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On Critics, Integral Institute, My Recent Writing, and Other Matters of Little Consequence: A Shambhala Interview with Ken Wilber

PART I | PART II | PART III

PART III

THE CULTURAL CREATIVES AND THE INTEGRAL CULTURE

Shambhala: Okay, to pick up the earlier conversation. Those are examples of the type of negative but constructive criticism you got from second-tier thinkers. But the majority of the criticism you got was from the green meme. It seems like you were saying that this is what you wanted to happen.

KW: It's more that I simply wanted to differentiate the first-tier approaches to this field from the second-tier. And given that some 25% of the population is green, and less than 2% is second tier, I wanted to try to differentiate these audiences so that they could each be clearly identified, and then each could focus on what it does best. For me personally, I wanted to see who was particularly attracted to these three books (SES, BH, ES), because that became the basis of future professional associations.

Shambhala: It became part of Integral Institute.

KW: In some ways, yes. Integral Institute is an attempt to bring together as many second-tier thinkers as possible. My work often acts as a type of litmus test for this, rightly or wrongly.

Shambhala: But green often claims that what it is doing is "integral."

KW: Yes, as Don Beck puts it, "Green looks at itself and always thinks that it is turquoise. Green always calls itself 'integral.'"

Shambhala: As with Paul Ray's work.

KW: Yes, I think so. Ray claims that some 25% of the American population is at an integral level. He calls this "the integral culture" composed of "cultural creatives." But all he's really measuring is the green meme. Now of course Ray is careful to point out that the cultural creatives actually contain many disparate subgroups. But he constantly calls all of them THE cultural creatives, because most of them do indeed share some common elements--such as the general green-meme value orientation. But if you look at any sophisticated measure of psychological development--from Jane Loevinger to Clare Graves to Susann Cook-Greuter to Robert Kegan to Don Beck--you find that the percentage of people at yellow is about 1.5%, and at turquoise, about 0.5%. The idea that 25% of Americans deserve to be put in a general group called "the integral culture" is, forgive me, simply ludicrous. This seems to be just another example of boomers claiming that they are so much more incredibly wonderful than anybody else. This is the essence of boomeritis, in my opinion [see chapter 2 in A Theory of Everything ].

Shambhala: But you do have many good things to say about Ray's research.

KW: Yes, what Paul Ray has done is identify the green meme, the cultural creatives, with their many variations and subgroups. But the cultural creatives are not an integral culture--in fact, as we have seen, the green meme or the cultural creatives are what are actually preventing an integral culture--they will destroy or deconstruct anything second tier that they happen to run into.

But the cultural creatives can become a truly integral culture , IF they vertically transform to yellow or second-tier consciousness. Now the boomers have been at the green meme for almost three decades. The extremely positive benefits of this green-meme consciousness are numerous and profound: the green meme brought us much of the civil rights movement, feminism, environmental protection, and health care freedom.

But the downsides have been equally far-reaching: extreme or deconstructive postmodernism (as opposed to constructive postmodernism, of which I am a strong advocate--see MSS); politically correct thought police; the complete dumbing down of the educational system in order to avoid those nasty grades and ranking; the pervasive erosion of first amendment rights (when green-meme individuals are asked which is more important, freedom of speech or preventing freedom of speech so as to not hurt somebody's feelings, a majority alarmingly choose the latter--in other words, the right to free speech would be replaced by the right to not have your sensitive ego bruised--and this abrogation of first-amendment freedoms is now standard policy at many centers of higher education--an example of the mean green meme in action).

One of the real problems with green is that, as Don Beck says, "Green has to have victims." And so it has to see everybody as either an innocent victim or a wicked oppressing force. Thus, where the blue meme blames the victim, the green meme creates victims, by the droves, and then trumps up charges for those it imagines are the great oppressors. At West Point, for example, if a man looks at a woman for longer than seven seconds, he is guilty of sexual harassment and the woman has been victimized. I mean people, please, get a grip. This is behind so much of the "victim chic" that has become so fashionable in cultural studies, which erodes self responsibility, demonizes so much of life's unavoidable messiness, and, saddest of all, trivializes the real victims of real oppression.

A HOME SELF-TEST FOR GREEN

Shambhala: This is a funny question, but is there any way you can tell if you're basically green meme? Are there any tests for this?

KW: Yes, there's the Clare Graves values test, which Spiral Dynamics has refined. And you can take any of the tests devised by other developmentalists, because, based on considerable evidence, all of them have a wave of development that corresponds to the green meme, such as Jane Loevinger's individualistic stage, Jenny Wades affiliative stage, or the works of Bill Torbert, Bob Kegan, Pascual-Leone, Patricia Arlin, Gisela Labouvie-Vief, Susanne Cook-Greuter, Deirdre Kramer, Cheryl Armon, and so on [see Integral Psychology ].

