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Setting the Context
Advocates of traditional, modern, and postmodern worldviews are shouting past each other, unwilling to concede that the others have any valid viewpoints. They disagree on a broad range of topics. One topic that isn’t going away is climate change which is decimating the biosphere and threatening to, put simply, turn all worldviews into missed opportunities.
Given our recognition of the current social dysfunction and environmental breakdowns we are facing, how can we get past zero-sum, either-or solutions and open our minds to a more wholistic approach to our collective problems, one that includes the truths of the different worldviews?
And how can we grow our numbers and that of others sufficient to support the massive, collective undertakings needed to make possible our emergence into a livable future for all?
Terry Patten will address these questions as we wrap up Chapter 5 to complete Part One of A New Republic of the Heart.
Selected Readings From A New Republic of the Heart
Recitations by Anneke Edson, David Chasteen, Sallie Justice, Phil Justice, and Ed Prell
Chapter 5: The Integral Revolution – Part Four
CHAPTER OVERVIEW (pg 11)
Chapter Five introduces an integral way of understanding our multidimensional reality, appreciating how all human perspectives are partial views of a larger truth. Beyond the cognitive, emotional, and spiritual limitations of our typical fragmented thinking are more holistic perspectives that offer a basis for a “radical integral ecology.”
RADICAL INTEGRAL ECOLOGY
(pg 126) As we have seen, most human beings are locked in a consensus denial of the severity of our ecological crisis. Among those willing to puncture that denial we often hear a clear and simple, morally based explanation of the recent history of human violence against the natural world.
(pg 126) This postmodern narrative holds that the arrogance of white European Christian men, powered by modern science, the free market, and the history of colonialism, has been the primary source of imbalance in our world. Its primal sin, rooted in a presumption of separation between man and nature, self and other, has given rise to the horrific predicament of having overshot Earth’s carrying capacity. According to that narrative, the modern mind, science, technology, and capitalism are evil—they are the source of our “evolutionary wrong turn.”
(pg 126) I believe there is valid insight to be found in this true-but-partial story—quite a bit more than some integralists admit—but there is enormous distortion too. The modern stage of development is the necessary foundation for postmodern and integral consciousness. And modernists are postmodernists’ irreplaceable allies if they are to restore respect for scientific evidence and rational discourse—a necessary task if human civilization is to avoid destroying itself.
(pg 126) A radical integral ecology is called for—in other words, an integral worldview that encompasses and fully recognizes and radically values the interrelatedness of the whole living planet. It expresses mature integral consciousness, which can make common cause with postmodern environmental consciousness, because both are willing to grapple with the moral implications of modernity’s destructive arrogance.
(pg 126) At the same time, it is ready to join with modernity’s pragmatic, rational, and technical prowess in the service of more adequate and comprehensive solutions. It recognizes that our ecological and climate predicament is a four-quadrant affair.
(pg 126) It poses a great series of technical problems, but it is more fundamentally a problem of consciousness and culture. A holistic transition is clearly necessary, but it poses a huge challenge, for reasons that have to do with the dynamics of cultural evolution itself. Humble, integral cultural leadership is required.
(pg 129) The evolution of human culture and human beings is not at all assured. The awe and sense of optimism that arises when we take in the glory and complexity of the evolutionary process is a powerful inspiration and it helps us awaken beyond simplistic materialistic models of cause-and-effect.
(pg 129) Even so, evolution isn’t simply a guaranteed linear path of increasing complexity and depth. The dinosaurs were an evolutionary cul-de-sac. They did not spawn the next phase of life’s evolutionary expression. Humans must make many good choices if we are not to become another evolutionary dead end.
(pg 129) A radical integral ecology will also express a truly integral spirituality. It will integrate transcendental spirituality and intuitions of higher states of consciousness with reverent worship of the immanent sacred living earth. It will be awake to the divinity of what is “highest” and truly universal, the non-dual consciousness that is the essence and very Mystery of existence.
(pg 129 & 130) But it will be equally awake to what is “deepest” and most fundamental, the embodied ground of all human experience—earth and sky and the four directions worshiped by our most ancient earth-based spiritual traditions, through which we express our brotherhood and sisterhood with all our incarnate relations (the whole human and more-than-human family, including the plant spirits and fellow creatures).
(pg 130) It will also acknowledge that the evolutionary process of “transcending and including” is disorderly and imperfect, as we are. What is “transcended and included” as we grow in awareness is not always mastered or retained in a whole or healthy way.
(pg 130) It is not regressive to re-engage and re-emphasize aspects of prior states and structures of consciousness that have not been fully integrated. In fact, doing so is sometimes necessary to building a broader foundation for the pyramid of total personal development. This is especially true with regard to regaining a full and healthy relationship with the natural world.
