f a q opinions
www.spiraldynamics.org

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       integral

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Why do some people in Spiral Dynamics flog it is 'integral' while others do not?

What do you think about writer Ken Wilber's representation of SD and Graves?

Do you have any connection with Andrew Cohen's organization?

 


 

Why do some people in Spiral Dynamics flog it is 'integral' while others do not?

     Nobody denies that SD is integrative; that's why Dr. Graves spoke of a "bio-psycho-social systems framework" forty years ago. And who could object to efforts to find connections and synergies among fields and knowledge sets? That's been in process since The Enlightenment as it begins in earnest with Graves's fifth level. However, within the Spiral Dynamics world, the word 'integral' is largely a matter of branding and emphasis, almost a faith. While fine work is done under an integral flag bringing disciplines together (at the California Institute of Integral Studies, for example, founded in 1968), the word 'integral' in context of Spiral Dynamics denotes a recent spin-off version of SD (branded SDi) which departs somewhat from the original and foundational work on which we concentrate; thus, it's a commercial differentiation for competing seminars and training that has arisen since the co-authors of Spiral Dynamics went separate ways in 1999. The SDi branch relies heavily on the philosophy of Ken Wilber and is closely associated with spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen and others in what has come to be called an integral 'movement.' How much that ultimately adds or detracts from understanding the nuance of SD and the work of Dr. Graves is an open question. Many approaches complement the Gravesian work quite as well.

     Our position is that there is a treasure trove of information and research yet to be done within the Gravesian legacy and point of view, and that the work of Wilber, etc., can be better understood within it rather than the reverse. Running down intellectualized rabbit trails distracts from building the work that interests us. Thus, we choose to put energy into learning more about what the Emergent Cyclical theory suggests and teaching that to our students so they can carry it on in their own work and build from it rather than rumors and reports thereof. They can then complement that knowledge elsewhere and attach with all sorts of new knowledge in the neurosciences, anthropology, sociology, and psychology once a solid grounding exists. 

     Although much has been discovered since Dr. Graves's day, very little contradicts most of the Gravesian hypotheses, and much has been published which illuminates and expands this remarkable theory. Psychology has changed very little in some respects, and many of the revolutionary  ideas proposed by Graves and his peers are yet to be explored and put to the test. Thus, there is much work to be done and many useful things to be made of EC theory and its application in SD as new discoveries in the a number of fields expand our understanding of human nature and the mind. For example, the collision between fourth and fifth level thinking in today's geopolitics is something Graves anticipated, and which the theory explains quite well.   

      Integral is a meme. It has spread like a virus; memes that fit minds do that. There is a broad and eclectic community of people who now proclaim themselves "integral" beings. Some of them have, in fact, co-opted and branded a perfectly good word and an idea of connection-seeking which is far older than their fascination with it and turned an adjective in a noun - to be an integral. Again, the behavior of a meme. The contemporary urge to adopt this meme is well explained by Graves's theory with the awakening of more human problems that demand integrative solutions which stretch across the bounds of disciplines, cultures, and narrow interests - an interest going back to the alchemists. It's surging today in everything from consciousness and sustainability studies to the efforts to fuse evolution with 'intelligent design' under a neo-based flag that blends liberal with conservative as a third way or new middle. At the same time, a perfectly fine term is being rapidly discredited and made nonsensical as it's applied without discrimination or finesse to anything and everything, from leadership and psychology to multi-grain sandwich breads! Anyone throughout history who has ever done anything good or significant is ordained "integral" - without regard to how they think, the context in which they functioned, the life conditions, cognitive complexity, or very much else that matters in a Gravesian analysis. We are not opposed to integralness, just not as worshipful of it as the be all, end all verb as many in the movement demand.    