Shambhala: Nothing simpler?

KW: Oh sure, there are several of what I call "home self-test" questions. [Laughing] The first test is, if you hate the idea of these kinds of tests, you're probably green (since green hates ranking, tests, grades, etc). But here are two more interesting self-tests.

One, are you a Republican that feels very strongly that the Democratic agenda is almost entirely wrong? Or are you a Democrat who feels that the Republicans are deeply wrong?

If you answer yes to the former, you are almost certainly blue. If you answer yes to the latter, you are strongly green. Second tier, on the other hand, sees that, in their own place and time, both blue and green are extremely important to the health of the overall spiral. But all first-tier memes pretty much despise each other, so if you really hate Bush and think he will be the worst thing that could ever happen to this country, you probably are not understanding the importance of creating blue infrastructure and blue values (as a platform for further growth). Unfortunately, as Spiral Dynamics puts it, "Green dissolves blue." Green does everything in its power to deconstruct and dismantle blue anything, from traditional religion to traditional values, and this horribly undermines the growth of the overall spiral. This is ultimately suicidal on green's part, since the only way to get to green is through blue--because everybody starts at square one, at beige, and has to develop through the unfolding spiral. So no blue, no green.

Shambhala: So green's attack on blue is suicidal. It's like hating your parents.

KW: Actually, it's like shooting your parents before you were born.

Shambhala: [Laughing] So if green succeeds in destroying blue, there will never be another green anywhere on the planet.

KW: Right.

Shambhala: You talk about healthy and unhealthy green.

KW: Yes, healthy green is the "sensitive self"; it helps to differentiate the rigid universal formalisms of orange into multiple systems, context-bound diverse cultures, multiculturalism, diversity movements, pluralism, and so on. Green differentiates on the way to a genuine integration (which green itself cannot deliver, but can prepare for). As I said, healthy green makes the entire first-tier spiral more sensitive and more caring, and thus prepares the leap to second tier.

But unhealthy green or pathological green takes all of that to extremes. Instead of an opening to other viewpoints and perspectives, there is a persecution of those who do not share this particular "openness." The politically correct thought police swing into action, a type of green Inquisition that is now quite active in academia, both conventional and even more so in alternative education.

Like all first-tier memes, the pathologies of green tend toward a sharp polarization--into an "us" vs. "them" mentality. Second tier, on the other hand, sees the importance and necessity of both. But first tier creates sharp dualities: purple has good spirits versus bad spirits; red has predators and prey; blue has saints and sinners; orange has winners and losers; and green has "sensitive" versus "insensitive." And so green, in a rather paradoxical fashion, creates intense dualities and demonizes those whose are "insensitive" based precisely on its drive to be inclusive. The reason for this paradox--excluding and demonizing so many people in the name of inclusiveness--is that green's "inclusiveness" or green's version of "integral" is not yet really integral or really inclusive, because it does not yet grasp holarchy and so it cannot really create greater wholeness--all it can do is collect the parts, not connect the parts into greater wholes (which requires ranking--worldcentric is better than ethnocentric is better than egocentric--but green just can't bring itself to consciously rank anything, including worldviews, so it gathers everybody together and then watches helplessly as those fragments proceed to tear each other apart). In short, green excludes those who have value rankings, and thus green is not as inclusive as it would like to think (not to mention the fact that green has its own intense ranking system and thus ought to throw itself out of its own club). But green, struggling in the right direction but still caught in first tier, demands this type of "inclusiveness" and people who don't buy this pseudo-inclusiveness are instantly demonized and excluded.

Shambhala: Which is what greens do with Bush, for example.

KW: Yes, which is why your political orientation is a good test of whether you are first or second tier. If you are passionately Republican or passionately Democrat, then you are passionately first tier. Second tier, on the other hand, starts to understand a truly integral politics , where the traditional Republican stance (which is largely blue to orange--Republicans are the party of the conventional stages of growth) and the traditional Democratic stance (which is green/red/purple--Democrats are the party of both preconventional and postconventional)--are all crucially needed. The fact is that both Republican and Democratic agendas contain extremely important truths, and thus both of them need to be honored and brought together into a larger synthesis or whole, a synthesis that spans the entire spiral of development and does not demonize any particular wave of consciousness.

Shambhala: So are you comfortable with Bush as president?

KW: Yes, with some reservations, of course. Green has so devastated blue infrastructure in this country that we need to take a step back and rebuild that infrastructure. Green attempts to impose its values on everybody, including the earlier stages of development--green especially and rather tragically attempts to erase or deconstruct blue (traditional religion, republican values) and orange (science, the Western Enlightenment), and this hobbles the entire spiral. So a little old-fashioned Republican infrastructure building is in order, counteracting what Bush so accurately called "the soft bigotry of lowered expectations."

