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Joseph DillardDr. Joseph Dillard is a psychotherapist with over forty year’s clinical experience treating individual, couple, and family issues. Dr. Dillard also has extensive experience with pain management and meditation training. The creator of Integral Deep Listening (IDL), Dr. Dillard is the author of over ten books on IDL, dreaming, nightmares, and meditation. He lives in Berlin, Germany. See:


Why Integral AQAL Has Not Gained Broader Acceptance and What Can Be
Done About It

How the distinction between embodied cognition and abstract reasoning derived from George Lakoff can be used to understand how Integral tends to be its own worst enemy.

Joseph Dillard

The rehabilitation of Integral AQAL requires a recognition of when and how it uses reason in the service of embodied cognition

There is a debate raging within Integral regarding Wilber's critique of evolution. In “The Cosmic Dimensions of Love,” he says that

Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory holds that all these transformations upward were just the result of chance and randomness. But there is no way in hell that the universe went from atoms to Shakespeare out of random stabs. This is an extraordinarily driven process. (EnlightenNext, nr. 47, 2011.)

In The Religion of Tomorrow, Wilber expands on his approach to evolution:

But the notion of a prior involutionary force does much to help with the otherwise impenetrable puzzles of Darwinian evolution, which has tried, ever so un-successfully, to explain why dirt would get up and eventually start writing poetry. But the notion of evolution as Eros, or Spirit-in-action, performing, as Whitehead put it, throughout the world by gently persuasion toward love, goes a long way to explaining the inexorable unfolding from matter to bodies to minds to souls to Spirit's own Self-recognition. (p. 14)

Frank Visser, the custodian of IntegralWorld, has responded to Wilber's position [on evolution] in over thirty essays:

"Eros" is a poetic description that stands for attraction, love, passion, among other things, but "facts" belong to the world of science. So is Wilber offering a scientific theory here, or is he being poetic? Does he even notice the contradiction?
More than some specific theory about evolution, these fragments capture a kind of feeling regarding scientific materialism and its so-called reductionism.
In none of his many works does Ken Wilber actually describe the results evolutionary science has reached in unravelling these complex questions—contrary to the level of detail his writings on psychology have. This betrays an emotional resistance, and an equally emotional attachment to a certain spiritual philosophy of life. Both before and after Darwin, the idea that natural selection could explain evolution was opposed by several ideologies. One of them was Wilber's favorite idea that there's a Force behind evolution, leading to ever (more complex) beings—usually called "finalism" or "vitalism".

Eros as metaphor doesn't bring us any closer to actual mechanisms (notwithstanding Wilber's claims about the "intermediate mechanisms" he proposes) evolution works with. Natural selection stands for a body of arguments that closely mirror empirical processes: population growth, scarcity of food, natural variation, genetic inheritance, survival of the fittest, etc.

While Visser claims that Wilber's view of evolution as “Spirit-in-action” has no scientific credibility, Wilber responds by viewing Visser and those who share his view as being materialistic “flatlanders” and reductionists who negate both the interior quadrants and spirit. How do we understand this chasm between left and right quadrant world views in approaches to integral?

The insights and research of cognitive linguist and philosopher George Lakoff are helpful. Lakoff is perhaps best known in the popular press for his work as a political consultant, due to his analysis of conservativism as appealing to an authoritative “father” model of embodied cognition while liberalism resonates with a nurturing “mother” integration of embodied cognition. In a number of research papers and books, beginning with the 1980 Metaphors We Live By, written with Mark Johnson, Lakoff demonstrated that embodied metaphors largely control the reasoning of humanity. In Why "Rational Reason" Doesn't Work in Contemporary Politics, Lakoff writes,

Real reason is embodied in two ways. It is physical, in our brain circuitry. And it is based on our bodies as the function in the everyday world, using thought that arises from embodied metaphors. And it is mostly unconscious. False reason sees reason as fully conscious, as literal, disembodied, yet somehow fitting the world directly, and working not via frame-based, metaphorical, narrative and emotional logic, but via the logic of logicians alone.

