The Unfinished Project of Modernity and Truly Integral Politics

by Terry Patten

On Sunday I was joined by Steve McIntosh and Carter Phipps for a dialogue we titled “Depolarizing the American Mind”. Steve and Carter are the co-founders of The Institute for Cultural Evolution (“ICE”), a nonprofit think tank organized around the goal of applying the insights of Integral philosophy, developmental psychology, evolutionary theory, and the social sciences to help create meaningful forward movement in the evolution of the American cultural and political landscape.

I’m proud that the whitepaper, Depolarizing the American Mind, was released to the public on the same day as our dialogue, and I was excited to have them clarify their ideas for our listeners (available to download here ). It examines the causes of our current climate of political polarization (the most severe since the Civil War) and describes evolutionary principles for working with enduring “existential oppositions” such as the liberal-conservative polarity. The paper also introduces what they call the synthesis platform, which describes possible positions on specific issues that express more evolved versions of the core values of the Left and Right, offering a vision of how each can develop healthier expressions.

Steve and Carter call the political gridlock in the U.S. a “wicked” problem because there are multiple causes but no clear solutions. But they believe the integral perspective has tremendous potential for politics because it diagnoses the polarization as a clash of worldviews and cultural identities. They suggest that our current culture wars are largely a reaction to the emergence of countercultural postmodernism, dating back to the 1960s, and that it is left-leaning countercultural postmodernists who are in the best position to transform our current gridlock—mainly by evolving beyond anti-modernist attitudes.

Contrary to conventional wisdom and the opinions often expressed in the mainstream media, centrism is not a viable solution. This is because no real stable center exists. If one side of an enduring existential opposite vanquishes the other, only pathology can result. Steve McIntosh eloquently argued that the “positive/positive” move is to identify and uphold what is healthy in both the Left and the Right, while increasing “value metabolism”, the quantity and quality of the values that people of either orientation are able to appreciate and care about.

In fact, Steve and Carter pointed out that polarization is a natural stage of cultural evolution wherein differentiation leads to integration, or thesis/antithesis to synthesis. I referenced my recent guest, ecopsychologist Bill Plotkin, as an example of a passionate, urgently focused environmentalist who might question the wisdom of pausing in the midst of a global crisis to consider and even integrate the values of the Right, at a time when many Republicans in the USA deny climate change and even evolution. Wouldn’t that just weaken the Left?

Steve’s response was that if people are really serious about ameliorating climate change they must be willing to address the cultural dynamics that are blocking the political will to address it. Although climate change is of concern to everyone across the political spectrum, in American identity politics, all environmentalism has become associated with the Left. He pointed out that opportunities for evolution exist where people have a problem they can’t solve, such as political gridlock with regards to climate change. If countercultural postmodern environmentalists don’t try something new, they’ll only continue to perpetuate our dysfunctional status quo.

The synthesis platform offers a model for envisioning that innovation and creating the conditions for that evolution, simply by identifying more evolved Left and Right positions on specific issues such as income inequality, climate change, budget deficits, campaign finance reform, immigration reform, and tax reform.

I asked Carter and Steve to explore what I think is a politically challenging, “elephant in the room” idea that probably only a small minority of people can appreciate. I’ve always appreciated the phrase that Jürgen Habermas uses “the unfinished project of modernity.” There is a sense in which modernity can’t really fulfill its promise except through the incorporation of postmodern and integral, and even “super integral” values and capacities (not just “Yellow” or “Teal” but also “Turquoise”).

A regenerated and nuanced relationship to modernity may be the soul of a truly integral politics. An integral politics must stand in an appreciative and positive relationship to all the remarkable achievements of modernity, even while seeing clearly all its disasters and failures, and defending the life and values that unchecked modern industry and technology have threatened. We can only redress modernity’s pathologies by moving forward into a healthier expression of modernity, not by rejecting it.

Steve agreed, eloquently explaining that the integral perspective is useful in allowing us to step outside the currents of history and see that modernity’s pathologies, failures and threats to the planet created the opportunity for evolution with the emergence of postmodernism. Postmodernism was able to make forward progress by “pushing off” of what was wrong with modernism.

But just like modernity needs the critique of postmodernism to help make it complete (a complete modernity would be a sustainable modernity) the integral perspective, which is post-postmodern, can do a similar job of improving postmodernism so it can be more effective at improving modernism.

