An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

powered by TinyLetter
Today is:
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
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:


Reposted from with permission of the author.

‘Aperspectival Madness’

Why and How AQAL Grossly Overestimates
Your Level of Development

Joseph Dillard


Ken Wilber’s Integral AQAL (all quadrants, lines, levels, states and types) and spiritual elites in general have lost a great deal of credibility due to largely backing a neo-liberal agenda in the last US Presidential campaign. We might say it brought long simmering problems to an undeniable head. By emphasizing “progress” into yet higher developmental stages over balancing basic developmental lines of cognition, morality, empathy and self, and by emphasizing the understanding of a cognitive multi-perspectival map of reality, rather than walking the experiential multi-perspectival territory itself, spiritual elites have highly over-estimated their level of development overall, but particularly their level of moral development. This essay outlines how spiritual elites have gotten off the rails and the types of experiential and multi-perspectival integral life practices that are necessary to bring elites not only into balance, but provide a measure of authenticity that they require if they are going to be respected by the general public.

The following is taken from “Healing Integral,” which is available as a free or “pay what feels right” download here. In either case, the text is requested by emailing A summary of “Healing Integral” has been posted on and is available here. Those who share a solution focus on increasing the relevance of Integral for the world are invited to join our working group, the Integral Healing Reading Group on Facebook.
Intentionality and judgment are not measures of morality in the public domain; trustworthiness is.

In his treatise, Trump and a Post-Truth World: An Evolutionary Self-Correction, Wilber frames the election of Trump and the explosive reaction to it that continues to this day as fallout from “aperspectival madness.”

“Beginning over two decades ago, with the book Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, I summarized this postmodern disaster with the term "aperspectival madness", because the belief that there is no truth -- that no perspective has universal validity (the "aperspectival" part)—when pushed to extremes, as postmodernism was about to do, resulted in massive self-contradictions and ultimate incoherency (the "madness" part). And when aperspectival madness infects the leading-edge of evolution, evolution's capacity for self-direction and self-organization collapses.”

In this statement, Wilber recognizes that it is not only the usual suspects, that is, government, politicians, the political parties, the media and the universities, that are infected with “aperspectival madness;” it’s not only all those “others” we like to bash as asleep, dreaming, and badly in need of understanding Integral AQAL. He recognizes that aperspectival madness “infects the leading-edge of evolution,” which strongly infers Integral AQAL itself, Wilber, you and me. “We have met the enemy and he is us.”[1] How could this be?

Wilber has for years and through multiple writings blamed aperspectival madness on our capture by the dark side of the late personal stage of development, which he refers to as the “mean green meme.”

“…Its broad-minded pluralism slipped into a rampant and runaway relativism (collapsing into nihilism), and the notion that all truth is contextualized (or gains meaning from its cultural context) slid into the notion that there is no real universal truth at all, there are only shifting cultural interpretations (which eventually slid into a widespread narcissism). Central notions (which began as important "true but partial" concepts, but collapsed into extreme and deeply self-contradictory views) included the ideas that all knowledge is, in part, a cultural construction; all knowledge is context-bound; there are no privileged perspectives; what passes for "truth" is a cultural fashion, and is almost always advanced by one oppressive force or another (racism, sexism, eurocentrism, patriarchy, capitalism, consumerism, greed, environmental exploitation); the utter, absolutely unique, and absolutely equal value of each and every human being, often including animals (egalitarianism).”

The implication is that cultural elites, including ourselves, have evolved at least to a late personal stage of development and have gotten stuck there. Wilber also indicates that the cure for aperspectival madness lies in our movement as individuals and a culture to a more integral perspective:

“It's widely acknowledged that postmodernism as a philosophy is now dead; and books are everywhere starting to appear that are written about "What comes next?" (with no clear winner yet, but the trend is toward more evolutionary and more systemic—more integral—views). But in academia and the universities, it is a long, slow death, and most teachers still teach some version of postmodernism and its aperspectival madness even if they have many deep doubts themselves. But it's telling that virtually every major developmental model in existence contains, beyond the stage generally known as "pluralistic," at least a stage or two variously called "integrated," "systemic," "integral," or some such, all of which overcome the limitations of a collapsed pluralism through a higher-level wholeness and unity, thus returning to a genuine "order out of chaos."”

In short, the solution lies in what has been called “the myth of progress,” the idea, popularized as early as the 1700’s by Diderot, and strengthened in the 19th century by its linkage to evolution by Darwin and Spencer, that if humanity will only grow, that it will evolve itself out of misery, suffering, ignorance and stupidity. The myth of progress is a strong, fundamental statement of meaning in the face of nihilism, of betting on the forces of negentropy in the face of overwhelming evidence of entropy, on aspiration and inspiration over a humanity “red in tooth and claw,” as Alfred, Lord Tennyson famously put it.

Trump and a Post-Truth World

Progress is an ascensionist theology, which has given pause not only to descensionists, such as both secular humanists and the Gaia worshippers, but also those who attempt to find a balance between these two opposing evolutionary forces. In what follows, we will question both the belief in the primacy of progress, an assumption upon which the edifice of AQAL largely depends, and the idea that elites have not only arrived at late personal, but have been seduced by the Mean Green Meme. From our perspective, this is a far too generous assessment.

Since his earliest writings, Wilber has been very careful to balance ascensionist and descensionist forces, framed repeatedly as evolutionary and involutionary arms of spirit, and he continues to do so up to this day, in The Religion of Tomorrow. However, as we shall see, Integral AQAL views the salvation of humanity in transcending our stuckness and rising into 2nd Tier, or Vision-Logic perspectives, or higher, into the transpersonal. Leading edge elites, such as ourselves, need to overcome their stuckness and grow into authentic examples of the values they profess. To do so, an “evolutionary self-correction” is required. We agree with Wilber, but the evolutionary self-correction that is required is not only different than what Wilber prescribes; it challenges some fundamental assumptions of AQAL. It does so not to be oppositional or to paint Wilber, who I greatly respect, deluded or wrong, but as a genuine attempt to objectively reframe how we got ourselves stuck in this “legitimization crisis” so that we can make an authentic evolutionary self-correction, as Wilber proposes, and get on with the advance of humanity. The broader context asks how we can best move beyond the current melt-down of society, embarrassingly obvious in the failure of elites, both spiritual and secular, to lead.

The importance of balance

As has been discussed in depth in Healing Integral, what Wilber’s critique in Trump leaves out, misses, or ignores, is the difficulty, if not impossibility, of arriving at, much less maintaining, higher levels of integration when fundamental requisite elements have not attained or managed to maintain some minimal level of balance. This is not only a failure to balance the four quadrants of intention, culture, behavior and interaction, but the four core lines of cognition, morality, empathy and self. (We use “empathy” rather than Wilber’s “relationship” because empathy is the core characteristic or sub-line for the evolution of relationship.)

The higher any organism moves on the developmental ladder, the broader and more stable its supportive lower rungs must be in order to sustain increased altitude. The visual of a pyramid provides an appropriate model, an analogy mined by Wilber in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality.[2] The greater the altitude, the broader the foundational levels must be to provide required support. You can’t retrofit a broader base to your pyramid; you have to build a broad base according to the altitude you want to attain. We see an example of the problem in the Bent Pyramid of Dashur. An early attempt at pyramid building, the Egyptians did not initially figure correctly how broad the base had to be to sustain the height they wanted to attain. The result was something less than a perfect pyramid.[3]

In visual and idealistic contrast, most depictions of Integral development either show a widening spiral or an inverted pyramid, in an attempt to depict a broadening of consciousness as each level transcends as well as includes the last. The trade-off made by this depiction is that it ignores, minimizes, overlooks or flat-out denies the dependency of higher levels on lower ones and our increased requirements for lower level stability, the higher our elevation. The implication of this popular AQAL visual of an inverted pyramid/spiral is that expansion and the minimization of the importance of hierarchy are visually and conceptually favored over the depiction of a breadth and depth in foundational structures and processes that are fundamental and necessary pre-requisites for any level of development at all. While such depictions are useful bones to throw to descensionists and those who argue that AQAL is egg-headed patriarchical hierarchy intended to suppress the salvation of mankind through the advance of feminine communal egalitarianism and pluralism, the problem is that this inverted pyramid model and whatever ideology has been used to advance it, has not prevented the current “legitimation crisis” or prevented the painful subsequent “evolutionary self-correction.” On the contrary, it supports and maintains an untethered idealism that invites them. We therefore might be wise to consider the less politically correct but perhaps more realistic possibilities presented by a revisiting of the pyramid model.[4]

The justification for the use of inverted spirals and the concepts they emphasize over dull, patriarchical, hierarchical pyramids is more basic than mere pandering to political correctness. More fundamentally, it is the triumph of the interior quadrants over the exterior. Consciousness, intention and judgement, won out, at least among the spiritual elites, over the social commons, where objective and collective criteria of progress determine reality. As explored at some depth in Healing Integral, Wilber clearly, adamantly, importantly and wisely presents an emphasis on the interior quadrants as a necessary antidote to the flatland of both modernism and the aperspectival madness of post-modernism. However, tetra-mesh requires all four quadrants in balance. “Tetra-mesh” is Wilber’s term for the degree of balance in the four quadrants of the human holon (behavior, interaction, culture and intention) required to move up a story in our developmental skyscraper. Most of the time we are moving furniture and achieving balance on our current level. After childhood, we rarely achieve enough balance to move up a level in our overall development, although we may have mastered many levels in individual lines, particularly in our cognitive line, but often also excelling in non-essential lines, such as mathematics, music, sport, dance, or even meditative objectivity.

The requirement of tetra-mesh indicates that while AQAL’s emphasis on consciousness provided a needed and necessary compensation for the objectification of reality as a realm of observable “its,” our current “legitimation crisis,” implies that this favoritism has gone too far and become unhinged. It has itself swung into aperspectival madness.