     Why is the integral buzz so attractive to those also interested in Spiral Dynamics? SD, when well understood in conjunction with the underlying Gravesian theory, is obviously an integral and integrating model - 'everything connects to everything else.' Human knowledge is best handled as a field, not in pockets or compartments. Neither scientism nor religiosity holds all answers, an overlap of theology with natural science going back to Newton's efforts to bring earth and heaven together. The need to integrate knowledge for a better grasp of human behavior was a goal voiced more recently by Abraham Maslow and others. (This cross-disciplinary approach didn't set Dr. Graves in good stead with some of his more parochial colleagues.) The theory is based, after all, on a bio-psycho-social-systems perspective - biology, psychology, sociology, systems theory. So its integral nature is not really in dispute, nor does that come as a surprise to those who know the theory well. (Graves relied on General Systems thinking as a foundational element. New work in systems, chaos theory, and complexity add a great deal.) Long before integral marketing machine took off, we referred to the GT or A'N' (7th) system as integrative, as well as systemic and existential. Breaking the boundaries between academic fields and ways of knowing is good sense, so long as it doesn't dilute and cross-contaminate in ways that cloud more than they reveal. Thus, no real news here other than a burst of popularity. (Predictable in terms of the model.)

       The word integral, has been turned into a philosophical position as well as a commercial tag - "if it's integral, it's got to be 'the good'." At the same time "Integral" has become a virtual trademark and a generic term for a wish-list of attitudes, and a modifier for a wide range of product offerings. For some, it's the name of a faith-like movement and quasi cult, not just an idea or point of view, with all the in-group and out-group characteristics that produces. For others, it's a goal of bridging artificial gaps between bodies of knowledge and paths to insight, a laudable end; if there are not opposing banks, a bridge is just a pier. For yet others, it's the key to enlightenment and personalized self-conscious evolution toward their ultima thule. From our perspective and based on our years of experiences with members of the integral fellowship, the term is at very serious risk of becoming discredited, even as it becomes popularized. (See Paul Ray and Sherry Andersen's Cultural Creatives for some better explanations of the forces at work in what's become the 'integral movement' and even an 'integral lifestyle,' as well as the urge to conscious evolution - who needs it and why.) And that is the traps we all can fall into - 'do as I say, not as I do' - and the confusion of ability to cognitively describe a process and write about it with being that which is described or behaving in the idealized ways being offered up. Confusing the theorist (or the exploiter of it) with the theory is a serious mistake. Sad to admit, when we hear "integral" attached to anything, we now become very cautious; threats and lawsuits tend to make one skeptical of high-and-mighty talk.

      Alas, 'integral' (the brand) is not always integrative any more than it is original. Some proponents exist as a virtual cult of true believers and want to create a 'movement' toward their vision of a better world, just as others have done with their ideologies in years past. Merely use the 'integr-' and they take it to be referential to themselves and reverential toward their leaders - "say integral and you're talking about us!" Many of these have taken to SD like puppies to a bone, tossing the theory around like a chew toy and dropping the name without a clue what it is actually about; but it provides them a typology, a trajectory with some content and substance which 'integral' lacks. If that's best they can come up with, we'd be the first to say it's a pretty weak language for some complex phenomena since they're using a decoration as critical terminology. (No doubt pastels are in the offing to remedy that as these 'indigo' kids come of age and invent a new-and-improved lingo and a 'better' color scheme, even though the original and its intent were never well understood by the integral community.)

       Despite suggestions otherwise - and we are often amazed at the false reports of our opinions and views from some people in this crowd - nobody denies that Dr. Graves's emergent-cyclical biopsychosocial systems theory is integrative since that suggests inclusive and connective. The 'integral' wing of SD seems to emphasize the fusion of Ken Wilber's four quadrant model - internal/external, individual/social - with the emergent levels of SD, making a four-quadrant, eight-level approach. OK. That's fine. Two-by-two matrixes work well in business school, though force-fitting Gravesian systems over them is sometimes quite a stretch. While the metamorphic Mr. Wilber periodically expands, elaborates, and rewrites his opinions (Wilber 6 or Wilber Thursday), the quadrants seem to be a central tenet of his perspective. In our view, most of this is implicit in the 'emergent, cyclical, double-helix model of adult biopsychosocial systems development;' Wilber and his acolytes offer a simplification and compilation of some aspects and useful elaboration of others, but they leave out some of the real meat of the Gravesian theory and confuse others as they conflate beliefs and value systems. 

