Observations on Ken Wilber's June 8th Rant

Let us begin by saying that we (a.k.a. “Cowan and friend”) are not Ken Wilber critics, despite being charged as such by him in a recent piece on his R-rated blog. Honestly, we do not pay close enough attention to Ken Wilber’s world to qualify as critics of his renditions of others’ work, of his assimilations, of his opinions, or of the doings inside his Integral Institute. Wilber is a successful commercial writer and an intellectual entrepreneur with a loyal and obedient following. Our interest in most of that is slight, so regular substantive criticism would be nearly impossible without wading through more of his voluminous musings and his books-about-his-books than we really care to. 

However, we do pay attention to Spiral Dynamics® and how it is being represented and misrepresented, and we care deeply that the work of Dr. Clare Graves in which we specialize is treated honestly and accurately, whether that means praise or constructive fault-finding to improve it. So when Mr. Wilber steps into our area of expertise to expound in error or to stomp around on our business, he can expect comment on what he says about SD, especially when it is misleading, just as we would if we ventured to produce elaborations and revisions which undermined his work or if we sought to take it over as our own by writing him out. Recent harsh remarks about us on his blog deserve a  more substantive theoretical response (in addition to our Wild West rejoinder which played mostly with tone and tactics), and our general comments about the state of integral as a meme. 

We try not to waste much time with Wilberian things, but this flame, in addition to some additional tacky and ill-informed remarks in an audio interview, represent an aggressive pit bull pattern that calls for some kind of reply. He's done a clever set-up in it so anyone who does can get as smirking "see I told you so - just look at that" or else has to let his rant stand unchallenged. Not bad. We're not going to keep turning the other cheek so he and his pack can chomp away at SD without a counterpoint, though. Exactly why he's decided to run at us at this time we don't know; we've tried to avoid Integral-land for the most part and leave it to them as need it. Why he chose such an aggressive tone rather than popping off an email to open dialogue or asking some honest questions to explore differences - he's had several years - we don't pretend to understand. But target us and SD (without the "i") he has. 

As we’ve said many times, Wilber’s renditions of Spiral Dynamics® have many serious and recurring flaws, several of which are on display in the remarks about assorted critics posted to his blog. His grasp on what the theory is about has actually loosened, though he's never figured out the difference between how and what people value (a perfectly legitimate study), and the interest of this work which is how people come to value and what biopsychosocial systems are at work within them and the field in which they exist. His recants of his own misdirection and flawed interpretation are truly astounding.

What this approach says about Ken Wilber, personally, we'll leave to him and those who care; we've never even met the guy in person and only had two brief phone chats years ago. As to SD, a few illustrative excerpts yanked out of his blog remarks follow in boldface blue. These samples are, in our opinion, curious enough to warrant some slicing and dicing for the benefit of serious students and friends of SD and/or Gravesian theory; they are actually quite instructive. Because Wilber relies on the color language, we’ll use the SD terminology, too, as well as incorporating some more specific Gravesian language when needed for clarity in our SD/Graves community. So let's see if anything more can be learned from this episode, whatever Wilber's game. 

[KW] “The scholarship in these criticisms is so deranged as to be laughable (or pitiable, it’s hard to say) … Still, I’m tired of picking lead out of my butt, and so I’m simply going to have to take a few shots in self-defense.”

While this first excerpt is opinion and not directly related to any theoretical point, the tone of it deserves a response. If it is a reflection of where Mr. Wilber’s thinking - Wilber #5? - now rests, more the pity, indeed. Attempts at misdirection such as this blog piece which deny contrary information and turn on the sources of it do little to remedy the shortcomings in his writings, nor do they diminish the merit of criticisms mounting against his bizarre tactics. He is certainly entitled to his opinions, as we are to ours and his devoted critics are to theirs. It is our opinion that his scholarship, SD-wise, is sorely deficient, often misleading, and frequently laughable. Boomeritis, for example, is full of unintended jokes and side-splitting mistakes embedded as if they were part of the SD model but are more a satire of it. (No doubt Wilber would say he meant it that way - part of post-modern metaphysical analysis or some such holonic word mongering.) 

The criticisms he rails against appear to be no more “deranged” than what Ken does when he laces his personal opinions, attitudes and agendas into his summaries of others’ work without acknowledging the reinterpretations. Whatever one might think of the arguments he goes after, we find “deranged” a poor descriptor and a harsh accusation to level at critics by someone who plays such hardball himself. Despite denials, Wilber does appear to take criticism very, very personally, else the backlash wouldn’t be so strong and pained before the uncomfortable chuckles.

Just as Wilber is weary of “picking lead” out of his butt, we are quite tired of cleaning up the ricochets bouncing off his esteemed derriere because of wild claims he and his acolytes make. They force us to waste time in our classes helping people who have been over-exposed to the viral nature of his out-dated SD representations get clarity and reopen their minds. So, as long as Wilber mostly bypasses the Gravesian theory and even misses the essence of the SD systems while trashing the framework like a bull in a theory shop, we will continue to take him and his minions to task for it. We owe that to the integrity of the Graves research and SD. After only a day or two, our competent introductory level students can readily differentiate many of the simplest ideas that he apparently can or will not. We wonder when and if the Integral Institute will get up to speed on Graves, or whether they will simply reconstruct to suit themselves and move on.

[KW] “Okay, having gotten the humor out of the way—and separated green from yellow, because green simply will not forgive the “simply suck my dick” thing...”

In this particular statement, we find two Wilberian issues. The first is what passes for humor in Integral-land; but funny is, after all, a matter of opinion. Whatever. The second issue is more serious and pervasive: an inability to differentiate FS (green) from A’N’ (yellow) cleanly. Thus, their fuzzy use of ‘second tier’ as a universal accolade along with failure to recognize the necessity of FS to the creation of A’N’ and the proximity of the two. They are caught in belief in a momentous leap with a Calvin-like faith in the separation of low “altitude” masses from elevated second tier saved elites. Moreover, there is huge confusion between ‘green’ as a complex of familiar memes – now a collective meme in its own right - and ‘green’ as a vMeme in the Gravesian sense of conceptual system and level of psychological existence. In the Integrals’ vernacular, the two constructs overlap and are virtually interchangeable. This is a mess produced by poor teaching and lazy writing, and one which is becoming pervasive among followers of their sect.

The poor comprehension of the sixth level, perhaps because it is still so underdeveloped in the Integral world and not very well described in the Spiral Dynamics book, leads to silly and absurdly broad conclusions like “simply will not forgive.” This is to confuse personal opinions and taste with a Gravesian level, attitudes and opinions with their root, and emotions with states of being. Absolutes work at the fourth level (DQ), but not so well once some relativism enters the field, the very aspect he overlooks.

One of Wilber’s ongoing misconceptions around FS (green) is his apparent belief that it is highly judgmental, even punitive, in most respects. In this case, he suggests a Puritanical criticality and unforgiveness of scatology and crude humor. Behaviorally, someone in FS tends to be judgmental about judgment, and inclined to actions to prevent harm to other people. The relativistic, contextual, situationalistic thinking is inclined to be remarkably tolerant otherwise; sometimes to a fault. (The Integrals go after FS for both - a real no-win situation.) What he continues to miss are the affiliation needs, the urge to form a community of equals, and the attention to affect which supersede rule-boundedness or concerns with proper language, except when that language is intended to cause pain or domineer. That's where the FS aspect of what the conservatives named 'political correctness' comes in; look to DQ and ER for other pieces.

