Monday, September 29, 2008

What does integral look like?

(Cross-post from the Integral pod on Gaia)

This is a thought that's been cooking for a while: how will integral naturally emerge, and will it look like the way Wilber has described it?

I might be wrong, but from reading wilber, I get the impression one of the main characteristics of integral is vertical thinking, developmental awareness. deeper levels of understanding. I do think this is an important characteristic, but what people seem to be witnessing is a deeper, complex way of thinking, yet seen as a horizontal complexity. It's still development, but not quite “linear” as it used to be.

Or in other words, the heirarchy, the classical “beaurocratic” levels are breaking down for a networking society.

So we're seeing the rise of the “network” instead of the “institution.” there are alot of thinkers along these lines, and to me this seems like where civilization is headed. i think this fits perfectly into integral, without needing to structure in levels just yet. it can fit into the maps, for sure, but common understanding of 'vertical' development is something that doesn't need to happen first. instead, we are re-thinking and seeing the relationship and organization in a totally new, complex structure.

We're seeing a breakdown of classical institutions, the information age has created collaborative efforts, open source organizations— and the internet is the best place to see new structures of society emerging.

So, what does integral look like, without the language, without the theory? or in other words, what does it look like without the map?

Networks, organic patterns, collaborations and decentralized organization.

I think Wilber, and many other integral theorists have correctly criticized “flatland,” and postmodernism for simply accepting the break down of heirarchy, centralized ways of thinking as the end-all, be-all. The story doesn't stop there. But instead of immediately creating vertical maps, it seems that it is naturally happening by first seeing organic patterns in the chaos. people are structuring naturally, organizing and networking. this way, underlying themes begin to be seen… and yes, maybe eventually we will have a deeper vertical awareness. for the moment, the depth comes from understanding the space between perspectives, but we're in the midst of creating the map. relationship and flex-flow will become prominent– and this is resonant with spiral dynamics, the 2nd tier “integral” value memes. If Wilber, and many of the integral theorists are correct, we will see maps arise naturally, and the “integral” attitude arising naturally in many creative ways.

If you want to see where it's headed, I think some great thinkers who are not associated with the integral theorists, per say, are clay shirky, who has an excellent ted talk here: Institution vs Collaboration

Another thinker is Manuel Castells– a sociologist who is strongly for moving beyond postmodernism, and wrote a book called “The Rise of the Network Society,” as well as “1000 Years of Non-Linear History.”

Do you know of any others? i'm not sure this is all coherent, but what i'm trying to get at is that we're seeing “integral” pop up organically, and sometimes the language of these theories can get in the way from seeing the seeds grow right under our feet.

Reading List!

Just picked up this book,

Commentaries on Living, First Series.

It's an excellent book, and very memorable for me. I used to read it on bus rides in high school. Good old days! Does that make me seem old? Here are a few other books I've picked up lately. Book reviews to come shortly...

And secondly, this great book. Another classic,

No Boundary: Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth

I've read this one in the past, and it's great-- way before Wilber got a little heavy with the metaphysics. When does meaning become lost in the very language that is supposed to convey it? I think this is an important question, especially for the philosopher, the scientist, and the spiritualist. Sometimes, the simpler way is the most effective. What are your thoughts?

And finally, Eckhart Tolle: A New Earth. This book has been a popular one in the mainstream, and so far it seems to be eloquently simple, yet descriptive enough to reach some deep issues. I know some people are calling Tolle just another fake, someone cashing in on feel-goodness and such. I cannot say the same. His writing is on-par with alot of spiritual and philosophical thinkers, including the afformentioned Krishnamurti. In a sense, he is able to simplify complex meaning to common day language, and disseminate it to the majority of the population. So much so, he's got this show on Oprah's website. I can't say this does more harm than good. If anything, it at least gets people reflecting. That's something these days, no?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ethics, Society and the New Tomorrow