      For those enamored of quadrant models, the Graves term "biopsychosocial systems" theory can be converted into one. Add some diagonal scales with interesting interval markers, and you're there. Ken Wilber (below) has developed and refined a quadrant model which has remarkable similarities to a Gravesian view, though Wilber divides cultural and social and Graves included the behavior of systems as a central element. 

bio- 
(biological elements)   
 psycho- 
  (psychological elements)
social- 
(sociological and cultural aspects)   
 systems 
  (systems theory in human nature)

       The SD color code has even been called the "lingua franca" of an integral movement which has not built a differential language of its own and seems to have adopted SD as a primary content set beyond Ken Wilber's quadrants, largely duplicating Graves's bio-psycho-social systems elements while adding diagonal scales. Since Turquoise (B'O', Level 8) was the top end of Dr. Graves's theorizing, it should come as no surprise that some of these folks deem themselves to be at least of that level, maybe beyond it, and most definitely beings of 'the second tier,' thus well qualified to look down upon lesser mortals with a degree of condescending scorn mixed with hope and plans for their eventual upliftment. Since we remain unconvinced of the validity of the tier notion at all, seeing it used to separate self-appointed elites onto their own Olympus is amusing.

      We definitely don't oppose integral-ness in principle; we applaud it. The search for links and the breaching of walls in cloisters of knowledge is laudable. However, we remain skeptical of cults, elitist and cliquish clubs, guru-worship, and marketing hype. Our experience causes us to be sorely disappointed at the tactics and ethics of many of the leading practitioners, and vigilant of those who would fall under their spells. We certainly hope the integral movement can get itself together as it works through these early stages of its formation. 

            It's quite true that Graves paid relatively little attention to the realm of mysticism and spirituality, religion or religiosity, because he viewed the expression of those aspects of human nature as sub-components of our psychology, not driving forces in themselves. For those who believe this is a serious void and find more traditional religions inadequate, the human need for religiosity is amply filled by the likes of Wilber and the other New Age, neo-spiritual, and consciousness-seeking movements which are easily dovetailed with SD if thought of as ways of conceiving the esoteric, transpersonal, and metaphysical. For those in search of salvation and eternity without the burden of hellfire (the more FS rather than DQ rendition), there is plenty to believe in.

      Dr. Graves's focus was more on understanding than empowering individuals, more on comprehending cultures than transforming them into his own rendition of what's right, and more on the containers for ideas than the specifics of their contents because the future is to the next stage, not to some idealized end state which can be defined by a few intellectual elites. (See schema/thema for more on how Graves saw the schematic sequence of Levels of Existence as orderly, but the thematic displays and manifestations within them unpredictable and usually surprising.) His practical work focuses on the design question and how to achieve systems which congruently match people with their worlds, their capacities with their situations; it actually offers very few prescriptions for change, though many suggestions on how to approach it if and when it is appropriate. The model does not define optimum outcomes because they will differ among situations, though the viewpoint always looks to movement up the levels of existence overall, in the long run of time because the increasing complexity of existential problems and the expansion of human experience demand it. 

     In terms of the SD community, the integral claim is largely a marketing issue with "integral" becoming a distinguishing business mark for one of two different approaches to teaching and applying the model. For true believers, it becomes a rallying cry. There are stars and favorites in the integral world, including Harvard education professor Robert Kegan whose viewpoint is quite Gravesian and well worth reviewing. Because of the growing popularity of 'integral' anything, joining that bandwagon is also good business; we are frequently told what a mistake it is not to go along with it. However, the branch operating this website concentrates primarily on elaborating and continuing Dr. Clare Graves's point of view and legacy of rich questions which are foundational to Spiral Dynamics. In our view, there's a lot to be done without spinning off into something else. We are not anti-integral; we're just not that interested in it and haven't found 'the beef.'

