“Occupy Integral!” was originally published in the online magazine Beams & Struts by my friends Terry Patten and Marco Morelli. In Part 1 of the interview I asked them to describe what’s really happening to our world from an integral perspective. Here in Part 2 of the interview, I ask them to elaborate on how the Integral Movement might have a greater impact for positive change during this time of significant transformation.
Brett: Historically, the “integral movement” has been largely characterized by people interested in spiritual/philosophical/psychological theories, maps and models, along with a large focus on personal development. Your blog at IntegralRevolution.com suggests that integralists might play a significant role in the changes we are seeing on the planet. What mental or attitudinal shift, or what realization do you think integralists need to make in order to move from “watching from the sidelines” to getting “out onto the field” and into the action?
Marco: As we point out in “Occupy Integral!”, there is nothing inherent in the content of integral theory that should limit the integral movement to being merely concerned with the themes of evolution, self-development, and spiritual awakening in the abstract. In a way, it’s just a historical accident. The “Four Quadrants” map covers objective and subjective realities, in their individual and collective manifestations, and the very notion of evolutionary unfolding suggests a radically transformative process with implications for all levels and dimensions of our being — our being-in-the-world.
Yet the history of the movement grew out of Ken Wilber’s books and the people who were first attracted to them, which tended to be spiritual and thinking types, more so than activist types. Moreover, the economics of the movement have tended to center on professions or activities that are more about personal change, healing, awakening, and creativity, and less about broad-scale, hard-core social transformation. That’s why we have so many coaches, therapists, consultants, and teachers among us, but fewer politicians, business leaders, and social activists (with some notable exceptions). And of course, demographically, integralists have tended to be white, Western, and relatively affluent—which is a big limitation. This is definitely changing. . . .
As you know (but many in our community do not know), people like Barrett Brown, Gail Hochachka, Mick Quinn, Yene Assegid, and of course you and your colleagues at Stagen have been using the integral map (and more importantly, the skills and practices implied by the map) and applying it “on the ground,” building real communities and sustainable systems, working with people who are radically removed from our culture of self-help and personal development, and doing so, it seems to me, with lots of humility and respect. I’d love to see much more of that!
What motivates such action generally? I think it comes from hearing and responding to a call—not just the call of your higher self, or your teal (or turquoise or indigo) self or what have you (though that may be there too)—but the call of the real world, which is also simply the call of loving your neighbor, like that guy from Nazareth said. We can easily feel this in relation to family or friends, but we can also feel it “world-centrically.” This involves witnessing the suffering on a global scale, and tracing back the cause not just to personal fault or illusion, but also to systems that are broken, approaches that haven’t been as effective as they could be, and the still very real oppression of humans against humans (and other sentient beings) — and knowing that there’s gotta be a better way.
Terry: I think what’s called for is better understood as a maturation or deepening of practice, rather than a mere shifting. What’s needed isn’t a change of emphasis from self-actualization to activism, but a deepening and enlargement of our humanity, to include self-actualization and activism, to an understanding of self-actualization and personal growth that appreciates that it’s impossible to fulfill it without a kind of activism.
Another way to say it is that additional essential “modules” (or to use the term I prefer, “spheres”) of Integral Life Practice or Integral Spiritual Practice are the relational spheres. It’s not enough to practice in terms of the personal domains of Body, Mind, Spirit, and Shadow. A truly Integral practice must also express itself in relationship. I divide this into two key spheres: The sphere of intimate relationships (with your spouse or significant other, your children, parents, and most intimate friends) and the sphere of public relationships (at work, as a citizen of your local community, and as a planetary citizen).
It was a big step to articulate an integral practice that anyone could take up for their personal growth and awakening. And now we’re deepening into a richer, more fully integral practice that is also relational. Our community is developing, deepening, maturing. Some want to characterize this as though there was an error that we’re now discovering. (As though the original move to practice was a mistake.) I don’t see it that way. I prefer to regard it as a natural developmental process, one we’re undergoing together, as a community.