If nature planned in advance for you and I to attain to what we call transpersonal altitudes, then our foundational physiospheric and noospheric levels are broad enough to sustain those elevations. However, if we find ourselves unable to attain and maintain such heights, one possible explanation is that nature exists in the here and now; it plans for the present, not according to some future master plan it wants to roll out. If that is the case, then it may be that we do indeed lack the breadth of foundational levels to easily sustain the altitudes that we desire.

The correction of this problem is not impossible, but it does not lie in continuing onward and upward, as dogmatists of every stripe do, or with the myth of progress, as Wilber suggests in advocating lifting (or pushing) people up into 2nd Tier. There are some issues that continued movement forward will not and cannot address. We can’t just outgrow genetic errors and birth defects, no matter how much positive thinking we do or how much we embrace conceptual multi-perspectivalism.

The problem is that, to prevent dangerously over-extending the height of a pyramid beyond what its base can support, advanced planning is required. We have to not only build higher levels, as Wilber and the myth of progress advocate, but we have to continuously go back to broaden our base in order to sustain the higher altitudes we desire. These regressions are “evolutionary self-corrections,” a good term, because it reframes regression not as dysfunctional, but as appropriate antithesis, a necessary step in the developmental dialectic. However, even with such positive re-framing, restructuring foundational levels is not an easy thing to do. When you already have a noospheric, cognitive mansion reaching like a Tower of Babyon into the sky, complete with a very territorial and self-entitled owner living within it, there is going to be serious resistance. Expect it.

We will explore approaches to foundational upgrades below as an alternative to the “forge ahead” approach usually (but not always) advocated by Wilber and which is supported by conceptual and visual models that contradict the non-sexy but practical and grounding visual of a pyramid.

Why and how we create imbalance

It appears to be human nature, whatever that is, to emphasize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses, our future possibilities instead of our past limitations. While we can observe this tendency in animals as well, this favoritism is greatly increased for humans due to various social pressures, such as praise for success and punishment for failure, leading us to emphasize those areas where success is more likely and minimize or ignore those areas in which we are weak, and where failure, and therefore both self-criticism and a loss of social status are more likely.

Balance is hardly as glamorous as genius. Balance doesn’t sell books, win contracts or gain clients. Most people are looking to buy “gee whiz” moments of catharsis, insight and inspiration, not discipline and responsibility. They want the freedom they associate with comfort and validation, not the freedom that comes from effort and learning from failure. Like an addictive fix, mystical and near death experiences, psychic phenomena and claims to enlightenment lure us because we want to believe in ourselves and our specialness. We want to believe that perfection is always already present and we don’t have to do shit to earn it or deserve it. It is not only that hope blinds reason; it is that aspiration runs off and leaves our pre-requisite need for balance. Look at the disciples of secular and spiritual gurus of your choice and draw your own conclusions.

How our over-emphasis of the cognitive line prevents development

The problem this creates is a fundamental and a significant contributor to our present “legitimization crisis.” The more we emphasize our strong suite of the four core lines, cognition, while minimizing our weak ones, morality and empathy, the more unbalanced our development becomes. Our house might not be built on sand, but even if we build a well-designed mansion, it is downright foolish to construct a skyscraper on top of it. This is what an expanding spiral implies and why we need to reconsider the practical functionality of a pyramid, where most of the effort, breadth and width is not at the top, but at the bottom. If we do not, we lack the foundational breadth and width to support our aspirations. Like Icarus, we fly too high.

This problem most clearly shows up in genius, in which mathematical, musical or meditative savants typically show vast gaps in competencies most people take for granted, like communication skills or a concern about physical health. This is where the balancing of the four core lines becomes critical. The more intensively cognition excels and the self-line identifies with cognition, the more difficult it is to maintain overall balance, as more energy is poured into thinking, leaving less for our lagging moral and empathetic lines.

These lines have to lag if the cognitive line leads and the self line is comprised of all four (and additionally, other, non-core lines). But because morality and empathy naturally and necessarily lag, it does not mean that we can afford to ignore them or discount their importance, since they create and support the credibility and authenticity of both the cognitive and self lines. Without healthy, strong moral and empathetic lines both the cognitive and self lines are hollow and superficial. Healing Integral supplies a number of examples of this important and fundamental reality. A strong case can be made that attention to your moral and empathetic lines is more important than your cognitive line because you, as well as your socio-cultural contexts, are going to naturally favor your cognitive line, since it is used for everyday thinking and problem-solving and because your sense of who you are naturally tends to identify with what you think. Subsequently, your cognitive line will tend to take care of itself, to grow on its own, unlike your moral and empathetic lines. As we shall see, there are normally strong social and cultural headwinds that support your focus on your cognitive line and also support your avoidance, dismissing or minimizing of the importance of your moral and empathetic lines. It takes vigilance and discipline to become aware of and counteract these major socio-cultural preferences.

Our cognitive line leads

For Integral theory, as well as for you and me, the strongest of these four lines, by far, is cognition. This is because, as Wilber repeatedly tells us, “the cognitive line leads.” It should. Awareness is a pre-requisite to change, and understanding is a pre-requisite to healthy, planned change. In addition, there are huge social reinforcers for developing a strong cognitive line. Our educational system demands it, for good reason; most professional career paths leading to economic security and status require it. With notable but unlikely exceptions in the arenas of art and sport, society generally demands that the cognitive line lead.[5] This strong emphasis on the cognitive line is closely related to the afore-mentioned myth of progress which, while tied to the rise of modernism, we have seen is also a foundational assumption of Integral AQAL itself.

Our cognitive line also leads because it provides the ability to objectify both experience and our sense of who we are so that we can not only manipulate things, feelings and ideas but also disassociate from them, turning distal selves into proximal ones. The progression made possible by noospheric advance in the cognitive line is to recognize “I am not my body,” (disidentification from early prepersonal leading to identification with mid-prepersonal), “I am not my feelings,” (disidentification from mid-prepersonal leading to identification with late prepersonal), “I am not the world,” (disidentification from late prepersonal leading to identification with early personal), “I am not my social roles,” (disidentification from early personal leading to identification with mid-personal), “I am not my ability to reason,” (disidentification from mid-personal leading to identification with late personal), “I am not my sense of self,” (disidentification from late personal leading to identification with vision-logic), “I am not my map of reality,”[6] (disidentification from vision-logic leading to identification with early transpersonal), “I am not energy, “(disidentification from early transpersonal leading to identification with mid-transpersonal), “I am not God, (disidentification from mid-transpersonal leading to identification with late transpersonal), “I am not my Self, (disidentification from late transpersonal leading to identification with the non-dual).

We can understand this progression far before we can accomplish it; we can experience it for short periods, as in meditation or in mystical experiences, far before we can sustain any altitude in tetra-mesh. But because we confuse both cognition and experience with who we are, we assume that because we understand and have had genuine openings to these broad and inclusive perspectives that we are them. Because we identify with our cognitive maps, our intentions and our state openings, we confuse temporary state access for stable state acquisition; we don’t want to go back and attain balance among our four core lines; we would rather identify with our cognitive line and feed both our egos and our delusions, confident that we are our thoughts and experiences. The result is a rickety, narrow, swiss-cheese foundation which becomes increasingly unstable until we are inevitably faced with some sort of retrenchment. Perhaps it is a health or relationship crisis; perhaps it is a social or cultural calamity like war or the collapse of civilization. In any case, these are “legitimation crises” leading to “evolutionary self-corrections” caused by a failure to attend to the necessity of balance. If the base of our developmental pyramid is not broad enough we will not be able to sustain our altitude.

The imbalance caused by an over-emphasis on the cognitive line is particularly important for tetra-mesh, or development from our current level to the next.

The self, cognition, moral and empathetic lines manifest in and have implications for the development of all four quadrants. This is easier to spot in the first than the second two, but the implications of morality and empathy, often associated with the interior collective quadrant when primarily framed as values, are equally behaviors, intentions and determinants of public or social trustworthiness in the exterior collective quadrant. Unless you attend to the condition and needs of both morality and empathy in all four quadrants, your self line, which relies on both as much as it does on cognition, will not develop. It can’t develop. It requires a balanced development of at least your cognitive, moral and empathetic lines. Without the evolution of your self line, which lags behind the other three, you cannot balance your four quadrants and therefore will not sustain tetra-mesh. You will not have the breadth and depth of foundational development necessary to maintain your balance at your next highest level of development. Whatever else you develop may get you social kudos, but in terms of your evolution from level to level, other aptitudes are gravy, topping or dessert.

The societal and cultural repression of authentic morality and empathy

While we are rewarded for exceptional development in cognition, this often means that we are actively dissuaded from developing empathy and morality. There are many social circumstances in which the expression, and therefore the development of, morality and empathy are punished. Important examples abound. Conformity to peer norms during adolescence is extremely important to the development of self-confidence and self-esteem as young people struggle to figure out who they are. We’ve all been there. However, the result is that this conformity is typically more important to us than either morality or empathy. We do what gains the approval of our peer group, which generally involves plenty of mid-prepersonal cognitive distortions and drama. Unfortunately, this sort of behavior, which has both a certain necessity and rationality given its context, rarely ends with adolescence. To maintain most relationships, we had better be willing to do at least some of what our partner requires, whether we like it or not, whether or not it is moral or empathetic toward third parties. At work, we all know what happens if we do not fulfill the expectations of our boss and conform to employment norms whether they are ethical or exploitative. In fact, if we want to rise in status and power in any group we have to demonstrate that we are a leader, which means that we embrace group norms as fully, if not more fully, than anyone else, regardless of the validity of those norms.