As we spiral deeper and deeper into the information age, the singularity appears to draw near. We can get vast amounts of information at the push of a button—In fact, if we wanted to, we could download vast libraries of books, media and other forms of both entertainment and education. The internet, above all new advancements in technology, has created a decentralized culture of vibrant networks, oscillating and thriving, constantly shifting and flowing through the minds of its users. We have created a massive brain, in a sense, of knowledge and entertainment, culture and science. That, and literally anything else you could think of. In doing so, the internet as inadvertently shaped the mindset of the next generation (X, Y and so forth)—one that does not necessarily buy into the centralized, bureaucratic system we currently have in place. People are thinking differently. The rise of “open source” and collaboration have not only created breathing online societies, but also active groups in the real world. Networking websites (, for instance) have helped get people to do things and come together. In short, this is what Manuel Delanda has described as, “The Rise of Network Societies.” Its key traits are: decentralized power, network structure and collaboration.

As the old ways of doing things face the new way, we will see, and have seen some major shifts in power. The internet community, for example, has permanently crippled the media industry. The use of file sharing spreads like wildfire, and the hierarchical business structures attempting to combat it continue to lose legal battle after legal battle in the world. Attempts by lobbyists to limit the internet into “packages” like cable, or satellite T.V. have received fierce threats by Google, who, threatened in turn to broadcast the internet free from its orbiting satellites. These are only a few of the examples, and each is giving a powerful example of the network society. If communities and businesses continue to organize in this way, what can we expect? For starters, greater collaboration, integration of technology and activism. There will be institutions, but their purpose will be to simply keep the network growing, thriving. Those who can “hyper link” will be the greatest in standing. The most dynamic, adaptable will begin to win out in competition. Big business, though still existent, will be melted into vast frameworks of smaller business, all needing each other to co-exist, all of them co-dependent. Imagine, if you will, a brain. It is nearly infinitely complex, networked, yet still existing within it are general faculties with specific purposes. If all of this is abstract to you, you’re not alone. We can only imagine and speculate at this point, but speculation can certainly help us see what is happening now. We can ask ourselves—what are the important patterns now? And how are they going to be beneficial?

For starters, a network is by far more adaptable to challenges in its very structure. It has the whole of a community ready and willing to face a problem, and not simply one bureaucratic pyramid. If societies evolve, then this structure is the latest and the greatest in adaptation.
How will this new framework affect us culturally? How will we grasp both our morality and our ethics in such an ever-changing society? Or in Descartes words, where will we place our feet on firm ground? Take to mind the image of a sailboat. It has no “firm” grounding, yet it is a mastery of the wind and the sea—and ever changing, ever flowing ocean of air and water. Our grounding will not be so crystallized, but more liquefied. Our knowledge will rest on the ebb and flow of knowledge, network and flowing powers. If the information age has created a sea of knowledge, we must learn to sail upon it.

In this case, we must learn the nature of water, wind and the mastery of information exchange. We must become both sailors and swimmers, fliers in a world where there is no firm grounding anymore—and perhaps we are better off this way. Our fundamental attitudes on things may change, indeed, our very thinking structures may be affected by such a life at sea. We may find ourselves observing the flow between not only networks, but people and their ideas:The flow of perspectives, and their natural development. There may be a natural shift from seeing things in a classical, orderly way (That of modernity), to a balance of both chaos and harmony. Greater patterns emerge, and they may emerge in thinking, in ways that both the modernist and the postmodernist could not easily imagine. Religion, ethics and society itself may find a greater unity in the dynamic flex and flow of perspective. Surface features may become less important, as deeper currents are discovered. We may witness, as we are now, a reemergence of perennial philosophy, and collaborative religions! Imagine that! Protestants, Catholics and Buddhists working together, discovering underlying beliefs and ways to connect.

There are already movements that do see integral perspectives; some are successful, others merely collapse one into another, still others crystallize into frozen maps of the universe. What we cannot expect is a unified theory of everything—What we can expect is the ability to step beyond individual perspective and see the bigger picture, and act accordingly. In short, we are witnessing the birth of a society that no longer requires set boundaries. We are stepping out of our shells, and in doing so are seeing ourselves in a greater, deeper picture than ever before.

