INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber



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Elliot BenjaminElliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 150 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.

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The Non-Polarized Mind
and “Superhuman”

Elliot Benjamin

For Schneider, this awe-inspired living is directly related to a relative non-polarized state of mind in which the contrary views of others are accepted without hatred, resentment, or belligerence.

It has been about a year since Integral Life announced the launching of Ken Wilber's new course Your Superhuman Potential. Soon after this announcement, Frank Visser wrote an Integral World essay entitled The Wolf of Wilber Street: Integral Goes $uperhuman [1] that conveyed Frank's outrage at the marketing and monetary and hype extremes that Wilber and company were embarking on, and included a number of provocative websites that were used to sell their “superhuman” idea to the public (for example, http://www.superhumanos.org) At the time, I remember reading Frank's essay lightly and taking note that here was a significant jump in the integral marketing and hype that I too was not at all happy about. However, about 6 months later, both Frank and I received an audio sent to Integral Life members (I was a short-lived temporary Integral Life member at the time), which resulted in Frank writing a postscript to his essay. Basically Frank conveyed in his postscript that Wilber defended the use of the term “superhuman” by pointing out that the transition to second tier was “a momentous leap” according to Clare Graves, but Frank explained through consulting a Futurist article that “It's all about becoming human—no more, no less.”

Now let me be clear that I still certainly have some of the same reservations about the term “superhuman” that Frank has. However, after listening to Wilber's Integral Life audio tape, I also felt the inclination to give Wilber the benefit of the doubt, that perhaps—just perhaps—he was sincere in wanting to change the world for the better and that this whole “superhuman” marketing brainstorm was what he thought was the best way of reaching the kind of people who would not ordinarily have anything to do with Wilber or Integral. But I must say that what made me feel this inclination more than anything else is the state of the world in being the complete opposite of integral—which in the language of Kirk Schneider [2]—can be called the “polarized mind.”

The Polarized Mind

In his book The Polarized Mind, Kirk Schneider (cf. [2]) has presented a stimulating and impactful analysis of the calculated and savage destructiveness that human beings have immersed themselves in for thousands of years. Although Schneider also depicts pockets of relative non-polarized civility throughout human history, he has skillfully and effectively demonstrated that the elements of polarized destruction have been by far the dominant thrust of how the multitude of human beings have always lived. However, Schneider also offers an alternative to the continued prolonged destructiveness of human beings, and this is deeply involved with his portrayal of awe-inspired living [3].

For Schneider, this awe-inspired living is directly related to a relative non-polarized state of mind in which the contrary views of others are accepted without hatred, resentment, or belligerence. Schneider appropriately includes a number of examples of this kind of non-polarized awe-inspired living form his own work, as well as from the humanistic psychology work of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers [4].

However, perhaps the most relevant theorist who has advocated for the non-polarized mind is not included in Schneider's analysis, and I am speaking about Wilber. This omission of Wilber was certainly intentional on Schneider's part (as I learned from my personal communications with Schneider), and I must agree with Schneider (and a number of Integral World critics) that Wilber's personality and way of responding to critics of his work certainly leaves much to be desired in terms of a model for a non-polarized mind. But on the other hand, it may be worthwhile to separate Wilber's philosophy from his personality, at least for the purpose of shedding more light on the potential of the non-polarized mind in the context of practical philosophy.

One of the most impactful descriptions for me in Schneider's presentation of the polarized mind has been his portrayal of counter-polarizations that begin as humanistic and democratic reactions to authoritarian cold-hearted rulership. An extreme example of this, as Schneider effectively demonstrates, can be seen from the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. However, it is not necessary to engage in an extensive historical analysis to experience this kind of counter-polarization backlash, as we are currently in the midst of its horrible destructiveness as a result of the extreme depravity of the events of the 20th century.

I think that many people would say that the most extreme form of human depravity that ever occurred in human history was Hitler and Nazi Germany, and we are witnessing today the tragic consequences and horrors of all the violence, counter-violence, and terrorism in Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, the Ukraine, and many other places in the world, with no end in sight. The situation in Israel and Palestine is especially intensive for me personally, as I am Jewish and I see Israel's recent bombing of Palestinian military sites that indiscriminately killed many innocent civilians inclusive of many children, as a reaction that is directly related to an extreme polarized backlash for what the Jews suffered under Hitler and the Nazis in World War II. But we don't need to travel anywhere beyond the United States to experience the extreme destructive polarized divisiveness that is culturally dividing the whole country.

I believe that it is exactly the kind of non-polarization which Schneider has poignantly described in his book that is needed to defuse the violent destruction that is overtaking the world today. And I also believe that this kind of non-polarization is part and parcel of the best that integral can offer. Simply put, minus the spiral dynamic “coloring set” [5], we can say integral is the ability to see another's perspective that is different from our own, without the consequential hatred and violence that is horrendously pervasive all over our current world. And I also must say that if “human” has always involved the polarity mindset of the multitudes, as Schneider has described in his book, then perhaps the term “superhuman” is not at all misplaced. Perhaps “superhuman” truly does reflect the ability of a human being to rise above his/her polarity mind conditioning to accept the different perspectives of others—whether it be political, social, religious, or otherwise. And perhaps—just perhaps—the kind of marketing and hype that Wilber and company is engaging in is what is needed to reach the masses in this way?

I'm stretching myself here—no doubt about it—to be open to this “superhuman” marketing and hype by Integral Life. And I am certainly not making any commitment to the cause—I'm just wondering if perhaps some good can come of it if it does reach people who would not ordinarily be reached, and stimulate them to be less “polarized” and more “integral”—in the best sense of the word.

Notes

1) See Frank Visser (2014), The Wolf of Wilber Street: Integral Goes $uperhuman. Retrieved from www.integralworld.net

2) See Kirk Schneider (2013). The Polarized Mind: Why It's Killing Us and What We Can Do About It. University Professors Press: Colorado Springs, CO.

3) See Kirk Schneider (2004). Rediscovery of Awe: Splendor, Mystery, and the Fluid Center of Life. St. Paul, MN: Paragon.

4) See Carl Rogers (1961), On Becoming a Person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin; and Abraham Maslow (1962), Toward a Psychology of Being. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand.

5) See Andy Smith (2014), Put Away Your Crayons, Children: A Response to Joe Perez. Retrieved from www.integralworld.net




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