Most of us shrug our shoulders and accept such trade-offs as the price we have to pay to maintain a relationship, get a job, promotion or earn status. Ironically, in the worlds of socio-cultural groupthink, to gain the respect of others we often must prostitute self-respect. It is no wonder people favor the interior realms of consciousness where they have much more control over their own development and destiny, and it is no wonder that we prefer to judge our morality by our intent instead of by the opinions of more objective others.

In the political realm, there is no doubt that the requirements for election skew competencies toward the development of lines of cognition and communication. Charisma, fund raising ability, brazen self-confidence, dogged determinism and psychological imperviousness to failure are also strongly desirable assets. Political success also requires a highly refined ability to lie or, to put a kinder and gentler edge on it, to misrepresent where one’s loyalties lie and how much power one actually has in office to effect the changes one promises. This is as true for liberals and libertarians as it is for conservatives, because all are subject to the same rewards and punishments baked into the rules for political success.

We can also see how such imbalances are rewarded on some career paths and how these imbalances can indeed become intentional. If someone wants to become a successful lawyer they have to win cases and please those who will hire them, which means they must put the interests of their clients before the broader societal interest in their innocence or guilt. If someone becomes a corporate attorney, to keep and advance in their position they have to put what is best for the bottom line of their employer before what is in the best interest of society as a whole. To a greater or lesser extent, this principle holds true for anyone who has a boss or clients. If you want to stay in business or grow what you do, you have to please those who keep the lights on. These are cognitive line interests (“What do I have to do to increase my economic security, power and status?”) that are being given priority over moral interests (“How do I best serve the Prime Directive?”)[7] as well as empathetic interests (“How do I, in this situation, best treat others as I would want to be treated if I were them?”) The majority of professional career tracks reward cold cognitive calculation of financial benefit while discouraging the moral and empathetic lines, because they have different priorities that often conflict with the priorities of advance in status and economic security. Consequently, it is not difficult to see how and why very successful people are, almost by necessity, skewed or unbalanced personalities that lack the necessary homeostasis in their core lines for the tetra-mesh required for advancement to a higher developmental level. This applies to you and me, only we are too subjectively enmeshed in our broad cultural groupthink to easily see it.

Problems with our perception of who we are

The self line lags, just as the cognitive line leads.

The self line is a special case. Much of childhood is rightly committed to the development of a strong sense of self as a pre-requisite to success, as measured by society. We need to know who we are as a locus for meaning and as a point from which to assimilate expanded distal definitions of who we are. Throughout our lives, but particularly in our childhood, we are strongly rewarded by society for developing our self line and punished if we do not. However, this development is largely a matter of conformity to society’s assumptions regarding moral and cognitive development, meaning obedience and competence. None of this has much to do with being true to oneself or developing authentic empathy, and therefore does little to support the development of authenticity in either the moral or empathetic lines.

The problem is, as we all know, that after learning to develop a strong sense of self it is quite the challenging task to outgrow it. Typically, we don’t, even when we meditate for years and have repeated mystical experiences. Even then, we remain highly responsive to groupthink in those subcultures that we respect, like AQAL. The result is that the self that develops is a superficial, phony, plastic bonsai, a caricature of the authentic self, shaped, trimmed and stunted to mirror the dysfunctional groupthink of society or of some subset of society—your employer, religious or spiritual leader, spouse or peer group. This is the case because who you are is much more likely to be determined by those norms rewarded by prevailing groupthink rather than authentic morality or empathy intrinsic to you. However, because we internalize group norms as “conscience” when we are very young, most of us live our lives that prevailing group norms for morality and empathy are our own. Unless we have a methodology capable of differentiating conscience and intuition from our life compass we have no way of ever knowing the difference. Integral Deep Listening provides such an integral life practice.

As a result of the need of society and culture to emphasize both the cognitive and self lines, the self line typically becomes identified with the cognitive line. We are what we think. “I think, therefore I am.” Cognitive behavioral psychology, the most effective tool we presently have for dealing with both anxiety and depression, has demonstrated the importance, power and effectiveness of this connection. That we think, as well as what we think, determines who we are, but only on a superficial level, because it largely ignores the core lines of morality and empathy.

We are not only enmeshed in powerful social reinforcers that require us to identify with the cognitive line (make good grades, pass performance tests at work, persuade others), we gain meaning, orientation and value from doing so. The further result is that most of us assume that the height of our cognitive line, that is, the level to which our map of consciousness has ascended, is who we actually are. That map or world view is assumed to be an accurate measure of who we are, our self line.

You and I more or less grasp the cognitive map of AQAL. To the extent that we identify with our thoughts, that we think who we are is what we think, the conclusion that we draw is, “Because I understand AQAL, who I am, my self line, has expanded to include the possibilities and potentials it entails. Because I have a multi-perspectival world view I have attained 2nd tier.” Because we have greatly expanded our cognitive understanding of who we are, we see how we meet the criteria for late personal and, because we understand AQAL, which is a multi-perspectival map of consciousness, meet the criteria for vision-logic, which is by definition the realm at which all previous developmental levels are grasped and respected. Cognitively, we are 2nd Tier. To the extent that we identify with our cognition, the conclusion is that we are 2nd Tier. This is a fundamental error, and I know of no passages in Wilber’s extensive writings that correct this fundamental and pernicious delusion.

This delusion is pernicious because it inevitably generates legitimization crises, such as the one that is seizing and collapsing our world. It does so because it fails to recognize that the self line lags, just as the cognitive line leads. It is fundamental because the self line is a measure of our combined cognitive, moral and empathetic development, not just a product of our degree of cognitive development, and tetra-mesh depends on the balancing not just of the four quadrants but these four core lines. What AQAL views as development to late personal or 2nd Tier is actually development of the cognitive line and the mistaken identification of the self with it. It is mistaken because cognition is only one of three essential lines that comprise the self; it is therefore delusional because it is partial.

Because our moral and empathetic lines are lagging or fixated, our self line is as well. Without these three lines we cannot tetra-mesh. We lack the pre-requisite balance among our essential four core lines to achieve balance in the four quadrants. Our ability to sustain whatever altitude we attempt to achieve in our developmental pyramid is insufficient because our cognitive line, with which we falsely identify, runs off and leaves morality and empathy, due to the powerful siren calls of social validation, status, economic security and power, all of which are largely prepersonal developmental level priorities. Without them, we lack the requisite balance to sustain stable advancement to any higher stage. At best, we can have extraordinary breakthroughs on this or that line into this or that state, as mystics or near death experiencers do, but state awakenings and line proficiencies are not the same as tetra-mesh. This is an important factor for explaining why not only gurus, but entire civilizations, crash and burn.

Elites identify with their cognitive line because it is a requirement to become an elite in almost any field. Even in the arts and sports, people typically think they are who they think they are. Believing what you think and say is a key to persuasion, to getting people to do what you want. The development of the cognitive line, because of multiple social and cultural reinforcers as well as the addiction we develop to the control and validation it gives us, typically far outstrips our moral and empathetic lines. The result is addiction to “bubbles,” both economic and in consciousness. If we can only reach the next level of progress, if we can only get a certain percentage of humanity to 2nd Tier, then we will work ourselves out of our Damocles dilemma. This line of reasoning has not worked and it will not, because it can’t. It lacks sufficient attention to fundamental elements required to generate the balance required to maintain altitude.

The consequences of mistakenly identifying with our thoughts

Because progress is given a priority over balance, this prescription for resolving our legitimization crisis and evolutionary self-correction merely feeds the fundamental problem: our mistaken identification of our self line with our cognitive line, which further widens the gap between who we think we are and our moral and empathetic lines. It also keeps us from knowing who we really are, which is based in part on an honest and realistic appraisal of our levels of moral and empathetic development. We cannot tetra-mesh, so we stay stuck in the delusion that we are developmental elites when in fact, we are nothing of the kind.

This is a fundamental delusion that AQAL, as it is currently constituted, unintentionally supports and maintains. It has made this mistake because it has confused development of the cognitive line with the self line and has therefore confused grasp of the cognitive map, AQAL, with an authentic knowledge of the territory itself. But that knowledge of the territory itself, necessary for tetra-mesh and advancement up the developmental progression, requires not only a pre-requisite knowledge of a map but moral and empathetic development that is not only not required for social and financial security and for status and power, but is discounted and even actively punished by our families, our employers, our national and personal priorities. We buy into contexts that create bubbles that are delusions of personal and societal development that become increasingly top-heavy, because they outrun the breadth and depth of moral, empathetic and self lines required to sustain them.

This general principle is equally applicable to the realm of transpersonal development and “spiritual elites,” such as meditators, those who embrace Integral AQAL, or those who view themselves as “cultural creatives,” “evolutionaries,” or New Agers. These people tend to emphasize their strong suits, such as consciousness and a multi-perspectival world view, both largely dependent on cognitive line development, while minimizing or ignoring their relatively weak moral and empathetic development. The result is that there is no authentic development of the self line, which is a pre-requisite for tetra-mesh.

The greater the imbalance, the less likely you are to get the tetra-mesh necessary to evolve to your next highest level. The cognitive line is over-emphasized almost everywhere security, power, wealth and status are priorities, with the result that the other three cognitive lines of morality, empathy and self are under-emphasized. Since security, power, wealth and status are priorities for almost everyone in every society, what we are faced with is a pervasive under-development of other core lines in comparison to the cognitive line.[8] In human evolution, the cognitive line has far outstripped the evolution of the other three core lines and continues to do so.

To the extent that our sense of who we are identifies with our cognitive line we get “ego inflation,” grandiosity and narcissism, conditions that infect every stage of development, not just late personal as the mean green meme. This in turn blinds us to the reality that our level of development is based on the altitude of our lagging lines, that is, our level of moral and empathetic development. The inevitable conclusion is that if you want to know what your actual tetra-meshed level of development is, rather than your aspirational, cognitive, intentional and interior quadrant level of development is, look at the level of development of your lagging, most fixated line or lines. For reasons we will describe below and which are elaborated in Healing Integral, we typically greatly over-estimate the level of development of both our moral and empathetic lines.