However you view it, we’re in a moment where true integral practitioners are facing and embracing the necessity of a truly integral practice, including the sphere of public service, civic responsibility, and (r)evolutionary activism. And the challenge is to do so in a way that is not reductive, reactive, careless, or destructive. We’re growing up and encountering a new developmental obligation—to manifest a loose yet coherent, worldwide virtual sangha, a community of practice that also understands its responsibility to enact broader transformative service to our world.
Brett: The terrific Integral Trollz video “Meta-Doing or Integral Inaction?” suggests that the Integral Community is not really a community, and that while we have shared values and a common language, as of yet, we have no real structure, hierarchy or leadership. My question to you is “What is the integral community?” What is your “Occupy Integral” angle and advice on our integral community? And what is our next step for the development of our integral community?
Marco: I think we are something. “Community” might be too strong a word, if the definition requires an obvious structure, hierarchy, and leadership — but I don’t think it necessarily does. I would describe us first of all as a “discourse community,” which is a term I first read in the writings of the philosopher Jurgen Habermas, but it appears elsewhere too. According to Wikipedia, a “discourse community”…
- has a broadly agreed set of common public goals [in our case, this would include a striving for conscious evolution; body-mind-spirit health; goodness, truth, and beauty; and other goals and ideals]
- has mechanisms of intercommunication among its members [such as our many websites, facebook connections, seminars, conferences, etc.]
- uses its participatory mechanisms primarily to provide information and feedback [yup]
- utilizes and hence possesses one or more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims [I would take this to mean the kinds of books written, courses offered, and other products created, including integral art, music, etc.]
- in addition to owning genres, it has acquired some specific lexis [e.g., our shared AQAL terminology, which includes numerous linguistic constellations that Ken Wilber helped popularize, like the idea of “I, We, and It” dimensions, the “We Space,” and so on]
- has a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discoursal expertise. [I’m not sure what “threshold level” means, but I’d guess we number in the tens of thousands or more.]
So I do think we qualify as a “community” given the above criteria, and with the qualification that we’re actually a pretty heterogeneous bunch. Nobody is only an integralist. All of us also have many other interests, identities, and affiliations, and they don’t always overlap. But there’s definitely something in common, which is why I’m beginning to think of the integral community in terms of a new kind of tribalism. In “Occupy Integral!” we envision a 21st-century tribe that’s “global, diverse, permeable, and hyper-linked; coexisting with our many other identities and affiliations; forgiving enough to allow for disputes and dissent; yet also cohesive and loving, pulsing with the vibe that we’re rooting for each other and that we’ve got each other’s back.” That’s probably the only kind of tribe I could be a part of.
The criticism has always been that integral can be just a “head trip,” a way of seeing reality that’s amazing and liberating, especially in the cognitive and spiritual spheres, but that hasn’t really been actualized as a way of being that’s truly embodied, relational, and significant to the wider world. Our invitation to the integral tribe (and to ourselves) is to really, deeply, and relationally become not just thinkers and talkers, but doers — in other words, practitioners. And as Terry says, to be an integral practitioner means doing both the “inner work” of waking up, as well as the “outer work” of changing the world. The great potential we see is for a global movement of integral activist-practitioners to rise up, lay claim to our potential for influence and leadership, and have some damn effect on the fate of this world!
Brett: As you know, I’m fascinated with the phenomenon of leadership, and especially the nascent practice of Integral Leadership. Can you speak to the phenomenon of leadership and how you see this playing into what is happening on the planet, and how you see leadership emerging? I’m seeing courageous leadership from young Arabs; I’m seeing collaborative and transformational leadership from the Occupy movement. How might integrally informed people add their leadership energies to the mix? Do integralists have an opportunity or even obligation in some sense to offer some kind of leadership as our world transforms?
Terry: Absolutely. But that’s easier said than done. Our first wave of leadership has taken the form of integrally-informed enactments of existing kinds of leadership that were generated out of Modernist and Post-Modern values and structures of mind. How could it have been otherwise? But we face a world of enormous complexity, in which every initiative we might lead is powerfully connected to everything else, in a fast-changing multidimensional matrix. Targeted work that helps real people in real time extends hands to touch hearts and visible suffering, thus cutting through the paralysis, but it is all-too-often swamped by huge structural forces operating on systemic and meta-systemic levels. Integral sensibilities long to address the larger patterns. So far we have reached towards a grand synthesis that has continued to elude us.