     There are now a number of people offering SDi trainings (SD-integral), some even claiming to offer 'certification' having been set up as competitors. Some of the differences between the SD and SDi 'camps' are deeply personal, noxious, and rather pathetic; some are due to differences about rights, IP and trademark management, and appropriate business practices; and some of the conflict also arises from unresolved differences in theoretical/political viewpoints and how the theory is most ecologically applied and ethically spread. At this point, the schism is profound and unlikely to be resolved. In fact, our predictions of a worst-case outcome are coming to pass and the acrimony has reached the courts without any good faith efforts at resolution of differences; we are deeply saddened that this low-road choice has been made by people who preach the high one, and ashamed that people who sell the model to others seem so unwilling to apply its lessons to themselves, or to seek truth. When observing the dance of life, watch the feet and not the words. 

     It is important to differentiate the theory of Dr. Graves from the personalities of its proponents, and we ask that objective viewers keep the model separate from the personas attracted to it and their behavior. Despite the hypocrisies and problems, those interested in the work will benefit from learning all they can from both "camps" since there is information to be had on multiple fronts. The feedback we receive convinces us that our training provides a superior grounding in the foundational theoretical work, however, to the extent that we can no longer accept SDi programs as fulfilling the prerequisites for our advanced courses, something we used to do before our ex-partner released control of that branch to others and began permitting third-party certification and online courses without agreed quality controls or standards. 

          With the spread of SD name, we have become concerned by the absence of standards and controls to ensure competence, quality, and ethical standards among those using the Spiral Dynamics trademark (often improperly and illegally) - obeisance to gurus or abundant self-confidence does not qualification make. (Some basic guidelines and knowledge fundamentals are forthcoming here.) On the positive side, many others expressing interest in things "integral" are thoughtful scholars who recognize the strengths and weaknesses, overlaps and discontinuities, without zealotry and fanatical obedience or guru-worship, or the need to prove their egos with hyperbole or grandiose claims. Integral and integrity need not and should not be at odds; perhaps the integral movement will sort itself out one day. Some members actually are the more complex and open-systems thinkers that their colleagues and teachers imagine themselves to be, and prove very sincere about drawing energies together and making connections. We applaud their interest and engagement, and regret deeply that their efforts are polluted by aggressive charlatans and unscrupulous practices. Telling the difference is now the big challenge. 

     Readers should further be aware that SDI and SDII (SD with one and two in cap Roman numerals) have designated the introductory and intermediate Spiral Dynamics certification seminars since their inception. There appears to be a deliberate effort afoot to confuse that with the SDi (for "integral") programs conducted by other organizations and spin-off groups; there is a difference. So caveat emptor. We are now using SD1 and 2, as well, to help clarify which is which, though confusion still occurs. 

     Today, largely thanks to these integral types who proliferate like intellectual hydrilla, the number of SD references on the web is simply astounding. Because of the uncontrolled spread and negligence in protecting it, the term "spiral dynamics" has come to mean almost anything, despite its legally trademarked status. It can be argued that's good for marketing - just spell the name right - all publicity is beneficial; but it can also be argued that the brand dilution, trademark dilution, and content dilution now being attached can destroy any credibility Spiral Dynamics might have had, thereby making SD meaningless and ultimately discredited as pop-psych, neo-spiritual mumbo-jumbo - a cheap, simplistic, color-coded typology for sorting friends from foes, fans from critics - all wrapped in quasi-theology and a mix of neocon and neolib political views pretending to represent something forward-looking but dwelling in the past. [see Parecon for a start-up alternative stretching beyond ER elitist 'coordinatorism.'] A faux-integral cure-all is as delusional as any other panacea, and when adjectives become nouns distinctions are lost. Our hunch has always been that SD would be assimilated, hyped, bastardized, and then discarded in the rush to the next new-and-improved consciousness, even though those doing so lack comprehension of what the Graves perspective is. It's now time to repair, pick up the good that the integral experience has added, and start again.