A stock Gravesian marker for FS is ‘let each be each, to each his own.’ On such terms, why would someone in their FS abreact to Wilber’s expression of his anger? Why would mere language expressing his emotions trigger non-forgiveness? Relying on Steven Covey’s admonition, “First, seek to understand,” it’s more likely that an expression of empathy would be forthcoming. And such can be found in many of the positive responses cited from inside his own blog community which laud his actions and try to explain his motives, thus rallying with Wilber against his foes as the collective of fans and believers pulls together to protect its leader. Those who would take offense are likely to do so because of his attack on people aimed toward hurting them, not his wit or lack of it. (SD students: look to both the DQ-ER and ER-FS transitions.)

The number of people we encounter who have been programmed to dislike the sixth level (green) because of Wilber’s writings is astounding. Yet it is an essential step in the development of the emerging human spiral. For Wilber and many of his Integral pals, ‘green’ has become a generic pejorative for anything that opposes their goals, just as ‘second tier’ (or, laughably, ‘third tier’) is the positive adjective. Their objections to green (and ‘mean green’) are equivalent to the arch conservatives’ stereotypical generalizations about ‘liberals.’ Because they have elevated yellow and especially turquoise to some kind of upper nobility, he suggests that someone centralized at those levels (or an even higher “altitude” like himself) would not find his language objectionable. In his version of an Integral view, appreciation of his ‘naked’ humor seems to be a sign of elevated consciousness. Not a very reliable test.

How many more times must we say that “Green” values and lifestyle are not the same as the FS (green) level of psychological existence? In the case at hand, in Boomeritis, in his attempts to defend the ‘mean green’ myth, and elsewhere, Wilber fails to differentiate sixth-level thinking from “green”-sounding values, attitudes, and beliefs rooted in pop culture stereotypes: hippies and PC fanatics, lefty liberalism and eco-sensitivity, New Age chic and spiritual enlightenment. This is a huge blind spot he seems unable to resolve; perhaps the anti-green bias is simply part of who he is, based on his own life experiences. We don’t know and don't particularly care except when he passes the blinders on to readers. The incredibly broad brush with which he paints washes over essential details and muddies important distinctions within human nature. The stay-on-the-offensive style of an Ann Coulter gets attention to sell books, even as it polarizes and deceives an audience; Wilber's tactics here share much with hers when he's on a tear.

With the indiscriminant green-bashing that hits at memes, the meme complex, and the vMEME, Wilber misses much in the very comments by his critics he finds so objectionable:  the absolutism and judgment of authority which doesn’t act like authority should (ring of DQ?), as well as the critical cynicism going at an authority mercilessly to knock him off a pedestal (sound like ER?), or the exiting ER propensity to take stuffed shirts down a notch or two to level them out. The SD analysis in his fussing is shoddy. Is there relativism? Situational awareness? Empathy? Frustration with competitive hierarchies? A desire for equitable treatment with attention to human needs? Or mounds of green-speak based in thinking elsewhere on the spiral? Are the reactions rooted in true-false dichotomy, in comparative positioning, or in an objection to pretense and needlessly hurting people? The ability to differentiate contents (memes) from the surrounding frames (vMEMEs) is something that separates competency from amateurishness in SD terms.

As to his revealing invitation to “simply suck my dick,” W
ilber tries to justify the coarse, macho-guy primate humor as instructive outreach, and his friends enjoy it. OK. We thought The Aristocrats was a great film. So what? Only a fool or a fanatic would get all bent about locker room rhetoric. We suspect nonetheless that many parents with impressionable children might not appreciate his phrasing for a bedtime read; but that doesn’t mean they are centralized in green. Nuns exploring religion and religiosity in a convent might not care for the imagery, but that doesn’t mean nuns are green, or even that all would object rather than tolerate. A student of consciousness looking for models of maturity might find disillusionment rather than enlightenment in it, but that doesn’t mean that person is green, either. If we were to take the Wilberians seriously and accept their claims of trans-turquoise altitude on these oral terms, would we then have to assume that ex-President Clinton is a demonstrably transcendent and enlightened being, too?

As SD students know, the question is why a person would write such a statement as “simply suck my dick” - with what intention from what sense of reality - and how another person would then make their own meaning of the complexity in it. The SD questions revolve around the decision process and the interaction products of humor and meta-humor, not the specific script which is only a clue to the thinking beneath.
These are questions of taste and tone, just as appropriateness is a judgment call rooted in one’s values standards. Coarse language arises at many levels, especially the warm-colored ones like CP and ER; in cool-colored systems if it is a socially acceptable form of discourse within a community. To attribute either prudery or shock-jock tactics to a single level is overly simplistic, just as framing possible objections to such imagery as prescriptive of any level is naive. Conflating memes with  MEMEs is over-simplistic; so is the merger of attitudes with the Gravesian levels that describe how they are created and held.

We would suggest, for example, that some people centralized at A’N’ could deem his outburst entertaining - or at the least curious - despite its relative lack of elegance. Wilber does seem to relish a reputation as the 'bad boy bodhisattva,' after all. Others would judge it to be juvenile and silly – A’N’ is not averse to judgments, only to their imposition in ways that unnecessarily harm others. From someone in A’N’ there would actually be less of an inclination to empathize and understand than there would be from FS because its affiliation needs are lessened, and its fear of offending some people's guru negligible. But here, too, the reviews would be mixed because in these Gravesian frames, contents are not fixed and there is space for many opinions.
The difference between Wilber’s “simply suck my dick” phrase (or his "piss in eye socket" imagery) and how people react to the is the difference between what we say and how we think, between concepts and conceptualizations, between memes and vMEMEs, values and Value Systems. That's where these things become informative. As to anything more it means about his personality or the psyche of his movement, we’ll toss that one over to the Freudians and someone who might care.

[KW] “After a two-decade banishment by the mean green meme, they [developmental studies] are back with a wonderful vengeance. … the green meme (and usually the mean green meme) has come in and done its deconstructive dirty work with full-force aggression, tearing down everything it sees, putting nothing in its place, and claiming victory, loudly patting itself on the back for all to see and hear.  …”

Recall that Graves’s effort was to build bridges across the various approaches to psychology since they all fit some people, at some times, by incorporating insights from anthropology, sociology, biology, systems theory, and other fields. His interest was in the mature adult personality in operation rather than child development which got considerable attention in his day, as it does still. (Marian Graves was a 2nd grade teacher.)  He cited two dozen developmentalist approaches he’d looked at to validate his approach. Wilber, himself, then found a hundred to cite for an appendix in one of his books. If there was a purge, it was rather ineffectual.