And so the whole evolutionary trajectory of different values that we see emerging across history can be made more functional, more effective, and more conducive to the evolution of consciousness overall if we can help make visible this post-postmodernism; even while it celebrates the best of postmodernity and modernity and traditionalism.

Carter offered some optimistic reflections on the different GenX and Millenial perspectives that he sees emerging, spanning a robust spectrum, including pro-technology, progressive libertarian, small-government oriented (but not doctrinaire followers of Ayn Rand), socially-minded but free market friendly. Noticing that the new generation is already evolving politics, he says, is important. Part of integral politics is simply to support this evolutionary process that’s already occurring naturally.

If you resonate with what Steve and Carter are up to, here are some practical ways of engaging with the work of ICE:

Read Depolarizing the American Mind  You can access it here.

Take the Polarization Test which provides an interactive way to engage with these ideas. Although this simple test is not designed to detect “integral consciousness,” it does show where test-takers generally stand on the existing American political spectrum. You can also see suggestions for evolving your own position, while still holding the values your position brings to the table. And feel free to leave comments. You can access it here.

* Get on ICE’s mailing list. ICE is launching a new season of activity so make sure you are on their mailing list to be notified of new developments. http://www.culturalevolution.org

Steve McIntosh J.D. is a founding partner of ICE. A leader in the integral movement, he is author of the books: Evolution’s Purpose: An Integral Interpretation of the Scientific Story of Our Origins(Select Books 2012), and Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution (Paragon House 2007). In addition to ICE and his work in philosophy, McIntosh has had a variety of other successful careers, including founding the consumer products company Now & Zen, practicing law with one of America’s largest firms, and working as an executive with Celestial Seasonings Tea Company. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia Law School and the University of Southern California Business School. Email: steve@stevemcintosh.com

Carter Phipps is a founding partner of ICE. He is an award-winning journalist and author ofEvolutionaries: Unlocking the Spiritual and Cultural Potential of Science’s Greatest Idea (Harper Perennial 2012). For over a decade he served as Executive Editor of What Is Enlightenment? Magazine(later called EnlightenNext). Phipps is an unapologetic generalist and his areas of interest and expertise range from philosophy to mysticism to politics to science and technology. His writings combine the careful rigor of investigative journalism with a passionate personal concern for the development of human culture. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. Email: carter@carterphipps.com

 

 

Depolarizing the American Mind: A Conversation with Steve McIntosh and Carter Phipps of the Institute for Cultural Evolution

by Terry Patten

Join me this Sunday, April 13 at 10AM PST for a discussion with Steve McIntosh and Carter Phipps, co-founders of the integral political think tank, The Institute for Cultural Evolution (“ICE”). Carter and Steve will discuss their upcoming campaign to help ameliorate political polarization within the American electorate.

In fact, this Sunday will mark the release of their new whitepaper Depolarizing the American Mind. This paper (available to download on their website beginning Sunday) examines the causes of polarization and describes evolutionary principles for working with “existential oppositions” such as the liberal-conservative polarity. These principles indicate that each side of this relatively permanent polarity needs the other for its own further and fuller development. Each side can accordingly improve and strengthen its own position by increasing the quantity and quality of what it is able to value. The paper then introduces ICE’s proposed “synthesis platform,” which describes positions on specific issues that integrate the values of Left and Right. The synthesis platform proposal also includes a method for enlarging the set of values that American voters can hold. And in addition to the paper, ICE’s polarization campaign features a 2-minute “polarization test” on its website (www.culturalevolution.org) that provides an interactive way for people to engage with their ideas.

Both Steve and Carter are close personal friends of mine and I have followed the development of their think tank from its beginnings in 2012. As you may be aware, integral politics is one of my own passions, so I’m excited to talk with Steve and Carter about their new campaign and the integral principles that have informed their thinking. In our conversation we will focus on questions such as:

—How can America overcome the current logjam in the legislature?

—What is causing our political polarization and how has the rise of postmodernism contributed to it?

—What are the evolutionary principles for working with existential or permanent polarities?

—How will the positions of the future Left and the future Right differ from the conventional positions of Democrats and Republicans today?

—What positions does your proposed “synthesis platform” take on crucial issues like climate change and income inequality?

—What is your method for depolarizing the American mind?

—How can people get involved with this campaign?

I invite you to join us!