Some consequences of our chronic elitism

This is all background to understand “aperspectival madness.” The greater the development of cognition at the expense of one or more of the other core lines, the more likely we are as individuals and as a society as a whole to experience a “legitimation crisis” leading to an “evolutionary self-correction.” It helps us to understand why the world is spinning out of control in many critical and fundamental ways. These include the vote in Britain for Brexit, the election of Trump, the deconstruction of the Democratic Party, Russophobia, chronic voting of people against their own economic interests, and the slow-motion collapse of multiple financial bubbles and economic institutions in the West, even as the stock market soars and rigged employment numbers continue to show “progress,” i.e., increases in GDP. Of more immediate concern to those of us concerned with the cutting edge of human development, our over-emphasis on development of the cognitive line and our identification with it helps explain the inability of Integral and spiritual elites in general to gain traction among the vast majority of both intellectual elites and the middle and lower classes of the world.

How post-modernism deconstructs itself

An “aperspectival” stance states that no perspective has universal validity. But this is itself a perspective, and therefore one that is fallacious because it is self-contradictory. It commits the performative fallacy by 1) implying that “aperspectival” is not itself a perspective when it obviously is, and by 2) further implying that aperspectivalism, otherwise known as post-modernism, is the one true perspective, while all the others are false. Wilber has made these same points.[9] Therefore, we can begin by dismissing the concept of “aperspectival,” upon which the Chinese ghost town of postmodernism is founded, as a fallacy. This does not mean that there is no value in post-modernism; rather, it indicates that by itself, without the other three balancing quadrants, post-modernism deconstructs not only modernism, but itself. As it does so, it brings down whatever societal institutions identify with it, meaning the deconstruction of most every elite you can name, even those that pose as pre-modern, like religions and cults. This is what has thrown liberals and conservatives, media and politicians, spiritual elites and scientific humanists, into a septic tank of fallacious reasoning and self-destructive beliefs and behaviors, from which they are yet to extract themselves.

Aperspectivalism is not multi-perspectivalism

The distinction between “aperspectivalism” and “multi-perspectivalism” is important. Whereas aperspectivalism says no perspective is true and is itself based on a logical fallacy, multi-perspectivalism says multiple perspectives are relatively true and that the more relevant perspectives that are taken into account, the more “true” your perspective is likely to be given a particular context. For example, the more blind scholars that are consulted regarding the various parts of an elephant, the more likely we are to gain an accurate composite description of an elephant. Still, the map is not the territory, and descriptions, which are what cognitive-based multi-perspectivalisms like Integral are, are maps. But growth and development is more than passing a class in cartography; we require a yoga or integral life practice that is relevant to important contexts and is not only cognitively but experientially multi-perspectival. Wilber’s Integral Life Practice and my Waking Up are examples of attempts to generate a behavioral balance to the over-emphasis on cognition and intention which are inherent in spiritual elites.[10]

An experiential multi-perspectivalism addresses multi-perspectivalism in all four of the core lines required for tetra-mesh to your next level of development. It is therefore not only a cognitive map but an experiential exploration of the territory of multi-perspectivalism.[11]

Experiential Multi-Perspectivalism in the Four Core Lines

A multi-perspectivalism is cognitive, like Wilber’s AQAL, while an experiential multi-perspectivalism is not only cognitive; it involves multiple disidentifications with your proximal self, who you think you are, and identifications with other perspectives that are not yet either distal or proximal selves. This twin process of disidentification/identification needs to be practiced not just in waking, but in dreaming and altered states. The intention of these identifications is the accessing of emerging potentials in the service of higher order wakefulness. Such broad-based identifications constitute an experiential multi-perspectivalism, and the first step is for the cognitive line to understand the concept so that it can differentiate the territory of multi-perspectivalism from a cognitive multi-perspectival map of it.

An experiential multi-perspectivalism requires multi-perspectivalism in all four core lines. What does an experiential multi-perspectivalism look like in each of these four lines?

Cognition: The cognitive line leads because without awareness we cannot objectify; without objectification we stay subjectively enmeshed in our contexts, which means that our current context is our truth. Postmodernist truth is defined by adherence to the dogma of aperpectivalism. The context integralists are immersed in, at least those of the AQAL variety, is that cognitive multi-pluralism balances all four core basic lines which in turn allows the four quadrants to tetra-mesh, moving the self to its next highest developmental level. Spiritual elites in general generally frame the core components for development as state expansions via mystical experiences, generally accessed through meditation, and the manifestation of love or wisdom or both within the cognitive context of their particular world view. Like tire thieves jacking up one corner of a car, when you identify the self with your cognitive map, you not only produce something that won’t drive but a result that defeats the thieves as well. You have to jack up all four corners if you want to get to the next level—a full set of tires for your SVBIED (Suicide-Vehicle-Borne-Improvised-Explosive-Device).

“Evolutionaries,” “cultural creatives,” new agers and other members of the “spiritual elite” are immersed in their own version of cognitive levitation: “Because I am who I think I am, if I just think good and true thoughts, my prepersonal belief system, complete with my mystical and near death experiences that certify that I am indeed special, will magically transform all that pre-rationality into glorious trans-rational wonderfulness, propelling me into the realms of yogis, saints and sages.” (See The Cult of Positivity). The agnostic and atheistic scientific-humanistic intelligencia believe they are above all this because they either do math or have a PhD, wrote a book or headed a successful start-up. They pursue their own particular version of confusing who they think they are with the level of their cognitive development. The difference between a cognitive multi-perspectivalism, like AQAL, and an experiential multi-perspectivalism on the cognitive line, is that the latter insists on the same in the other three lines.

The Self: While the cognitive line leads, the self line follows. Because your thoughts create your reality, it does not follow that you are your thoughts. You are, at minimum, interior quadrant capabilities, such as your thoughts, intentions and values, plus exterior quadrant capabilities, such as the trustworthiness of your actions (your level of moral development) and your empathy (your ability to gain respect by experientially taking the perspective of others and then taking those perspectives into account in both your decision-making and your actions). These are exterior, social quadrant competencies because your level of both is not determined by you but by others. You don’t determine your trustworthiness; others do. You don’t determine how empathetic you are; others tell you how well your understandings and actions reflect their perspectives. Hubris is the inevitable result of not recognizing that the self line is dependent on the other two, in addition to cognition, for tetra-mesh. It represents the betrayal of accountability and transparency, critical external quadrant competencies.

While empirical yogas submit the results of integral life practice to peers in the method for validation, as Wilber points out in The Eye of Spirit, assessments of self-development in AQAL are not subject to objective social quadrant criteria. Other people do not have to sign off on your level of moral development or empathy for you to imagine that you are at late personal or 2nd Tier. What do you suppose your level of development would look like if your life was an open book and the level of your moral and empathetic development were subject to the objective evaluation of all the people in the world?

People who understand AQAL generally assume that they have evolved to at least late personal and probably 2nd tier because they understand those levels and they identify with their understandings. However, there can be no tetra-mesh to any level without meeting objective, not subjective, developmental criteria in your moral and empathetic lines, in addition to your cognitive line, because your self line is comprised of at least these three. (There are some twenty other helpful but not pre-requisite lines that greatly broaden the self.)

Empathy: The critical element in the relationship line is empathy, because it requires so many other interpersonal skills, such as listening, respect, clear communication, emotional responsibility, authenticity and transparency. Empathy is not monolithic, but evolves in stages, just like other lines. It begins with simple awareness of the other, then mimics this or that characteristic, then concrete role playing, then identifying with the internalized self-sense of the other, then deepening and refining the occasions and ways in which that identification is employed, then generalizing to empathy with multiple human, then both human and non-human, sentient and non-sentient, “real” and imaginary perspectives. In each of these steps, an equal and opposite ability to disidentify is cultivated.

Most of us are sure we are empathetic, largely because we have no clue about broader types of empathy. We imagine higher order empathy as egalitarianism, pluralism, altruism, universal love or Buddhist compassion for all sentient beings. An experiential multi-perspectivalism exposes higher orders of empathy to be much broader and textured than any of these concepts. If we do have such recognitions, those more advanced varieties of empathy are conceptual rather than experiential integrations of broader, more refined varieties of empathy. To grasp higher order empathy you have to grow into it. In order to do so, you have to have one or more effective methodologies designed to provide you with experiences of same.

Morality and empathy are related but distinct. While morality is a determination of our trustworthiness by others, empathy reflects our ability to accurately assume the perspective of another and take it into account in our behavior. It does not mean we have to agree or conform to the expectations of others, but it does mean that there is objective validation that we understand their perspective not just on a cognitive but experiential, four quadrant level. The miserable state of the level of development of our empathetic line is evident in our tolerance of exploitation and our economic participation in it; our support of war, that is, the tolerance of the institutional killing of people with concerns very similar to our own; our tolerance of economic insecurity and poverty and our tolerance of the senseless and needless death of children both in our neighborhood and world-wide. It is also evident in our unwillingness to disidentify with addictions, scriptings, dramas, models and self-definitions when and where doing so is supportive of our development, reflecting an inability or unwillingness to identify with emerging potentials that reflect the priorities of our life compass. While a cognitive multi-perspectival empathy involves the acceptance of the need for increasing the breadth and depth of our empathy, an experiential multi-perspectival empathy involves an integral life practice which intentionally cultivates both disidentification and identification across a broad variety of life realms, not just one, as meditation generally does.