While Lakoff is pointing to an important distinction here, his terminology is both unhelpful and misleading. It is misleading because it states logic is false when it is in fact correct within its own set of a priori assumptions. His choice of words is also misleading because it calls pre-rational cognition “reason,” when at most one can call it sensory and emotionally-grounded experientially-based cognition. His terminology is unhelpful in that it makes logic an enemy of embodied cognition when it doesn't have to be. It also implies that logic and abstract reasoning are not helpful when there is no denying that they have both been instrumental, and continue to be, to human development. Therefore, this essay uses other terminology than Lakoff's to refer to the very helpful distinctions that he makes.

What is important about Lakoff's first type of “reasoning” is that it is embodied and that it involves cognition. Therefore, what he calls “real reason” is referred to here as “embodied cognition.”

What is important about Lakoff's second variety of reasoning is that it is relatively abstracted from sensory and emotional experience. Therefore, what he calls “false reason” is referred to here as “abstract reasoning.”

The relevance of Lakoff's distinction for Integral

When we apply Lakoff's distinction to the framing of Integral AQAL, embodied cognition is prepersonal and pre-rational, because it is grounded in sensory experience on well-researched deeply biological processes as well as upon strong emotional preferences that are linked to these physical states. Together, these largely account for core human sensory and emotional identities. Lakoff has shown, over some four decades, that who we think we are is grounded in sensory and emotional experience mediated by metaphor. This research has produced findings that parallel Integral AQAL's first two stages of prepersonal identification, early and mid-prepersonal.

In his discussion of embodied cognition, Lakoff describes and elaborates the nature, importance, and inescapability of metaphor for cognition. Those thinking about the future have been shown to lean slightly forward while those thinking about the past tend to lean back; friendliness is associated with physical warmth while antipathy is connected bodily with coldness; immorality is associated physically with contamination; that which is deemed important is experienced as weighing more than that which is considered unimportant. All of these are examples of embodied metaphors—cognition that is physically anchored, pre-rational, prepersonal, and which gives rise to specific and often strong emotions. Embodied cognition supports our sensory and emotional identities. As such, it is strongly associated with the relational exchanges of safety and status. The metaphorical language of embodied cognition is also the natural language of dreams, implying that dreaming is strongly identified with the sorts of “reasoning” that are natural for early and mid-prepersonal levels of development. Embodied cognition uses abstract reasoning, such as logic, in the service of sensory and emotional priorities, world views, and a narrow, prepersonal sense of self. It uses abstract reasoning to justify and rationalize the pursuit of this or that relational exchange, whether physical, emotional, mental, transpersonal, or non-dual.

Lakoff's abstract reasoning is correlated with AQAL mid-personal level rationality and logic. While Lakoff makes the mid-personal the enemy of the prepersonal, Wilber's dialectically-based approach of “transcend and include” more accurately reflects the developmental research of Piaget, Kohlberg, Loevinger, Cook-Greuter, Kegan, and many others. The problem is that AQAL typically assumes that because the cognitive line leads and we show rational proficiency in this or that line or “silo” of competency, that emotion is on the whole subsumed within, and in the service of rationality. Lakoff does not at all believe this to be the case, and I concur. He makes a very strong case that almost all abstract rationality is in the service of prepersonal embodied cognition and a sense of self that is strongly identified with both our senses and emotions.

Transpersonal openings often use embodied metaphors, such as “enlightenment,” “stream crossing,” “the void,” “white light,” or “divine spark.” Anchoring transpersonal communication in embodied cognition is powerful and persuasive, giving the listener a resonance with their own most centrally-held sensory and emotional realities. However, while that resonance can easily feel confirmatory, it may not be. It could signify a prepersonal state opening or simply someone who is skilled in the art of evocative language.