While psychological historians might argue whether adult-oriented developmental studies were banished, on hiatus as emphasis shifted to other methodologies, or actually chugging away merrily while other approaches joined it in a broadening and more inclusive field, there’s no doubt that differential thinking is popular today. As in earlier times, verticality and hierarchy are fashionable. This round, the ideas don’t have the invidious baggage of earlier examples like the eugenics era when categories and classes were accepted without question as qualitative markers. An interval of skepticism and leveling was essential for verticalism to gain legitimacy and to break it away from unchanging absolutes and locked power hierarchies to useful, non-discriminatory differentiation of human beings to empower their lives. Some due caution is still appropriate since abuse is not unknown. How verticality is thought about and applied is a critical distinction to watch.  

When verticality is used as an excuse for separation rather than a ladder to harmony, the FS-oriented response might well be to object, and sometimes to object strenuously; but there could be a similar negative reaction from DQ rooted in violations of theology-based principles, or even ER when dysfunctional vertical distinctions are contrary to progress and success. This is not a problem attributable to one level of existence, namely Wilber’s nemesis, FS. For many, it is not a problem at all.

Approaches to the study of human nature rise and fall in popularity. A fascination with the nature of humans and the essence of their humanness surges with FS because relationships are central to the system as described by Graves, a fact which still seems to escape Wilber’s sensors. The resurgence of interest in developmental studies – and even his own Integral work - is because of the rise in FS, not despite it. FS emerges in the context of ER’s failures – discrimination, excessive competitiveness, elitism, rampant self-interest, over-individualism, materialism, degradation of the commons, and huge gaps which separate people needlessly. FS seeks to restore balance and connections as Graves's cycle moves from express-self over to deny-self thinking.

FS has actually liberated developmentalism since many possible solutions are available and legitimate within this view; the ‘right’ approach is an illusion from this perspective, even if it is an Integral one. DQ absolutism has one proper solution; the drive is to find it. ER multiplism has many solutions with one as the optimum; the drive is to compare and contrast them. And FS has many answers, all with merit so that choosing among them is profoundly difficult and some uncertainty is perfectly fine. Fans of singular fixes find this ambiguity extremely disturbing and threatening. Bringing the diversity back to focus on fresh terms is one of the reasons A'N' emerges to follow FS.

As is more often the case than not, Wilber confuses memes and MEMEs in this paragraph. Perhaps he believes that an error repeated often enough becomes truth. Or maybe he’s just still confused. Either way, students of SD should be aware that green and yellow represent  vMEMEs; memes gather around these conceptual systems. It might seem like a small point, but it is one which discredits the person unable to make the distinction in the eyes of memeticists and qualified SD students, alike.

In this excerpt we see the usual broad-brush assault on green (FS), the system which follows ER (orange) as an essential next developmental step to address problems it creates. It is our view that Wilber, Spiral Dynamics Integral guru Don Beck, and their loyalists do a great disservice by continuing to take potshots at green since this way of thinking is a necessary ingredient in a functional human spiral. Let the guys argue their preferences for values and behaviors and politics all they want; but fighting with a level of existence is like hating the night. By denigrating green to the point that many people live in fear of FS contagion hoping they can hop, skip, and jump right over this relativistic, flexible, empathetic, and situationally-aware system, the Wilber movement helps to de-humanize and de-sensitize at precisely the time that more of those characteristics are appropriate and necessary for many people and organizations. Their version of Integral, so vested in cognition about the spiritual or anger at FS, has differentiated itself apart from much of the mind and most of the reality of the spiral.

Wilber still struggles to defend the fallacious ‘mean green meme’ a creature apparently invented by his teacher, Beck, and himself. It is something we’ve dealt with and dismissed before as theoretical nonsense despite the intuitive appeal the characterization might have. Nothing has changed; fiction writing is what it is and the earth is not flat. But here we go again: the theoretical construct that is Graves’s FS level does not support ‘mean green’ as its proponents define it; psychosocial developmental theory does not support it; and the data from Spiral Dynamics tests won’t support it. Even though he built a book around the mistake, Wilber needs to get over this one and stop mismatching SD with his social criticism and political agendas. While the screenplay stereotype they cast is familiar to almost anybody who’s sat through a city council meeting when social issues were being discussed or listened to radical environmentalists justify a destructive direct action, the traits he ascribes to green do not match up with the theory. That’s the problem. Wilber cannot seem to fathom that our issue is not that there are people in the world who behave exactly like the jerks he describes and who so bother him; the issue is that those traits do not fit nodal FS. His reductionist approach to SD forces things into only eight categories, and he often picks the wrong one; this is such a case. We would suggest, instead, that the traits he finds so irritating are more likely temperament factors which don’t even factor into the Graves model that well. By so misunderstanding the sixth level, these guys park their demons where they simply do not belong.

Still riding his anti-deconstructionism hobby horse saddled with the erroneous complex equivalence that green=deconstruction=demolition, Wilber acts like the grand inquisitor of Integral without recognizing that differential is part of its equation. While some deconstructionists have gone to bizarre extremes in figuring out their art, the notion of breaking things down to their quintessence and core elements is hardly far-fetched. Just as physicists continue to seek the basic building block, there’s nothing wrong with looking for the building blocks of human nature in art, literature, and other realms. Likewise, searching out the connections and forces which bind those blocks together integrally is perfectly justifiable and worthwhile, too. This is a situation where and logic is needed – integration and differentiation as cyclic phenomena that work together – rather than a worship of either half of the equation. One of Dr. Graves’s frequent admonitions was: “Beware of finding simplicity which is not there.” For the true believing Integral person, that’s good advice – differentiate accurately then integrate gracefully, then prepare to differentiate again.

Human beings are meaning-making creatures, after all. We look for patterns. Sometimes the patterns are forced, like discovering a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich. Sometimes the patterns are hallucinations or projections, believed because the desire to find them is so strong. The problem with attempting to force integration on things that don’t belong together is that imaginings are taken to be reality by the right-thinking minds who must, first and foremost, keep convincing themselves of their rightness. False integration is as dangerous as compulsive differentiation.

Like many people stuck in types and simple views of complicated things, Wilber makes CP the universal ‘bad guy’ stage; thus, anything aggressive and negative must have a big dose of ‘red’ in it. To those who don’t quite get Graves, red is equivalent to aggression, hostility, anger and violence, just as green used to be synonymous with love and peace and sociability when it was more poorly understood. While red often displays anger and aggression, anger and aggression are not exclusive to red. They miss the reasons those things can also reside elsewhere – DQ authoritarian aggression, ER hostility to authority, FS anger over hurtful discrimination, and BO inter-tribal violence, to name but a few.

Enduring aggression is not an FS trait. A phrase like “tearing down everything it sees” is nonsensical hyperbole and incompatible with the thinking of FS. While green can take initiative, the needs to understand and tend to human factors make enduring, generalized destruction nearly impossible. Once again, Wilber confuses attitudes and actions with levels of psychological existence. Likewise, self-congratulation and back-patting are more typical of express-self systems than a sacrifice-self one. Here again, Wilber is having trouble differentiating ER in green clothing (which is often characterized by great PR and adroit image-making) from FS which tends to be more genuine and also uncertain. So let us suggest the need for the Integral community to look more closely into blue/orange and orange/green in turquoise clothing before worrying too much about indigo and white.