Some may turn away from this dramatic shift, and that is to be expected. With the coming of any new age, there are always those who wish to return to the old ways. This is actually quite understandable. Change is terrifying, and uncertain. For the most part, it seems downright dangerous. Yet, this new way of thinking may very well change us for the good—it may help us see that fear is something that must be released and relaxed, in order for growth to occur.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Wisdom of the Ancients

Q:"The ancients had grand knowledge, but our knowledge has evolved quite far since those days."

A: "How so?"

Q: "Well, we have gone through ten thousand years of evolution- the evolution of ideas, attitudes, beliefs and ever expanding knowledge. Consciousness itself has evolved."

A: "This is true- - though I think there is yet to be something learned from them, the ancients."

Q: "Eco-stability, yes, and perhaps tidbits of wisdom- but they are not the noble savage. They had their own forms of hostility, their own issues and their own atrocities. They were just as human as we are."

A: "For sure. Yet, there is some wisdom in their shamans, and in their mystics. There is some value in returning to the pristine energy of the forest, of reconnecting, resettling into our roots. We can't return to being seedlings, if that makes sense as a metaphor, but we can see where our roots lie, and maybe understand ourselves better through that- we can evolve, not regress."

Q: "I agree. But certainly civilization hasn't had its taste of new forms of knowledge, valuable at that. Knowledge that will allow us to transcend both the past and the grim present, into "now-ness" so to speak."

A: "Of course- but that truth is -being-, regardless of who recognizes it and when. Perhaps as a culture we can evolve to harmonize with that timeless understanding- and that is the purpose of evolution and development. The shamans a thousand years ago, or two-thousand, could be insightful for basic human psychology. They were at the beginning of our fears- still within nature itself! And not yet psychologically divided. Their lessons are our lessons, even though we have gone so far."

Q: "True- and what lessons do you think we could take from their own trials and tribulations?"

A: "That to build a society as a means of subsistence is fine, but that they need to see how it is also meets a psychological demand for security."

Q: "We seek safety, and find it in the village, the culture, the city-state,"

A: "-And the shaman, even."

Q: "Yes, even the shaman. Or priest, or rabbi or leader."

A: "And we've been doing this dance- of yearning for safety and unity, but it was there from the start."

Q: "Being is always there, before the words, before the actions themselves. Before our fears, there is presence. All people of all times could recognize this- but the human race seems to evolve collectively, slowly, gradually as time goes on. This is perhaps just because we are living in the dimension of time and space, and so we are evolving through that too- to reach what they often call a 'quantum' or fourth dimension, one beyond time."

A: "But how would that be possible?"

Q: "We'd have to delve deeply into the science of understanding our own mind-- consciousness, physics and existence. Most importantly, we must step outside of our thoughts, or at least see that we already do- and have bare-attention with ourselves. Being, presence and simplicity are so vital, if we are to truly see if it is possible for consciousness to evolve beyond this construct of reality- we must first start with the basics. Just -be-, between the words, behind the thoughts. This is where we can start, and perhaps this has the greatest insight of all."

Saturday, September 6, 2008


The village fires burned into the night, and the Young Boy sat, wide-eyed at the stars. His father, a violent man, with built arms and shoulders, paced left and right.

"You must not falter, son! Tonight is not just a test."

The ancestors breathed in heavily, silently watching from behind the world.

"Should you survive this-you will be a man, and you may join me in the hunt- at dawn."

The boy shook, his legs weak from trembling.

"Do you understand-my son?"

He nodded.

"Not a word then," said the father, lifting a jug and tossing water onto the fire. Steam and smoke bellowed up through the trees. A moment of silence passed, and the father stormed away, as a panther.

His son remained behind. He took one knee, and reached for his spear. Decorated in a head-dress, the ancient beads from the river, and the feathers of the wild-game in the forest, he walked on.