About The Institute for Cultural Evolution and its co-founders Steve McIntosh and Carter Phipps

Founded in 2013, The Institute for Cultural Evolution (“ICE”) is a nonprofit think tank organized around the goal of applying groundbreaking insights taken from Integral philosophy, developmental psychology, evolutionary theory, and the social sciences to help create significant forward movement in the evolution of the American cultural and political landscape. ICE is focused on creating small but critical shifts in public opinion, opening up new opportunities for political action. www.culturalevolution.org.

Steve McIntosh J.D. is a founding partner of ICE. A leader in the integral movement, he is author of the books: Evolution’s Purpose: An Integral Interpretation of the Scientific Story of Our Origins (Select Books 2012), and Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution (Paragon House 2007). In addition to ICE and his work in philosophy, McIntosh has had a variety of other successful careers, including founding the consumer products company Now & Zen, practicing law with one of America’s largest firms, and working as an executive with Celestial Seasonings Tea Company. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia Law School and the University of Southern California Business School. Email: steve@stevemcintosh.com

Carter Phipps is a founding partner of ICE. He is an award-winning journalist and author of Evolutionaries: Unlocking the Spiritual and Cultural Potential of Science’s Greatest Idea (Harper Perennial 2012). For over a decade he served as Executive Editor of What Is Enlightenment? Magazine (later called EnlightenNext). Phipps is an unapologetic generalist and his areas of interest and expertise range from philosophy to mysticism to politics to science and technology. His writings combine the careful rigor of investigative journalism with a passionate personal concern for the development of human culture. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. Email: carter@carterphipps.com

HOW TO PARTICIPATE:

Sunday, April 13th at 10:00am Pacific; 11:00am Mountain; 12:00pm Central; 1:00pm Eastern 

*Find Your Local Time

Please Note: There will be a limited number of lines available on the live conference call, so we encourage you to listen online if possible. To make sure you can get through by phone, we encourage you to dial in early.

ACCESS INSTRUCTIONS

Join the Dialogue: About one hour into the dialogue, we’ll open up the lines and you’ll have the opportunity to interact with us directly over the phone or via instant message. Here’s what to do:

To interact live by voice, dial into the conference line number and wait until we ask for a question from someone in your region, or

Send us your question via instant message in the teleseminar window on your computer

Send us your questions and comments before or during the live dialogue by posting them on our Beyond Awakening Community Facebook page

We look forward to your attendance!

Sincerely,
The Beyond Awakening Team

The Soul Opportunity of Our Time

by Terry Patten

Last Sunday, I was joined by depth psychologist, wilderness guide, and author Bill Plotkin for a dialog entitled, “Beyond Apocalypse vs. Utopia: The Soul Opportunity of Our Time.”

Bill has a depth of feeling and intelligence, and an awakened “wild soul” with which I deeply resonate. But what I especially appreciate about him is that even though he has been powerfully embodying his soul’s purpose for decades, he’s still able to open up into “beginner’s mind” and thus stand humbled and astonished in the face of the Mystery. This is where Bill and I meet, and why we were able to go deep into the big questions of our time in an intimate and mutually co-creative spirit even though our work is associated with very different theories of human consciousness.

Before Sunday’s dialog, we’d identified a list of questions that we wanted to explore including What is emerging today at the leading edge of human transformation? Has humanity gone terribly wrong? and Is our current crisis precisely the sort to be expected on any planet on which a species evolves into conscious self-awareness?

Bill began by describing his 3 Worlds model of human development, which he says reflects a view that can be found in indigenous cultures all over the world.

The Upper World is oriented toward transcendent awakening, Consciousness, Spirit, the One, the Divine, including the highest Non-Dual teachings and realizations.

The Middle World is the everyday world of work and school and family, money and power, growing and preparing food, entertainment and socializing. It is the only world many people ever know.

The Under World is the mytho-poetic realm of the soul, the sacred dark world of dreams and visions where we discover our unique gifts and purpose, and it’s where Bill says the big opportunities for humanity lie.

For Bill, the ecological and the soulful are the same thing. Our soul life is the interior expression of our place in the exterior natural world. And part of the Under World process is letting go of who or what we think we are, something that is most often bypassed in our culture, and which if it is to occur, requires a crisis. In other cultures and past eras, soul initiation was a part of life, but now less than 10% of people in Western cultures reach the stage he calls “soul initiation”.

