Here Ken Wilber describes some of the main ingredients required for an integral approach to politics, suggesting a political model capable of drawing from and situating every major political philosophy and ideology in history. By understanding just a handful of dynamics…
- interiorist vs. exteriorist (e.g. the American Right vs. the Left)
- individualist vs. collectivist (e.g. Libertarian vs. Socialist)
- stages of development (e.g. traditional/fundamentalist, modern/scientific, postmodern/pluralistic)
…we begin to see why it is so easy for us to talk past one another, and why it is so important that we begin to actually understand and include each other's perspective if we want to get out of the catastrophic mess we currently find ourselves in.
In this talk, Ken mentions various colors of the rainbow in reference to stages of development, described below:
MAGENTA (egocentric, magic): Magenta Altitude began about 50,000 years ago, and tends to be the home of egocentric drives, a magical worldview, and impulsiveness. It is expressed through magic/animism, kin-spirits, and such. Young children primarily operate with a magenta worldview. Magenta in any line of development is fundamental, or "square one" for any and all new tasks. Magenta emotions and cognition can be seen driving such cultural phenomena as superhero-themed comic books or movies.
RED (ego- to ethnocentric, egoic): The Red Altitude began about 10,000 years ago, and is the marker of egocentric drives based on power, where "might makes right," where aggression rules, and where there is a limited capacity to take the role of an "other." Red impulses are classically seen in grade school and early high school, where bullying, teasing, and the like are the norm. Red motivations can be seen culturally in Ultimate Fighting contests, which have no fixed rules (fixed rules come into being at the next Altitude, Amber), teenage rebellion and the movies that cater to it (The Fast and the Furious), gang dynamics (where the stronger rule the weaker), and the like.
AMBER (ethnocentric, mythic): The Amber Altitude began about 5,000 years ago, and indicates a worldview that is traditionalist and mythic in nature—and mythic worldviews are almost always held as absolute (this stage of development is often called absolutistic). Instead of "might makes right," amber ethics are more oriented to the group, but one that extends only to "my" group. Grade school and high school kids usually exhibit amber motivations to "fit in." Amber ethics help to control the impulsiveness and narcissism of red. Culturally, amber worldviews can be seen in fundamentalism (my God is right no matter what); extreme patriotism (my country is right no matter what); and ethnocentrism (my people are right no matter what).
ORANGE (worldcentric, rational): The Orange Altitude began about 500 years ago, during the period known as the European Enlightenment. In an orange worldview, the individual begins to move away from the amber conformity that reifies the views of one's religion, nation, or tribe. The orange worldview often begins to emerge in late high school, college, or adulthood. Culturally, the orange worldview realizes that "truth is not delivered; it is discovered," spurring the great advances of science and formal rationality. Orange ethics begin to embrace all people, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...." Ayn Rand's Objectivism, the US Bill of Rights, and many of the laws written to protect individual freedom all flow from an orange worldview.
GREEN (worldcentric, pluralistic): The Green Altitude began roughly 150 years ago, though it came into its fullest expression during the 1960’s. Green worldviews are marked by pluralism, or the ability to see that there are multiple ways of seeing reality. If orange sees universal truths ("All men are created equal"), green sees multiple universal truths—different universals for different cultures. Green ethics continue, and radically broaden, the movement to embrace all people. A green statement might read, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, regardless of race, gender, class...." Green ethics have given birth to the civil rights, feminist, and gay rights movements, as well as environmentalism.
The green worldview's multiple perspectives give it room for greater compassion, idealism, and involvement, in its healthy form. Such qualities are seen by organizations such as the Sierra Club, Amnesty International, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Doctors Without Borders. In its unhealthy form green worldviews can lead to extreme relativism, where all beliefs are seen as relative and equally true, which can in turn lead to the nihilism, narcissism, irony, and meaninglessness exhibited by many of today's intellectuals, academics, and trend-setters... not to mention another "lost" generation of students.