The forest seemed to lift its gaze from him, its heaviness subsiding for a while. He walked quietly as the path began to wind, and then eventually end. He over-stepped brush and fallen trees, wandering further.

His mind raced with what the elder shaman had told him, just an hour before.


"The mischievous spirits of this wood will test you- and you must show us how brave you can be. Your rite of passage is through the night, into dawn. Do not return to the billowed smoke until you have confronted these spirits. Beware, their powers are only trickery!"

Speaking before the village, the elder shaman cackled wittingly, putting on a form of a show for the people. They trembled every time this story was told, and huddled closer to the evening fires. Their world was vastly unseen by the eye, and forever captured by their minds; visions of spirits for good and for evil, and all in between, danced the forest into life.

The shaman beckoned the boy to come closer. He stepped forward, bowing his head.

"Remember, the water on the stream. What does it show you? You must remember this- or you will not return."

Smiling, he placed his hand on the boy, pushing him back to his father.

"Be strong," his father had stated. He was a man of few words.


The trees seemed to grow thicker here. Slowly he began to feel the prying eyes of spirits. Beings that were unseen, but could appear and disappear- they lived outside of time, and behind the layers of this world. They both played games and assisted the tribe in their survival- and destiny. His ancestors were among them, but so too were his enemies. The shaman had never made clear who he would be facing tonight- only that he must go through them in order to return to the safety of the village, and the pleasant taste of a warrior's meal that was awaiting him.

For now, he reached for some shrubbery, pulling some fruit and biting deep into it. He kneeled, resting for a moment while he ate. 

The trees ached, and a presence had entered the forest. Eyes began to watch the boy, as he dropped his fruit and clutched the stick. "Who are you!" He asked. The forest remained quiet, but he knew it was anything but un-attentive. Something was watching him.

A creak from the west, he pointed his spear. "Wicked spirits? Do you challenge me?"

Another creak, the forest seemed to breathe in, and eerie silence followed. The crickets around him silenced themselves, as if bowing down to a stronger force.

Rising from the shrubs, a figure appeared- and lunged towards him.

The boy turned and ran, stumbling on his footing and tripping over thick vines, he leaped back onto his feet and hurled himself away from the area faster than he could think.

His heart pounded, and something inside him forced him to turn around.

Nothing was in sight. The forest returned to its chirping, dancing and breathing. A wind came over the place, and he looked around- a river was brimming over nearby. He moved towards it, towards the east.

Kneeling by the lake, he reached for his left shoulder- scratched up badly. It stung as he poured the cool water over it. "Curses," he whispered to himself. His mind wandered over what the entity could be- and what he should do. 

"Coward," he could hear his father say. 

For a moment, he imagined himself at a much younger age, seven or so- helping his father hunt for the game of the wood. A smaller pig had charged him, and he had screamed, running for his father. His father laughed at him, "My son! With a heart like that, your stomach will always be empty!"

The boy gripped a stone from the river and tossed it to the other side.

He stood up and faced the thick again. He marched, hesitantly back towards it. For a moment, the trees retained a pristine nature- quiet, swaying gently, shaking with the life of the night. Something shifted, as he parted the tall grass, stepping into the canopy. As if possessed, a terrible feeling began to enter his heart.

"What is this!" He shouted into the trees, raising his spear.

He marched, knees near buckling.

The forest became a deathly quiet, and the being rose again from the leaves. It did not move, it did not gesture. Like a living shadow, he thought. He raised his spear. It did not respond.

"Who are you!" He shouted at it. With all his might, he took another step forward.

It turned, slowly- at least he thought it did, and began to run silently through the trees, zipping through like a cloud or a wisp of smoke. The boy gritted his teeth and followed.

His eyes had become accustomed to the night, and although his heart pounded with fear, his legs began to carry him forward, briskly leaping over rock and stump- he could run through here blindfolded. 

The entity had disappeared, but left a trail in the boy's mind- west, towards the very rocks where the sun could be last seen through the forest.