If we look at Wilber's description of evolution from the perspective of poetic metaphor, we can see how it bears a strong resemblance to Lakoff's embodied cognition. Wilber's description of the workings of evolution as Eros “Spirit-in-action” is metaphorical, emotional, and sensory-based. However, it draws upon scientific sources of abstract reasoning, by citing noted evolutionists, for support of a position which is essentially embodied cognition. Visser is getting at this distinction when he points to the poetic, metaphorical, and emotional elements in Wilber's approach as well as to its failure to pass the tests of abstract reasoning, as represented by mainstream research into evolutionary processes.

The importance of different truth criteria

The way we can tell the difference between prepersonal and pre-rational embodied cognition, on the one hand, and personal/rational abstract reasoning on the other, is that they have different priorities. The priorities of embodied cognition are driven by emotions, mainly our emotional attachment to our sense of who we are, which is another way of describing Wilber's Atman Project. The goal is to validate our sense of self, the world view and script injunctions that determine our identity, choices, and actions. Embodied cognition justifies or rationalizes these by entraining abstract reasoning in support of pre-rational priorities and agendas. As William James noted, when we are thinking we are mostly rearranging our prejudices. We do so while all the while remaining convinced that we are not only logical and rational, but in the case of Integral AQAL, trans-rational, and aperspectival-integral in our reasoning.

In contrast, abstract reasoning uses emotion to give meaning and value to the results of the pursuit of an empirically-based epistemology. While the hallmark of embodied cognition is belief bolstered by metaphor anchored in sensory and emotional lived experience, the priority of abstract reasoning is reason bolstered by doubt, skepticism, questioning, and adherence to structured methodologies of logic and empiricism. The objectivity that is provided by questioning makes personal level reasoning abstract. While “Bones,” or Leonard McCoy, the emotionally reactive physician in Star Trek, provides a caricature of embodied cognition, Spock provides the same for abstract reasoning. Captain Kirk is supposed to represent the integration of the two, although in my estimation he fails in important ways.

Integral's dependency on embodied cognition

Wilber is a transpersonal adept, particularly of the causal and non-dual dimensions, as well as a pandit, or spiritual teacher. The foundation of Wilber's world view lies in his deep and profound personal mystical openings, which are fundamentally experiential. He found broad and foundational truth for himself as well as what he believed to be truths for humanity through his mystical experiences. Integral AQAL appears at times to use abstract reasoning to justify, rationalize, and validate prepersonal and pre-rational embodied cognitions. This can be observed in Wilber's hypothesis of “Eros” and “Spirit-in-action” as well as with his dismissive attitude toward and adversarial relationship with his critics. Much of his work correlating the experiences of mystics world-wide can be viewed as an appeal to the coherence and correspondence theories of truth to validate his own personal mystical experiences.

Problems with Integral truth claims

Appeals to personal experience are fundamentally phenomenologically-based truth claims based on the coherence theory of truth. If you or I have a mystical experience of transpersonal oneness it will probably appear to be universal to us. It will probably appear to disclose absolute, universal truth, and therefore a domain by which coherence is determined. That which coheres with the mystical oneness we experienced, with its perspective on life and the world view it provides, is true, and that which does not is not true. This is coherence as a measure of truth in the context of transpersonal experiences.

Although extraordinarily universal, mystical experiences are inevitably subjective, and profoundly so. The universality of these experiences causes us to deny their subjective nature. However, it seems impossible to deny that all transformative mystical experiences of oneness are inevitably conditioned by our own psychology, including Kant's categories, as well as by our biological inheritance. In addition, as Wilber points out in Integral Spirituality, experiences of enlightenment are inevitably conditioned by the socio-cultural contexts in which they occur. Therefore, those who have such experiences bear the burden of proof to demonstrate that their claims of universality transcend such personal, subjective, and environmental conditioning factors. And this they must do to support the claim that their experiences are coherent with an absolute framing of truth. In my estimation, they have not succeeded in doing so.