TEAL (worldcentric to “kosmocentric,” integral): The Teal Altitude marks the beginning of an integral worldview, where pluralism and relativism are transcended and included into a more systematic whole. The transition from green to teal is also known as the transition from “1st-tier” values to “2nd-tier” values, the most immediate difference being the fact that each “1st-tier” value thinks it is the only truly correct value, while “2nd-tier” values recognize the importance of all preceding stages of development. Thus, the teal worldview honors the insights of the green worldview, but places it into a larger context that allows for healthy hierarchies, and healthy value distinctions.
Perhaps most important, a teal worldview begins to see the process of development itself, acknowledging that each one of the previous stages (magenta through green) has an important role to play in the human experience. Teal consciousness sees that each of the previous stages reveals an important truth, and pulls them all together and integrates them without trying to change them to “be more like me,” and without resorting to extreme cultural relativism (“all are equal”). Teal worldviews do more than just see all points of view (that’s a green worldview)—it can see and honor them, but also critically evaluate them.
TURQUOISE (“kosmocentric,” integral): Turquoise is a mature integral view, one that sees not only healthy hierarchy but also the various quadrants of human knowledge, expression, and inquiry (at the minimum: I, we, and it). While teal worldviews tend to be secular, turquoise is the first to begin to integrate Spirit as a living force in the world (manifested through any or all of the 3 Faces of God: “I”—the “No self” or “witness” of Buddhism; “we/thou”—the “great other” of Christianity, Judaism, Hindusm, Islam, etc.; or “it”—the “Web of Life” seen in Taoism, Pantheism, etc.).
More Integral Politics: integrallife.com/apply/politics-civics
Art by Steve Self
Here Ken discusses the dangers of "one person, one vote" approaches to democracy. If we consider the fact that people grow through three major stages of development—ego-centric, ethno-centric, and world-centric—and then try to get a sense of where the majority of the people current exists, we find that nearly 70% of the world's population remains at an ethno-centric stage or lower. Democracy is inherently a world-centric system of governance, and "one person, one vote" an ideal way to enact the democratic process. But if the majority of the voters have not themselves achieved a world-centric level of consciousness, it begins to fall apart pretty quickly, with effects as broad as Kansas banning the teaching of evolution to the democratic election of Hamas in Palestine—even the National Socialist German Workers' Party (aka the Nazis) came into power through a plurality election in 1933. Although one does not garner a tremendous amount of popularity criticizing the "one person, one vote" ethic, without a sophisticated understanding of how this system of governance actually plays itself out in the real world, and without finding some way to limit the influence of pre-rational beliefs and mob-rule, democracy can actually become the last best hope for fascism in the 21st century.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said that "poor minds discuss people, average minds discuss events, and great minds discuss ideas." Integral minds, we might add, discuss all three. In the Integral Profiles series, we sit down with some of today's most notable thinkers, teachers, and leaders, discussing the many ways they are catalyzing the Integral vision in their lives, in their hearts, and in their work.
Don Edward Beck, Ph.D., is Co-founder of The National Values Center in Denton, Texas, and President and CEO of The Spiral Dynamics Group, Inc. Beck co-authored The Crucible: Forging South Africa's Future (with Graham Linscott, l991) and Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership & Change (with Christopher Cowan, l996). He also writes a "Sports Values" column for the Dallas Morning News and appears often in the media regarding issues related to values, sports, and racial divides.
Here Don offers an intimate glimpse into his own life and career. He discusses the current phase of his work: traveling the world and applying Spiral Dynamics to various geo-political "hotspots" all over the planet. He offers his own ideas about healthy models of society, the crucial distinction between stages of consciousness and the contents of those stages, and the importance of preserving many of the early stages of development that are so often seen as primitive and obsolete. He then goes into considerable depth around the specifics of the Palestine-Israel conflict, describing the needs and problems on both sides of the divide, his hands-on involvement with both nations, and the remarkable receptivity with which his work has been met. At a time when tensions in the Middle East can seem so hopelessly combustible, it is encouraging to see Integral seeds being planted in such surprisingly fertile soil, offering us all a much-needed exhale as we wait to see how evolution will continue playing itself out in this difficult region of the world.