Now you can say that Bush is insincere about this, or that his "compassionate conservatism" is just a clever ploy. But I don't think Bush is clever enough to do that. Compassionate conservatism is his attempt to include more green in the traditional blue-orange Republican worldviews, which are indeed harshly polarized into blue saints and sinners (e.g., homosexuals, unwed mothers) and orange winners and losers (e.g., homeless, poor). Bush is at least attempting to work a little green into the Republican values, and those who know him say he is quite sincere about this.

The downside, of course, is that most Republicans also think that their basic blue-orange value system is still the only value system really worth anything, and so they will cause their own considerable "collateral damage," as it were. I'm particularly worried about environmental programs, which will take a huge and frightening hit--both blue and orange tend to devalue the environment, blue because "my kingdom is not of this earth," so if we screw up the earth, what the hell, eh?; and orange because the earth is a vast resource for profit plundering. But that's the price this country will continue to pay until we have a truly integral politics. Until that time, blue and green will continue to wreck havoc on the overall spiral of growth and development.

Shambhala: But Al Gore has now twice said publicly that The Marriage of Sense and Soul is his favorite new book. Wouldn't you prefer to see him in office?

KW: Well, my point is that second tier can very comfortably work with either of them, so I would hope I could do so. And of course personally for me it would have been better to have Al Gore in office. But he came out with such a green-meme, flatland political agenda (which incredibly was taken to even more extremes by Nader), aggressively attacking blue and orange without any understanding of how their healthy versions are crucial for the health of the spiral and the nation--we were all a little shocked, actually. It might be good for him to cool his heels and reflect on how a more integral political agenda would serve him and the country better, or so it seems to me. Ideally, of course, we would have a green-to-yellow politician who also embraces red to blue to orange, or the entire Spiral--we would have the beginning of a truly integral politics, a genuine "Third Way"--but I don't see that anywhere on the horizon [see A Theory of Everything , chaps. 5 and 6, for a further discussion of integral politics and today's national and international political scene.]

Shambhala: You and the members of the politics branch of Integral Institute have worked with both Gore and Bush, right? And Clinton and Tony Blair?

KW: Yes, and we will continue to do so, trying to help any of them move from first-tier to second-tier politics. One thing is sure: whoever develops a truly integral politics will have the inside track for the foreseeable future.

Shambhala: You were going to mention one other home self-test.

KW: Oh, yeah. Research showed that only two memes thought that Y2K was going to be a great social transformation--blue and green. Blue (fundamentalist religion) thought it would be the end of the sinful world and the coming of Christ. Green thought it would be the end of the insensitive world and the coming of caring green. Needless to say, it didn't quite work out that way.

Shambhala: But it could have. If all communications really did break down, which many forecasters predicted, that could have precipitated a social transformation to a more caring or green world.

KW: Well, when a given culture breaks down that badly, it regresses to more primitive survival levels. So the orange/green culture would have regressed to red survival drives and street gangs, and the greens would actually have been dinner for the Bloods and Crips. That green thought that any social upheaval would automatically make everybody embrace its own value system shows again the provincial nature of first-tier beliefs.

Shambhala: Incidentally, what level are you?

KW: I'm trying to work my up to beige.

Shambhala: [Laughing] Okay, let's wrap this particular topic up. Given all of this, why does green think that it is "integral"? Why does green always think that it is turquoise?

KW: Well, green is indeed a strong step in the right direction, which is why, although it is not yet really second tier, it does prepare the way for it. Green is sort of John the Baptist for second-tier salvation.

Shambhala: How exactly?

KW: Well, recall that green is the "sensitive self," and it wants to include everybody, it wants to get everybody into the tent. It doesn't want to marginalize anybody. This in itself is wonderful, and this is why green prepares the quantum leap to second tier.

But green is not itself second tier because, although it knows how to "collect the dots," it doesn't know how to "connect the dots," as we were saying earlier. Green knows how to get all the pieces together, but it doesn't know how to create a patterned whole out of them. They just remain pluralistic fragments lying around in heaps--they are not organized into holarchies of increasing consciousness and compassion.

Shambhala: Why not?

KW: Because green denies holarchies altogether--denies nested hierarchies and ranking of any sort. But the only way atoms can be brought together into molecules is via hierarchy. That is, there has to be some principle that is higher or deeper than the isolated parts in order to bring them together. That "deeper" or "higher" glue is nested hierarchy (holarchy), and without holarchy, you have heaps, not wholes.

But green denies any sort of hierarchies, nested or otherwise, and thus green denies second tier--fights its, tries to destroy it, tries to deconstruct it. So it is only as consciousness lets go of green--transcends it, but also includes it--that consciousness can move to second tier, integral awareness.