Personal mystical experiences such as Wilber's are supported and validated by appeals to the collaborative testimonies of mystics - trans-cultural adepts in the line of spiritual intelligence. These are fundamentally appeals to the correspondence theory of truth and are therefore subject to the limitations of this theory, which are well-known. These include doubts about either the objective reality of personal experience or recognition of its inherent subjectivity. As soon as the defender of the correspondence theory of truth offers a theory of the world, he or she is operating in some specific ontological or scientific theory, which stands in need of justification. The only way to support the truth of this theory of the world that is allowed by the correspondence theory of truth is correspondence to the real world, with the result that the argument is circular. To the extent that we cannot escape our personal and collective filtering, generated by both psychological and socio-cultural contexts, the correspondence theory of truth reduces to a correspondence between ideas about truth and ideas of the world, whereupon it becomes a coherence theory of truth.

Both the correspondence and coherence theories of truth, fundamental to the truth claims of Integral AQAL, collapse for these reasons. But there is much of value in Integral AQAL. Because these theories of truth are not sufficient to support its validity, we cannot conclude that Integral AQAL is neither useful nor provides important truths. It does. What we therefore can conclude is that there must be other measures of truth to support its strengths. What might they be?

Abstract reasoning

As noted above, we typically believe that we are exercising analytic reasoning—that is, that our arguments are rational in the sense of logical and “scientific.” Behind the reasons we give to support any argument lie a world view and a sense of self, both of which our truth claims are meant to uphold. Abstract reasoning is typically enlisted in support of the maintenance of the self and its sources of meaning, not the other way around. This is because self development is normally our priority, not the pursuit of reason for reason's sake.

How can we know whether our abstract reasoning is in the service of pre-rational embodied cognition or whether we are indeed subordinating the pre-rational, including our emotional attachment to our world view and our identity, to abstract reasoning? If Lakoff is correct and 98% of reasoning is embodied, how can we dismiss the possibility that our analytic reasoning is not simply in the service of embodied reasoning? Occam's Razor, the Law of Parsimony, tells us, that from the perspective of abstract reasoning, this is likely to be the case.

The realistic conclusion to draw is that if we have mystical experiences, we are likely to convince ourselves that they represent transpersonal and universal truths when they most likely represent personal transpersonal states of embodied cognition. Prepersonal state access is being mistaken for transpersonal level attainment. We know the truth; in some sense we experience ourselves as one with that universal truth, and therefore as having attained a transpersonal level of development that is a window on universal truths.

Not recognizing that we have confused access to a prepersonal state of oneness with attainment of a transpersonal stage of development, either because of the transformational universality of our experience or because we have come to base our identity, and therefore the meaning of our existence upon it, we conclude that we have stabilized at transpersonal levels of self development when we have in fact entrained abstract reasoning in the service of prepersonal embodied reasoning.

If this is the case for Wilber's interpretation of his own mystical experience, based on a reliance on a coherence theory of truth, and on the testimony of mystics throughout history, in an appeal to the correspondence theory of truth, then this appears to be a violation, by Wilber, of his own pre-trans fallacy. Personal anecdotal transpersonal state access is taken to be permanent transpersonal level attainment.

Without passing the truth tests of abstract reasoning one cannot claim transpersonal levels, but only states, because just as the rational includes and then transcends the prepersonal, so transpersonal level attainment must include the rational. You can't skip the personal, the rational, and its empirical truth tests. You can't believe you are rational and therefore skip reasoning, logic, questioning, skepticism, and doubt of your own knowingness. For those with an investment in both embodied reasoning and their own personal, experiential truth, this conclusion may feel cold, uncaring, and abstract. It may feel as if it denies the emotional vitality of human experience. However, Wilber himself accepts this principle, and attempts to apply it to the transpersonal in his concept of “three eyes,” based on an abstract and rational criterion of truth, the three strands of empiricism, in an attempt to place integral on a foundation of abstract reasoning and not simply embodied cognition.