(pg 130) Whether one begins with a sympathy for deep ecology or integral theory, any serious observer of this moment in human history should be able to acknowledge that we are facing a crisis that cannot be surmounted without leadership grounded in the enduring truths of both of these paradigms. And we cannot preserve what is best through technological innovation alone.
(pg 130) A dramatic reduction of the pace of human consumption and destruction of the natural world is inevitable. The only benign scenario by which this can be accomplished is through a profound and comprehensive cultural turnaround, a great transition. We will need both interior and exterior change, including transformations of the psychology and behavior of individuals and societies. A radical integral ecology is thus necessary and inevitable.
CREATING AN INTEGRAL CULTURE
(pg 130 & 131) Radical integral ecology is characterized by solutions that are both “non-zero-sum” and “out of the box.”
(pg 130 & 131) Non-zero-sum means win-win: that one party’s gain is not another party’s loss. We are called to take a more comprehensive view of who and what is involved in any solution, so that the impact on the commons—especially the air, water, forests, wildlife, and earth we share—is never neglected.
(pg 131) Future solutions must actually be win-win-win—wins for both sides of whatever human interests are competing, and also a win for the health of the whole. But not dogmatically. Win-win solutions are not always possible; sometimes it is necessary to fight for a single position against others.
(pg 131) At times an integral approach to ecology may simply need to engage a battle (for a carbon tax, for example, or other appropriate public policies). Knowing that the perfect is the enemy of the good, integralists won’t be so paralyzed by the desire to create non-zero-sum transactions that they will miss opportunities to create positive change. The integral flavor takes righteousness out of the equation so that we can actually hear and respond humanely to one another, rather than be boxed in by identities or polarities.
(pg 131) An integral approach isn’t going to think only in familiar “boxes” or categories, focused merely on how to improve our existing systems. Integral approaches will address these problems in a whole variety of ways that defy the frameworks through which we are used to seeing them.
(pg 131) One out-of-the-box approach that has already caught the global imagination is to educate girls in the developing world. Another equally significant priority is to make fossil fuels noncompetitive.
(pg 131) Many out-of-the-box approaches are bubbling up all through culture and the integral evolutionary community. Some integral initiatives make an entrepreneurial art form out of incubating new out-of-the-box communities, artistic creations, or ideas.
(pg 131) New technologies will also be critical here: more efficient renewable energy sources, new types of batteries, and ideas that no one has thought of yet. Rather than merely incrementally tweaking the current system, we must also imagine how it can be bypassed.
(pg 131) We are already creating more jobs in the United States with solar and wind than we are with coal; they could already outcompete fossil fuels in many situations if government subsidies for fossil fuels were eliminated. But even more radical changes are called for. Evolutionary tension is building for exponential advances, and so is the integral impulse to imagine them, and to extrapolate into the territory ahead.
(pg 132) Because these are integral approaches, they won’t exclusively focus on such exterior technical solutions and systems upgrades (the right-hand quadrants), but also will take into account the interiors of the individuals and communities who must implement and sustain them (the left-hand quadrants). The integral four-quadrant matrix is out-of-the-box—it makes us think beyond any specialized area of expertise.
(pg 132) Most people already understand that transitions to renewable energy in communities dependent on the coal economy will collide with the attitudes, needs, and identities of their workers and residents. What may be harder to imagine is the pervasive cultural transformation that will necessarily occur as human societies radically economize our consumption of nonrenewable natural resources.
(pg 132) No matter how many great, out-of-the-box, non-zero-sum, technologically dazzling, socially minded, and economically generative innovations we develop, the true test of a Radical Integral Ecology will come from our capacity to communicate with, cooperate with, tolerate, and care for one another.
(pg 132) Cultural fragmentation and conflict, and the cynicism and resentment that enable them, are environmental poisons. The real ecological crisis is not a merely practical and technical problem, but equally a crisis of collective will, a cultural crisis.
A 10 PERCENT TIPPING POINT?
(pg 132) Ken Wilber has pointed out that at the time of the American Revolution, about 10 percent of the colonists were educated people who actually thought of the world in rational modern terms like those the Founding Fathers imbued in our founding documents.
(pg 132) He has also speculated that when 10 percent of its population grows into a new structure of meaning-making and values, a whole society is able to rewrite its public rules based on that new structure. Although this claim is by no means mainstream, it is an extremely conjecture. A 10 percent tipping point is observed or theorized in several other sociocultural models.
(pg 132 & 133) Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute reported in 2011 that when just 10 percent of a population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority. Members of the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC) at Rensselaer used computational and analytical methods to discover the tipping point where a minority belief becomes a majority opinion.