While we normally cannot conceive of realistic levels of empathy that transcend and include our own, society does not want us to develop higher order empathy because it threatens group cohesiveness. Perhaps the best example of this is the training of soldiers in all countries in all centuries. Soldiers are not only taught primary loyalty to the chain of command and their fellow fighters, but to denigrate the humanity of their opponents so they can be killed without sticky, complicating factors like conscience and remorse getting in the way. Self-confidence in business and relationships often earns respect, power and status even when it is completely devoid of empathy. We can see this in relationships in which an employee or a partner remains devoted even when a supervisor or partner is non-empathetic and abusive. Because of such headwinds, most people possess nowhere near the level of empathy that they imagine that they do. The use of cognitive distortions as well as immersion in the Drama Triangle prohibit the development of empathy; their presence is an indication of its absence.

Morality: Elites, spiritual and otherwise, use various ruses and rationalizations to claim moral high ground and excuse their immorality and amorality. This is not intentional or some nefarious plot; it’s human nature; I do the same thing. These strategies include shifting the blame, exceptionalism, thinking, “everybody’s doing it,” or “I will be punished economically or socially blackballed if I act morally,” or “this one time won’t hurt,” or simple indifference. AQAL accomplishes the same simply by conflating interior criteria of level of development of moral judgement with exterior criteria of trustworthiness. Unless this distinction is made, we conclude that our level of moral judgment is much higher than it actually is.

While Lawrence Kohlberg and his Theory of Moral Development have made important contributions to our understanding of the development of moral judgment in childhood, it can easily used to greatly inflate our own level of moral development. By providing a research-based and sophisticated intellectual rationalization for a belief in moral behavior where only competency in moral judgment exists, it inadvertently defeats the recognition of moral indifference, fixation and regression. This leads to both “aperspectival madness” and to “legitimization crises” and “evolutionary self-corrections,” that are societal (Trump and Brexit), institutional (Integral AQAL and elites in general) and personal (loss in credibility and respect). As we shall see, this is due to a confusion of moral judgment, an interior quadrant criteria, with moral trustworthiness, an exterior quadrant criteria.

An experiential multi-perspectivalism on the moral line respects waking, dream and imaginary others as if they were aspects of oneself without imputing that ontological status. Disidentification and identification involves first becoming and then listening in a deep and integral way, such as taught by Integral Deep Listening.

Disastrous results of the misapplication of Kohlberg’s model of moral development

Because morality is likely to be both a personal and cultural lagging or fixated line preventing tetra-mesh, we need to understand how Kohlberg got Integral AQAL (and elites in general) off track and what is required to get it back on again. Kohlberg’s three stages of moral development are based on his studies of moral judgment. Judgment is an interior quadrant capability. We can argue over whether moral judgement is mostly an internal individual quadrant issue of intention and thinking or an internal collective quadrant issue of values, culture and world view, but in either case moral judgment is a process of decision-making that individuals do inside their own heads. What Wilber and almost everyone else does, due to human nature but as validated by the authority of Kohlberg, is assume that moral judgment 1) leads to and 2) predicts, trustworthiness in behavior and relationships, that is, in the external quadrants. But it doesn’t. This is a logical and pragmatic fallacy.

Wilber, following Kohlberg, is quite clear that developmental stages on all lines, including morality, transcend and include the previous ones, in a more or less irreversible progression. More adequate perspectives replace less adequate ones. As explained in Healing Integral, he seems to have picked this concept up from Piaget, who indeed showed that at least some forms of cognitive development do not reverse. Wilber applied the concept to the other core lines, where the data simply does not exist. For Wilber, at worst, one gets “fixated” at their level of development, hence the “mean green meme,” instead of experiencing a complete melt-down to a lower level of development. Even an “evolutionary self-correction” is not a regressive melt-down but rather more of a “pause” due to capture of leading lines by the “mean green meme” or some other fulcrum fixation. Wilber does not accept the idea that liberals and neoliberals could actually be regressing in their core lines, much less that they only evolved their cognitive line past mid-prepersonal, because to make core lines reversible means that progress is reversible. To say that we are morally and empathetically at mid-prepersonal is to say that with the exception of our cognitive line, we really haven’t evolved. We really haven’t made progress. This is a direct threat to the myth of progress and ascensionist models such as AQAL, as currently constructed.

To clarify, our argument is not that we have not made progress; we most certainly have. It is rather to argue that the progress has been largely in cognitive and various auxillary lines, such as those associated with the successful development of technologies. Personal progress stagnated at the mean level of society and culture in general, which is broadly mid-prepersonal. Economic security and social acceptability is largely determined by exterior measures, including prevailing groupthink, and these work to prevent empathy and morality from rising beyond socio-cultural norms. Because these two critical core lines remain stuck at mid-prepersonal, the self line, whose development is dependent upon all three other core lines, not just the cognitive line, also remains stuck at mid-prepersonal. A fuller description of what it means to be stuck at mid-prepersonal is below.

If regression is possible or if core lines really haven’t evolved at all, “evolutionary self-corrections” are massive social and cultural regressions rather than merely the dark side of attained levels of development. I will leave it to you to decide whether the destruction of the libraries of Alexandra and Nalanda, and Indian Buddhism under the merciless onslaught of the Moslem invasion, the destruction of the massive library in Baghdad that held priceless and irreplaceable Greek and Roman manuscripts, thrown into the Euphrates by Mongols in such amounts that the river turned black for days, are merely the dark side of some evolutionary level of development or massive social and cultural regressions. I will leave it to you to decide whether the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima was an “oops moment” of a highly-civilized level of development or whether it was a full-fledged regression to mid-prepersonal. Are we really prepared to say that extraordinary rendition and torture conducted by American elites, doctors and psychologists, and largely supported or ignored by a broad cross-section of the American public, are the dark side of a highly-developed state of consciousness? Do we really want to claim that such events “must be” the acts of little evolved neoconservatives, ethnocentrists, tribalists and deplorables when we know they were consensus policies of careerist bureaucrats appointed by both Democratic and Republican administrations who are more invested in their own positions than in ideologies? That many of these policies were undertaken by Democrats, liberals and neoliberals who supposedly have attained late personal, like Barack Obama, not only demolishes that argument but makes a mockery of the concept of his personal development to late personal. “I intend democracy, freedom and human rights for all” is easy enough for anyone to say. Intentionality and judgment are not measures of morality in the public domain; trustworthiness is.

For Kohlberg, as for Wilber, post-conventional judgment includes and transcends conventional moral judgment, which includes and transcends pre-conventional moral judgment. According to Kohlberg, if your level of moral judgment contains, for example, the injunction, “include the interests of others in your evaluation of what you do,” your moral decision-making takes that into account. You don’t go back to a purely narcissistic and hedonistic moral judgment: “I only need to consider my desires.”

Most of us can read Kohlberg’s criteria for development at each of his four stages and check off the boxes:

  • Pre-Conventional: “I avoid punishment; Check.” “I can act in my own self-interest. Check;”
  • Conventional: “I am a good citizen and can follow group norms. Check;”
  • Post-Conventional: “I can and do disobey wrong rules and act consistently with my own principles. Check.”

We can even go beyond Kohlberg, as Wilber does, into post-post conventional morality, and ask, “Do I support egalitarianism, pluralism and compassion for all sentient beings? Check.” We are now moral paragons because we understand the cognitive model of moral development and can cite instances in our life where we do indeed meet these standards. This allows us to believe we meet the moral standards required to qualify as late personal or 2nd tier when, like Hillary Clinton, our actual behavior can be both immoral and lack empathy.

The moral criterion that matters is objective trustworthiness, not subjective intention

This comfortable but deadly delusion of moral excellence goes undetected because our intentions are so identified with our sense of who we are. Our actions must be moral because our intentions are pure. We divorce our morality from our trustworthiness, which is an objective determination of our level of moral development in the external quadrants, particularly the external collective social quadrant. You don’t care about my self-assessment of my level of moral development, nor about the honorableness of my intentions. You don’t care about my level of moral judgment. All of these things are interior, cognitive and intentional judgments of morality. Instead, you want to know if I will lie to you, and about what. You want to know if I will steal from you. You want to know if I will respect your interests even if I don’t agree with them or even if I desire to possess what you have. You want to know if I will abuse or kill you.

These are the standards by which the commons, that is, the populations of the countries of the world, judge your level of moral development. In the context of Kohlberg’s model, they want to know if you are stuck at pre-conventional level of morality, as indicated by the previous criteria, because if you are, trust and respect must be provided very carefully and specifically, depending on the situation, contract or negotiation. Anyone who doesn’t ask these questions or have such concerns is likely naïve, self-destructive or already in collusion and compromised.

We commonly make contracts with others that tacitly say, “I won’t call out your immorality if you won’t call out mine.” In financially dependent relationships the unspoken but clearly understood agreement often is, “I will pay you and you will not only do what I tell you; you will do immoral things if you want to keep your job (or your status as kept partner).” With politicians, the tacit civilian contract is, “I will concede to you immoral amounts and applications of power because I need to delegate my responsibilities.” This has much less to do with trust than with a desire to wash our hands of culpability in the dirty aspects of keeping a society functioning.

Even tribalists and ethnocentrists understand this because we all depend on accurate information in these areas to create secure and stable relationships and to do business with each other. While we use measures of trustworthiness, an exterior quadrant objective measure, to make determinations of the level of moral development of others, we generally judge our own morality merely by our intentions, an interior quadrant criteria. This is a double standard that is hypocritical and leads to aperspectival madness and hubris.

Morality, as differentiated from moral judgment, is centrally an objective social construct, not a subjective, interior and cognitive one because morality is unnecessary in the absence of others. If we lived alone, morality would be unnecessary, nor would it develop. Therefore, any coherent discussion of morality is going to involve accountability: “How do others evaluate my level of moral development?” “How do others evaluate my trustworthiness?” If I can eliminate transparency, as the government does by labeling information “secret” if there is a remote possibility that it will embarrass bureaucrats or officials, you have no way of objective evaluating my trustworthiness. Morality boils down to interior appeals: “Trust me.” Obviously, trustworthiness via accountability to the commons is an entirely different question from moral judgment. We have seen that as a subjective criteria, even when evaluated in psychological experiments, as Kohlberg and others have done, moral judgment is not accountable to public determinations of trustworthiness. You can be post-conventional in your moral judgment and still lie, cheat, steal and kill. This is an indication that you are post-conventional only in your cognitive line and, because you identify with your cognitive line, you imagine you are post-conventional in your morality. This gives you what appears to be a free pass into the realms of higher development when it is actually a ticket to grandiosity and massive narcissistic inflation of your sense of who you are.