    So, what's new? It is our position that Dr. Graves's approach was quite integral before "integral" became fashionable and a highly marketed, even cultish, term; and that there are many contemporary theorists whose works complement his, including Ken Wilber's philosophy. Much of the 'new' is actually rediscovery and re-labeling of what's been done before. Thus, it has been our opinion that the addition of "integral" to the Gravesian point of view is redundant except for promotional reasons, and to distinguish brands and commercial offerings. It is also our suspicion that the need to "integrate" and seek connections is another cyclic phenomenon like others that characterize the different levels in the theory (temperament variables, etc.), and that the integrate-differentiate-
integrate-differentiate dynamic warrants further study as a curious theoretical chunk of emergent human systems. [For a discussion of "Premature Integral," click here.]

    Here are just two comments by Graves from the late 1970's: 

   "[The E-C theory] sketches a theoretical trellis upon which, it is hoped, the confusing behavior, the contradictory information and the conflicting explanations of adult human behavior can grow with time, into an integrated network. It considers the adult behavioral system of the past, the systems of the present and projects that new systems will appear infinitely in the future...In other realms, academics preached the sermon of integration of all knowledge yet continued to devise curricula which fractionated all learning and failed to achieve the educational goals they so righteously proclaimed."

   "At each stage of human existence the adult man is off on his quest of his holy grail, the way of life by which he believes men should live. At his first level he is on a quest for automatic physiological satisfaction. At the second level he seeks a safe mode for living, and this is followed, in turn, by a search for heroic status, for the power and the glory, then by a search for everlasting peace, a search for material fulfillment in the here and now, a search for personal fulfillment here and now, a search for integrated living and a search for spiritual peace in a world he knows can never be known. And, when he finds, at the eighth level, that he will never find that peace, he will be off on his ninth level quest... The lower [level] does not disappear, it is integrated into and subordinated to the higher." 

     Dr. Graves's 'trellis' was intended to be an integrative work in progress on which many ideas could grow and flourish. We strongly support both testing it and adding to its richness with new perspectives based on some solid research (with some data, rather than opinions and guesswork), and prefer that to philosophizing and punditry. We do view Clare Graves as the primary theorist, and choose to focus on SD through his original point of view rather than others' second hand reinterpretations or projections of what might be because there is so much yet untapped there for study and debate. We've been charged with failure to "get with the program" and mount the "integral" bandwagon, even with being out of date (along with Graves) and obstructionist to "the movement." But just because we don't use the word "integral" as a trademark or in advertising (we have developed a distaste for it), that doesn't at all mean we don't believe in what it suggests and the non-cultish intentions, nor that we would for one moment accept that Graves/SD has not been integral far longer than those who only now are making the discovery. 

What do you think about writer Ken Wilber's representation of SD and Graves?

      Overall, SD and integral philosophy are quite compatible, and we view Ken Wilber, leader of the integral pack (of which our former partner has been a part), as one of many contributive philosophers, compilers, and promoters. That said, we do not consider him an essential or authoritative part of Spiral Dynamics�, nor as qualified as many of our students to speak about Gravesian theory. In his recent piece on "What is Integral Spirituality?" Ken has written quite a lot about SD - as he sees it. Unfortunately, he seems to be still caught up in the same trap as many NLP practitioners and insists on Graves as a values model (i.e., content - what one values) with emphasis on the eight levels and a silly color code. By superimposing SD on his 2x2 matrix model, he continues to miss the essence of this point of view. The question so central to Gravesian studies - the how and why one values - continues to elude him. He does a fine job of criticizing his own misconceptions, but little that reaches the actual model.

