Creating an Integral Culture

Let me start by thanking Gary Hawke for starting this conversation. If you don’t know what I am referring to, you can find it here.  I think it is both essential and timely. Like Gary I am excited by the EnlightenNext Midsummer Renaissance. I look forward to participating in it and to the discussion that I am scheduled to moderate there. The richness of the content and the blending of space for play and artistic experience speaks to a wholeness of living that is indeed an important form of cultural coming together.

At the same time, I want to take Gary’s questions wider, and perhaps I am using the term “culture” in a different sense, but in my mind at least it all hangs together. Let’s see if I can describe my version of the map.
This week has seen an upheaval in the political culture – possibly the third major shift in the last three years. The power structures are imploding and there has been massive loss of face, first for the financial power-holders through the banking crisis, secondly for the political power-holders in the expenses scandal and now for the power elite of the Third Estate. Murdoch is still there, but a veil has been removed. Ultimately the problem at the News of the World, and indeed in the whole of News Corporation, was and remains a cultural problem. The paper is closed but the cover-up remains. All of these issues are cultural issues. So where does the culture come from?

I frequently write about Money. The bottom line of my “Future Money” book is that the change we are still seeking cannot come merely from alterations in the money systems. The systems we have built reflect our thinking. All of us live with our own bits of fear, greed and desire for power. We participated collectively in the desire for “stuff” that led to credit (debt) as a way of life. And collectively we bought the “free lunch” notion of “making money” through property value inflation. The system reflects those emotions and those first-tier Values. For sure there is a powerful elite which is doing very well at the expense of the whole, but they are not so different from the rest of us.

You could see this as a four-quadrant viewpoint. Out of our individual inner experience arise collective thought forms in the culture, creating functional processes and an entire socio-political fabric. Any change will need to happen in the whole. Thinking that we only need to fix the lower right entirely misses the integral point. Right now the fear is rising and announcing 18% rises in fuel bills won’t help. But although you wouldn’t want to be old, frail and poor next winter, most of the UK is not truly at risk of not surviving physically. The threat people are facing is to their expectations, vastly different than those of my youth. When I went camping in France at the age of 10, I was the first in my school to do so. Hardly any houses had central heating and there were two TV channels. There is so much that we now consider “normal”. A historian once said that it is an effort of imagination to realise that when Napoleon entered a room, he didn’t reach for the light switch. I feel that way about my own past. Ultimately though, it was just as possible to be happy in the 1960’s as it is now. The fear that is arising now is in relation to raised expectations. It is fear of loss, which may feel like survival, but isn’t.

So when I think about a cultural shift, and seek an integral view of the world, I see a multi-faceted picture. Those of us who might consider attending the Midsummer event are the explorers of the leading edge in inner development. Our wish to see an integral culture does indeed lead us to explore Yellow and Turquoise, and there is nothing wrong with that. If we believe in the holistic space where all thoughts are creative and where we individually and collectively affect the field of consciousness then we may be doing humankind a service. These constellations do have an impact, and having spent almost forty years exploring this territory I greatly value this pioneering work. I also note in passing that the map is definitely not the territory, since only since encountering SD and Integral have I even known that maps were possible.

Nevertheless, I don’t see this individual exploration of the 2nd tier world as all of the coming together that is needed. Gary rightly observes that the numbers of integral thinkers is very small. The tectonic plates of our UK Values systems are re-positioning themselves, but not in Yellow. This is not where the majority live. Green Values have been visibly present for a century or two. Politically the Marxists and Fabians were once our forebears at the leading edge. Even so, during these centuries the centre of gravity has been gradually moving through Blue into and through Orange. Now the life conditions of excess and toxic Orange are pushing a greater shift towards Green. This is not to contradict Wilber’s view that 1968 displays a tipping point. But while that Green wave has rippled through many aspects of our culture for the last 40 years it’s only a part of the colour stack, and just as well, because we need to hang on (for example) to some healthy Blue.

So I see two things happening at the same time. The Midsummer Renaissance is a coming together of explorers at the leading edge of a culture that is about ideas, art and inner experience. That leading edge contains some Green aspirations relating to our exploration of what it means to be human blending through an embracing of integral and complex worldviews (Yellow) and shading into exploration of our holistic spirituality (Turquoise). I see that description as a view of my own exploration, and since it is non-linear don’t mean to imply arrival anywhere. Broadly, we have been developing the understanding of Graves’ momentous leap to 2nd tier.

If that is the wave of our own culture and its inner reality, I see a second wave of culture which represents the mass of the UK population. Their journey is through the Orange collapse into Green. The earthquake-like cracks in the crust of power systems represent the waning phase of systematized Orange. So I think that what I am describing here is the idea that when we look at the AQAL, the leading edge of human change is visible first in the interior and then some time later in the exterior. Maybe that should have been obvious to me, but it wasn’t.

As a result, I am interested in a second level of coming together, and if the Midsummer leading edge is an additional step in the formation of our holistic tribe, and a further move from the individualistic Yellow exploration into the collective Turquoise dance then that’s great. But Yellow is also about our ability to take our inner integration and assist the lagging exterior with its journey. In my view there is a coming together that we have yet to achieve, which represents our ability to support the world through a difficult transition. For me that will be a sign of our maturity, and of our ability to take these wonderful maps and brilliant theories and apply them. Copernicus and Galileo changed the way that we saw the Earth’s relationship to the cosmos, but it was John Harrison’s clock which enabled that knowledge to be used fully in navigation and so reduced the huge losses of ships at sea.

In closing, Gary says “My biggest fear is that we spent so long on the map that when we pull it back and look at the territory it is too late to help”. Perhaps this is another way of saying the same thing that I am. The turbulence is there already. Even an incomplete map is better than none. Who is going to help navigate?

Or, as Don Beck would say, “no more prizes for forecasting the rain, only for building the Ark”.