The pervasiveness of conspiratorial hypocrisy

The strong and pervasive delusion that moral judgment and intent is a reliable measure of morality is partially due to our cocooning ourselves in family and work situations where our moral status quo is less likely to be challenged. In fact, there typically exists strong silent collusion not to challenge the morality of either our motives or our actions. The result is that we can slide by on a persona of respectability, because our morality may not get tested in any significant way. Another common dodge is to disassociate ourselves from our immoral and amoral or indifferent acts: “It wasn’t me; I didn’t know what I was doing.” We also trivialize them and their effect: “My smoking, drinking and other addictive behaviors have no negative role-modelling effect on my children.” We can use ignorance as a defense against our amorality and immorality: “Nuclear war on North Korea? I can’t even find it on a map.” Another favorite is, “I have evolved beyond the need to respect collective socio-cultural ethical norms.”

Our moral and empathetic lines are not only exposed to the public; they interact with it, both influencing others and changing us as a result of those interactions. What you get when you identify your sense of self with your cognitive line is something different: the belief that interior criteria, such as moral judgment, constitute tetra-mesh, catapulting you into delusional developmental utopias. This is the groupthink of Integral and indeed, of spiritual elites in general.

Another reason for this is that objective determinations of morality are notoriously difficult. Lying, cheating, stealing and even killing can on rare occasion, be done in accordance with the Prime Directive, the Golden Rule and Kohlberg’s post-conventional level of morality. Consequently, it is quite normal for us to think that our own lying, cheating, stealing and killing fall in these rarefied realms of exceptions to common social acceptability while, of course, such actions directed at us by others do not. Morality is not, in the social quadrant, meaning contemporary and historical collective judgment, our interior quadrant intentions.

Moral hypocrisy generates legitimation crises

When we can no longer hide behind intention and are unable to escape that conclusion, we have to face the reality that morality is based on trustworthiness. We may then earn ourselves a well-deserved legitimation crisis. On a personal level, this is clearly observed in some varieties of post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide among veterans. Often this is precipitated by a return to a larger social context that does not share either the exceptionalistic morality or the esprit de corps of the military. Unable to continue to rationalize the immorality of their wartime actions, they are confronted with the fact that their intentions do not justify or excuse the immorality of what they have done.

Like soldiers, we do not easily spot our own immorality because we are subjectively enmeshed in social contexts that support it. For example, slavery did not continue to exist because people did not know it was evil; it continued to exist because people were locked in social contexts that accepted and promoted it, generally for economic reasons. Slave owners not only didn’t feel bad about it; they rationalized it using scripture and as a reflection of God’s will. The caste system in India has maintained itself in India for thousands of years by similar mental gymnastics. Good intentions can easily be used to promote, use and maintain the most inhumane of abuses.

Our variety of the esprit de corps used by the military to avoid adherence to collective standards of morality is our unthinking acceptance of the values and beliefs of whatever groups that we respect or depend on. We are only likely to experience a legitimization crisis when and if the intentions of those groups that we respect are challenged in ways that we cannot counteract. Such has been occurring for neoliberals and the Democratic Party with the election of Trump. The best they have been able to do in way of defense is diversion: blame Russia. They have been unable to throw up any acceptable justifications for the capitulation of Obama, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party to the values of the Republican Party. While the faithful continue to excuse these massive failures, generally through identifying with bait and switch identity politics issues that have worked to keep attention off of wholesale larceny, considerable segments of the public aren’t buying it any more. More people are awakening to the conclusion that they are in collusion with an immoral and self-destructive system that will remain in place regardless of who they elect.

Regarding our own actions, it is safest to assume that we chronically excuse, minimize, rationalize or are indifferent to those of our actions which are immoral or amoral. To compensate for this universal tendency, we need to low-ball our own level of moral development if we want to match our self-perception with the likely perceptions of others. After all, this is exactly what we do with most other individuals and groups, if we are wise. We either suspend judgment or suspend trust until given reasons to do so. We then provide trust only in those areas where we have reason to be confident that it is warranted.

How to attain a realistic assessment of your level of moral development

To get grounded in a realistic appraisal of your level of moral development you have to take the appraisals of both your friends and enemies into account. You can’t base it on how honorable you appear when you are at your best; you have to base your level of moral development on how you are when you are at your worst, taking your addictions into account. If you don’t, you will ignore or gloss over your lagging fixated core lines and thereby prohibit your ability to tetra-mesh, necessary for growth into your next highest level of development. This is exactly the hubris of elites. They are convinced of their exceptionalism, which excuses them from being judged by the same normative standards as say, the poor, uneducated, non-citizens, or other non-members of whatever “club” you are in, where exclusion of some other group makes an important statement of group identity.

There is considerable evidence that as individuals and as a culture, civilization as a whole and more specifically, Western, post-enlightenment technocratic and plutocratic culture, does not achieve Kohlberg’s criteria for conventional morality, much less post-conventional morality. This is because we do not acquire a passing grade to graduate out of moral kindergarten. We are still focused on narcissistic desires to avoid punishment and act in our own self-interest, as demonstrated by our self-evaluation by our level of cognitive development and our intentions rather than by how others judge us in the exterior quadrants. We continue to lie, steal, abuse and murder, not only others but ourselves. To those who say, “I do not kill others,” the response is, “Who gives you the right to avoid the collective responsibility you bear as a beneficiary of the social contract you uphold to maintain your physical and economic security?” To those who say, “I do not kill myself,” the response is, “You have no addictions? You have no self-destructive behaviors?” To those who say, “But you make the criteria so universal that there is no way that anyone can ever rise above a pre-conventional level of morality!” the response is, “You know you lie, cheat, steal and kill both others and yourself in multiple ways. Stop lying to yourself. That’s the first step. Don’t waste your time in guilt and remorse. Just stop.

Of course, you won’t eliminate all of it, but you can do a lot better. A little honesty, humility and intellectual integrity is the first critical step toward an authentic move out of pre-conventional morality. The second step is to identify ways you lie, cheat, steal and kill both others and yourself. The next is to make a plan about how to catch and reduce them. Enlist feedback from those who like and don’t like you so that you are both accountable and transparent in your behavior. In addition, keep putting yourself in circumstances that challenge yourself ethically. If you don’t, you will cocoon yourself in socio-cultural echo chambers that will convince you that your level of moral development is quite high when in fact, it is not being challenged to grow.

By subjecting your level of morality to the judgment of others you are not conforming to their expectations. However, you are not ignoring their expectations either. You are simply taking objective factors into account in your self-assessment. It is fantasy to believe that at 2nd tier or transpersonal levels of development you are no longer subject to group norms of morality. In fact, the opposite is true; you are more subject to group norms of morality because your identity is increasingly a collective one that includes the needs of others. To imagine that what others think is somehow no longer important is to dismiss accountability in the social quadrant and to thereby deny yourself tetra-mesh. It is to stay lost in delusion and hubris. You may continue to have status among your peers, but you will possess no personal credibility among the general public, because they will find you untrustworthy. This will in turn cost you in credibility, respect and eventually power. Hillary Clinton is a case study in this dynamic.

Until you make yourself transparent and accountable to the commons, not to your cultural, intellectual peers, your over-estimation of your level of development will form an unbridgeable chasm between you and the vast majority of fellow travelers on our living spaceship as you continue to reside in a bubble of aperspectival madness. You will constantly be laying the foundation for a “legitimization crisis” that necessitates some “evolutionary self-correction.” On a personal level, if you do make yourself transparent and accountable, there will be consequences. When you change your definition of what is ethical and what is not you will put yourself in conflict with those in your life who have not done so and see no reason to do so. This may result in a loss of friends, work, status or even family members. But your object is not to alienate people; instead, lovingly explain your motives and demonstrate a respectful understanding of the perspectives of others even if you disagree with them.

On a civilizational level, moral jeopardy leads to collapse. In both cases, personal and societal, retrenchment is required because honesty and authenticity are necessary for self-respect and to gain the respect of those who value honesty and authenticity.

Tools for developing empathy and moral accountability

Learning empathy and moral accountability requires more than the feedback of others; you need to learn to access and interview emerging potentials both in the form of dream characters and personifications of life issues of importance to you. An example of such a personification would be a pain in your back that feels like a burning fire. The fire is a visual metaphor that can be interviewed, just like a dream character. Instructions for how to interview both can be found here. You need to do such interviews because objective sources of feedback, such as friends, family members, co-workers and various categories of “experts” are still rendering subjective judgments that are enmeshed in their own particular variety of groupthink. This does not discredit their input, but it does mean it is invested with their priorities, groupthink and cognitive-emotional filtering. Becoming and interviewing subjective sources of objectivity such as dream characters and the personifications of life issues important to you can and will align your goals with priorities of your life compass in ways that both your own judgment and the preferences of others cannot. Your own judgment is subjectively enmeshed, by definition, and the preferences of others don’t know you as do interviewed subjective sources of objectivity which, after all, are at least partially self-aspects. Integral Deep Listening, the modality that teaches such interviewing, is a yoga or integral life practice that teaches experiential multi-perspectivalism that promotes realism in all four lines. The result is an assessment that we are very likely stuck at the mid-prepersonal level of moral and empathetic development of our collective human condition. It is wise to assume this is indeed the case unless there is good collaborated evidence that your lagging or fixated line(s) are at a higher level. When others claim that they are at a higher level of development, be skeptical; ask questions and ask for evidence. Then apply that same standard to yourself.

