September 26, 2007

Toward Integral Consciousness?



Anonymous said...

Conscious Evolution and the Emergence of Integral Culture


There is a growing understanding that addressing the global crisis facing humanity will require new methods for knowing, understanding, and valuing the world. Narrow, disciplinary, mechanistic, and reductionist perceptions of reality are proving inadequate for addressing the complex, interconnected problems of the current age. The currently dominant worldview of scientific materialism, which views the cosmos as a vast machine composed of independent, externally related pieces, promotes fragmentation in our thinking and perception [5]. The materialist view of natural systems as commodities to be exploited coupled with the ethos of consumerism and social Darwinism has encouraged widespread destruction of our natural life support systems [20]. The cancerous spread of nihilism and dehumanization are driving the decay and disintegration of techno-industrial culture [14,25].

A set of clearly discernable stages can be identified in the history of human culture whose development or unfolding took place in mutations of consciousness [7,14,20,23]. There is considerable evidence that the current age of “sensate” culture is ending as a new structure of consciousness emerges, giving birth to the next stage of cultural evolution. This nascent integral consciousness structure embodies a new mode of perception which transcends the illusion of separateness to discern the unity which underlies the diverse forms of existence [2]. Although this “higher level of thinking” can be elaborated through science, its principal grounding is in spiritual experience. It supports an integrated epistemology that embraces both the rational knowledge of scientific empiricism and the inner knowledge of spiritual experience, diminishing the barriers separating scientific and spiritual understanding. It realizes fundamental sacredness and profound meaningfulness in all life, giving rise to a more integrative, holistic, and ecological perception of the cosmos. The ethos of materialism and selfishness gives way to ecological sensitivity, reverent care for all life, dedication to world healing and transformation, spiritual awakening, and celebration of the wonder of the universe [27]. Individuals move beyond the limits of their personal vantage points to embrace their unity with all sentient beings and their participation in the conscious evolution of humanity. This paper describes the characteristics of the emerging integral “worldspace” and its potential to transform modern culture.

Worldspaces and cultural evolution

Developmental psychologists have come to an understanding that the self is not a static entity but a complex dynamic evolving system. The psychology of the mature human being is an unfolding, emergent, spiraling process characterized by the progressive subordination of older structures of consciousness to newer, higher order structures [3,19,7]. Each stage or “worldspace” of this developmental process is a state of consciousness that exhibits a particular psychology. Each worldspace is a stage through which developing people pass on their way to other states of being. Each person’s values, worldview, and general outlook on life is appropriate to the worldspace that is prominent in their consciousness. This approach recognizes that there are many different values and worldviews which characterize an individual’s state (of consciousness); that humans develop by progressing from simpler to more complex states; that any individual may access various different states depending upon their life situations; that more complex states provide more “degrees of freedom” for problem solving then simpler ones; and that many of the apparently insoluble problems that emerge within a give state can best be addressed through the emergence of a more complex state.

Cultural evolution can be viewed as a progression of worldspaces [7,23]. The character of a culture is determined by the worldspace that dominates that society. Cultural transitions can be viewed as periods when a new worldspace emerges to replace an older one. The hunter-gatherer culture was a period when mankind was dominated by the magical-animistic worldspace, in which magical spirits seem to control everything, and ethnic tribes and kinship bonds were central. The dawn of agricultural culture corresponded to the emergence of the mythical worldspace, based on conformist rule in a universe governed by a righteous higher power which enforces a strict code of ethics. Modern culture arose with the emergence of the rational/egoic worldspace, based on individualism and the pursuit of material well-being in a rational world governed by mechanical laws which can be mastered and manipulated for one’s own purposes. The future course of cultural evolution can be mapped by studying the characteristics of relatively advanced worldspaces as they manifest in highly developed individuals.

