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



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Giorgio Piacenza Giorgio Piacenza is a sociologist student in the Certificate program leading to a Master's degree in Integral Theory at JFK University.

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Integral Biases

Transcending First Tier Attitudes
(even those embedded in Second Tier)

Giorgio Piacenza Cabrera

There is magic as well as rationality in our society, and even within our rationality.

In Perú I found that the organizers of what could be called the "integral movement” here (IPCEM the Edgar Morin Institute for Complex Thinking) tend to recognize everything that is vitally important and which can therefore be integrated. It just feels that way and I think that this cultural ethos is a good integral attitude that is lacking in the integral sensibilities of Western, developed countries. There must be a forum where these issues can be conversed! At IPCEM they were more receptive, not only to Wilber's Integral Theory, to the Santa Fe Institute’s ideas, to alternative explorations of socialism and to Quechua-Inca wisdom, but also to my UFO and paranormal research and to my research on the possible integration of physical science and Subtle Realm phenomena. The openness seems to be greater than what I (as a student for 3 years) I experienced at JFK, at integral events, at Ken's house and with integral students. In fact, to me, Integral Theory activism in America (even if I recognize the many important contributions to a world philosophy) seems dominated by “liberation” self-development, Buddhism and psychology. This is good and I welcome it into my life but the focus is monological in that it also tends to leave out other forms of necessary wisdom that have elements normally deemed more than “mythic.” These other elements, if incorporated into Integral Theory might also help to make the theory more scientifically predictive regarding the need to understand interphase between quantum mechanics, consciousness and psychic events. In fact, the personal psychologies of influential integral promoters in the U.S. and, elsewhere, in the “developed” world still are too embedded in the ethos and methods of orthodox academia and strive for recognition in that venue. This is good in the sense of not offering to the world an airy fairy, “new agey” theory but instead a well-grounded and well applied one, but something is amiss. Their hands, minds and tongues are tied now that a really bold new approach is needed. They fear academic scorn but band together and support their creative (but still not sufficiently integral and restricted) worldviews and for this reason cannot really engage in being solidly at the forefront of cultural change.

While the concept of “stages” is well-researched and approximately valid, it is often subconsciously used to invalidate or to turn an eye away from important phenomena that were more easily recognized in pre-modern stages. The embrace motto doesn’t apply well in theory-making or in consciousness transformation when it comes to the world of spirits. In fact, it is easy to intellectually embrace the highly abstract, non-describable “Non Dual” through metaphors than to incorporate some objective truths like spirit intervention, other realities, healings and even (if we honor some of the disclosures of traditional Christianity) genuine “miracles” or intervention from even higher realms of existence. Here in Perú it is (not always, but generally speaking) easier to accept –like the Inca’s- all of the movements or expression of “Kawsay” or life). The tendency is greater to assimilate all phenomena, all experience, however unphysical but, nonetheless evidential, as “real.” Thus, we symbiotically accept what is practical with shamanic phenomena, miracles, healings, extraterrestrials, psychic phenomena, nature spirits, ghosts, and the like without necessarily falling into an inability to think in a modern, objective way. In fact, Perú is the most entrepreneurial country in the world per capita and has been steadily growing and managing its budget much better than the U.S. and many countries in Western Europe. Since our pre-hispanic people were not banished, forcefully displaced or placed in “reservations” our sensibilities fused to a certain extent and never quite culturally developed following the classical patterns spoken about within some Integral Theory circles. This broad attitude is a general inheritance from our Inca and Spanish past. Also, BROADLY SPEAKING, our less strictly-defined, syncretic culture (which today -unlike the U.S.- doesn’t fit into any rigidly defined “cultural stage”) gives us the possibility to be a bit more personally REASONABLE (not just rational) with every kind of humanly obvious phenomenon that can be integrated as a part of life. In this sense we are more “integral” than many intellectually sophisticated but biased foreign integral thinkers. There are many “integral” things about Perú and other post-colonial countries which are not openly recognized by some culturally-parochial, theoretical promoters of “Integral Theory.” They don’t perceive how wide-ranging integrality can be.

Recently, a German expert on education for sustainability associated with UN University came to Perú and gave a lecture on how they educated students in his ecological university in Germany. Some of us at IPCEM asked him if there could be students which could come to Peru (perhaps for credit) so as to stay for a few months and also learn from a living, indigenous community, instead of coming to Perú to exchange with more modern students in Lima. I thought that a sane ecological interest should also be about learning something directly from “less developed” people. He was great in his field of expertise but he didn’t get the message at once and repeated that there already were “student exchanges with universities in Lima.” We had to restate the question (and suggestion) in different ways until he got it.

The idea is to learn from the local (albeit gradually dwindling and modernizing) surviving traditional communities what they can also teach for today's world and not just to come to Perú to exchange with modern students or to teach green ways to the most backward communities. The wisdom of these (few remaining and fast changing) communities is normally understood with a theoretical framework and expectations that usually perceive that their wisdom is "pre modern" and not really valuable beyond an “Earth respectful-community-mythical.” We tend to discard other important snippets of wisdom which (by appearing not to respond to modernity and post modernity’s demands) don’t seem to be applicable to today's “post postmodern” models and the expectations still generated under Western biases. I think that this subtly reified thinking is going on now in the "integral" community and (however well-intended) Integral Movement in the U.S. and that, in this sense, they are missing an integral opportunity.