Shambhala: But here is the problem that so many people have with hierarchies, nested or otherwise. If the higher level subsumes the lower level, then it seems that you are saying, for example, that second tier can control those who are at first tier, just as a cell can control its molecules.

KW: Absolutely not. You just confused individual and social holons.

Shambhala: Oh yeah. Oops.

KW: Only with individual holons do the senior elements subsume the junior elements and exercise some sort of strong control over them. But social holons are composed of members or partners, NOT elements. So this remains a co-partnership at all levels.

Shambhala: Then where does the "transcend and include" part come in? How is a second tier social holarchy higher than a first tier?

KW: Well, just remember that social holons transcend and include the previous social holons, NOT the previous individual holons. Thus, an orange culture transcends and includes the fundamentals of a blue culture, which transcends and includes the fundamentals of a red culture, and so on. Why is orange higher than blue, which is higher than red? Because each higher wave of development is more inclusive and more holistic --moving from egocentric (purple, red) to ethnocentric (blue) to worldcentric (orange, green, and second tier), and second tier opens directly onto pneumocentric or Kosmocentric. Each higher wave has more consciousness, more care, and more compassion.

Shambhala: Hence, the nested hierarchy or holarchy.

KW: Yes. And it is generally the case that, once a culture's center of gravity moves from, say, blue-ethnocentric to orange-worldcentric, then the orange culture will indeed ask all of its members to follow these higher laws and rules (no matter what the individual's level of interior development). For example, in the worldcentric Western cultures (and the laws of Western cultures are in fact almost entirely worldcentric, not ethnocentric, as green demonizing claims), it is illegal to discriminate against a person based on ethnocentric criteria. That is, in Western worldcentric democracies, it is illegal to discriminate based on religious belief, sexual orientation, skin color, and so on. These worldcentric laws are part of every orange/green culture--they are part of the defining patterns or agency of that social holon--and thus, if you are to be a member of that culture, you must follow those patterns and laws. If not, you are outlawed, or removed from the public space.

These public laws say, in effect: "Look, we don't care what level of interior development you are. You can be purple, red, blue, orange, green, whatever. That is your right as a member of this social holon (and since society is not an organism or a big individual holon, then not even a dictatorship can actually take that right away from you). But in the public space--the res public--a social holon can indeed insist that its members behave according to its laws. Thus, in an orange society, you cannot shoot somebody whose religion you don't like; you cannot deny somebody an education because of their skin color; you cannot disenfranchise a person because she is female, and so on. Those exclusionary practices are the defining laws and patterns in ethnocentric cultures (which, strangely, are celebrated by greens); but those ethnocentric laws are illegal in worldcentric cultures. This is a brilliant move for social holarchies, and it allows cultural evolution to continue on its way of increasing inclusiveness, increasing consciousness, increasing compassion.

But this rule of law--the orange law in modern democracies--is not one individual controlling another individual; it is the membership of the social holon enacting laws that all members agree to abide by. Big difference. If green could better understand this, it could begin to grasp the nature and importance of holarchies--individual and social--and thus stand open to truly integral consciousness.

THE COMING TRANSFORMATION

Shambhala: So green is preventing the integral culture, but if green lets go of itself and moves to yellow, then the entire green population can move into, or transform into, second-tier integral culture.

KW: Yes, I think that's right.

Shambhala: Could that actually happen? All of the green population moving to yellow? And if so, when?

KW: A couple of things about that. The social revolution of the '60s and '70s was indeed a genuine revolution--it was the first time in history that a large and significant portion of the population moved from orange to green. In the past, many of the truly higher memes, such as green, emerged only in very small segments of the population. For example, the Western Enlightenment was basically orange, the Romantic movement was green (which, as usual, attracted red and purple regressive elements as well), and the Idealist movement was second tier. But the Romantic and Idealist movements were confined to a very, very small percentage of the population. With the Enlightenment, the western cultural-legal center of gravity moved from ethnocentric blue to worldcentric orange--this was the Enlightenment's extraordinary accomplishment (which, of course, green postmodernists have spent their time trashing). But at no time in history were there significant portions of the population that were green.

Until the boomers, who were the first generation in history to ride the green wave. Now the boomers, from the start, thought that this was the revolution to end all revolutions, the great social transformation that would end all transformations. This was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, the Aquarian Conspiracy, the Greening of America. Well, it was indeed the green-meming of America, which was wonderful, and led to all those important contributions I mentioned, from civil rights to feminism to environmentalism. For all of that we can gratefully thank the "sensitive self."

Shambhala: But green didn't realize that it still had a long way to go. That there was still yellow, and turquoise, and coral/psychic, and subtle....

KW: Yes, that's right. But the really amazing thing about this is that, although the green-meme cultural creatives are not yet at second tier--and in fact, they despise second tier--they are actually standing right on the brink. And the slightest nudge could send them over in droves.