Evidence suggests that we are now in the midst of a transition to the next phase of human culture as a new worldspace emerges. In the words of Peter Drucker [20], “every few hundred years in Western history there occurs a sharp transformation. Within a few short decades, society- its world view, its basic values, its social and political constructs, its arts, its key institutions- rearranges itself. And the people born then cannot even imagine a world in which their grandparents lived and into which their own parents were born. We are currently living through such a transformation”. According to Vaclac Haval, “there are good reasons for suggesting the modern age has ended. Many things indicate that we are going through a transition period, when it seems that something is on the way out and something else is painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling, decaying and exhausting itself, while something else, still indistinct, were arising from the rubble”.

A great deal of evidence supporting these assertions has been assembled by scientists. For example, in what may be the largest and most thorough empirical study of social change ever undertaken, Pitirim Sorokin [14] has concluded that the cultural decay and upheavals of the past century are symptomatic of a transition between “sensate” and “ideational” worldspaces. The sensate value system, characteristic of scientific materialism, views matter alone as the ultimate reality, all ethical values as relative, and sensory perception as the only source of knowledge and truth. The ideational value system holds that ultimate reality lies beyond the material world in a spiritual realm, that ethics, truth, and beauty are expressions or reflections of attributes of this transcendent reality, and that inner experience is the primary source of wisdom. “We are seemingly between two epochs: the dying sensate culture of our magnificent yesterday and the coming ideational culture of the creative tomorrow. We are living, thinking, and acting at the end of a brilliant six-hundred-year-long sensate day… The present crisis represents only a disintegration of the sensate form of Western society and culture, to be followed by a new integration as notable in its own way as was the sensate form in the days of its glory and climax”.

The Cultural Creatives

In a extensive set of national interviews conducted over thirteen years and reaching over 100,000 Americans, a research group led by Paul Ray [21] has tracked the evolution of a number of subcultures in America. Prior to the 1960s two major subcultures could be identified. The “Traditionals”, representing the cultural manifestation of the mythic worldspace, and the “Moderns”, representing the cultural manifestation of the rational worldspace, each constituted about 50% of the US population. Survey data now indicates that the Traditionalist movement is fading into the past- it has been in a rapid decline since the 1950s due to a steady progression of young adults into the Moderns- so that now it composes only 25 % of the US population. This decline has been offset by the explosive growth of a new subculture -the “Cultural Creatives” (CC)- which has blossomed from less then 1% in 1960 to over 25% of the population today. This exponentially growth at the rate of 10-20% per year shows no sign of leveling off anytime soon.
These Cultural Creatives are at the leading edge of several forms of cultural change, deeply affecting both their own lives and the larger society. This transformation represents a major development in our civilization, suggesting that the cultural shift being predicted by visionaries and futurists for well over two decades is well under way. The major themes of the emerging CC subculture include ecological sensitivity, long-term global perspective, emphasis on relationships, commitment to spiritual and psychological development, and disaffection with the materialism and consumerism of modern culture. It appears to represent the emergence of two new worldspaces in Western culture, the “relational” and the “integrative”. The following sections described the attributes of these worldspaces as synthesized from the combination of many studies. These attributes should be viewed as tendencies, of which only a subset are likely to be expressed in any particular instantiation.

The relational worldspace emphasizes communitarian values, human bonding, ecological sensitivity, and networking. Authenticity, personal experience, and depth of personal relationships are valued as feelings and caring supercede cold rationality. Spirituality in its diversity of forms is honored while the blind intellectual acceptance of a religious message handed down by external authorities is spurned. Individuals at this stage are highly egalitarian, embracing diversity and rejecting all that appears hierarchical, authoritarian, or paternalistic, affirming that the human spirit must be freed from the constraints of greed, dogma & divisiveness. The cultural relativity of science and philosophy is emphasized, as well as the ethical responsibility of science and technology to serve all of society, including the poor and disadvantaged. Sustainability and cherishing the earth are given high priority- in this worldspace Gaia is honored and all nature is considered sacred.
The integral worldspace recognizes and accepts both the diversity of forms and the unity that underlies that diversity. Integral thinking moves beyond the relativism of the relational stage to recognize transcendent universals. Transcendental nondualism eclipses scientific materialism as the dominant worldview [9,17]. Werner Heisenberg expressed the ultimate goal of integral science and philosophy as the formulation of a common representation of the “one”- the unitary principle behind all phenomena, the ultimate source of all understanding [17]. Wholeness, healing fragmentation, transdisciplinary thinking, and transrational insight are emphasized. Individuals at this stage are highly idealistic, dedicated to world healing and transformation. Their thinking transcends the toxic battle between worldspaces to embrace the full spectrum of consciousness, recognizing each stage as a necessary and valuable step in the realization of human potential. No longer concerned with political correctness or the opinion of the peer group, they will adopt whatever framework can most efficiently address the problem at hand. The signatory characteristic of this stage is a strong focus on personal transformation, spiritual awakening, service to humanity, and inner work to develop human potential, augmenting the “green” values of the relational worldspace with dedication to personal growth and spirituality.