Some local indigenous aspects like an open attitude to the IMPORTANCE of a real, interactive subtle spirit world is something that could be incorporated in a genuine post postmodern world philosophy useful for today. “Non-duality” is fine but is also like a “kosher” way to avoid the Subtle Realm and not to incorporate it and this is really not genuinely "integral" at all. ALL of REALITY should be embraced. Experiential “interdimensionality” should be embraced. This embrace might even give us new theoretical insights into current scientific speculations about “other universes” and on the role of consciousness in manifesting/actualizing “reality.” “Post Post” theoreticians could also learn from a vital, horizontal interaction with traditional indigenous communities some important social practices originating in unique relational worldviews regarding “reciprocity.” The “state of the integral WE” could benefit from actively participating in a living Kosmos if interaction with the Subtle and its world of energies, go-between forces and spirits were considered as part of a sacred duty and another way to bring harmony to human relations with Mother Earth.

The state of the "WE" has to include all practical wisdoms and not to focus too much on "stages" in order to evaluate them, lest we also misinterpret the valid disclosures of other cultures under our self-assured model and attitudes perhaps unconsciously discriminating against some other “differently integral” understandings that do not fit into our Western sensibilities. Let's not eliminate Subtle-spiritual aspects of traditional wisdom that (if carefully researched) are also verifiable by modern and post-modern standards. Many (not all) of these aspects are still VITAL and always contemporarily real to help us RELATE RESPECTFULLY and SUCCESSFULLY with all of the living Kosmos. Moreover, I think that an increasing realization that higher space-shifting technologies exist will also require acceptance of a complementary physical space which connects with the “Subtle Realm” that can also be understood as an information-cohering realm (‘where’ time and space collapse) necessary for physical manifestation.

I think that many "pre-modern" discoveries and sensibilities (such as the reality of other kinds of intelligent beings besides humans animals and plants) are as valid today as the many vital activities our minds have been consciously and unconsciously engaging at least since becoming fully “human” 160,000 years ago or so. The same vital realities persist in us and make us what we are. Our sentiments, pulsions and dreams are unavoidably linked to them. These “vital realities” won’t go away and it is increasingly obvious that they do interact with physical matter and influence our being and must, therefore, be integrated. Furthermore, scientific and experiential exploration under Wilber’s Method-Experience-Communal Verification etymological path is possible to conduct disclosing research on the Subtle Realm. Some of the few remaining wise men (and women) or “shamans” may still be able to guide us in this exploration.

The simplistically understood “spirit world” (now beginning to be recognized under the discourse of “inter dimensional” experiences, both in orthodox science and in psychic research) and its rules of manifestation and physical-psychic interaction with “our” “ordinary reality” is crucial now as always for realizing a truly INTEGRAL understanding in TODAY's WORLD. This is true even if, nowadays, otherwise rigidly interpreted “cultural stages” (especially in post-colonial, developing countries with assimilating indigenous civilizations) are all more fused and combined than in more defined mono cultural traditions like in the U.S. (outside of the Indian Reservation System), in Western Europe (that has followed its own modern and postmodern maturation) and in most of the Middle East (that was colonized but remained religiously independent). Regarding the latter, I would add that a “post postmodern” Integral approach could also learn to incorporate or integrate certain perceptions, disclosures and understandings of the Muslim world.

I would like to say that even in the past we've also had an uneven, uneasy, fear and awe dealing with the astral, the subconscious, the imaginal, the otherworldly; that even within pr-Columbian cultures (flowing with all of life) many tended towards fear and worship. An integral understanding and attitude would not limit itself to accepting the dichotomous aspects of the Subtle; we would have to learn to embrace it harmonizing with it from higher principle and perspective, like the wisest men, the spiritual masters of old. With a post postmodern mindset we may also have a unique opportunity to transcend the historical uneasiness with the Subtle Realm. We will recognize that there can be strangely energetic, sometimes terrifying imaginal-yet-real "astral" entities that tend to creep into our personal and collective subconscious and perhaps block our advancement. We may have carried the stigma of not knowing what powers lurk and influence our impulses and feelings through our human development and may even today be doing it even if we don't care to recognize it due to modernity and our greater control of exterior natural forces. Embracing all of the Subtle proper and freeing ourselves from this historical and pre-historical "SHADOW" never well integrated across stages would really lead to a full Second Tier shift.

As Edgar Morin writes (Morin, pp.91-92) “Take the case from anthropology. If anthropology was so aberrant at the beginning of this (Twentieth) century, it was because anthropologists were persuaded that they were the masters of knowledge and rationality and, from their Western perspective, they found what they took to be an archaic world of grown children who lived in a purely animistic, “mystical,” or neurotic manner. Levi-Bruhl said that those he called “primitives” in his publications lived in a state of “participation mystique” (my emphasis). He never asked himself, as did Wittgenstein upon reading the works of James Frazer: “But how can it be that these savages who spend their time dancing, singing, performing ritual enchantments, and magical acts know equally well how to hunt with real arrows, with a true strategy and a true knowledge of the external world? We did not realize that magic and rationality coexisted in these societies (my emphasis). We did not see, similarly that there is magic as well as rationality in our society, and even within our rationality (my emphasis). Anthropologists must therefore situate themselves in the world they inhabit in order to try to understand the wholly strange world they study.” Later on he writes “There is no omniscient vantage point. But what we can do to avoid total relativism or ethnocentrism is to construct a Meta-point of view. “

Morin also writes that we have to know ourselves in order to know the object and I think that by not recognizing our biases, even if working with other kinds of integral truths we won’t be able to build the “Meta point of view.”

Sources

Morin, E. (2008). On Complexity. Cresskill: Hampton Press, Inc.




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