[KW] “… watered-down versions of the Integral approach and recommendations. This is a common ploy from Cortright to de Quincey, namely, take my basic ideas, change their names and give them a slightly different flavor, then radically condemn my entire approach, then promote their newly-named, watered-down version as the new paradigm.”

This passage is simply amazing, as well as incredibly telling. Talk about watered-down? Try as we might, we couldn’t possibly craft a better description of what Mr. Wilber has done to Spiral Dynamics® than he accuses his critics of doing to his version of the Integral view. He even lays out his strategy for a next step whereby he will probably rename and then try to cement his claims with a historic rewrite and promotional efforts of the bastard child inside the Integral Institute's house of mirrors.

We might point out how similar his Four Quadrants are to the four elements in Graves’s bio – psycho – social – systems approach. Or how the eight levels in AQAL (née 4Q8L by assimilating Graves’s levels?) are derived from a diluted version of Spiral Dynamics (Beige, Purple, Red, Blue, Orange, Green, Yellow, Turquoise). The color code then gets magically reflavored to become an Integral lingua franca with some nifty colors added (we tossed off coral and teal long ago for fun, and they’re inserting indigo, white, and heaven knows what else trying to stretch the consciousness rainbow). Now he is calling Graves “dead theory” after he has diluted a poor distillation of SD, then dismisses that watered-down brew as a “good introduction” so as to assimilate the work as if it were original to his Integral ‘new paradigm.’ It’s almost unbelievable that Wilber condemns his own tactics so clearly, yet we’ve seen similar hypocrisy and delusion from others promoting Integralness and themselves as its poster boys, so it should come as no surprise.

[KW] “Some of these critics do offer some valid suggestions—and guess what? In almost every case, I have either included those ideas immediately or made changes in subsequent writing to include them (with full acknowledgment),”

“Almost” is a wonderful escape hatch, along with the prerogative of deciding what’s “valid” and what isn’t in one’s own mind. To be fair, Wilber does make corrections and remedy some errors; he's no fool. But not always, and not always very well. From our perspective, one of the most egregious examples of his version of inclusion was when a member of his circle showed us a reference to a 250,000 person research database reputedly in the National Values Center, Inc., computers in a draft document. (At the time, NVC didn’t even have a computer powerful enough to manage such a database, much less the raw data.) We sent word to Wilber that no such database had existed, so he subsequently published “50,000” with the excuse that it was less inaccurate, so there should be no problem. This is like reproducing the percentages of people at various levels which appear in Spiral Dynamics without reporting, as that book does, that it was a wild ‘guesstimate’ which doesn’t even add up to 100%. With those and other moves, our confidence and respect for him began to plummet. To make excuses, to contrive rationalizations, or to rewrite history based on limited sourcing is not to make meaningful changes: it is only to manipulate text so as to produce and sell more books.

Given Wilber’s life as a pop philosophy writer, given his large fan and readership base, and given the ongoing drama he creates by goading people into criticizing him, one cannot but notice how that base is energized through the periodic controversy that critics help to feed. Conflict and periodic critical attacks provide material to fuel more blog entries and books for loyal readers to purchase. What a convenient way for them to renew membership in an elite intellectual club, and for him to ensure necessary sales by rallying fresh attention. Just as Gravesian levels arise to address the problems created by the one before, each new Wilber iteration seems to rise to counter some of the nonsense generated by the previous one. 

We should not forget that many people find necessary stimulation in hard resistance and harsh critical tests; that often leads to growth and improvement for them. Not a problem. But for some it goes even further; they need outright enemies from whom to draw energy and motivation. If there aren't enemies, these folks must create them. They require something to fight against; an evil to balance against their sense of good; an opponent to punch so as to maintain their own balance. They thrive in contrast. That leads to perpetual soap operas and ongoing Karpman dramas (victim-rescuer-persecutor loops) and psychological games ala Eric Berne: “If it weren’t for you,” “Poor me,” “Now I’ve got ya’, you SOB”, etc. Vast energy and resources drain away in calculating who said what about whom, and what to do about it. The style might be great fun for voyeurs and dedicated game players, but it remains stuck fast in subsistence levels. In the long run, it is debilitating and destructive. We’d propose that the mature personality at the being levels doesn’t get caught up in games but breaks the loops.

[KW] “I have done my homework, and done it much better than my critics, …So when I see lame criticism like this, I nonetheless spend a few hours with it … I spend 3 hours on it …”

Lame is in the eye of the beholder, just as the grading of homework is generally in the hands of teachers, experts, and sometimes peers - if one believes there can be any. In our book, Mr. Wilber earns a gentleman’s C where SD is concerned. Time spent in the study hall is not a marker of quality or comprehension, only endurance. (We often wish that the dog had eaten his SD homework rather than having it published by his friends at Shambhala.)

Understanding the Graves point of view takes considerably longer than a few hours, or even protracted meditations, and some people are never able to grasp it to the point of application due to their own internal states. Graves believed that relatively few could actually ‘get’ what he was trying to say at all. That’s one reason he published so little; he didn’t want to battle with the misunderstandings his own theory predicted. With no fault or blame attached, perhaps this is simply such a case since brain power and vastness of information stores and readings do not equate with these conceptualizations very well; knowing a lot doesn’t always match up with wisdom or insight in SD terms. Yet what we are seeing twenty years after Clare Graves died is a surge in interest in points of view like his because the kinds of connections-oriented questions he found important then are now meaningful to many more people, but still a relatively minute number of humans on this planet. We must say that many readers of Wilber – not the cultish fanatics and true believers, but the genuinely curious students who incorporate the solid parts of his perspectives - fall into this group. That is a very hopeful sign.

[KW] “But I suppose it should be pointed out that many of the ideas these critics offer are in fact at a green or orange altitude, and not even teal or turquoise altitude, where they could at least begin to see the integral patterns that connect. These critics simply cannot see these phenomena, which are “over their heads,” ... So I’ll stop teasing the animals for a moment …”

Beside labeling his critics’ ideas as "at a green or orange altitude" when he’s demonstrated scant ability to differentiate those systems accurately, the most remarkable claim embedded here is that Wilber can readily judge what is “not even a teal or turquoise altitude,” implying that he operates at a level much beyond that. Sorry, but given the evidence of his writings and treatment of SD, we see remarkably little to support that claim. Perhaps this is another attempt at humor by appearing to demonstrate insurmountable arrogance with a wink; we truly, genuinely wish we could believe that were so. 