Integral science

Within the integral worldspace, which subordinates the rational worldspace of modern science to a higher order structure of consciousness, scientific empiricism is easily integrated with spiritual insight. In synchrony with the emerging integral consciousness structure, the metaphysical foundations of modern science have shifted away from the materialism of classical physics toward a form more accommodating to the integral worldview. This revolution in thinking has initiated a fundamental paradigm shift in our understanding of the nature of matter and its relation to consciousness [5,17]. Wolfgang Pauli [11,17] has depicted the defining characteristic of this new phase of science and Western thought as: “the integration of opposites, including a synthesis embracing both rational understanding and the mystical experience of unity".

In the face of a multitude of paradoxes inherent in the quantum mechanical description of the atomic and subatomic world, physicists have come to the realization that their basic concepts, language, and materialist worldview are inadequate for understanding the implications of their experimental results. Perhaps the most basic and pervasive feature of the quantum mechanical description of nature is its “fundamentally holistic character” [15,22,2,10]. Observable aspects of reality such as quantum nonlocality have given rise to descriptions of matter in which each particle is fundamentally related to every other particle in the universe, through its participation in an “unbroken wholeness” which lies beyond the reach of science. According to Stapp, “the fundamental process of Nature lies outside spacetime but generates events that can be located in space-time”. It has become clear that science is not in contact with ultimate reality, that it is describing “the waves, not the water of the ocean of reality” [6,17].

Ordinary notions of space, time, and separately existent material particles are being viewed as abstractions derived from this deeper order.
Increasing numbers of physicists are asserting that consciousness is necessary to bring the universe into being [16,22,4]. Objects emerge from a transcendent possibility domain into the realm of physical manifestation when (nonlocal) consciousness “collapses the wave function”. Consciousness is being viewed as an aspect of the “unbroken wholeness” which is the source and ground of all existence [2]. Positing consciousness as a more fundamental aspect of reality then space-time or matter-energy may be necessary in order to resolve the many paradoxes inherent in materialist interpretations of quantum mechanics [4]. The principle founders of modern science (including Einstein, Schrodinger, Heisenberg, Pauli, DeBroglie, and Plank) rejected the positivism and materialism of the rational worldspace and espoused (in one form or another) an integral worldview [17]. Increasing numbers of scientists are concluding that -when the full range of experience is considered- an integral worldview is more plausible then scientific materialism [9].