Clearly, the solution lies in a “Kirk” synthesis of embodied and abstract reasoning, not an “either/or” dichotomy between them. In order to do so, we must first authentically understand and embody both. This is something that most of us claim to do, or to have accomplished, but the most likely conclusion is that we are conflating an intellectual understanding of such integration with actual integration. For example, it is one thing to understand Wilber's poetic “centaur” metaphor for the integration of the prepersonal and personal at the stage of vision-logic, or to even access it on the cognitive and self-system lines, and another thing entirely to be grounded in an overall stage sense at that level. This is a much higher, more difficult claim with much more stringent criteria, and therefore, much more skepticism and doubt toward such claims is realistic.

The cognitive bias to rule out is that emotionally, on the level of embodied reason, we are confident, even convinced, that we have integrated embodied and abstract reasoning, when in fact we probably haven't. Visser's analysis of Wilber's treatment of evolution provides evidence that Wilber has not. And if Wilber has not, how much less likely is it that you and I have? For myself, I can confidently assert no, I have not, and that it would be pure hubris for me to believe that I have.

Consequently, claims of attainment to transpersonal levels are most likely to be in the service of sustaining the Atman Project—a belief in a sense of self that is threatened with cognitive dissonance by challenges to its view of itself and life. The theory to rule out is that we all suffer from this disease and that Wilber does so as well. Claims of 2nd Tier, “turquoise,” “yellow,” or “coral” levels of development are most likely not only hubris, but pure self-delusion. That is a reasonable assumption until some truth criteria beyond those of coherence and correspondence are met. But what could those be?

Steps toward integration of the prepersonal embodied cognitive and personal abstract reasoning

People who favor embodied cognition but who claim to meet the criteria of abstract reasoning need to make sure they understand and have dealt with four different categories, any of which can undercut their credibility:

  • Out-group consensus
  • Cognitive biases
  • Emotional cognitive distortions
  • Logical fallacies

As with alcoholics anonymous, the first step is admitting one's addiction. This is essentially a taking up of humility. It is the perspective that the Oracle of Delphi claimed for Socrates, when asked who was the wisest man in Greece: Socrates was, because he knew that he didn't know. Wilber, on the other hand, like many who have had mystical or anomalous experiences, knows. This knowledge is based either on personal anecdotal experiences or collective anecdotal experiences, or both. But neither of these (based on coherence and comparative tests of truth) pass the empirical truth tests of abstract reasoning.

Wilber believes that applying the three strands of empiricism, that is, 1) injunctions or instructions, 2) following them by performing the experiment, and 3) validation through peer consensus, demonstrates that mysticism is indeed transpersonal. However, this argument is based on an in-group correspondence theory of truth which itself collapses into a subjective coherence theory of truth. This explains why his argument has not been found to be persuasive within the empirical community of science.

Out-group consensus

It seems a common human failing to insist upon the objectivity of our personal experience when study after study has demonstrated that it is inherently subjective, regardless of how universally applicable we are convinced it is. It is one thing to find validation through correspondence among like-minded individuals who comprise in-groups, such as fellow integralists, who share our assumptions, experiences, and perspectives, and finding validation through assessments by out-groups, those who do not share our assumptions, experiences, and perspectives, but who do share some common, bedrock definition of truth and a methodology for its determination. This is the empirical method and truth as validation by those performing similar experiments, particularly when they are not members of our in-groups.

For example, it is one thing for peers in meditation to validate a world view that is based on our own mystical experiences, as Wilber describes in the empiricism of the eye of spirit; it is quite another to deal with peers in mysticism and the transpersonal who have performed similar experiments and reached different conclusions. An example would be meditating scientists who support Darwinism. Typically, the response of True Believers will be that such individuals did not follow the instructions and for one reason or another did not conduct the same experiment, and therefore they are not peers, and so are incapable of assessing the truth of the evidence. However, isn't it reasonable to assume that at least some out-groups are knowledgeable, know some things that we do not, and have legitimately arrived at completely different conclusions? True Believers deny this possibility, but it is both the simplest and more probable explanation and therefore the one to be ruled out. Out-group validation may not be so important when out-groups are a minority, but when they represent a majority in a field of abstract reasoning, we discount their perspectives at our own peril.

