2016 turned out to be a rather interesting year for the Integral Community. In the eyes of many, what unfolded in the political spheres of society—in particular in the United States—brutally exposed that the narrative, which the self-appointed pundits of the community have been confidently propounding, was proven utterly off the mark. This “evolutionary” narrative, which is based on various schools of social changes such as Spiral Dynamics, asserts, quite simplistically, that the collective evolution of humanity can be described as a process of transcendence of provincialism or nationalism so that people and society will be liberated to embrace the spirit of world-centrism more fully.
While the idea may sound nice on paper, as the past decade has shown, this narrative became “reinterpreted” by the pundits and followers essentially as an ideology that serves as an apologetic for the “globalization” taking place under the laws of free market capitalism. In spite of all the qualifications in the writings of Ken Wilber—or of other pundits—the Integral Community seems to have “officially” settled on the position that what is taking place in the world over under the banner of “globalization” is indeed a clear manifestation of the spirit of evolution and that various policies implemented by the leadership of the United States government such as Clintons or Barak Obama, are all “integrally informed” one as they strongly aim to dismantle the national boundaries in favor of transnationalism (see America goes green meme: thoughts on a thunderous week). In other words, the Integral Community became so blindly enamored by the ideology of world-centrism that it came to automatically sanction any stance as long as it denies nationhood in favor of trans-nationalism.
Although the lack of sophistication in such thinking is hardly rare even among intellectuals, it was especially ironic that those in the Integral Community, who are so proud of their capacity for self-reflexivity which is supposed to endow them with an uncommon ability to critically examine the assumptions and frameworks they rely on, were so easily and utterly trapped by the simplistic thinking. As a result, virtually all the analyses on contemporary affairs that have come out of the Integral Community have proven to have little value to help people see things with critical perspective. Worse, because it so eagerly rationalized almost everything that was happening under the guise of globalization with their evolutionary narrative, it ended up discouraging people to critically examine the assumption that any move toward globalization would constitute a move toward a higher stage of collective evolution.
In the meantime, while the Integral Community was busy cheerleading globalism, society as a whole has been making steady progress in cultivating its ability to question the validity of the conventional narrative that globalization actually symbolizes our collective progress. And in the wake of the strong emergence of alternative media on the internet, more and more people are now willing to pose questions to the narrative.
Yet, for some reasons, the great majority of the Integral Community continuously clings onto such narrative. As a matter of fact, even at this point, they seem to make sense of the current situation, which are characterized by the open opposition to trans-nationalism as represented by the Britain’s exit from European Union or election of Donald Trump, as a form of regression—that is, they seem to naively believe that these incidents are indicating that humanity is failing to live up to the call of the evolutionary impulse to globalize (see The Great Divide: Trump, Populism and the Rise of a Post-Scarcity World).
Sadly, as far as I can see, they do not appear to be capable of imagining that the globalization as we are currently experiencing it does not possibly constitute any genuine progress. That is, they are consistently failing to demonstrate the capability that they describe as the core of healthy rational mind—namely, the capacity to objectify and examine the very assumptions of one’s own thinking. As a result, at far as the issues of contemporary politics are concerned, the Integral Community seems to have become essentially an ideologically driven community comprised of people who are only capable of mechanically applying the orthodox frameworks to given reality.
In the age where politics are impacting the lives of so many individuals so powerfully and so tragically, the consistent lack of quality in the opinions that emanate from the Integral Community will seriously damage its credibility in the eyes of many and eventually condemn it to the status of irrelevance where the majority of the members blindly follow various myths that are called “integral” somehow. Under the current leadership, I would presume, the community seems to be steadily heading toward such a sorry destination.
To make matters more difficult, the Integral Community seems to be caught by a strong fear, probably because of its origin in transpersonalism, that it be perceived by society as one of those alternative or fringe communities based on some nonconventional philosophies. In order to overcome such fear, the community appears to be desperately trying to present itself as “non-alternative” or “non-fringe”, something worthy to be part of mainstream discourse. Quite ironically, though, such a desire drives the community to shy away from views that seem too dangerous to the mainstream sensibility. Consequently, the community has come to betray its core value which is to embrace as many perspectives as possible (though always with critical spirit).
Moreover, when the very distinction between the conventional and the nonconventional is being increasingly blurred (for example, the current attempt to shut out alternative media by labeling them “fake news” actually indicates that the legitimacy of the mainstream narratives have been so seriously damaged that the power structures are now forced resort to such unilateral action to stunt the critical discourse in society), such stance can further dissolve the legitimacy of Integral Philosophy as it will be increasingly perceived as a philosophy characterized by timidity.
At this moment, despite the honorable efforts of small number of individuals who are trying to rehabilitate Integral Philosophy by evolving it to something that can be called post-Wilber—or simply by liberating it from the constraints of Integral Life as a business endeavor—the community as a whole seems to be still deeply caught in the constraints which are simply increasingly condemning it to the status of irrelevance.
Today, society as a whole is transmuting so as to encourage more and more people to question the very assumptions that have been constraining their thinking in the past. Undoubtedly, some of the core orthodoxies of contemporary life will be exposed, revised, or rejected in the coming years and the values and worldviews of many will be shaken and reconstructed on continuous basis. In such an age, I would believe, the very survival of the Integral Community depends on its ability to encourage genuine free thinking which can challenge even its own orthodoxies.
Since its conception, the Integral Community in general has consistently refused resisted to the perspective of deep politics. Instead, it has virtually exclusively confined perspective to shallow politics by skillfully categorizing various views in the mainstream media to produce supposedly “integral” or “holistic” picture of contemporary politics. Just like a psychologist who refuses to acknowledge the existence of the unconscious, it has adamantly focused its attention to what is allowed to the sphere of public discourse by various censoring mechanisms. As far as the issues of contemporary politics are concerned, the Integral Movement as a whole has become utterly shallow and surpassed by many alternative journalism which the Integral Community has proudly look down as “Green” or “deconstructive” in terms the depth of insight into reality. Despite the claim that they are operating from some high altitude of consciousness called “post-conventional” or “post-post-conventional” stages, in reality, the community has been thoroughly confined in the bounds of conventional view of reality.
I sincerely hope that we will start seeing genuinely post-conventional thinking emerge in the community…