Integral spirituality

Gebser [7] has provided a detailed description of the nascence of the integral worldspace within mathematics, physics, biology, psychology, philosophy, jurisprudence, sociology, economics, the arts, and literature, concluding with the observation that the new mutation of consciousness “receives its decisive stamp from the manifest perceptual emergence of the spiritual”. The integral stage of spiritual development, which can be most clearly observed in the relatively advanced practitioners of the world’s spiritual traditions, embraces profound transformation, a “quantum leap” in consciousness, understanding, and perception [18,3]. Whereas in previous stages the spiritual was approached emotionally, imaginatively, abstractly, or conceptually, at the integral stage it is “perceptible concretely as it begins to coalesce with our consciousness”. The belief character of religion is superceded by “praeligion, i.e., ever present, evident, and conscious connection with the divinitary whole” [7,29] which at this stage is revealed as an all-pervading spiritual nature which permeates the universe. This experience is viewed as utterly real, although it, like any truly unique experience, cannot be communicated in terms understandable to those who do not share it.
In the integral worldview humans are capable of a continuum of consciousness, ranging from the nonlocal transpersonal dimension that is coextensive with all others to the localized discrete focalization that constitutes our unique individuality [12]. Matter, energy, and spacetime emerge within the field of nonlocal consciousness as dreams emerge within individual consciousness. Erwin Schrodinger, while advocating an integral worldview in his essay “Oneness of Mind” [13,17], quotes the sufi mystic Aziz Nasafi: “The spiritual world is one single spirit who stands like unto a light behind the bodily world and who, when any single creature comes into being, shines through it like a window. According to the kind or size of the window less or more light enters the world. The light itself however remains unchanged”. The spiritual Origin, when viewed from an internal perspective, is revealed to the realizing perception as “Atman”, the eternal, beatific, universal Self. When viewed from an external perspective, it is understood as “Brahman”- the source and ground of all manifestation. Hence, the essence of every human –the deepest part of every being- is not temporal or relative, but eternal and absolute, participating in the Ocean of Spirit that is the source of all existence.

The spiritual Reality reveals itself as a numenous presence underlying, enfolding, and shining through the forms of the cosmos, a creative presence in which we “live and move and have our being”. The self-conscious ego, which is the root of the experience of individuality, becomes transparent to the radiance of the universal Self, the “Mind of Christ”, the eternal, unqualified source of Being. This emptiness of ego-self, which constitutes true humility, is a release from the illusory identifications which keep us bound to our personal vantage point. It is the ultimate release from enslavement by the compulsion to define ourselves –to fill our “God-shaped hole”- through knowledge, accomplishments, possessions- the freedom to simple be an expression of the glorious radiance of that-which-is.

As the practice of mindfulness deepens, the focused and illuminated consciousness pierces the veil of thoughts, images and emotions to behold “that which transpires behind that which appears”. As we let go of the habit of viewing the world as representation -mediating every percept with a concept- and begin to perceive it as transparency, we dissolve the duality of mediated consciousness and awaken to a new world of knowledge-by-identity. In the words of Jellaludin Rumi, “to the extent that we are able to receive unveiled light we may behold with the eye of the vast Ocean of Reality that which is now hidden from the eye of phenomena” [24]. In the “achronon” (the time-free present) we awaken to the “translucence of the eternal splendor of the One shining through the material phenomena”. In this “long, loving look at the Real” we realize a new dimension of reality which lies beyond time and space, infusing and informing the material world. To quote the Koran (2,115) “Wheresoever you turn, there is the face of God”. This experience awakens an intuitive understanding of the “Unity of All Being” as we recognize the “Buddha Nature” -the radiance of Origin- in the diaphaneity of all forms.

In the integral worldspace, nature is viewed as a focus for the divine manifestation, as the medium par excellence through which that uncreated beauty reveals itself and exercises creative activity. Integral spirituality is a celebration of the sacredness of the natural world, grounded in the “numenous experience of the holy”. Albert Einstein explained that this mystical experience is the “source of all true wisdom”, which frees us from the delusion of separate existence “by widening our circle of understanding and compassion, to embrace all living creatures in the whole of nature and its beauty”. In this awakened state, all of nature is viewed as sacred, as an expression or reflection of the splendor of the One. This realization transforms one's relation to the rest of the cosmos. It cultivates awe and radical amazement at the marvel of all that is.