It is also important to not allow the burden of proof to be shifted from realms in which there is broad consensus to exceptional claims. As Carl Sagan famously said, “Exceptional claims require exceptional evidence.” If one cannot or will not provide such evidence, blaming out-group consensus and attempting to shift responsibility to the intransigence of non-believers is merely an attempt to change the subject.

An example is the sensory-based claim that Earth is the center of the universe and that the sun revolves around the earth. This is the consensus version of reality provided to us by our senses, and those who claimed otherwise, like Galileo and Copernicus, made exceptional claims that demanded exceptional proof. However, when those exceptional claims were verified by independent researchers operating in the realm of abstract reason, then the positions of out-groups and in-groups shifted. Today, those who continue to believe in geocentrism are the ones making exceptional claims, as are those who contend a heliocentric world view is more accurate than a non-local view of the cosmos.

In light of this process, famously explored by Thomas Kuhn in his studies of the upending of paradigms, we are wise to view our world views, identity, and core truths as provisional at best while deferring to out-group consensus. Because I am not a scientific researcher specializing in some field related to global warming, I defer to the judgment of the broad consensus of researchers in their conclusions. For me they are an out-group, and they are in a position to better provide truth based on both embodied cognition and abstract reason than I am on that particular subject. Because I am not an expert in fields related to the study of evolution, I defer to the judgment of the broad consensus of researchers in that field in their conclusions, for similar reasons.

The basic challenge for Integral is whether or not it is willing to subject its interior quadrant views of truth and reality to broad-based conclusions of out-groups, such as the scientific consensus in the lower right quadrant, and to subordinate its subjective assessments of moral development to consensus judgments of ethical behavior in the lower right quadrant. In both of these areas, for Integral AQAL to move its theoretical brilliance from cult status to collective acceptance and applicability, it is going to have to do a far better job.

Cognitive biases

We now know that human decision-making is routinely directed by over one hundred biologically inherited cognitive biases. Some of these are devised to generate approximation so as to speed the process of decision-making at the cost of accuracy. Another group exists to validate our sense of self, reduce cognitive dissonance, increase our emotional comfort, and fight off perceived threat. It is this second group of cognitive biases that, when left unrecognized, reduces the credibility of Integral AQAL and integralists.

Wilber's confirmation bias provides one example. Confirmation bias is a cognitive bias that favors, interprets, and recalls information in ways that affirms our prior beliefs or hypotheses. When we gather or remember information selectively or interpret it in a biased way, confirmation bias is in evidence. It is most often observed in conjunction with deeply entrenched beliefs and emotionally-charged issues.

When Wilber cites mainstream evolutionists such as Nobel prize winner Ilya Prigogine to bolster his position that there is an internal upward drive within matter, he distorts Prigogine's position to confirm his own bias. Prigogine's actual position is that of an external downward, entropic drive of energy flowing through matter, with an occasional upward movement that generates evolving life. (Visser, F. Ken Wilber and the Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness. When Wilber states that Neo-Darwinism holds that evolution is due to “chance and randomness,” this is a misrepresentation of its position, because Neo-Darwinism gives equal weight to variability and heredity as well. By remembering information about Neo-Darwinism selectively, Wilber is demonstrating confirmation bias as well as creating a straw man logical fallacy, by misrepresenting the position of Neo-Darwinism as based on randomness and then proceeding to attack it on those grounds.

