). Stein and Heikkinen (2008) have recently claimed that Dawson’s LAS, which measures conceptual reasoning across domains and which is used in the Integral Theory Master’s course and by Integral Institute, taps into aspects of the Wilber’s altitude marker (or basic structures). This is a potentially very interesting development since it is a general, content free metric that measures the performance on a task, not the individual. Furthermore, in political science, for example, Ronald Inglehart (e.g. 2005) has accumulated a huge body of evidence that clearly demonstrates three stages of values and worldviews and their correlates with socio-economic and political development (i.e. lower left and right quadrants). For some reason Wilber fails to mention Inglehart’s impressive work. With respect to the status of states of consciousness in academia, a lot of work still needs to be done, but the interest in and research on meditation, especially its neurophysical and psychological effects, is huge compared to just 5 or ten years ago, and serious studies like those by Richard Davidson and Alan Wallace – both connected with the Mind and Life Institute where the Dalai Lama and Buddhists work together with top scientists (see e.g. Begley, 2007) – are very promising and have increased respectability of such work. Similarly, there is now enormous interest in studying consciousness, which has brought challenges to the current paradigm of mind/consciousness being a mere by-product or epiphenomenon of the brain. Conclusion So there are encouraging signs that academia is now more open to important elements of integral consciousness like spirituality, states of consciousness and stages of consciousness. Furthermore, a significant shift in the last two or three years to create the foundations of a lower-right quadrant for integral theory within academia represents a new, important phase in the integral movement, marking a move towards a democratisation of integral theory. Combined with a 13
  14. 14. broadening of integral consciousness to include past pioneers and present proponents of a general non-AQAL evolutionary spirituality, the incorporation of Torbert’s all-quadrant, all-level yet non-AQAL vision, and the placing of integral research within the tradition of American pragmatism, the exclusive association of integral with Ken Wilber is loosened. In this way we can both honour his huge contribution while at the same time expanding and facilitating his vision. Let’s hope that this expansion gains greater strength also in Europe and facilitates a gradual acceptance of integral consciousness within both academia and the wider culture. REFERENCES Begley, S. (2007). Train your mind, change your brain. New York: Ballantine Books. Csikszentmihalyi, M (2006). A systems perspective on creativity. In Jane Henry, (Ed.), Creative Management and Development, p-3-18. London: Sage Dawson-Tunik, T. L., Commons, M., Wilson, M., & Fischer, K. (2005). The shape of development. The European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 2, 163-196. Downloaded from: Dowd, M. (2007). Thank God for evolution! Council Oak Books. Esbjörn-Hargens, S (2006). Integral Research: A multi-method approach to investigating phenomena. Constructivism in the human sciences, vol. 11 (1), pp. 79- 107. Esbjörn-Hargens, S (2008a). WIE interview: Taking the pulse of the integral movement. 14
  15. 15. Download from: Esbjörn-Hargens, S (2008b). Editorial introduction, Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, vol 3, Nº 1, pp. v-xxii. Download from: Fischer, K., W., & Bidell, T. R. (2006). Dynamic development of action, thought, and emotion. In W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Theoretical models of human development. Handbook of child psychology (6th ed., Vol. 1, pp. 313-399). New York: Wiley. Downloaded from: Forman, M. and Esbjörn-Hargens, S. (2008). The academic emergence of integral theory: Reflections on and clarifications of the first biennial integral theory conference. Download from: Inglehart, R. (2005). Modernization, Cultural Change and Democracy: The human development sequence. New York: Cambridge University Press. McIntosh, S. (2007). Integral Consciousness and the future of evolution. USA: Paragon House. Murphy, M. (1998). On evolution and transformative practice: In appreciation of Ken Wilber. In Rothberg, D and Kelly, S (Eds.): Ken Wilber in Dialogue: Conversations with leading transpersonal thinkers. Wheaton, Illinois: Quest Books. Stein, Z., & Heikkinen, K. (2008). On operationalizing aspects of altitude: An introduction the Lectical Assessment System for integral researchers. Journal of Integral Theory and Practice 3(1), 105-138. Downloaded from: Stewart, J. (2000). Evolution’s arrow. Australia: Chapman Press. Downloadable free from: Stewart, J. (2008). Evolutionary manifesto. Downloadable from: Wilber, K. (2006). Integral Spirituality. London: Integral Books. 15
  16. 16. En el marco de las VI JORNADAS INTEGRALES para la difusión de la Visión Integral de Ken Wilber y otros. Barcelona, octubre de 2008. Organizadas por Patrocinadas por 16