Conscious evolution

The theory of evolution, which has been a major point of contention between Traditionals and Moderns, finds a prominent and expanded formulation within the integral worldview, in which physical, personal (developmental), cultural, and spiritual evolution are all viewed as aspects of a single process of concretion of the spiritual [23]. In the integral view of conscious evolution, challenges awaken systems within people and societies designed to cope with or adapt to those specific conditions. The crisis of our times and our world is perceived as challenging humanity to access the integral structure of consciousness. It is the most visible effect of a process of complete transformation, which could potentially lead to either global catastrophe or global renewal [7,14,9,5]. Gebser wrote: “The way out of the dead end of the deficient rational structure of consciousness is the way of personal participation in, and cooperation with, the emergent mode of consciousness… If we do not overcome the crisis it will overcome us; and only someone who has overcome himself is truly able to overcome. Either we will be disintegrated and dispersed, or we must resolve and effect integrality”. The emerging integral archetype can be envisioned as a noospheric attractor which is drawing humanity beyond its limitations into further dimensions of consciousness and levels of perception. As our inner work of spiritual development nurtures the emergence of integral consciousness we contribute to the global awakening of humanity.
One of the most profound expressions of this integral vision of evolution has been formulated by Sri Aurobindo [1] in his classic “Life Divine”.
Aurobindo explains that as our spiritual faculties awaken, “Matter reveals itself to the realizing thought and to the subtilised senses as the figure and body of Spirit, Spirit in its self-formative extension. Spirit reveals itself through the same consenting agents as the soul, the truth, the essence of Matter. Both admit and confess each as divine, real, and essentially one. Mind and life are disclosed in that illumination as at once figures and instruments of the Supreme Conscious Being by which It extends and houses Itself in material form and in that form unveils Itself to Its multiple centers of consciousness. Mind attains its self-fulfillment when it becomes a pure mirror of the Truth of Being which expresses itself in the symbols of the universe; Life, when it consciously lends its energies to the perfect self-figuration of the Divine in ever-new forms and activities of the universal existence”.

Commensurate visions of conscious evolution have been developed by visionaries of many spiritual traditions. From the Sufi perspective [12], the final purpose of cosmic evolution is realized in the ultimate destiny of humanity as the conscious reflection of the divine within the limitations of physical existence. “The Universe is discovering and recreating itself as it evolves through the course of our human lives. Thus our conscious participation in creating the future can be seen as an extension of the self-organizing activity of the universe”. We begin to consciously participate in this process of “hominization” [28] when we awaken to the profound meaningfulness and excruciating beauty that is attempting to emerge in our being, as the eternal manifests in the temporal through our acts, values, presence and countenance. This experience confers a profound sense of both nobility and humility as we recognize the awesome majesty of our divine inheritance dwelling within the impoverishment of our human condition. Through dedication to our “inner commission” to self transcendence we serve as cocreators in this rebirthing process, participating in the fulfillment of the purpose of creation. St Paul wrote: “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” [8]. Conscious evolution is humankind’s final frontier as we move beyond our current limited mode of existence and begin to partake in the divine nature.


Although any attempt to express these transconceptual realities in common language is “already a nearly inadmissible concession” [29], this concession must be made to accommodate the rationality of the currently dominate worldspace. In wrestling with this paradox of expressing the inexpressible Werner Heisenberg concludes that, when seeking a common interpretation of the One, “the language of poetry may be more important then the language of science” [11,17]. Hence, at last abandoning concessions to the rational structure of consciousness, we close with a rendition of poetry from the Sufi master Hafiz [26]:

Will someday split you open
Even if your life is now a cage.

Little by little,
You will turn into stars.

Little by little,
You will turn into
The whole sweet, amorous Universe.

Love will surely burst you wide open
Into an unfettered, booming new galaxy.

You will become so free
In a wonderful, secret
And pure Love
That flows
From a conscious,
Infinite Light.

Even then, my dear,
The Beloved will have fulfilled
Just a fraction,
Just a fraction!
Of a promise
He wrote upon your heart.

For a divine seed, the crown of destiny,
Is hidden and sown on an ancient, fertile plain
You hold the title to.

O look again within yourself,
For I know you were once the elegant host
To all the marvels in creation.

When your soul begins
To ever bloom and laugh
And spin in Eternal Ecstasy-

O little by little,
You will turn into God.