Either way, it doesn’t take high altitude pills to recognize integral patterns and connections. We rather suspect that most of Wilber’s critics can see them, as well as differentiations he glosses over. Admittedly, we don’t have the slightest data to support the imaginary “teal” (a color made up as much in jest as anything, along with aubergine to follow it, though indigo is now being taken quite seriously in Wilber land). We have little of substance besides impressions, philosophizing, and guesswork even to support turquoise, still. Most of what we see attributed to ‘transpersonal’ levels fits comfortably in the protocols of A’N’, FS, ER, and even DQ with little more than label tweaks and language adjustments. Thus, talk of these vaunted states and metaphysics causes a chuckle until differentiation is possible and they exist beyond feelings of enlightenment and holarchic chatter about it. To "discover" altitude in consciousness is like discovering that heaven is above, something grativationally-bounded humans have long imagineered. OK, if it works for you. But why pretend it's something new and special? A Flatland perspective turned on its edge is still Flatland, and higher/lower continuums come cheap in spirituality modelling.

espite all the self-aggrandizing “I’m a turquoise” or “we second tier folk” talk that abounds in the Integral community, the definitions many rely on are based in descriptions from the old 1996 Spiral Dynamics book, descriptions we know too much about to take very seriously any more. They are stretch versions of FS and ER for the most part, well-meaning but grossly inadequate. New colors can have any characteristics one might wish to ascribe to them so long as no supporting data is required and one ignores the model. It’s like proving string theory: how does one test the infinitesimal or the metaphysical to validate it? These are matters of faith more than science, creative writing and philosophizing and even pop religion, but not developmental scholarship or rigorous research.

Wilber mirrors an essential part of his own movement brilliantly in ascribing “green or orange altitude” to his critics. We’d suggest pots calling kettles colors, of course, and that they would doubtless attribute to our own pitiable lack of altitude (poor lamentable animals we). In point of fact, much of what we see cropping up in his Integral movement embodies DQ and ER characteristics quite well, not the green they seem to despise or even close to the turquoise to which they aspire. We won’t join into a bunch more color-coded name calling than to list a few characteristics of blue and orange and suggest that readers assess both Ken's organizing and his latest crop of Integral acolytes for themselves on these terms:

  • reverential obedience to higher authority

  • absolutistic

  • authoritarian

  • master plan or grand design rooted in metaphysical certainties

  • hierarchical notion of self and others

  • dichotomous thinking separates friends and foes

  • attachment to divine plans and causes

  • quest for meaning and purpose in living

  • writes in absolutes with great certainty

  • language designed to cut others up while aggrandizing the self

  • language designed to “shock” and garner attention

  • compares self to others with the objective of being on top, a winner, the best

  • view of self as more worthy than others – the smartest guy(s) in the room

  • justifies actions as in the greater good, though actually in own interest

  • portrays critics as animals in a hierarchical category

  • “right thinking mind” sticks to own conclusions despite contrary evidence

  • emphasis on self (I, me, mine), even when trying to help others - “it’s all about me”

  • oppositional to authority and needful to establish own position

Since it appears that Wilber is now heading into NLP’s domain for his next acquisition, let us point out that “chunking up”, “big picture view” or “altitude” are not equivalent to higher levels in a Gravesian sense, either. As illustrated by the recent interview with the shuttle astronauts who were unaware of the eruption of violence between Israel and Lebanon until queried by an MSNBC reporter, just because you’re ‘way up there’ doesn’t mean you know what’s going on down here; nor could you do much about it if you did. We find much merit in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) as a skills set which complements SD well. What we don’t find is overlap wherein things like NLP’s metaprograms fit reliably with Gravesian levels any more than Enneagram types or Myers-Briggs categories define SD systems. But that’s for another story.

[KW] “For example, if a blue vMEME says to an orange vMEME, “Excuse me, but I can prove that your entire notion of evolution is wrong, because it is not in the Bible,” then that statement, qua criticism, is not so much false as nonsensical: it is not even in touch with that which it is criticizing, and thus this “cross-level” problem is a paradigm clash, and it cannot be decided with any amount of facts that blue will accept … But when it comes to cross-level truth-claims, neither side will reach a happy resolution to their core disputes.
Orange will not be happy because blue does not accept evolution; blue will not be happy because orange does not accept the Bible. Nor will they be happy until blue evolves to orange (or orange regresses to blue)….”

In this paragraph, Wilber switches and tries to use vMEMEe rather than meme to designate a level, though he’s still doing what type-casters tend to do: personify the level with lots of specific traits. (vMEMEs don’t talk; people do. vMEMEs are attractors;  memes are the ideas and content.) Language like “4’s do this” and “Greens do that,” while common, misses the notion that people are not at a level; they are not necessarily fixated; and there are not set behaviors which attach to systems. Better phrasing is “when centralized in level 4, the person” or “when thinking in a green way about a thing, this person…”. The systems are in people; people are not in a system. This is a critical distinction if one is to deal with the premise that human systems change, that humans can change systems, and the SD premise that several systems can coexist within a person. Typologies are a dime-a-dozen; Graves’s EC theory demands far more, and many of the Wilberians refuse to take the next step.

Since the creation argument was offered only as an example, we’ll assume that Ken recognizes the false complex equivalence: Bible isn’t necessarily blue nor evolution orange. People at different levels will conceptualize the Bible in different ways, just as a construct like evolution will get different treatments with different levels. The same applies to integral. As ever, the question is: how does this person think about this thing at this time? Not: what color is this thing?

In doing his homework, Wilber seems to have bypassed Graves’s notion of a flowing process and the open, arrested, and closed states completely. There is a vast difference between open blue and closed blue; between open orange and closed orange. Rokeach’s open and closed mindedness speaks to the ‘cross-level’ problem Wilber is trying to discuss quite nicely. While this aspect of Graves’s work is still underdeveloped, it is one of the most promising for better understanding everything from criminal justice to policy making.

The conclusion that one level will never understand what another level is saying, or that what he calls a “paradigm clash” cannot be decided is erroneous. There are many possible permutations and scenarios in a case like. For example, people at the same level might not understand one another for some things; and people at different levels might well understand one another on others. It’s much more complex than being “a blue” or “an orange.” Will people centralized on a thing at different levels ever think as clones? Probably not. But can there be decisions and moves forward? Of course. The questions involve how facts are presented, how they are sourced, how they are introduced to a person centralized in the system, and then how much will be understood in their own way. That working within degrees of freedom is a large part of what SD is about; to miss it is to miss much of the utility of the model.

To accept Wilber's premise that resolution is impossible is to believe that there is no hope for this world until and unless all people are elevated to yellow or beyond. There is hope; there are simply no guarantees. He represents these levels as if they are drawn with clear and hard lines – rigid categories and closed boxes - when in SD there are mixes, blends, gray areas, etc. And Wilber continues to represent a simplistic typologist’s perspective that is both depressing and unrealistic in its pessimism. We prefer a view that makes room for improvements within all the levels, as well as an overall surge of the human wave toward more elaborated systems with greater freedom to act appropriately and well.