This is the first of a four-part series on Integral Life. Watch parts 2-4 here:
Although the first part is available for free, you must be a member of Integral Life to watch the rest of this series. By becoming a member of Integral Life you gain access to this and countless more hours of content—some of the most important and cutting-edge conversations happening in the world—with new audio and video being added every week. More importantly, your membership will also directly support the Integral movement at-large, helping to bring more compassion and clarity to our lives and our world.
Learn more about Integral Life: integrallife.com/learn-more
What does an integral protest look like? Ken says, first and foremost, that at Yellow (to use Spiral Dynamic terms, or "Teal" to use Ken's new altitude model) is somewhat chameleon like. Yellow acts in different ways depending on the circumstances and the people involved. So a Yellow or Integral protest would look different based on the situation, the political structures that be, the people involved and what their values are. In this case, if one were to protest against an absolutistic, ethnocentric center of gravity, one would use absolutistic, ethnocentric tactics. So the final answer is.... it all depends. In what context is this Second-Tier protest manifesting? What is the socio-political structure? What is the issue? Who are the other protestors involved?
Here Ken discusses the work that is being done by Integral Institute, Integral Life, and Jim Garrison's State of the World Forum to help move toward a genuine integral "World Federation" government—one capable of meeting the complex and tightly-interconnected nature of our 21st-century problems with the clarity, compassion, and decisiveness they require.
"If ordinary people don’t perceive that our grand ideas are working in their lives, then they can’t develop the higher level of consciousness, if I can use a kind of touchy-feely word, that American philosopher Ken Wilber wrote a whole book about, called A Theory of Everything. He said, you know, the problem is the world needs to be more integrated but it requires a consciousness that’s way up here, and an ability to see beyond…
"If ordinary people don’t perceive that our grand ideas are working in their lives, then they can’t develop the higher level of consciousness, if I can use a kind of touchy-feely word, that American philosopher Ken Wilber wrote a whole book about, called A Theory of Everything. He said, you know, the problem is the world needs to be more integrated but it requires a consciousness that’s way up here, and an ability to see beyond the differences among us...."
There are millions of people around the world who feel altogether alienated from the world of politics, unable to find their own unique combination of perspectives, values, and identities reflected in the representational options available to them. They have been taught through the political process to believe that they have to pick one side or the other, despite the fact that neither side fully represents their own values.
But the trans-partisan impulse is to move beyond such intensely polarized ideologies, recognizing that many of our own values and beliefs are naturally in conflict with each other—especially as individuals begin to approach an authentically integral value system, and capable for the first time of recognizing the inherent beauty and importance of everyone else's worldview.
It is an extraordinarily complex world, requiring equally complex perspectives in order to make sense of it all—and as no political party in history has had a monopoly on truth or justice, we must begin to look to all possible political parties, past and present, in order to find and synthesize a new set of tools for a new century.
Here we can see the immediate value the Integral model has to offer: a comprehensive framework through which we can begin to understand the different values, motivations, and perspectives that exist in the world, all of which may be appropriate in certain historical and geopolitical and circumstances. In order to begin moving toward a trans-partisan civic in America, we must have an accurate account of the two major political parties, including such aspects as:
- stages of development (e.g. traditional/fundamentalist worldviews, modern/scientific worldviews, postmodern/pluralistic worldviews, etc.)
- interior and exterior dimensions (e.g. the Left tends to attribute human suffering to unfair exterior social systems and circumstances, while the Right looks to interior motivations, family values, etc.)
- individualist and collectivist values (e.g. Libertarian vs. Socialist)
There are several other important dimensions tracked by the Integral model, but even just these three very general distinctions, we can see that the future of politics will no longer be as black and white as it may currently seem.
We must include values and perspectives from all over the political spectrum, while knowing the appropriate amount of weight to give any particular perspective in any given situation. Only this sort of comprehensive approach to politics and governance can offer the degree of clarity and sophistication the world so desperately needs—helping us all to make sense of the staggering complexity that surrounds us, to move beyond the front lines of the ever-degenerating culture wars, to understand our collective past while forging a new path into the future.
We hope you enjoy.