      No doubt Wilber will soon dismiss SD altogether - i.e., his own glib and ill-informed rendition of it - as being flawed and too simplistic. We couldn't agree more, on those terms. What will be sad is that he will likely frame the model as an over-engineered typology that misses the big picture which his work, in his opinion, encompasses far better. (It's not a competition, folks.) There will be charges that SD is not what we have never claimed it is - a stairway to enlightenment or sure path to heightened spiritual planes; that was other's marketing, not ours, and we've been troubled with it since day one. To our deep regret and disappointment, it seems that Wilber still has not found the essence of either the biopsychosocial systems theory or its application, remaining at a superficial level and criticizing both for failure to be panaceas. As he moves through his sequence of recreations of himself, Wilber will surely slough off SD - his rendition of it as he understands it, that is - and transcend to pick up something else. Too bad he doesn't seem willing to recognize change in others: SD1996 ain't the same as SD2006. And what a shame that the essential Graves point of view has been largely omitted from such a popular niche writer's works and its artifacts instead recast and spread about as something lightweight and hollow, a mess for others to try and clean up. 

      Despite some suggestions otherwise, SD is not a spiritual practice. It's not a stairway to godliness; it's a process of emergent psychologies of the mature adult human being in operation - an approach to finding answers, not THE answer to anything. Godliness is a different dimension. Dr. Graves probably couldn't have meditated himself out of a paper bag and was not especially interested in the esoteric consciousness studies that fascinated many of his humanistic and transpersonal-oriented peers. His curiosity was more as to why they were so fascinated, and whom transpersonal approaches might help and why. Rooted in his theory, SD is not a systematic theology. It is not a category scheme or quadrant model. There are more than enough of those already, though we would propose that the means and motives of most can be better understood with the addition of a Graves-like window.  

      Using meditation as an example, the question is not 'to meditate or not to meditate?' The more Gravesian question is: why might someone choose to meditate, how would they think about the practice, why might such practice impact them, and what changes might it effect in their being? Or not? How does meditative practice impact people at various levels of psychological existence? What other forms of spiritual practice fit people centralized differently? Just like Gravesian management, the study is of congruence and facilitating transitions when and if they are appropriate, not setting a target destination and pushing people that way.

     Let us be clear that we do greatly appreciate the fact that many fine, intelligent, and well-informed people have first met SD and emergent, cyclical theory through philosopher/pundit Wilber's writings, and we welcome their interest. (We've also come across a few fanatics and cultish true believers who take Ken's writings as inerrant gospel to be defended at all costs, the organizing principle of their lives; plus a few equally devoted to undoing him as if he were a diabolical figure rather than a writer/philosopher with the right to speak his piece.) We extend our sincere thanks for the publicity he has given to Dr. Graves's work and the name recognition of SD in the market segment he reaches. We have personally enjoyed his musings since the 1970's, some of which have been brilliant and insightful. As a philosophical assimilator/compiler Ken is hard to beat, and he has done some important original work making connections. Thus the disappointment in his treatment of this work.

      Although we're listed as a severe critic of Ken Wilber on one prominent website dedicated to his work, our criticism only extends to his rendition of SD and Graves and to considerable irritation with the way he has chosen to do it; beyond that, we really couldn't care less and leave it to others to speak up for work that matters to them, or to dig into the phase-shifting opinions of Ken for themselves. We really don't doubt his overall positive intentions, nor of most of his followers who seek a better world. We suspect he has not been particularly well served by those close to him in this matter. We do remain convinced that if he had chosen to learn more about this point of view in a less narrow-minded way, he wouldn't be in a position of needing to 'transcend and discard' a deficient and twisted version of SD, one of his own construction thanks, apparently, to poor teaching. Either way, though, we do believe strongly enough in the core Gravesian notions that having them more known and accessible - so long as they aren't messed up too badly in the adaptation - is better than keeping the theory shut away or demanding absolute purity; this, too, is a work in progress, not a fixated body of truth. 

      It should be clear by now that we have no direct connection with Mr. Wilber or his operation, the Integral Institute. We do not necessarily support nor have we been consulted about what he has chosen to write of Spiral Dynamics and Dr. Graves's theory in context of his so-called "integral" work. Offers to be of assistance were declined with the comment that he was quite satisfied with his sources. Some of what he has written of SD is OK and some is definitely not, in our opinion, wobbling between a somewhat inaccurate representation of the theory and simply awful distortions echoing neoconservative nonsense. Thus, we need to say that we do not count Ken Wilber among the authorities on this model, though his interest in exploiting it is obvious and many of his more devout followers will surely take offense at such a blasphemous statement in the belief that Wilber created Spiral Dynamics rather than assimilated it. 