Shambhala: So the integral revolution that they have talked about all their lives could in fact still lie right in front of them.

KW: It's a distinct possibility. Run the numbers here: the revolution of the '60s was caused by about 20% of the population moving from orange to green. Now once you are at a new level or stage or wave of consciousness--say, green--it is very hard to move immediately to the next wave (in this case, yellow or even turquoise). The reason is that, in order for transformation to occur, several things have to happen [see chap. 3 of A Theory of Everything ]. One, you have to be at a particular stage for a fairly long time, long enough anyway to have fully tasted it and developed some sort of competence at it--and the boomers have been at the green wave for 30 years, as in, enough already. Two, you have to start to get tired of your present stage--it no longer satisfies, it starts to taste flat--and the boomers are really getting sick and tired of their same old games, especially the self-inflation of boomeritis and "the wonder of being us." Third, some sort of dissonance has to set in--some aspects of reality increasingly will not fit into your present value scheme, and so that scheme starts to rip apart--and the green meme is facing huge chunks of reality that its pluralism simply cannot integrate. Fourth, you have to have some sort of insight into your present situation, so that you can more readily let go of your present value structures (in this case, green), and therefore find a larger, higher, wider, deeper awareness that transcends but includes green--in this case, second-tier integral consciousness.

Now I believe that at least the first three of those four factors are already in place. All that is required now is a little bit of insight into how and why green is important but very limited, and then the transformation to second tier could indeed begin. And theoretically, all 20% or 25% of the population that is now at green could literally move into second tier, and I guarantee you if that happens, it will be a cultural revolution unprecedented in history. (I hope any of my own boomeritis is not creeping in here....)

Shambhala: Do you think all 25% will transform?

KW: No, I don't. But there's another factor that needs to be taken into account. Evidence suggests that, when it comes to task completion, yellow is approximately ten times more efficient than green, if for no other reason than that endless processing doesn't derail the endeavor.

That means that if even a small percentage of the population is at yellow, because it is so much more flexible and fluid and effective than green, it could have an enormous impact. Thus, if the percentage of people at second tier goes from 2% to, say, 5%, we will see some major changes. If the percentage of people at second tier goes to 10%, it will be a massive, and I mean massive, cultural shift.

Shambhala: What percentage do you think it will actually be?

KW: Around 7% or 8%. But that would be huge. And that highly effective population (with an enormous amount of wealth) will demand integral solutions to today's problems: it will want integral medicine, integral education, integral politics, integral business, integral spirituality, integral ecology, integral art....

Shambhala: This is what you are trying to offer at Integral Institute.

KW: We are trying, yes. We have ten branches--integral psychology, integral medicine, integral education, integral business... well, you can read about them in the posting on this site ["Announcing the Formation of Integral Institute"]. The idea is that, by the time that this 8% or so of the population comes crashing ashore at second tier--starting in about a decade--Integral Institute will hopefully have pioneered integral approaches to all these various fields, from business to spirituality to politics. And so we are trying to position ourselves as surfing the front crest of that rising incoming wave of second-tier consciousness.

Shambhala: One of the postmodern transpersonalists recently wrote an essay that, after the pro forma attack on the perennial philosophy, said that what we really need is a mixture of universalism and contextualism. You've been saying that for thirty years--deep universal patterns and local contextual patterns.

KW: I don't care who says it, as long as it gets said. That essay you talk about is an example of the beginning emergence of yellow from the rich green-meme soil, so that is a good sign.

Shambhala: That reminds me of another question I have had since you described the "postmodern transpersonalists" at the beginning of this interview. Does the fact that a person is basically at the green meme--does this mean that they have no higher or transpersonal awareness?

KW: Not at all. Because there is a difference between "states" and "stages," a person at virtually any level or stage of development (red, blue, green, yellow, etc.) can have an altered state or peak experience of any of the higher states of being (such as psychic/nature mysticism, subtle/deity mysticism, causal/formless mysticism, or nondual/sahaj mysticism). But they will interpret that experience thru the lens of their present stage of development.

Thus, a person whose center of gravity is green will tend to interpret these transpersonal experiences and events through the lens of pluralism, relativism, anti-hierarchy, anti-universal, and so on. A person at second tier will interpret these experiences through the lens of integralism, holarchy, a balance of both universal and contextual, and a wider degree of embrace. Thus, these second-tier interpretations are wider and deeper and therefore more adequate to the transpersonal or spiritual realms, which is why turquoise interpretations are preferable to green (which is preferable to blue, and so on). And if a person continues to evolve, they will enter these transpersonal states in a permanent and enduring fashion (what I call "third tier"), and thus no longer experience them merely as altered or passing states. Altered states have become permanent traits. So the best of all possible worlds at this time would be direct adaptation at third-tier events (which are supramental) interpreted through second-tier lens (wherever the mental is involved), which can then integrate first-tier views.