The planetary crisis and suffering caused by human beings’ unsustainable ways of life can be understood as an Under World initiatory event for our entire species. Who we thought we were as human beings in the Middle World must “die” so that we can begin to understand ourselves anew—in an Upper World AND an Under World sense. That is the “inner work” transformation Bill thinks we’re experiencing now And there is no knowing which way we will go.

As I took all this in, I told Bill that I’m not persuaded that it’s helpful to view our crisis in negative terms. Any intelligent, self-aware species, evolving on any planet, would almost inevitably over-succeed, overpopulate, overcompete and begin to squeeze out other life forms, threatening its own survival, requiring a new ecological awareness. So I am inclined to regard our crisis and initiation as a natural process, one that creates an opportunity for something truly new and inspiring. Yes, there is certainly terrible loss and suffering on a horrific scale, and it stirs deep grieving in me. But at the same time, I am aware that there is a healthy way of being oriented to this evolutionary journey, a way to say “yes” to the challenge, a way to discover in it a source of energy and inspiration and creativity. If it is truly initiatory, it is a way of bringing forth what is best in us.

Bill agreed, but emphasized grieving as a key doorway to our developmental processes, our rites of passage. “What’s waiting at the door of our hearts and bellies is grief.” And we tend to think of it as personal grief, but there’s all kinds of transpersonal grief that comes through us, including losses of our ancestors and the losses that the earth is experiencing. We try to keep the door shut but once we open it, an extraordinary awaking process begins, in which grief leads to Aliveness. We become more authentic; we move to help others to wake up; we do what we can to do the work Joanna Macy calls “The Great Turning” and attempt to save as much life as possible on this planet.

Even though Bill and I had each found our way to “here” using different maps (a difference I pointed out and acknowledged), I invited him, and he graciously agreed, to consider the idea that even though our maps can illuminate aspects of our experience and consciousness and even catalyze awakening, it’s best to hold them lightly, or they will tend to rigidify our view. Even the map to the Under World that Bill emphasized as key to our species’ soul opportunity, is one that we do well to let go of even as we arrive at the destination to which it takes us. For this is a journey no other soul has ever walked.

You can listen to the entirety of this tender and deep dialog, including Bill’s description of his model of the Developmental Wheel and what he calls Eco-awakening here.

Beyond Apocalypse vs. Utopia: The Soul Opportunity of Our Time with Bill Plotkin

by Terry Patten

Join me on Sunday, March 23rd, at 10 AM PDT for a conversation with depth psychologist, wilderness guide, and author Bill Plotkin entitled, “Beyond Apocalypse vs. Utopia: The Soul Opportunity of Our Time”.

Bill is the author of three books, SoulcraftNature and the Human Soul, and Wild Mind. He is a powerful and inspiring voice for the soul of natural places and creatures and for the parts of the human soul that are interwoven with the soul of the natural world. He has deep experience in guiding people through the underworld descent into the soul, as a process that flowers into a life of meaningful service and fulfillment, or a deepening for those already on the journey.

As you may be aware, I have long been an activist and an advocate for spiritual activism, and I have recently been deeply exploring soul work, and envisioning an integral expression of soul work. I’m excited to talk with Bill in the context of a deep appreciation of the centrality of soul to our current cultural and spiritual evolution.

And in this conversation, we have decided to focus on the big questions faced by spiritual activists contemplating the current state of the planet. We plan to explore questions such as:

—What is emerging today at the leading edge of human transformation?

—Is our current, planetary crisis leading only to disaster?

—Has humanity gone terribly wrong?

—Or might this be a late phase of an evolutionary opportunity whose outcome is as yet entirely uncertain?

—Is our current crisis precisely the sort to be expected on any planet on which a species evolves into conscious self-awareness?

—If we are faced now with a definitive evolutionary opportunity, how might we fully meet this opportunity?

I invite you to join us!

About Bill Plotkin

 Bill Plotkin is the author of Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche (an experiential guidebook), Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World (a nature-based stage model of human development through the entire lifespan), and Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche (an ecocentric map of the psyche — for healing, growing whole, and cultural transformation).

He has a doctorate in psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, after which he had a career as a research psychologist (studying non-ordinary states of consciousness), a professor of psychology, and a psychotherapist. In 1979, on a solo winter ascent of an Adirondack peak, Bill experienced a call to adventure, leading him to abandon academia in search of his true calling. Since then, after founding western Colorado’s Animas Valley Institute in 1981, he has guided thousands of women and men through nature-based initiatory passages, including a contemporary, Western adaptation of the pan-cultural vision quest.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE:

Sunday, March 23rd at 10:00am Pacific; 11:00am Mountain; 12:00pm Central; 1:00pm Eastern 

*Find Your Local Time

Please Note: There will be a limited number of lines available on the live conference call, so we encourage you to listen online if possible. To make sure you can get through by phone, we encourage you to dial in early.