[KW] “There is nothing that turquoise or indigo can ever say to green that will make it happy. Thus, the idea that, for example, turquoise is supposed to enter a “dialogue” with green is nonsensical, and nothing in that dialogue will change green’s mind fundamentally (unless green transforms to turquoise). Turquoise can see green and its facts, but green cannot see turquoise and its facts, and thus this cross-level altitude problem jams any real dialogue in that capacity—and yet all that green does is scream for dialogue, dialogue, dialogue…. which in these cases are empty, empty, empty … And green always takes turquoise’s failure to make green happy as proof that green is right and turquoise is a bastard. And even a bald bastard with ambition … “

This next jibe against green is based on several false assumptions. It begins with yet another absolute – “nothing…that will make it happy.” Let’s ask how authentically higher levels which subsume a lower level could not have the potential “to make it happy?” If it is part of their developmental track, people actually functioning in these ways should have an understanding of the previous states and have solutions to their existential problems in their repertoires, no? It is frauds and pretenders who will have troubles since they talk the talk without walking the walk. If he’s trying to talk about closed FS or even their “mean green” creature, Wilber should make that clear and not misrepresent the whole sixth level system. The walls he seems to put up between levels huge, whereas in SD there’s often a great deal of overlap on a continuum of systems rather than steps on a ladder to more altitudinous consciousness and enlightenment.

The green system is dialogue-rich, indeed. Because learning is self-created in concert with valued peers and associates, conversation and idea exchange – both of content and affect – is a major part of processing decisions. Rather than the ER data-fest where facts are measured and tabulated, green tends to sort through so-called facts to hunt for all the possible meanings, shadings, and interpretations. It's final decisions might not follow the obvious logic since affect will play a large role. For impatient or self-important ER locked in cognition and lacking understanding of FS, this can be an incredibly frustrating situation. The mistake is to believe that the seemingly interminable talk and processing is without significance or usefulness for FS in the long term. In point of fact, it’s essential for the FS decision process so that all ideas can be surfaced, and often puts FS groups at an advantage over DQ or ER because consensus (not blind unanimity), once achieved, is very strong. This ability carries forward into the next systems but is a means, not the primary means, to action.

Now, returning to “indigo” as another vertical plane: the fact that Wilber continues framing himself as trans-turquoise is both laughable and a little sad, given his performance. Perhaps he is convinced of prior turquoise-ness because his work was included in a weak and dated list of examples in the 1996 book, Spiral Dynamics, which should be deleted. First of all, the reference was to the kind of work he was exploring, not to Mr. Wilber. (He still explores good stuff.) Second, were that book to be rewritten or even properly revised (something not possible because of the authors’ pathetic deadlock), he and his Integral movement would not appear as a model of turquoise; more likely, as a stretch of orange stuck in the transitions through green with spirituality ebbing and flowing, though some of his more worshipful followers fit the characteristics of the DQ to ER transition remarkably well.

But since he’s speaking about Indigo, let’s ask for some specifics. What would be the markers to differentiate that way of conceptualizing from its precursors? How would it differ from FS (real FS, not the Wilberian version which piles blue and orange together with smatterings of green)? For that matter, what are the authentic characteristics of the turquoise level? What research supports its existence as a psychology apart from FS or A’N’? What are some concrete recognition principals, not fuzzy claims? What characteristics would differentiate turquoise and indigo from each other in terms of how they conceptualize? How are such conceptions of human nature expressed in actuality? Are there examples of them behaving rather than being talked about hypothetically or hopefully or theologically? Is their existence evidentiary or faith-based – ‘you only know it when you see it?’

Many of the Integral loyalists want to see themselves as only one small step removed from Ken’s ‘altitude’ – turquoises or better - but not quite up to his heights lest they be immodest. We continue awaiting evidence of any of that, and of evidence of self-awareness or understanding of the SD model and its sub-systems. Writing about is not being; studying diligently is not understanding; parlor tricks are not evidence of higher existential states; and talking is not being.

[KW] “By the way, the fact that phenomena are level-bound or altitude-bound (and are brought forth or enacted by particular exemplars or paradigms) will also AFFECT WHAT A RESEARCHER IN THE FIELD WILL ACTUALLY SEE OR REGISTER WHEN DOING RESEARCH. For example, when empirically studying human beings undergoing development, if the researcher is at first tier, he or she will not see or register second-tier phenomena in the developmental research. “Empirical facts,” as we have seen, actually change and emerge at different levels. The psychological models of these first-tier researchers will therefore tend to lack any coherent account of development at all; they will even be hostile to the notion of levels, actualization hierarchies, holarchy, cross-cultural phenomena, context-transcending statements, quasi-universals, and so on. They simply will not see any integral phenomena or any fundamental patterns that connect, and their research, even if meticulously carried out, will be deeply flawed. And there is nothing in the world you can say, do, or show them that will fundamentally change their minds, or their truths, or their first-tier facts.

That “phenomena are level-bound or altitude-bound” is quite an assertion. We’d be very happy to see an argument made for this claim in Gravesian terms. Perceptions or interpretations of phenomena we’d accept, and how they impact the milieu will vary among systems. Perhaps he is referring to memes; or to a philosophical argument. But if “altitude” is to suggest a vertical interpretation of Gravesian systems (as opposed to a horizontal or even concentric field one), then Wilber is stuck in the linear verticality trap: up is good (heaven) and down is bad (hell). (Didn't we get through that around 1500?) The "altitude" argument belies one of the most basic premises of SD/Graves – that how a person thinks about a phenomenon and reacts to it is what matters, not that phenomena are locked to levels, or that this is a spiritual hierarchy. (There are different spiritualities and paths to various kinds of "enlightenment" at each of the levels.) This approach is equivalent to creating a catalogue of values and beliefs, then sorting them hierarchically. While it’s done all the time, it’s not what Spiral Dynamics is about. Yes, higher levels are ultimately more option-rich than lower ones and it’s a good thing to open the doors to them. But the challenge is to make existing systems healthier and more functional in addressing the problems at hand while facilitating growth as new problems arise.

When he proposes “if the researcher is at first tier, he or she will not see or register second-tier phenomena in the developmental research,” we propose that he consider some of the of the leading researchers who have built developmental models by studying human beings empirically such as Kegan, Loevinger, Perry, Commons, Kohlberg, and Graves. Dr. Graves, while he considered his a “mind out of its time,” also positioned himself with a mixture of systems in the first tier, never as a second tier being with mighty powers. Remember that he was the guy who came up with the subsistence level / being level notion which led to tiers, though Maslow had already headed in that direction. Yet he came up with descriptions of systems based on his research which the Wilberians still use. How could that be? To try and force a distinction between first tier "facts" from second tier ones is just plain silly.

Wilber’s rather fixated judgments about theorists whom he relegates to “first tier” are simply nonsensical since they would require that most of the levels-oriented, developmental scholars he lists in his compendia are missing out on all “integral” phenomena; and worse, that there is “nothing in the world” that could lead them to change their minds. How can he possibly claim something like this? Rather than their being closed simpletons, perhaps Mr. Wilber is concerned that no matter how long and loud one shouts that the noon sky is pink, not everybody will fall for it. There's a great difference between "deeply flawed" and incompleteness, or being works in progress. Perhaps in the Integral world flawedness is tested by whether one uses their pet phrases or says similar things but with different terminology; heresy. When the world is driven by absolutes rather than degrees of freedom, statements like the one above come way too easily.

Of course the worldview and perspective of a researcher shapes what they look for and how they perceive it. Their observational tools shape what they can find and report. That applies to Wilber and anyone else, to his interpretations of their work and theirs of his. The test of credible research, however, is whether they try to transcend the blinders and strive for objective views instead of just praising their own opinions or imaginings. And whether they are closed in their set opinions or open to new information from whatever the source.