[If you are interested in this approach, see "A Summary of My Psychological Model," posted on this site; see also Integral Psychology .]

Shambhala: What do the "integral kids" have to do with Integral Institute?

KW: Oh, the integral kids are young gen-X and gen-Y "kids" who are the upcoming foundation of Integral Institute. The younger generation is coming in with a very strong yellow component already, so we have dozens of these young men and women involved in I-I, many of whom attend all the branch meetings and establish continuity (and we will eventually have an outreach program to thousands of students around the world). They're the ones getting fully trained in all aspects of integral thinking and integral practice, and they will carry on the integral vision when us old geezers are long gone. One of the their many advantages is that they are largely free of boomeritis (though not of the scars it inflicted on them), so you don't have to get caught in the green swamp of endless processing, and you don't have to defend second-tier consciousness--they get it immediately.

So the coming groups that will have a significant portion of their population at second tier are going to be aging boomers and the upcoming kids. What my friend Warren Bennis calls "geeks and geezers." And those are the folks that make up I-I, although of course we will take anybody who is genuinely interested in second or third tier consciousness.

THE GLOBAL CONSCIOUSNESS TRANSFORMATION THAT WASN'T

Shambhala: Now, this might be a sensitive topic for you, but what you just described sounds very much like the old green "coming global transformation" or "global paradigm shift" or "major social transformation," and so on. You have sharply criticized that notion for many years, yet here you are pushing your own version of it. Isn't this, as you hinted, your own boomeritis?

KW: Ouch! [Laughing] You are clearly an uncaring and insensitive person, so everything you say is not true!

Let's take this a point at a time and be very careful about what I am saying and what I am not saying. In other words, let's see if we can pull my chestnuts out of the fire, you insensitive toadie.

First, the standard version (i.e., the green-meme version) of the "coming transformation" is that it will be what is usually called "a global mind change" or "the emergence of a global consciousness." This is also called the emergence of a new "global paradigm shift," which involves a major change in consciousness and which will change the entire world top to bottom.

I claim that a "global consciousness change" is exactly what will NOT happen. In fact, the only major consciousness change that I see happening in the coming decade or two is as I suggested: a very small percentage of the American and Western European population will move from green to second tier, so that the percentage of people at second tier will move from around 2% to around 8%. That is a very, very small change. The consciousness of the rest of the population in America and Europe, and in the rest of the world's population, will change very little at all .

And what consciousness changes we will see in the rest of the world will have absolutely nothing to do with second tier, and none of them will have even heard of the word "paradigm." Outside of the West, the bulk of the world's population is at red and blue, with emerging pockets of orange. That is, about 70% of he world's population is pre-orange (and certainly pre-green). Most of the action in the world will continue to focus on skirmishes of red ethnic cleansing, purple/red tribal warfare, and feudal blue empires (particularly in the Balkans and in the middle East). China is now struggling to move from blue ancient nation to orange corporate state, as is Russia. None of this will change very much. I don't mean to be harsh here, but really, only a self-glorifying green could think that because 20% of the American population moved to green, the rest of the world would immediately follow its lead in a global consciousness transformation unparalleled in history.

Shambhala: So how on earth did the green meme ever get this idea of a global paradigm shift? It is so off the wall....

KW: Well, as usual, green is onto a very important, if misconstrued, truth. For this we need to use the four quadrants [see A Theory of Everything , or the introduction to CW7 posted on this site].

First of all, there is indeed one type of global transformation that is definitely occurring. It is not a global consciousness change (it is not a change in the Lower-Left quadrant). Rather, it is a massive global transformation in the Lower-Right quadrant: namely, a material or exterior shift in the techno-economic base from industrial to informational. This is indeed one of the four or five greatest social (Lower-Right quadrant) transformations in history. It started roughly with the transistor and accelerated with the digital chip, and it will accelerate again with the move into bio-informational technology (e.g., nanotech, bioengineering, bio-botics).

Now, it just so happens that at about the same time that this global technological shift was beginning to occur (in the Lower Right), a small percentage of the American (and European) population was moving from orange to green (in the Upper and Lower Left). And here's what happened: green equated its own particular cultural values (in the LL), which were confined to a small local percentage of middle-class Americans, with the global technological shift that was indeed occurring around the world (in the LR), and then it assumed that the world was on the global brink of completely and universally accepting the green-meme value system. Green naturally assumed that it was therefore the spearhead, the growing tip, of a consciousness transformation that would be global in its reach, one of the greatest consciousness transformations in history, a new green-meme paradigm that would rock the world, deconstruct everything that came before it, and usher in a caring, sensitive, networked global consciousness. The old, patriarchal, Newtonian-Cartesian mechanistic worldview would be toppled, and the new paradigm would reign unchallenged, all thanks to the green boomers and their aquarian conspiracy.