ACCESS INSTRUCTIONS

Join the Dialogue: About one hour into the dialogue, we’ll open up the lines and you’ll have the opportunity to interact with us directly over the phone or via instant message. Here’s what to do:

To interact live by voice, dial into the conference line number and wait until we ask for a question from someone in your region, or

Send us your question via instant message in the teleseminar window on your computer

Send us your questions and comments before or during the live dialogue by posting them on our Beyond Awakening Community Facebook page

We look forward to your attendance!

Sincerely,
The Beyond Awakening Team

Abiding in Unconditional Receptivity

by Terry Patten

This past Sunday, Stephen Busby joined me for “Cultivating Higher Consciousness through Awareness of Subtle Fields”.

One of the reasons I invited Stephen to the show is that there’s something important going on right now in the worlds of Integral and non-dual spirituality in relationship to the subtle domain.

In the pre-rational past, much of western spirituality (often called “spiritualism”) was full of fascination with psychic and other non-ordinary abilities that can be developed through subtle sensitivity.

It was a big breakthrough to recognize that radical consciousness is a senior principle. And for the last 30 years, the kinds of progressive spirituality that have been ascendant among educated westerners have been strongly aligned to non-dual dharmas like Advaita Vedanta and high Buddhism, and other contemporary teachings like those of Eckart Tolle, Byron Katie, Gangaji, Adyashanti and many others.

But in my view, a truly integral spirituality recognizes consciousness AND energy. Consciousness is, indeed, the senior principle, and over-fascination with subtle states and capacities needs to be understood.

However, the subtle, no less than the causal and non-dual, is an essential dimension of our being-in-the-world, and awakening to subtle information fields is a natural part of us awakening into what Stephen, calls a “depth relationship to life”.

Stephen has realized this higher awareness and can transmit and teach it to others in very gentle and useful ways. Also, he’s an advanced student of Thomas Hübl with his own style. Thomas often draws people to read the information fields of others as a way to begin discovering their intuitive capacities. Stephen teaches people to begin by reading themselves. And there’s something about that with which I intuitively resonate.

I was particularly taken by what Stephen had to say about tuning in to the deeper urge that’s discernable over the trajectory of one’s whole life. He described layers of life’s richness, which we can allow to penetrate into our “personal” life such that we experience life (and purpose) as coming through us, and even nourishing us.

But Stephen cautioned that we can’t step over the work of the personal container or it will subvert the higher work. To become receptive to this richness of life living through me, I have to be honest with myself about the ways that I succeed in not being fully present to that which is here now. And this initially can be a mighty undertaking. Most of us are powerfully conditioned and habituated to focus anyplace except here and now.

But by cultivating self-awareness and shining light on our shadows, consciousness can relax its fascination with the personal container, and expand to pursue the work in collective containers. I can begin to look at the larger current that seems to be coming through me as an individual. And as we step outside of identifying with our individual container, we become more instinctive, we feel guided, and we cultivate a quality of consciousness that goes beyond “usual” awareness.

The experience of being aligned with a higher stream as it is expressing itself through me in the moment becomes available in the ordinary course of the day.

I asked Stephen to consider the critique by some that staying with “inner work” is misplaced; and that this critical juncture in our history calls for outer action first and foremost.

Stephen said that from his perspective, it’s quite the opposite—not focusing on inner life is a luxury we cannot afford anymore. In doing the inner work, life becomes less and less “mine” and more about an inner stream unfolding through me and other people. This is the outer action, the activism, that he believes we most need. And it is more focused and efficient.

Listening to Stephen, I felt invited to feel into the impulse, the stream, that is deeper than the outer expression of the forms of activism that have found their way into my life so far. And to tap into what might be the “nextness” of my own expression and evolution.

That impulse, according to Stephen, is the source of life as it is expressed through my embodiment. The extent to which I consent to become embodied in this life is the extent to which I become more available to life’s higher impulse. And more in service to that impulse as I experience it.

You can listen to the rest of this inspiring dialog, including Stephen guiding us through a subtle field process here.