[KW] Another criticism is that I don’t use specialists in the various fields. Say what? Has this dude even read one of my endnotes?

Just as one is known by the company he keeps, so a plethora of endnotes and citations is only as good as the sources and one’s comprehension of them. Our experience leads us to believe that Mr. Wilber’s choice of sources is to serve his purposes, not to seek out the most complete rendition. There’s nothing wrong in that. It’s fine for a pop writer, op-ed commentator, or polemicist; just not great scholarship. The obvious flaws in his SD application are probably attributable as much to his decision to limit his sources to those agreeable with his views (with which he once reported being completely satisfied in declining an offer of alternative perspectives that might challenge those very assumptions), as well as to his confidence in his own opinions as Wilber #5. It is always useful to look at the original materials Ken reinterprets since his renditions sometimes leave a bit to be desired when compared to the sources. 

[KW] “Cowan and friend tried to prove that Grave’s original data showed that Boomeritis couldn’t exist, which is hilarious, first, because it’s not based on Graves, but second, because it’s an unconscious pathology and cannot show up on test data asking conscious questions. (It’s like asking, “And now, please tell us all those things that you are completely unaware of?”)”

We’re pleased Wilber found hilarity while misreading our rebuttal to the 'mean green meme' construct which he conflates with Boomeritis. Has he so simplified things that they are one and the same? We've never disputed his right to invent a Boomeritis syndrome - or pathology if he prefers - and to write all he wants to about it. (Although to be honest, we did find his book by that name a disappointing effort.) It's the attaching of Boomeritis and the 'mean green meme' to nodal FS (green) and SD so cavalierly that we find noxious and destructive. 

“Cowan and friend” is one approach to citing a source, though not a very good one according to the MLA, especially for a writer so proud of his end notes.* Wilber should know that “friend” invested most of the energy in exploring the hypothesis several years ago by compiling data and reporting findings in the hope that an annoying blunder would go away to be replaced by something theoretically sound. "Cowan" found the whole Green+Red pairing (see FAQ) too absurd to justify expending much effort at all to refute it, though yack about it wasted quite a bit of energy in online debates. Matters of faith are hard to fight, and determined authoritarian minds set on a ‘lame’ idea incredibly hard to sway. This is one that Wilber just won’t let go of any more than his mentor has. 

Of course, we have never claimed that Graves’s original data showed that Wilber's “Boomeritis” couldn’t exist. As everyone who has studied this work with us (or even bothered to read our FAQ) knows, there is very little original Graves data left to draw from; he discarded most of it in a fit of house cleaning after a mild stroke. So how could it possibly be used to refute anything? It was Graves’s conclusions and conceptualizations which were tapped, not his original data. Wilber doesn’t seem to understand the term “original data” any better than he understands the theoretical framework and the model derived from it. The framework describing the systems parallels those of many other researchers, as numerous tables, including some compiled by Wilber, demonstrate. These models share common elements, some of which were also used to refute the links of FS with CP.

We would not say, however, that Graves theory could not be used to describe the syndrome they call Boomeritis to a limited extent – there are aspects of several transitional states in their characterization. It's just that nodal FS (green) is not among them. The misunderstanding of this level of existence is not exclusive to Wilber or even Beck, and we did find that a strong ‘not like me’ rejection of this system often showed up when orange (ER) acceptance was high on the SD instruments. They manifest one of the problems of our transitional times as worldviews collide. But the way they have framed Boomeritis is not even plausible within Spiral Dynamics’ simplified application of Graves. If you substitute “liberal” for either “mean green” or “boomeritis” in Wilber’s writing, it is easy to figure out some of the ideological influences which, incidentally, are consistent with our latest research into political values. 

Whether they like it or not, we will continue to argue that the way they have constructed mean green and, by extension, Boomeritis, is out of whack with basic theoretical principles in Graves’s levels of existence work (not his original data). Furthermore, the linking of the syndrome to a particular chronological generation (the post WWII Baby Boomers of whom Wilber is a member) violates another Gravesian finding, namely that there is little predictive about age in his levels of existence theory. Had they tried a link to a phase in the emergence of human nature or psychosocial history, they might have had better luck than attaching Boomeritis to 50-somethings.

We agree that these systems are unconscious, to some extent, though different people have varying degrees of self-awareness. It takes good analysis and more than just a bit of talent and practice to be able to identify them, especially in one’s self. Isn't that one of the reasons for meditation and spiritual practice?  Openness to feedback and some long hard looks in clean mirrors can help, as well. Just like the quadrants in the Johari Window (open, blind, hidden, and unknown) or Donald Rumsfelds trilogy (knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns), there are inevitable voids in what we understand about ourselves. We do remain unconvinced, despite the determined sales efforts, that ‘Boomeritis’ is a pathology rather than a temperament complex which triggers an abreaction in some people like sodium in water. But is either at fault for the explosion? And we do not find any defense for a claim that it is attributable to green or any other single Gravesian system. That's simply too simple. 

[* A note of clarification is needed here for those who haven't followed the Spiral Dynamics Saga into which Wilber has insinuated himself. Our former partner and grand wizard of the SDi branch, Don Beck, has long refused to use Natasha Todorovic’s name, and has insisted on several occasions that her name not be associated with his. That wish has been honored to every extent possible. Beck has long referred to Todorovic by several derogatory terms, “ Cowan's friend” being the least noxious of them. In our view, Wilber demeans himself by mindlessly parroting the nonsense he’s heard and hasn’t had the integrity to investigate on his own. Additionally, Beck has had a long-standing antipathy for what he interprets green to be, though it is a system which he doesn’t seem to understand. This was one of many reasons the Cowan/Beck split occurred, and why we were happy to see Beck shift over into the Wilberian Integral sphere with his SDi brand and away from SD. Now Wilber has duplicated and expanded on the prejudices they seem to have reinforced in each other. If Wilber is now trying to dismiss both Cowan and Beck (see the next section) and reconstruct his own derivative of SD, it’s time some responsible Integral people took up the study of FS (as well as A'N' and the rest of the theory) to correct the errors that have been embedded.]

[KW] “And what do you make of the fact that the two guys who developed SD, nobody really wants to work with?—and in fact, they even refuse to work with each other, as if to put an exclamation mark on the point. I mean, is that just weird or what? Maybe it’s just me? I don’t think so, everybody I know seems to agree.”

True, the Spiral Dynamics world split when the authors did, and Ken Wilber was one of the first to take advantage of the situation as both a catalyst and beneficiary. Apparently he and members of his organization worked quite closely with Beck for a number of years; so we wonder why he makes this claim, and why it would be any business of "everybody" he knows. In any case, rather than helping to close the gaps between "the two guys who developed SD," he has contributed to their widening and aggravated things at the very point when they were close to being resolved. He and members of his gang are complicit in the problems and should be ashamed of themselves for joining in such hypocrisy. In our view, "weird" is how Ken Wilber and his inner circle of Integrals have behaved.