Well, of course, nothing of the sort happened. Instead, a small percentage of wealthy, middle class, Western, industrialized boomers moved from orange to green, and the rest of the world went on its merry way and didn't even notice this at all.

Shambhala: So what did the rest of the world actually notice?

KW: Right now, the real action on the world scene is due to: (1) the tension, in the Lower Right, between the globalizing forces of informational technology versus the local, largely agrarian cultures around the world (e.g., Friedman's The Lexus and the Olive Tree ); and (2) the tensions, in the Lower Left, between purple tribes, red ethnic empires, and blue ancient nations, as their intrinsically different value systems clash with each other and with the orange/green democracies of the West. All of these tensions are explored at length in A Theory of Everything .

Shambhala: So, let's see. 25% of the American population is about 50 million people, which is about 0.7% of the world's population. So you are saying that these cultural creatives equated their own value system--namely, green--which is only 0.7% of the world's population--they equated the emergence of this value system with the global technological shift, which was indeed worldwide in its reach and was a major, social, world transformation. And so green thought that its values were the values of this global shift, whereas, on the consciousness side, this "new global paradigm" actually affected less than 1% of the world's population.

KW: Right.

Shambhala: What a mess.

KW: Well, again, it's a small and important step in the right direction. And as Inglehart has shown ( Modernization and Postmodernization ), the emergence of the green meme in the industrialized West is an important if limited trend. But as I have said for decades, we are several centuries away from a global consciousness shift into green or second tier, or even into global orange for that matter (although we might have an orange global center of gravity as early as sometime in the next century).

But what we can indeed focus on now is creating healthy green here and in Europe (because much of green in America is pathological boomeritis, unfortunately); help the developing countries move from blue to healthy orange; and develop "big pictures" that can see this by supporting those who can develop truly integral or second-tier solutions to these problems.

To develop "second-tier solutions to the world's problems" does not mean that everybody in the world will develop to second tier; it simply means that second-tier approaches can help create environments where the spiral of development can unfold in healthy and positive ways. Everybody, here and abroad, starts at square one and has to develop through the entire spiral, and the prime directive is to protect and promote the health of the entire spiral, not choose our favorite wave--blue or orange or green--and try to force that on everybody. Because every wave, in its own way and its own time, is absolutely crucial to the health of the overall spiral.

But the reason that second-tier approaches to these problems are important is because only second tier truly understands the prime directive. First tier thinks that its own meme is the only true meme, so it will fight the prime directive (just as Democrats will fight Republicans and vice versa); but second tier embraces them all through the unifying insight into holarchy, into increasingly unifying waves of care and compassion and consciousness, egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric to Kosmocentric.

Shambhala: What about the criticism that in continuing to differentiate from green, you run the risk of "green bashing."

KW: Yes, that's true, and I sometimes step over the line here. It's a delicate balance between being challenging and being obnoxious, and I don't always get it right. Green will have a hard time believing this, but I continue to "pick on green" precisely because green is so important. Green is the meme that stands on the brink of the transformation to second tier. Green is both the highest of first-tier memes, and the final barrier to second tier, and so of course you focus on rattling green's cage wherever it is appropriate. I do not pick on blue or orange, because they are not on the brink and wouldn't respond anyway. I pick on green because it counts. But don't take my criticisms at face value. Think about them, see if they make sense, and then follow your own lights.

Shambhala: So, to circle back to where we started. The differentiation in the field that you talked about at the beginning, the necessity for the field to differentiate so that it can integrate on a higher level, is especially about differentiating green from second tier. The integral approach is looking for specifically second-tier approaches to psychology, medicine, education, spirituality, and so on, and is attempting to move beyond the merely green-meme paradigm.

KW: Yes, that's right, that's what we are trying to do at Integral Institute. Of course, the demographics are against us, because approximately 25% of the population is green, and less than 2% is second tier. This is why second-tier approaches to anything need to be rather careful, because green will try to deconstruct them whenever it can. You almost have to create a type of sanctuary, or a safe clearing, where integral second-tier research and writing can occur. It is also very hard to get funding for second-tier anything, because the green-meme dominates virtually all of conventional academia AND countercultural academia. So at Integral Institute we are trying to create a gathering of second-tier researchers and provide them with some sort of support. Integral Institute is trying to create a second-tier sanctuary, where integral theorists can come together, think out loud, and freely speak their minds. It's pretty exciting, actually, and the meetings are electric. We hope soon to be able to open these up to anybody who wants to get involved.

Shambhala: What specific types of product do you see Integral Institute creating?

KW: I'll give you a few examples. Each of the ten branches has "core teams," which are made up of around 6 to 8 of the most gifted integral theorists, researchers, and writers in a specific area. We then fund these teams and set them loose to create integral ("all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, all types") approaches to the most pressing issues--in psychology, medicine, education, politics, art, business, and so on.