Aperspectival madness is not due to the mean green meme

Aperspectival madness is due to a vast imbalance between our supposed level of development to late personal or 2nd tier and our actual level of development, which is determined by our most lagging or fixated of our core lines. This vast imbalance is based on one hand in an elevationistic identification of the self with the cognitive line and on the other, with the minimization of the grossly stunted state of our genuine moral and empathetic development. Without these two, an authentic self cannot evolve, which means that our actual level of development is indicated by our lagging lines. Because few, if any of us, in our present culture, meet Kohlberg’s criteria for conventional morality when we are judged by a broad cross section of the world’s population regarding trustworthiness, and taking our addictions and worst moments into consideration, we qualify for a mid-prepersonal level of development, far below our cognitive line. This creates a massive imbalance that prevents the tetra-mesh necessary for development to late prepersonal, or whatever your next highest level is.

Why say we are stuck at a mid-prepersonal level of development? Why not something higher?

Can you have someone who is a PhD, college professor or President who is at mid-prepersonal? Clearly, yes.

There are several reasons. As you read the following, think of people you know who consider themselves late personal or 2nd tier, perhaps because they grasp AQAL, and see how much of the following applies to them.

It is no wonder that most people do not like to contemplate the possibility that their level of development is largely mid-prepersonal. As noted above, most of us judge our development by our strongest, cognitive line and not by our weakest, lagging and fixated core lines. A good rule of thumb for determining level of development is to ask, “What is the weakest, most regressed or fixated of my four major lines?” If you do so, you will necessarily conclude that by definition, your moral and empathetic lines lag behind your cognitive line and that your self line, because it is composed of at least, your cognitive, moral and empathetic lines, is necessarily the most lagging line. But the only way that you can assess how much your self line is lagging is by asking, “Of my moral and empathetic line, which is most lagging? Which is most fixated? How do I tell how and where it is fixated? Here are some criteria for a mid-prepersonal determination.

You can and will find competent, capable, and remarkable people who are stabilized at mid-prepersonal. People at mid-prepersonal can be as intelligent, moral and capable as people at higher levels of development. In fact, they can be geniuses, savants or mystically gifted. Their ability to adapt to the realities of the world may indeed be superior to unbalanced individuals at higher stages. They may have fewer tools in their tool kit, but those who have achieved tetra-mesh at mid-prepersonal are likely to be quite capable of using the ones they do have effectively and meaningfully. A person who is authentically at mid-prepersonal is healthier and better to be around than a person who has highly developed lines and has never balanced at mid-prepersonal. And I can assure you, most people have not.

Can you have someone who is a PhD, college professor or President who is at mid-prepersonal? Clearly, yes. Essentially, think of someone who has a highly developed cognitive line who remains ruled by their emotional preferences, like a dog or a two-year old. There is nothing intrinsically wrong, bad or evil about mid-prepersonal, just as there is nothing intrinsically wrong, bad or evil about a dog or your average two-year old. I have known, and you probably have too, people who were vibrant and passionately alive emotionally—spontaneous, present and authentic, yet could think and be completely present with you. Such people are a joy to be around because they make us free to feel whatever we feel and to feel alive!

But most people have not reached a healthy balance at mid-prepersonal. Their feelings are not partners but their masters. To take a vivid unhealthy example, narcissistic personality disordered individuals function at mid-prepersonal. A person can be quite high functioning, achieving great wealth and be of advanced social status while remaining at mid-prepersonal, not yet balanced, not yet able to tetra-mesh to late prepersonal. These people can be quite charming, seductive, successful and socially desirable. They may make great CEOs, lovers, lawyers or Presidents. Or, they may be middle or lower class typical folks.

Pre-conventional morality is mid-prepersonal in that it is about the avoidance of punishment and acting in one’s own self-interest. These are emotionally-driven intentions based on fear and wants. At mid-prepersonal, you and I think we are our feelings: “I am sad/angry/confused/scared.” We are controlled by our feelings; our thinking is in the service of making us feel happy or sad or to make us avoid “bad” feelings.

Mid-prepersonal individuals identify with their preferences, seeking what they like and avoiding what they dislike. They want to be “happy,” which is an emotional state. A goal of seeking happiness and therefore avoiding unhappiness, guarantees that their life will be an emotional roller-coaster.

People attempting to find balance at mid-prepersonal make decisions based not only wanting to “feel good” but on fear of punishment, rejection, lack of physical and economic security, loss of status and greed. They ask, “What’s in it for me?” Because mid-prepersonal individuals want to “feel good,” they are excellent targets for advertisers. Most advertising is designed to have consumers associate good feelings with some product. Because people at mid-prepersonal are controlled by their feelings, they are also impulse buyers, but can just as quickly grow bored, impatient or tired of a possession or partner. What looks like empathy is at best a sharing of the emotions other people are expressing, something that can provide powerful, positive and healing experiences. At worst, what looks like empathy is role playing designed to manipulate others into giving them what they want. Mid-prepersonal individuals can be quite convincing actors conveying altruism, compassion and genuine affection—if these emotions help them get what they want.

Mid-prepersonal is the realm of familial-group bonding and an “us vs. them” mentality. We have seen how cognition is easily much more highly developed, simply by going to school, being a good student, or being intellectually curious. As a result, cognitive development easily runs off and leaves the moral, empathetic and self lines, leaving the impression that we are dealing with mature individuals when they have never learned how to deal with their emotions. Those attempting to tetra-mesh at mid-prepersonal, no matter how advanced, use cognition to justify feelings. Sophisticated econometric models supporting trickle-down and austerity economics that justify the transferal of wealth from the middle and lower classes to the upper classes are excellent examples of the cognitive line in service of mid-prepersonal emotions.

Mid-prepersonal individuals view the world in terms of the three emotion-based roles of persecutor, victim and rescuer and endlessly circulate among them. Lying and other forms of abuse and persecution can be acceptable and expected practices when issues of profit, status, landing a mate or personal or national security are involved. Self-rescuing addictions don’t have to be about drugs, alcohol and smoking. Most self-rescuing addictions are more subtle, sophisticated and damaging. People at mid-prepersonal seek rescuing by others or lose themselves in various forms of self-rescuing, such as dependent relationships, surfing the internet, using work as an avoidance strategy or become addicted to the acquisition of wealth. Mid-prepersonal is the realm of addiction to self-rescuing, trance-inducing sedatives, like the pursuit of comfort at the expense of growth-promoting challenges and the avoidance of responsibility. It is also the core domain of pre-rational emotional cognitive distortions such as black and white thinking, emotional reasoning, always being right, and many more. These people personalize everything. If you say something, don’t say something, look at them, don’t look at them, laugh, cry, belch, whatever…it’s about them. They are not only the center of their reality; what you do or don’t do generates feelings that they think are about them that you have created, but have absolutely nothing to do with you. Instead, they are projections of their fantasies regarding your intentions that they project onto you.

Those at mid-prepersonal are closely identified with their familial and cultural scripts. Their ideas of personal fulfillment and happiness are based on values internalized as “conscience” when they were young. Family, work and entertainment cultures expect and even demand that people function according to mid-prepersonal script injunctions, even though society at the same time pays a great premium for advanced cognitive line development. Socio-cultural norms demand the cognitive line serve mid-prepersonal norms of cultural groupthink, conformity, drama, fear-based action and tolerance of exploitative business and social actions.

Wilber’s account of developmental stages is excellent—for the interior quadrants

Wilber’s account of developmental stages is excellent from cognitive, intentional and consciousness perspectives, which are all interior.

Wilber’s account of developmental stages is excellent from cognitive, intentional and consciousness perspectives, which are all interior. Problems arise when these same developmental states are assessed from exterior and objective perspectives. These domains are social, as in the feedback of others, and intrasocial, as in the feedback of subjective sources of objectivity such as interviewed dream characters and the personifications of one’s life issues. This last point is crucial, because a common defense of the applicability of the AQAL developmental model is to discount the objectivity of the commons on the grounds that differing opinions that result in moral criticism reflect the perspectives of less developed, narrower world views, which are therefore incapable of objectively judging our actions, since we are more highly evolved elites. However, when you consult interior sources of objectivity, as an experiential multi-perspectivalism teaches you to do, and their judgments validate those of the commons, this rationalization can no longer be used.

A movement to an even higher level of development by the interior quadrants of intention and culture, as recommended by Wilber, will only generate a greater imbalance by furthering unbalanced, and therefore phony, altitude. Those at lower levels of development see this and no longer respect elites. Even their foolish veneration for elites due to the status and wealth they have attained is now evaporating. This situation will not be ameliorated by elites jumping on the progress bandwagon and pushing to attain even greater imbalances between the interior and exterior quadrants. We know it will not be improved by teaching AQAL to the world and everyone learning cognitive multi-perspectivalism, based on the delusions of those elites who have already done so. It will also not be improved by the broader, more inclusive worldcentric world view of elites showing more compassion toward the poor ethnocentrists, tribalists and “deplorables.” This solution is, in fact, insulting as long as spiritual elites continue to support politicians that are corrupt and policies that hollow out the middle class and throw people into jail to support the private prison industry and generate successful prosecution statistics for courts. The ways elites, including those of us affiliated with Integral AQAL, have betrayed, and continue to betray, the middle and lower classes of the world are horrific and continuing, providing explanation enough for why Integral AQAL and spiritual elites appeal to only a small, rarefied audience around the world. This does not, however, prevent us from making real and important changes in our own families and work cultures. Frederick Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations is an excellent example of how cultures can be established in the workplace that respect and support the development not only of the cognitive, but of the moral and empathetic lines using Integral AQAL.