Charging forward, he darted through the trees, his sweat making it harder for him to grip his spear.

At last, he reached the opening, and the rocks. It was strangely quiet, the crickets had once again lost their song, and the night laid barren before him.

The stars were numerous and magical- but the moon was absent tonight. The boy kneeled, praying for his ancestors to watch over him.

"Come face me! Where do you run to, spirit!"  He stabbed the blunt of the spear into the ground and stood attentively.

The rocks began to tumble, one by one, from the mount. The being reappeared, hovering over the ground. A tear streaked down the boys face.

It floated over the rocks, before hovering over to him at an unsettling speed. It's face was empty, but the boy was sure he could see a skull within the shadow.

He lifted his spear and pointed it weakly at the being. His stomach did flips, and he could barely hold his weapon pointed. The entity seemed to note this, and with what seemed to be a mere stroke of the wind, the spear was tossed to the ground.

The boy mumbled out the incantations of his ancestors, one by one, asking for protection, casting them against the creature. It moved closer.

He collapsed onto the ground, crawling away, his voice still sputtering out the incantations. The being persisted. 

"Who are you!?" He shouted, demanding of it once again. It quietly approached him- reaching what seemed to be a long, thin arm to grab his leg. He kicked at it and it quickly backed away.

He turned to run once again, this way going south-east. The river would be closer this way.

"Remember the river," He thought- running as fast as he could. This was his last idea, and a very creeping inclination he had was that he would not see the dawn.

"Remember the river!" He shouted, seeing it through the wood.

The entity rose up in front of him. He slammed into its chest, and flew back into the dirt and sand.

It kneeled over him, breathing deeply. It grabbed for his neck.

The boy's instinct kicked in, and he grabbed for his spear, wrestling with the creature as it choked him with an inhuman grip.

Kicking and shouting, he jabbed the spear through it, and watched the entity tumble back into the shadows of the forest. He could see it crawl and slither, in wisps across the floor. It remained tangible, present, moving the vine and the leaves.

He darted for the water, his spear left behind. Throwing a rock into the thick, he shouted at it. "Finish me or I will finish you!" He shouted, his adrenaline pumping now.

The entity appeared to respond, floating out from the brush- this time much taller, appearing to have huge shoulders. It seemed overwhelmingly powerful. The boy raised his fists, awaiting its grip again.

It reached down for him, and he leaped into its grip- his arms swinging. He reached for its neck, and felt cold air, nearly freezing surround him. Wrestling it to the ground, he was tossed on the riverbank's sand. Air was punched out of his lungs, and looking up for a moment, noticed the stars again. His minded flooded with the images of his ancestors, watching over him- but they were not involving themselves. Why did they not help? 

He was alone, at his last breath- and... He had to fight. Pushing up again from the ground his pulled the spirit into the river, but in the instant that it was about to hit the water - he noted its reflection. It wasn't there! Instead, he could distinctly see himself standing, not struggling or grimacing.

He fell into the water, the shadow figure becoming submerged.

Standing back- he realized it was not there. 

He fell back, scrambling to regain his composure- what had just happened?

Looking around, he saw nothing. The water cleared, the ripples subsided, and all that remained was his reflection in the cool flowing river.

"Remember the river," he said, understanding now.

The Boy had traveled into the very depths of his heart, into the west, and the night, to come out at last to see this. He smiled into the reflection, and rested on the riverbank. For years he had tentatively catered for the garden in his mind, its various seeds had carried his imagination from one end of the world to the other, had given birth to both hopes and fears, and at last he could see that. "A master of the dream world sees himself clearly in the water's edge," said the shaman once to boy's father. "Your son must be tested, when the time comes- and we will see if he may take my staff, when the time comes."