Leadership courageously faces into these contradictions, cares about them, and doesn’t oversimplify things in order to be relieved of the painful tension. (This is what I mean by it being a kind of Koan practice, that transforms us.) It fiercely holds the necessity that we find better answers to these Big Questions, ponders the possibilities, and does the practice of action-inquiry — leading in ways that are true-but-partial, inquiring into how to close the gaps that show themselves. Adapting and changing as we learn from the process, and never hiding from the implications — AND doing all of that in relationship, in mutuality, with each other.
The new leadership is not “heroic” in the classical sense. Like Jim Collins’ “Level 5 Leadership,” it’s skillfully catalytic, and humble. Such leadership submits the leader himself/herself to the larger overarching cooperative enterprise that engulfs and subsumes the position and the immunity of the elevated “leader” who otherwise presumes to stand above and beyond the fray. And this kind of leadership requires a community of practice. It has never existed before. It’s arising in the “in-between” among those who dare to take responsibility. So we’re subject to our own injunctions as we’re articulating them. Like you, we’re just entering into it, and in doing this, we’re in it together. And together, if we persist, we will co-create that leadership, and that transformational movement.
This redefines leadership, opening it up. In this cultural experiment, the leaders aren’t just the ones who look outwardly like old-paradigm Alpha-male “leaders.” All of us who are co-creating this new cultural mode share this new integral leadership. In any moment that we provide strength or clarity or harmony to the cooperative enterprise, we lead.
Brett: I love the Banksy mural image that you included in your Occupy Integral essay of the protester throwing flowers. I think it appeals to me as an integralist who finds complexity intriguing. It seems an apparent contradiction or paradox: the frustration/anger/action orientation of a protester combined with flowers which may represent beauty/gentleness/love. What does this image mean to you and in what ways does it illustrate, perhaps, an integral perspective on protest/revolution/activism?
Marco: It’s funny you ask. We envision a revolution of love of sorts, with a preference for non-violence in almost every context. And yet, we didn’t want to be limited to the same old hands-linked-around-planet-earth type images either. A revolution takes confrontational energy and shaking things up! So I did a quick Google image search. I think I searched for “flowers + revolution.” The Banksy image was one of the first results that came up. I had never seen it before and I thought it was perfect. I found the artist’s website and given his revolutionary orientation, it seemed like he would be fine with our using it. Now I also use it on my twitter page (@madrush), I love it.
Brett: I’m very resonant with your suggestion to “Let’s build bridges with individuals and groups that are doing good work in the world, whether or not they explicitly share an integral orientation.” Are you suggesting we get involved with the Occupy movement, the Arab Spring, the political process in our countries, protests or activism of various kind? Can you say more about how we integralists can resolve our “we’re beyond postmodernism” or “occupy is too ‘green’ for our preferences” attitudes? How can integralists join in on these other movements and what orientation would you recommend? How might we actually help and be of service? What gifts can we bring (insight/perspective/leadership styles)?
Marco: Yes, we’re definitely suggesting that integralists get involved with “non-integral” projects and movements. In fact, we say that the very distinction between what’s “integral” and “non-integral” is not actually that useful, except in certain contexts where everyone is on board. What we’re suggesting, therefore, is not to judge these movements (or decide on your involvement) based on whether or not they’re “integral,” but rather to look integrally at the big picture of what’s happening in the world — or the small picture of what’s happening in your local community — and then look at who is actually doing the real work to address the problems. 99% of the time, it won’t be “integral” groups. But very often, these groups will be working towards goals that you would certainly share. In fact, in many cases, they know a lot more than you do and already have a sophisticated set of strategies, tactics, and skills to be effective advocates for change. We can’t just wait around for more “truly integral” groups to emerge, when there’s so much good work already being done. I think we should get off our integral high horse and pitch in!