Objective proof of our lack of higher level tetra-mesh

Progress will indeed proceed, with or without Integral AQAL and yes, with or without the human race. That life itself does not care if we survive is indeed a direct assault on our narcissism. Life will continue to be abundant and creative with or without us. Yes, elites, like you and me, have attained late personal or even 2nd tier, but only in our interior quadrants. In our social quadrant, where our progress is determined not by our intentions but by our actions, we are rubbing shoulders with ethnocentrists, tribalists and “deplorables.” The difference is that they are more likely to be authentic individuals while we are elitist posers. In reality, in terms of overall development, we have made very little progress at all. It only takes looking at the homeless, the world slave and drug trade, multiple wars of choice, the broad acceptance of state lying, stealing and killing, or the ethical structure of the vast majority of businesses, to see the truth. The many voices that argue that these are gradually improving, while probably correct, are also attempting to make themselves feel better in a world still full of massive inequities, many of which are not only supported but created by elites.

What does authentic humility look like?

This is not a critique by someone who is a bleeding heart liberal pluralistic egalitarian. I am not advocating some rigid moral code or the deconstruction of AQAL. I have been a supporter of Wilber’s work since the early 80’s and my own work owes a great deal to his thought. It is, however, a plea for realism and humility to counteract what I see as hubris, idealism and utopianism. It would be quite valuable if AQAL itself reflected this shift in focus, but it is not Wilber’s responsibility. It is ours.

It is time to cultivate an authentic humility in which we can say, “I am at vision-logic on my cognitive line because I understand AQAL, but because my self line is dependent on the level of development of my moral and empathetic lines, and one or the other are stuck at mid-prepersonal, I have yet to tetra-mesh at mid-prepersonal. Therefore, morally and empathetically, there is not a significant difference in my level of development, that is, the level of development of my self line, and that of ethnocentric, tribalistic, conservative deplorables.” This is how we, as supporters of Integral AQAL, gain credibility among the elites and non-elites of the world. This is how we subject the quality of our behavior to the commons to make ourselves transparent and accountable to the common good. However, we do not recalibrate our place on the developmental spectrum to please or placate others, to gain credibility with them or to exonerate ourselves of our elitism and prove, like Peace Corps workers, that we are servants of the people. We do it because if we do not we cannot tetra-mesh. If we do not, we will not find the balance required to evolve. We will grow on this or that line, to be sure, but we will not evolve as authentically whole individuals.

A prescription for the development of an experiential multi-perspectivalism

One way to start doing so is to start remembering your dreams and interviewing characters and objects in them. This is because dreams are autonomous sources of both feedback and emerging potentials. We don’t have much control over or understanding of their content. They don’t reflect social or cultural standards of intention or conduct. Therefore, when we work with them we are submitting ourselves to contexts that care nothing about social acceptability, AQAL, multi-perspectivalism or much of anything that is important to you and me. They don’t play by our rules. In addition, interviewed dream characters generally have little interest in those things that drive most of our waking behavior: status, financial security, control, power and social acceptability. The more that we identify with perspectives that include but transcend such priorities, the less our lives are governed by agendas that are anchored in mid-prepersonal. Slowly, we grow into a morality and empathy that is defined by neither social and cultural agendas or by our own cognitive world view. Instead, as we identify with the perspectives of emerging potentials whose priorities reflect those of our life compass, our multiple attachments to who we think we are slowly dissolve.

When you play this game your level of development becomes much less important. What takes its place is balance, on the one hand, and integrity in both the eyes of others and yourself, on the other. This does not mean that you don’t screw up, but that when you do, you take responsibility, learn from it, and move on.

AQAL is magnificent. We need it. The world needs it. What we don’t need is to continue to confuse who we are with our level of cognitive understanding of the AQAL map. We certainly do not need to get caught up in aperspectival madness that forces regression in the service of balance, nor is there any requirement that we do so. But to avoid it we have to understand how we put ourselves there and what we need to do to stay out. That includes focusing on the rehabilitation of our lagging and fixated lines. To do so, we require an experiential multi-perspectivalism that interviews both dream characters and the personifications of our waking life issues, together referred to by Integral Deep Listening as “emerging potentials,” so that we access subjective sources of objectivity that know and reflect in their perspectives the priorities of our life compass much better than others or we ourselves can do. If we take upon ourselves such a yoga we are much more likely to find and address the weak spots in our moral and empathetic lines. By doing so we strengthen an authentic self line. Bringing all four core lines into balance, we are much more likely to achieve tetra-mesh and actually find ourselves evolving instead of simply imagining we are, because we understand more stuff, have had mystical experiences, or have gained the approval of people with status.

You can learn more about Integral Deep Listening by going to DreamYoga.Com and IntegralDeepListening.Com or by reading any of some twenty books that describe this or that aspect of the process. You are also invited to join “Friends of IDL” on Facebook where you can begin to develop a community of like-minded individuals who want to pursue this yoga. If you are interested in healing integral, you are encouraged to read Healing Integral, parts 1&2, and join the Healing Integral Reading Group on Facebook. We need your input, because Integral belongs to us all. It is only through our collective awareness and resources that we can evolve a version of Integral that is relevant to both the elites and the non-elites of this world, so that Integral AQAL can achieve its great potential as a source of awakening for all humanity.


[1] Kelly, W. 1970.

[2] “There are always fewer oaks than acorns—the so-called pyramid of development that necessarily gets smaller and smaller toward the top…” “Of course, it would be better to draw this diagram as an inverted pyramid, so that several of the multidimensional relationships within each quadrant could be better indicated. But then it would begin to lose the advantage of a certain type of simplicity.” Wilber is ambiguous about this but clearly the inverted pyramid has won out, a decision that has contributed to our current legitimation crisis. Ch. 3 Individual and Social, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, 1996.

[3] “…it has been suggested that due to the steepness of the original angle of inclination the structure may have begun to show signs of instability during construction, forcing the builders to adopt a shallower angle to avert the structure’s collapse.” Ancient Egypt, Part 3: Greatest Pharoahs 3150 to 1351, History Channel, 1996.

[4] Clearly, the solution lies through multi-perspectivalism, that is, honoring the truths revealed by multiple types of depictions: inverted pyramids, webs, spirals, nests, mandalas, cubes, crop circles, whatever…To say that the awarenesses of one type of depiction, in this case pyramidial, are a part of the solution, is not to discount or ignore the importance of other contributions.

[5] A cynic would point out that the societal and personal emphasis on attainment of success in the arts and in sport, so prominent in popular culture, like delusions of winning the lottery, is a useful way to divert public attention with dreams of status and wealth from the pervasive ongoing kleptocracy controlled by cognitive line elites.

[6] Importantly, this can also be written, “I am not cognitive multi-perspectivalism.” This is important, because it provides a good working definition of what our map of reality is: our cognitive grasp of multiple perspectives that relativize all previous self-definitions. When we identify with that map we commit the performative fallacy, like the post-modernists do, by confusing our cognitive map with the actual experiential territory of multi-perspectivalism, which, as we shall see, is only accessed through the development of all four core lines, not just the cognitive.

[7] The health of the entire spiral of development is our chief ethical imperative.

[8] There is room to argue about wealth and status; some people genuinely are not motivated by either, but if you are looking for motivations for human behavior you can do worse than to begin by asking, “In what way might money be a motivator?” “In what way might the approval and acceptance by others be a motivator?” Regarding security and power, these are prepersonal motivators that are necessary for survival and adaptation. As such, while they may become less important after some fundamental level of each is attained, they remain foundational. All of these motivations operate strongly for those at mid-prepersonal who have not yet tetra-meshed to late prepersonal. At late prepersonal the self knows itself as differentiated from emotions: “I am not my emotions.” It can observe security and status-based motivators and not be motivated by them. Cognition is no longer driven by emotion. Consequently, those stabilized at late prepersonal are much more likely to do what feels authentic rather than that which gains social reinforcement. How many people have reached such a stage? In my experience, we can all point to areas in our life in which it applies but when we look at our lives at a whole, not many, myself included.

[9] “…the postmodernists themselves violated their own tenets constantly in their own writing, and they did so consistently and often. Critics (from Jürgen Habermas to Karl Otto Apel to Charles Taylor) would soon jump all over them for committing the so-called “performative contradiction,” which is a major self-contradiction because you yourself are doing what you say either cannot or should not be done. For postmodernists, all knowledge is non-universal, contextual, constructivist, interpretive—found only in a given culture, at a given historical time, in a particular geopolitical location… Their entire theory itself is a very Big Picture about why all Big Pictures are wrong, a very extensive metanarrative about why all metanarratives are oppressive. They most definitely and strongly believe that it is universally true that there is no universal truth. They believe all knowledge is context bound except for that knowledge, which is always and everywhere transcontextually true. They believe all knowledge is interpretive, except for theirs, which is solidly given and accurately describes conditions everywhere. They believe their view itself is utterly superior in a world where they also believe absolutely nothing is superior. Oops.” Trump and a Post-Truth World: An Evolutionary Self-Correction, Wilber, K. Pp. 5-6.

[10] Wilber, K.,, Integral Life Practice: A 21st-Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening, 2008; Dillard, J., Waking Up: Using Integral Deep Listening to Transform Your Life. Deep Listening Press, Berlin, 2012.

[11] "For Gebser, integral-aperspectival consciousness is not experienced through expanded consciousness, more systematic conceptualizations, or greater quantities of perspectives. In his view, such approaches largely represent over-extended, rational characteristics. Rather, it involves an actual re-experiencing, re-embodying, and conscious re-integration of the living vitality of magic-interweaving, the imagination at the heart of mythic-feeling and the purposefulness of mental conceptual thinking, their presence raised to a higher resonance, in order for the integral transparency to shine through" (111). Gidley, J. (2007). "The evolution of consciousness as a planetary imperative." In Integral Review 5.

Comment Form is loading comments...