For example, in ii-psych, we have a core team called "Human Change Process." This is a massive literature review of all the known techniques of human transformation. What are the actual ways that human beings can grow, develop, change, transform? What evidence is there that any of these techniques actually transform people? It seems that almost everybody wants a coming transformation, but we are all clueless as to what actually, truly, really works to transform humans. So this core team is creating the first encyclopedia of the ways that people grow--an Encyclopedia of Human Transformation, which it will then publish. This Encyclopedia will be updated every decade or so, to create the definite overview of human transformation. This team is headed by Allan Combs ( The Radiance of Being ) and Dick Mann, editor of the transpersonal series at SUNY, and includes senior advisors Mike Mahoney (whose brilliant book, Human Change Process , set the tone of this team) and Susanne Cook-Greuter, who is Jane Loevinger's foremost student and the editor of numerous superb texts (such as Transcendence and Mature Thought in Adulthood ). Plus around 5 or 6 "integral kids" who are doing much of the intense literature review.

A second core team in ii-psych is called "Skillful Means." Given that virtually all forms of genuine transformation involve some sort of levels, stages, or waves of unfolding--some sense of higher states and lower states, or more compassionate states and less compassionate, etc.--and given that 25% of the population, or some 50 million green memes, are very uncomfortable with any sort of hierarchy, then how can we skillfully present the results of Human Change Process in a way that it can be heard by those who could use it? Obviously, polemic is not the way to proceed in this case ([laughing], so, um, I'm not on that team). Robert Kegan of Harvard, probably the world's most respected developmental psychologist, is heading up this team. In ii-psych, we also have teams on integral pedagogy (what would a truly integral education look like?) and integral diagnostics (can we come up with a fairly simple series of diagnostics that are "all quadrants, all levels, all lines" and would help therapists diagnose their clients in a more integral, inclusive, compassionate way?)

And so on. We have a terrific core team in ii-business that is working on the first model of integral business and integral leadership. Part of its task is also a type of literature search and overview of existing business practices, mapped onto an all-quadrant, all-level space (AQAL). Thus, for example, Daniel Goleman's "emotional intelligence" is mid-level Upper Left. Meg Wheatley and Peter Senge's systems theory is basically Lower Right. Geoffrey Moore has mapped how Lower-Right business cycles demand corresponding Lower-Left business cultures, and so on. We are mapping all known business practices onto an AQAL space--what we call a "holonic index"--and thus creating a whole battery of techniques that can be brought together to offer a more integral and inclusive "doctor's kit" of approaches for different business demands. But more than that, we are finding that profoundly novel approaches to business--both management and marketing, in both meatspace and cyberspace--have emerged from this research. And all of this is set in one over-riding context: business is not merely about making money, it is about Right Livelihood, and we are trying to offer integral approaches to this most fundamental endeavor.

Shambhala: So the same types of integral core teams are now at work in the branches of medicine, politics, law, education, art, spirituality....

KW: Yes, that's right. In integral politics, for example, one core team is working on a definitive text of integral political theory . The first part of the book is a historical survey of the seven or eight most influential theories of politics, from the Greeks to present-day. But each of those seven or eight theories is actually very partial. Political theories have implicit in them a theory of human nature, and a partial or less-than-integral view of human nature produces a partial or fragmented political theory, which is what historically we have always had. So the second part of the book says, What if we took all of these theories of human nature and political action and framed an integral view that included the best of all of them? The result is a fully integral view of human consciousness and a fully integral political theory and action that takes that into account.

In ii-art, we are putting together a core team to come up with an integral art and literary theory, which will help us to interpret art using the entire spectrum of consciousness. And so on with education, medicine, spirituality....

Shambhala: Do these branches meet separately?

KW: Right now, yes, but we are aiming for our first "mega-conference," which is when all members in all the branches come together for a week of interaction. Eventually, members of any branch will be able to attend all the other branch meetings, since that is the whole point of integral.

Shambhala: Is Integral Institute open to the public yet?

KW: Not quite yet. We aren't even accepting new members at this time. We have around 400 members right now, and that's really all we can handle. We are basically the world's first integral start up, and so although we are growing at a frightening rate, we're still less than one year old. So we have to move very carefully here.

But at some point we will indeed begin an outreach program. Although we are focusing on doing second-tier work, since no other institutions are really doing that, the whole point about second tier is that it transcends and includes first tier, as all holons do. So although we are tying to differentiate from green initially, the whole point is to eventually include it--which means an outreach program to share our integral research with blue, orange, green, etc. Anybody who shares a desire for a more integral world will be more than welcome to join us in our efforts, so stay tuned to this site for further information.

Shambhala: Thanks, Ken.

KW: Thank you.

PART I | PART II | PART III



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