     Too much of Mr. Wilber's writing about SD distorts the model to inject his political and social opinions, something we find incredibly wasteful and tiresome because a writer of his skills could have done it so much better had he wanted to. Documents like the "Boomeritis" excerpts on his website and the book, Boomeritis, twist the theory and contain cheesy over-simplifications and biases, perhaps gleaned from his choice of sources or his own life experiences, which reflect neither the nuances nor the intent of this theory very well. He can hold whatever opinions he wants to; we only become disturbed when they are then erroneously attached to Spiral Dynamics and Graves. In that book (which rings loud and clear of marketing and promotion for his organization), there is frequent confusion of values (content) with Value Systems (containers). He also seems to have trouble differentiating the levels of psychological existence from personality traits - always a difficult task - and grossly misunderstands and overplays the "tier" notion; shuts down the open-ended aspect in favor of a target end state (like the Utopianism trap); crams in his spiritual views as if they were inherent in SD or the Gravesian theory; and frequently confuses the eight hypothetical nodal states with the transitional conditions, as well as with each other. Simply put, he doesn't seem to understand what's Orange (E-R), Green (F-S), Yellow (G-T or A'N'), and Turquoise (HU or B'-O') very well, so readers are cautioned to rely on his SD theory representations with great care, popular as it is. Finally, Wilber and his followers tend to claim any and all good ideas as "Integral" or Second Tier, and attribute the bad to "mean Green," Red, or merely First Tier - quite a combination. We find much of it seriously misleading. 

     Frankly, it appears that Wilber and his group have tried to force SD into their model of the world and political views, and in the process they pollute and constrain it. We do wish he could have learned to differentiate between memes and vMemes (i.e., behavioral traits and ideas from the reasoning and the LOEs behind them) when citing SD and stopped confusing readers with sloppy and confusing terminology. (See comments on "Mean Green Meme," a construction which pulls bits of DQ, ER, FS, and transitional elements into a grand pejorative.) Much of the material demonstrates a limited grasp of the underlying theory; and although he's not always wrong in his use of SD, Ken has been wrong on technicalities far more often than there's any excuse for. He either failed to do his homework or only got superficial instruction in the theory. Thus, the supposed SD foundation on which Wilber and his followers build so many arguments is fundamentally, fatally flawed; and those who parrot it without going back to Graves start off with some erroneous assumptions and waste time that could be spent on developing and applying the theory well rather than rehashing mistakes, rediscovering the knowns, or reduction to lame stereotypes and chronological traps.  

      While he might have had our former partner's collaboration in much of this, Ken Wilber has not sought nor accepted ours, nor has he had our permission to lift large pieces of text from the 1996 Spiral Dynamics book, or to use the trademarked name as he has to turn it into a knock-off generic - once called 'the lingua franca of the integral movement.' Readers of the SD book should note that some of the materials he has copied essentially verbatim would not even be included were the SD book being properly redone today, especially some rather poor and over-simplistic examples for the levels described as "Where Found" because a great deal more has been learned about the theory since the writing in 1994-5 which is not reflected in that volume. Sadly, those errors remain uncorrected in the forthcoming paperback version for contractual reasons. While much of the theory in the book stands up fine, at this site we find some of the political claims to be naive, seriously dated, and counter-productive to a positive future, as well. Having spent two years working on The Never Ending Quest and digging deeply into both Graves's writings and those of his sources, we find some glaring errors in previous renditions of Spiral Dynamics which we will be addressing soon.