Back in 2008, I knocked on thousands of doors and made a zillion phone calls to help Obama get elected. I would not describe most of the people I worked with as “integral” or “non-integral” — in fact, I would feel wrong doing so. They were my simply neighbors and fellow citizens, and many of them became my friends. This kind of direct connection goes deeper than any philosophical concept. Yet in my own small way I felt like I offered some integral leadership to my community, mainly because I could hold space for different points of view and I wasn’t too ideological or reactive. I never talked about “integral” — though I did introduce our precinct leader (a very stressed out guy!) to meditation.
Now in 2012, the collective energy has shifted. It’s finding expression in the Occupy movement, Transition, and countless other places (including the Arab Spring, the uprisings in Spain and Greece, and so on). In the American context, Obama’s effectiveness has been limited, and people feel frustrated and impatient. They also recognize much more clearly that change must come from the bottom up, not just top down. As integral practitioners, I think we can bring a fuck-load of clarity, balance, and big-picture thinking to any group we get involved with, but only if we first drop any pretensions to being “higher,” “wiser,” or “more evolved,” and simply act as human beings in solidarity with our neighbors. Then we’re free to let integral theory work its way in, in whatever ways feel appropriate — or not. We can keep our meta-perspectives, but they will be transfigured by and expressed through the reality of our human connections.
Terry: I so agree, Marco. And let’s make sure to state explicitly that “action” is not just the province of progressive political activism. Or radical and even revolutionary activism. It’s also the province of “Orange” and “Green” leadership, a la “Conscious Capitalism” and other forms of more enlightened business, such as the kind that you’ve been working on for years, Brett, among your many other integral projects. True integral leadership is necessarily “all of the above.”
In the comments that appeared after we posted “Occupy Integral!”, some commenters eloquently claimed that we need radical disruptive activism rather than incremental reforms. I don’t disagree with what they are proposing to enact. But I want both/all. This is game time, folks. It can’t be “either-or” anymore; it’s got to be “both-and.”
I see the time ahead as likely to be turbulent, chaotic, and therefore thoroughly unpredictable. We can’t “predict and control” events and outcomes as though our maps are sufficient to enable us to anticipate the patterns of the churn of the surf. No way we can hope to do that! This is a time where we need “everybody all-at-once” and “every-strategy-at-once.” We must aspire to embody an all-embracing meta-sangha, a brother- and sisterhood of practice that includes and encourages and respects every kind of approach, incremental and radical, subtle and gross, interior and exterior, financial and spiritual, personal and systemic.
We can’t predict which of these diverse approaches, undertaken with consciousness, skill, and heart, will prove to most crucially empower and boost the health and flexibility of the systems in which we are participants. Many seemingly contradictory initiatives might ultimately play necessary roles in a complex or chaotic sequence of developments leading to the emergence of a non-linear leap to a higher order.
Even without being able to predict, however, we can practice a way of being that is open, and flexible, and self-transforming, a way of being that is courageous, caring, smart, and flexible, and attuned to a higher intelligence and ordering principle. We can learn and then practice the moves, the modes, the states of consciousness and energy and interconnectivity with one another that have some promise to enable us to show up more adequately. It’s action-inquiry. Thus cooperating, such practitioners may be able to enact the unpredictable martial-arts-like inner-and-outer “moves” that will be required to “surf the churn” of whatever chaos accompanies the transitions ahead.
That’s what I think we’re already beginning to do. Whatever else it may include, integral leadership does involve choosing and re-choosing to embody and align with what’s most alive, good, true, beautiful, free, loving, generous and happy in each moment and situation. And it involves being a stand for vitality, coherence and efficacy — on every scale. That means choosing to enact our own health and sanity and creativity — as well as that of our communities, our organizations, our species, our planet, and our Kosmos. That’s the integral evolutionary meta-project to which we’re all discovering we are dedicated. In any moment, to whatever degree we choose to enact that stand, we practice, serve, and lead.
Terry Patten and Marco V Morelli are the co-authors, with Ken Wilber and Adam Leonard, of Integral Life Practice: A 21st-Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening.
Terry and Marco are currently working on a new book called The Integral Revolution: The Future of Consciousness, Culture, and Society in the Planetary Age.