(pg 133) The scientific press regarded this finding as having “implications for the study and influence of societal interactions ranging from the spread of innovations to the movement of political ideals.” According to SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski, “When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas.
(pg 133) It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority. Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame.” This research bolsters Wilber’s “integral tipping point” conjecture. I find it entirely credible that a new stage of maturity, and a more integral worldview, might begin to reach critical mass at this 10 percent level.
(pg 133) In various places at various times, integral theorists, especially Wilber, have estimated the percentage of the population of the U.S., Europe, and the world who share various worldviews. It is estimated that between 2 percent and 7 percent of the populations of educated wealthy societies have adopted an integral worldview at some level.
(pg 133) If this theory holds, and if general social forces are causing more and more people to mature into structures of awareness that are free of the limitations of postmodern presumptions, attitudes, habits, and beliefs, then a social transition might soon be possible. A transition into a new structure of meaning is an exciting time, a cultural renaissance.
(pg 133) It can be seen in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, and in what we often call the Sixties—the arrival of a significant cohort of people holding new postmodern values. Ahead of us might be another transition, this one to an integral consciousness—self-aware in important new respects, and capable of a new level of skillful and harmonious relating.
(pg 133 & 134) Maybe or maybe not. But it is good to know that there may be unexpected tailwinds ahead, for which the recent past is no prologue. It can be psychologically positive to expect good luck, to imagine “grace” is with us in the great enterprise this book points to. Perhaps cultural forces can catalyze nonlinear gains in our ability to wisely govern our collective affairs, even as technological advances make it critical to our collective survival.
(pg 134) Maybe radical integral ecology can play a role. After all, it is a holistic mode of being. It reflects a rooted integral consciousness with an innate telos toward the reweaving of our social fabric and the healing of our general inability to speak to and be heard by one another, intimately, socially, and across our cultural divides.
(pg 134) And yet even that is not dogma. There are lots of ways to do it. There are many early expressions of radical integral ecology. They can be found in communities of practice at the leading edge of culture, such as cohousing arrangements or eco-villages.
(pg 134) In some of these communities, people are experimenting with cooperative and altruistic modes of being and living. The game we are playing is accomplished through self-transcending practice, powerful friendships, and deepening mutual trust. In order to become a cultural force, we must build powerful intra-group resonance and shared practice.
(pg 134) That is why the radical implications of an integral ecology imply a revolution of the heart—a growing capacity for appreciation, care, generosity, courage, and creativity. It is both a solo and a team effort.
Summary & Preview of What is Next
The prospect for a broad based leap into an Integral era, from the vantage point of today’s turbulence, seems rather remote. But a number of factors ought to be considered before we give up hope:
- Countless organizations, communities and project teams are flying beneath the radar, devising ways to thrive in spite of the fragmentation in our midst. Their creativity is inspiring others to evolve. Consider the comprehensive and highly coordinated efforts of Project Drawdown, for one.
- It doesn’t take everyone, not even a majority, to turn the tide. Numerous academic studies suggest that as few as 10% of a population can propel a new, more comprehensive paradigm into mainstream acceptance. Remember the youth movements of the 1960’s that brought radical social change on a number of fronts.
- Recall that we’ve been here before. Though data relevant to the survivability of humanity has been painting a foreboding picture, people with their backs against the wall have, countless times in the past, prevailed against formidable odds. As examples, consider Nelson Mandela’s confrontation of apartheid and the upwelling spirit of the Ukrainians today.
However, these positive considerations do not assure a happy ending. That will take the power of collective, purposeful and consistent determination to confront the overwhelming obstacles facing us – even though the outcomes are uncertain.
The showdown between worldviews which is now unfolding is unprecedented in type and scale. Our opponent is not a competing tribe. It is us. It is all of us – worldwide – with our varied perspectives and our inability, perhaps unwillingness, to understand and cooperate with each other across these boundaries. Now, every nation, institution, community, and human soul is being called to get out of the stands and onto the playing field.
This concludes our coverage of Part One in Terry Patten’s book, A New Republic of the Heart. In this series of Voices posts, we have peered through the powerful integral lens to see the world more clearly. We’ve explored why and how it must be transformed if we are to survive, and why, in spite of the odds, we look forward with high hopes to a more sustainable future.
In Part 2 of his book, Terry provides a thoughtful and multifaceted approach to developing the personal and collective skills and practices needed to tackle the many obstacles we will inevitably encounter as “we become the change we have been waiting for.” While we prepare to bring you excerpts from Part 2, we encourage you to peruse the posts that have brought us to this point.
Farewell for now!