     Some have argued that complaints like this are just sour grapes and whining because we were cut out of the loop while integral took off; we suggest otherwise. (See note below for Mr. Wilber's opinion.) It's both questioning the tactics of such a unilateral assimilation and recognizing that Wilber's approach introduces great confusion to novice and more experienced readers, alike. That impacts our work negatively because, in so many places, the impressive-sounding junk and gibberish must be undone and untaught if the integrity of the SD model is to be protected and students helped to understand Graves accurately so as to carry it forward and test it from a sound footing rather than false steps. Many people doing a web search have come to see SD as quasi-spiritual mumbo-jumbo rather than a useful theory of human behavior that can apply to many realms of life from personal growth to business and politic, as well as religion. Many others get stuck with a color-coded eight-step typological staircase most useful for assaulting critics instead of the overlapping moving sidewalks and fields the theory suggests and thus reject the model as categorical junk. There's no excuse for it, really, any more than for attaching SD to New Age cults and charlatany. For Wilber and his publisher, "integral" does not include checking with both co-authors/owners of intellectual property before playing so fast and loose with it, or bothering to consult with the person who originally wrote a great many of the passages he quotes to see if they stand up a decade later. In our view, it's a sloppy and lazy imitation of scholarship.

      Obviously, from this discussion, we are troubled and angered by the wholly non-'integral' approach to incorporating Spiral Dynamics materials into the Wilberian, integral oeuvre (see above), and believe it reflects poorly on Ken Wilber and even worse on his associates who have enabled the approach. Our abiding concern is that SD will prove to have been absorbed Borg-like, distorted, misunderstood, and then tossed aside as a passing gimmick to be replaced by something new like a once-favored toy in a child's toy box that is loved briefly then broken, instructions unread, and relegated to neglect and abuse through no fault of its own. The child moves on to pick up some shiny new interest-du-jour to repeat the cycle. Given Mr. Wilber's remarkable intellectual abilities and some of the decent stuff his movement is catalyzing, his overviews of SD/Graves theory could, and should, have been far more constructive. We wish we could heartily recommend his summations as sound introductions to SD; alas, we cannot. Now that he and his crew are hitting the seminar trail with his version of things, we can only await reports. Perhaps they will discover what they've missed by not studying Graves more carefully and work to undo some damage like responsible curious scholars. Or perhaps, like a swarm of over-intellectualized polysyllabic locusts, they will simply devour and then move on without looking back, leaving the stalks of useful ideas stripped bare to recover if they can. We shall see. 

[Note:  Mr. Wilber has gone on the offensive in a diatribe posted to his blog on June 8, 2006. While we believe the statements of theoretical position appearing in this FAQ more than adequately explain the serious problems with his rendition of SD/Graves for the competent student, readers will find an allegorical response to his rant cast around the Old West imagery he chose for his hit piece by clicking here. Happy trails. For a more substantive discussion using his rant as an instructive case study for the benefit of serious students of SD and Graves, click here.] 

Do you have any connection with Andrew Cohen's organization or their What is Enlightenment magazine?

      None whatsoever, though our former partner does. They, along with the Wilber crowd, now buy paid links on Google attaching themselves to Spiral Dynamics in various ways. We have neither agreed to nor been a party to their moves, and find much of what WIE has presented regarding SD troubling, to put it mildly. We do not see SD as a spiritual path in itself, nor as a route to transcendence, though it can be enlightening now and then. What the theory does is help to explain why some people would be attracted to such explorations and to gurus and cults while others are not, and how they would tend to organize and behave in their pursuits. SD/Graves also lays out how different approaches to the spiritual / mystical fit people centralized at various levels, and why we think about the metaphysical in various ways. (see thema & schema) In the interests of disclosure, we once tried to place a small paid ad in What is Enlightenment? Magazine announcing our books, but were refused on the grounds that it might jeopardize their relationship with our ex-partner. 

Note:

      Anyone confounded by or interested in the often-contradictory behavior of assorted wizards and gurus might consider reading Geoffrey D. Falk's blog and book, Stripping the Gurus, for a counter-point to some of the well-spun propaganda in the marketplace of ideas. Self-confessed narcissist Sam Vaknin's work in Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Re-visited, also sheds a great deal of light. While Vaknin makes no false claims of being a psychologist or even a mental health professional, his observations are quite useful. Finally, Tim Field's work on bullying adds insights on a sometimes-related phenomenon. 

 

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