1. Aurobindo, S. 1983. The Life Divine. All India Press, Pondicherry.
2. Bohm, D. 1982. Wholeness and the Implicate Order. Routledge & Kegan Paul. London.
3. Beck, D. & Cowan, C. 1996. Spiral Dynamics. Blackwell Publishers, Cambridge.
4. Goswami, Amit, 1995. The Self-Aware Universe. Putnam, New York.
5. Capra, F. 1982. The Turning Point. Bantam, New York.
6. Eddington, E. 1929. Science and the Unseen World. Macmillan, New York.
7. Gebser, J., 1985. The Ever-Present Origin. Ohio University Press, Athens.
8. Grof, S. editor. 1984. Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science. State University of New York Press. Albany. p. 50.
9. Harman, W. 1998. Global Mind Change: The Promise of the 21st Century. Berrett-Koehler.
10. Harris, E. 1988. “Contemporary Physics and Dialetical Holism”. In Kitchener (1988).
11. Heisenberg, W. 1974. Across the Frontiers. Harper and Row, New York.
12. Inayat Kahn, V. 1999. Awakening: A Sufi Experience. Tarcher Putnam, New York.
13. Schrodinger, E. 1967. What is Life. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
14. Sorokin, P. 1941. Crisis of Our Age. New York.
15. Stapp, H.P. 1982. “Mind, Matter & Quantum Mechanics”. Foundations of Physics, 12: 363-398.
16. Von Neuman, J. 1955. The Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics. Princeton University Press.
17. Wilber, K editor. 1984. Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World's Great Physicists. Shambhala, Boston.
18. Wilber, K. 1998. The Marriage of Sense and Soul, Random House, New York.
19. Wilber, K. 2000. Integral Psychology. Shambhala, Boston.
20. Drucker, P. 1994. Post-Capitalist Society. Harper Business.
21. Ray, Paul & Anderson, S. 2000. The Cultural Creatives. Harmony Books, New York.
22. Kafatos, M. & Nadeau, R. 2000. The Conscious Universe: Parts and Wholes in Physical Reality. Springer. New York.
23. Wilber, K. 1995. Sex Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution. Shambhala, Boston.
24. Nicholson, R. 1926. The Mathnawi of Jalaluddin Rumi. Trustees of the “E.J.W. Gibb Memorial”, Cambridge, England.
25. Sherrard, P. 1987. The Rape of Man and Nature: An Enquiry into the Origins and Consequences of Modern Science. Golgonooza Press.
26. Ladinsky, D. 1996. I Heard God Laughing: Renderings of Hafiz. Mobius Press, Oakland, CA.
27. Lerner, M. 2000. Spirit Matters. Hampton Roads Publishing Co., Charlottesville, VA.
28. Teilhard De Chardin, P. 1976. The Phenomenon of Man. Harper Perennial.
29. Feuerstein, G. 1987. Structures of Consciousness. Integral Publishing, Lower Lake, CA.

Anonymous said...

The Newly Emergent Integral Worldview according to Dr. Don Beck:

• A WholeView perspective, with the world perceived as a delicately balanced system of forces in jeopardy at humanity’s hands

• Self is part of a larger, conscious whole

• Emergent selfless motivations, in order that all can thrive

• Experiential ‘collective individualism’, blending and harmonizing

• Expanded mind capacity, deep intuition, consciousness

• Synergize, macromanage, and act together for significant, big picture impacts for the good of all

• Planetary concerns rank above narrow group interests

• An ordered world with new meanings – the synergy of all life forms and forces

• Organized as a holistic, unified organism

• Synthesis oriented”

Rubin Jay Heeb said...

"As consciousness begins to transcend the verbal ego-mind it can… integrate the ego mind with all the lower levels. That is, because consciousness is no longer identified with any of these elements to the exclusion of any others, all of them can be integrated: the body, the persona, the shadow, the ego- all can be brought into a higher- order integration."

-- Ken Wilber (The Atman Project)

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