The sun soon began to show in the east, and a morning fire burned gently. The feast was being prepared for The Man. Before returning, he quietly buried his garments by the river bank, leaving them behind.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thinking about Meditation

How important is it that we feel directly the knowledge imparted to us? Vital! How can we know something truly, without experiencing it? All of the philosophy in the world may not help us, if we do not first stop to listen(Bare attention) to our very essence of mind and body. Is that why so many western philosophers seem to have gotten lost inside their own heads? This is just a quick question, and a reflection. Please, share your thoughts.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Philosophy, Dichotomy and Going Beyond Dualism

A vs B and why that model’s time has passed.

I started my classes again today. The first up was “Philosophy of Mind.” The professor seems to be very into this topic, and for starters made it very intimidating. It’s not that the material is un-readable, but his harsh grading system (A/F) is a little disconcerting. Nevertheless. What is the philosophy of mind? From what I heard today, it’s the study of the mind/body “problem.” That is, how does consciousness arise in the body? Does it? Do we have free will, or if everything is physical, then is choice an illusion? There are many other questions that come up with this topic. We are going to be focusing on the “mind-body” split and how many philosophers chose (no pun intended) to answer it. Some go for the determinist view, the physicalist argument (No free will). Others go for the opposite view: All is mind. Then there are others who attemp to create a middle way, or balance between the perspectives. I personally agree with the third way, but the philosophy of integral has definitely had an influence in me in this respect.

While in class, I couldn’t help but remember the name of a chapter in Grace and Grit by Ken Wilber, “Mind-Body Drop!” A buddhist teacher used this as a koan, or a pointing out instruction for his students. The third topic I’d like to see in this class (though it wasn’t in the syllabus), would be- is there anything more? When mind-body drops, what is left? Or, as the Zen masters might say, what is your original face, before your parents were born?

So this is what we’re focusing on: The mind/body problem. I’d like to think of us as mind-bodies. We are both biological and mental. Being a fan of quantum physics and all related research, I’m somewhat aware that we are learning more about the mind potentially (pun not intended, again) being quantum-related. That is, some aspects of our consciousness can be explained through quantum science. I need to look up the article, but I recently read that protons move roughly around or beyond the speed of light. This would have profound insights into consciousness and how we experience it. 

But, back to the class, “Philosophy of Mind.” I’m going to try not to raise too many questions based on things I’ve read outside of the class. For instance, we know with quantum science that the universe is certainly not deterministic. In fact, it’s all about potential and probability collapsing into our experience. The mind is as much a creator of reality as it is a subject to it. That is, we are biological indeed, and all laws of the universe apply to us, but the brain helps create the experience of reality. It’s our way of interacting with the world, and it has gradually adapted and complicated over the eons. 

I wasn’t aware of this, but the term “science” was hardly used before the scientific revolution. Before then, it was called “natural philosophy.” Philosophy was a part of science, and vice versa. So, I see that as an example of yin-yang relationship that I’d like to see in mind-body theories. 

From what I know, the problem with the ‘physicalists’ or extreme ‘reduction’ is that it cannot yet account for the very basic experience of consciousness. It just can’t explain why on earth we’d have this awareness. 

So, to express my final thoughts on this subject (for now, of course), seeing modern philosophy as a series of “dichotomies” has inherently limited it to dualism, when it has so much more potential. The “problem” of inner mind and outer world can be dispelled, I think, with a third view. Instead of “either/or” let’s look at how “both/and” is possible. Instead of night or day, we have night and day. Life and death are intrinsic, and so why not body-mind? These are all just words, but they point to something more. I think this could be seen as an evolution from traditional philosophy (of dichotomies) to eteology, or the study from beingness. It could be said, the phrase, “I think, I am,” is not digging deep enough. Instead, “I am, I think, I feel, I see,” could help us gain more insight. The space between the words gain importance in an “integral” attitude. The connectivity, the complimenting of once opposing views are deeply valued. Seeing the flex-flow evolution of memes, consciousness and perspective- this is the future of so many things, including philosophy. 

And so, maybe I’ll mention these ideas in class, but either way, I hope to see them in our lives. The tool of stepping back from dualistic thinking does not leave us with idiocy, but the profound silence of transcendent and transrational consciousness.

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