Again demonstrating a great ability to pass judgment with scant facts but considerable hyperbole, Wilber claims “nobody” wants to work with either side of SD. We cannot speak for the other branch, but how is it we continue to travel around the world teaching the material, working with people interested in the model, consulting and coaching, and have long term relationships with many people who seem quite happy to work with us and whose contributions we appreciate greatly? We won't work with just anybody, and we 'reserve the right to refuse service' to people who we are not convinced will use the materials we provide ethically or constructively. And we do agree that our operation is quite small compared to the fast-growing Integral Institute, so we've got to admit - oh, the shame of it - that Ken’s is bigger than ours.

However, we would ask why it is that we keep running into people who are sick and tired of Wilber’s shallow representations of Spiral Dynamics, who find merit in our positions, who tire of their rightist politics, and who want to get to the real meat of the matter and away from the mumbo jumbo? Why is it that people are running from the Integral Institute screaming “cult”? Why do people from the I.I. send us resumes looking for jobs? Why do people feel they need to quietly sneak behind Ken Wilber’s back to obtain materials, opinions, and information from us, or even to contact us? For that matter, why are people discouraged from dealing with us at the Integral Institute while they apologize for its policies and closed nature? Is that because nobody wants to deal with us?

Please, for goodness’ sake don’t confuse the Integral Institute and the tight little Wilberian followership with the whole integral world which is much older and broader than the I.I. There are many students of integralism who are doing great work and we continue to applaud their efforts. As we say over and over, our issues are not with integration or the idea of integral thinking; it makes all the sense in the world. Our fuss is with lousy representations of SD and abuse of a valuable model by people who don’t seem to care what damage they do in building up their own movements.

[KW] Anyway, I personally love SD as an intro model (seriously), and we will definitely continue to use it at I-I. We just can’t find anybody who will work with its founders. I take that back, I just thought of two. But mostly….

Seems to us that Ken Wilber has a very strange way of expressing his love (seriously). However, it is accurate for the Wilberians to speak of SD as an “intro model.” The understanding they demonstrate just qualifies for intro level comprehension; nothing more. That's a shame. Given his latest remarks and dearth of original new ideas on the Integral front, we have no doubt the I.I. will continue relying on SD as a centerpiece of their efforts. Tossing away SD would take a big hunk of the “integral” out of the Integral Institute since the levels derived from Graves are central for an outfit wrapped up in AQAL, tiers, and the color coding which constitutes their “lingua franca,” even though they’ve turned it into a rather bizarre dialect. No doubt SD will be recast and attempts made to rebrand it yet again as the founders are skillfully excluded from their efforts. A possible scenario is described quite well by Wilber earlier in this document, just as his statements on the blog contribute to such a competitive strategy inside Integral-land.

[KW] “I am at the center of the vanguard of the greatest social transformation in the history of humankind….”

tatements like “I am at the center of the vanguard” might reflect factual reporting, incredible narcissism, wishful thinking, attempted humor, brilliant marketing, or a combination of more, depending on from where one looks at them. There is no doubt that the well-funded Integral machine is rolling forward like a bulldozer over olive trees to fill a void many people feel. But if one looks at the piece on which this excerpted response is based as a case study example, several other things should come clear. The incessant “I” and “me” repeated throughout this statement, editorial or otherwise, suggests an internal locus and a focus on changing the world out there. Perhaps introspection was an earlier phase. Now it is the express-self side of Graves’s cyclical double-helix. Note the cutting and disparaging remarks about others in language designed to put down persons as much as ideas (Wilber argues self-defense on that front). One can ask if this is marker of high level functioning, especially when done crudely. There is a tone of grandiosity and belief in own greatness, traits harder to attribute to either enlightened beings or more complex levels along the spiral. The clever part is couching it as hard-edged humor, thereby leaving a graceful 'nyuk, nyuk, nyuk' escape clause.

While Wilber sometimes framed himself as the poster child of transcendental turquoise, the evidence we have seen in his behavior, especially of late, suggests something far more mundane and even troubling. Although we don't know him personally, a meltdown like this blog piece looks unfortunate and ill-considered,  however he intended it. On the other hand, this episode presents yet another excellent teaching opportunity to help serious SD students differentiate values from Value Systems, memes from MEMEs, and how legitimate movements can fall into cult-like habits. Perhaps even Ken learned something from it.

f one applies Graves, there is room to ask whether Wilber is a cause or a convenient effect riding the wave of converging forces already surging over human nature. There are many simultaneous transformations underway at many different levels. His organization looks more like a rapid-response school of fish than a vanguard as it is led upward, ever-upward struggling to gain 'altitude.' We are quite sure the Integrals believe themselves to be the novel intellectual engine driving what Graves predicted thirty years ago, a transformation imagined by the likes of Maslow and Mumford before him, and which no small number of world-changing demagogues across the last century have tried to impose through force of will or arms, always to release humanity from self-inflicted bondage for its own good. In our view, if humankind gets through the end of fifth level orange dominance and blue-driven conflicts into a more widespread sense of the F existential problems and S solutions anytime soon, that will be a major accomplishment since wars would effectively be over and attention could go the the A' problems of a survivable planet which humans could share. We are living in times of change and transformation, as every epoch seems to have the feeling that it is at the greatest and most significant turning point ever. Ours is definitely a next, and we'll be nothing but happy in Wilber's efforts contribute to positive changes. 

SD is both a complex and complicated model that's still emerging, as is human nature. That lesson hit us hard as we compiled the Never Ending Quest and waded through many of Dr. Graves’s sources, amazed at how much of today’s hot stuff has been said before, and often better with less fluff. The past can inform the present and contribute to the future; they overlap. At the same time, new things are happening which don't fit old paradigms. As Graves predicted, relatively few people understand his point of view well enough to do good analysis or built forward upon it, though vast numbers take a whack with SD. Fortunately, the number of competent users is growing because the Gravesian point of view fits today’s milieu and resonates with other approaches so elegantly with its open-ended frame. Even simple applications can make a positive difference in this era of social transformation.

But sound and contributive applications of SD - whether small personal interventions or grand societal designs - depend on accurate differentiation and clean analysis. Those depend on a solid foundation of theoretical understanding, just as successful brain surgery is built on the rudiments of anatomy. When this foundation is lacking, SD is vulnerable to projections, distortions, and stereotyping; that's butchery, not surgery. This is a function of openness to understand and use the model, as well as the user's ethical stance and motives; it's not built into the theory, itself. The gullible and the unknowing ultimately pay the price, for they cannot know what they do not know. So we strongly suggest that users and potential SD users do their homework well and not rely on executive summaries or agenda-driven recaps rooted in old values wrapped in shiny new packaging. There is too little of the theory and too many embedded memes and opinions proffered as vMEMEs coming from the current iteration of Ken Wilber or the loyalists around his Institute to make their approach a reliable introduction to SD at this stage. Instead, we suggest an exploration of Graves and other contemporary developmental scholars in their originals to establish a base and investigation of other less heavily promoted approaches to integral thinking and integralism if that is your interest. We ask that you be an aware and curious human being rather than a compliant sheep or cultist because as Wilber suggests and we fully agree, much is at stake in today's world.

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