Emotional cognitive distortions

These are hallmarks of embedded cognition, at least in its malevolent presentation, because they are all examples of “reasoning” in the service of emotion. These include black and white or polarized thinking, filtering (similar to confirmation bias), jumping to conclusions, overgeneralization (exaggeration), catastrophizing, absolutist language (“always,” “never”), the control fallacy (you are either a victim of that outside your control or assume more control than you actually possess), the fallacy of fairness (life should be fair), blaming, “shoulding on yourself,” personalization (It's all about me”), global labeling (Integral, Spiral Dynamic color jargon), always being right, and emotional reasoning (“I feel it; therefore it must be true”). Once identified, emotional cognitive distortions are relatively easy to spot and call out. Once eliminated from speech, they tend to extinguish in thought as well, with the result that embedded cognition becomes much healthier. It is impossible to live a life outside of emotionally-driven embedded cognition and drama without coming to grip with emotional cognitive distortions, and those who use them are signaling that they are victims of their own embedded cognition.

Logical fallacies

While logical fallacies are personal level rational manifestations of reason, they may safely be assumed to be in the service of pre-rational embodied cognition when they appear. Their presence provides compelling evidence that the speaker's entire “rational” position is not rational at all, but instead a pre-rational one dressed up in formal attire, rather like Frankenstein's monster “Puttin' on the Ritz.” Logical fallacies are essentially manipulative power plays intended to shift control and advantage to the interests of the speaker. The need for control is a powerful prepersonal driver and motivator of embodied cognition, as well as the pursuit of fundamental relational exchanges of wealth, security, and status. Common logical fallacies include ad hominem, or attacking the person instead of the argument; “Straw man,” or misrepresenting the argument and proceeding to triumphantly knock it down; appeals to authority rather than evidence; citing authorities outside their areas of expertise, such as non-scientists wrapping themselves in quantum everything; not following Occam's Razor, or giving priority to the simplest explanation that covers available data; making non-falsifiable claims (“Eros drives evolution”); and appeal to ignorance, that is, the claim that whatever has not been proven false must be true. There are many more.

If we aspire to abstract reasoning, as a necessary prelude to the integration of embodied cognition and abstract reasoning and to the access of any transpersonal level, there is no alternative to learning to recognize logical fallacies, asking others to call us out when they believe we are using one, and doing the same with others in conversation. Doing so will not make you a popular person. You may be called “anal” or more interested in being right and winning arguments than you are at respecting others. However, logical fallacies are deeply disrespectful in that they are underhanded and manipulative attempts to entrain abstract reasoning to the agendas of embodied cognition. This is not to imply that the priorities of embodied cognition are necessarily bad, wrong, or false, but only that the methods of supporting them can be respectful or not, and those that are not need to be identified and called out.


The rehabilitation of Integral AQAL requires a recognition of when and how it uses reason in the service of embodied cognition as opposed to either using emotion in support of abstract reasoning or to achieve a higher order centauric synthesis of the two. Tip-offs that reason is entrained in the service of embodied cognition include appeals to coherence and correspondence theories of truth to support truth claims derived from mystical experiences, as well as appeals to in-groups instead of to objective methodological standards agreed to by both in-groups and out-groups, such as the three strands of the scientific method.

Beware of claims that transpersonal or non-dual anything are more than temporary state access. Assume that access to mystical experiences of oneness is most likely immersion in prepersonal states of embodied cognition until proven otherwise. Do not allow yourself to succumb to claims that Occam's Razor is reductionistic. That which covers the relevant data with the fewest axioms or presuppositions is the most likely explanation; there is nothing reductionistic about that. Remember that majority out-groups do not carry the burden of proof because exceptional claims require exceptional proof. Identify and call out emotional cognitive distortions, cognitive biases, and logical fallacies wherever you think you find them, particularly within your own thinking. Be humble. Remember there is a great deal more that you do not know than you do know, and that some of what you do not know may be critical to your development.

When Visser writes regarding Wilber on evolution, “More than some specific theory about evolution, these fragments capture a kind of feeling regarding scientific materialism and its so-called reductionism,” he is pointing out that Wilber's Eros as Spirit-in-action approach to evolution is based on embodied cognition, and that Wilber is using abstract reason to support prepersonal, pre-rational embodied cognition. If integralists want to reach a broader audience, they are going to have to stop doing so and instead start using embodied cognition to support abstract reason as a preliminary to the integration of both.

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