Saturday, October 29, 2005

Ritual Is a Process, Not a Content

In The Marriage of Sense and Soul, Ken Wilber argues that religion stripped of its cultural baggage can offer transformative technologies for elevating consciousness. He is making a distinction between the technology of religion and its content. I believe this is an important distinction.

In today's session of SDi Level II, Jean Houston -- well-known New Age teacher, psychologist, and anthropologist -- talked about the need for ritual when dealing with periods of transformation in our lives, those time when we are betwixt and between. These in-between times are known as liminal space in religious studies and in anthropology. The initiation stage of ritual is a period of liminality.

Houston feels that when we are in the liminality associated with change we should return to the ritual forms of the Purple vMeme. She feels that the myths and rituals from that archaic stage of human development hold the keys to helping us navigate the change process. I disagree.

Ritual is a process, not a content. We do not need to regress to prepersonal rituals in order to deal with transformational change, for example, the movement from Orange to Green. These are distinctly personal stages. Purple is prepersonal. Unless there is some kind of blockage or pathology at the Purple level, regressing to that stage is only going to confuse the situation.

However, we can use the tools of that stage, including myth and ritual, to navigate change at these higher levels. In essence, ritual is a technology involving the separation from where we were, the initiation into a new way of being, and the return to our lives with new knowledge and a larger perspective. This is the also the monomyth that Joseph Campbell made popular through his books (see The Hero With a Thousand Faces).

If we can reframe the change process as a personal ritual in the monomyth of our lives, we can work with the process instead of being subject to its action on us. We can take advantage of liminality, while honoring its power and its risks, to work with the dissolution of identity inherent in any form of initiation. During a period of liminality, we are free to redefine boundaries and explore new conceptions of who we might become.

None of this requires regression to the undifferentiated fusion with tribe and nature that comprises the Purple vMeme. One of the marks of the Spiral Wizard is the wisdom to use the tools of each of the vMemes in ways that can facilitate Spiral evolution.

Meditation Is Necessary But Not Sufficient For Global Meme Change in the Individual

On the first day of SDi Level II certification, physicist and erstwhile politician Dr. John Hagelin spoke to the group via livewire on his favorite topic, transcendental meditation (TM). He argued persuasively for the many ways TM can improve the lives of criminals, children, and spiritual seekers.

However, Hagelin stated repeatedly that one can attain "enlightenment" via regular practice of TM. I can't disprove his statements, but I can suggest that the evidence doesn't support such assertions. Buddhists and Hindus have been practicing meditation for centuries, and in fact TM is based on Vedantic principles. If it were possible to attain enlightenment so easily, I doubt that so many practitioners in both traditions would be working so hard to end their attachment to samsara.

Hagelin mentioned at other times that TM can produce nondual consciousness, which I surmise is what he considers enlightenment. The problem is that he is confusing a state with a stage. Nondual consciousness is available to all sentient beings as a state of consciousness, although it isn't as easy as it might seem to engage that experience. As a stage of consciousness, however, few people have ever reached that level of development -- those who did are considered Buddhas and bodhisattvas.

In order for a person to be considered enlightened, s/he must live from the level of nondual consciousness, which amounts to having a continual awareness of that state as an aspect of consciousness. Obviously, one cannot function while in a state of blissful nonduality, but that awareness can be the foundation of all other consciousness. This is a stage conception of enlightenment as opposed to a state conception. [Ken Wilber discusses states and stages in this sidebar to Boomeritis.]

The question that is worth exploring is this: Can regular but transient exposure to nondual consciousness change brain structure and personality structure sufficiently to spark global meme change in an individual?

Using an integral model, meditation or spiritual development is simply one developmental line among many. It is generally assumed that the status of one line is not enough to change the status of all the other lines. In Wilber-speak, elevation of the spiritual line is necessary but not sufficient to promote change among the other lines.

A secondary problem is that when one has a peak experience of a higher state of consciousness, it will necessarily be interpreted through the dominant lens (i.e., vMeme or developmental level). When one returns to everyday consciousness, the peak state, no matter how spectacular, can only be understood within the context of the current worldview. So, for example, when a person whose center of gravity is in the Blue vMeme (e.g., a devout Catholic) has an experience of nondual consciousness during a session of centering prayer, s/he will almost certainly experience that state of consciousness as a union with his/her notion of God (think Saint Theresa of Avila).

From Wilber:

You can have an altered state or temporary peak experience of any of the three great realms of being--gross, subtle, and causal--and you can do so at virtually any stage or level of development. Why? Because even an infant wakes, dreams, and sleeps. And because the infant has access to these three great states (waking, dreaming, sleeping), the infant has access to the three great realms of being (gross, subtle, causal)-- and that can happen at any stage of development (because at every stage, infants and children and adults all wake, dream, and sleep). But as for the levels or stages themselves, they unfold and develop over time; that is the very meaning of a stage of development. Thus, although the infant has access to the three great states, the infant does not have access to all the levels or stages that can occur in those states, because those have to develop and unfold in its own case. Is that clear? Yes?

For example, using this simple 3-state, 5-stage model, a human being can be at 'level/stage/sheath 2'--that is, their general center of gravity is at the emotional-sexual wave of development (in early childhood)--and they can still have a temporary peak experience of the subtle and the causal realms--because they have perfect access to dream and deep-sleep states, and thus they can 'peek' experience them. But they--the child at level 2, in this case--will not be able to experience all the stages of the mind level, such as formal operational thinking, because those have not yet emerged and developed.

Precisely because the basic levels or stages have not yet emerged and stabilized, the altered states of a subtle or causal nature are not permanent. They are merely peak experiences; they come and they go quickly; they cannot be permanently contained--there is, so to speak, nothing to hold them in place, no structures or stable patterns in the psyche that can maintain access to these higher states, which are therefore always temporary and passing. So anybody at virtually any stage can have a profound, authentic, genuine state-experience of a subtle or causal realm, but they will not be able to experience those subtle or causal realms in a permanent fashion--the peak experience or altered state will come and go.

What is needed to make these peak experiences a permanent part of consciousness is that all blocks to moving up the Spiral be removed. This entails what has been termed "regression in service of transcendence." It's worth noting that Michael Washburn's version of this process violates the pre/trans fallacy in that he views infantile undifferentiated consciousness as the same as nondual completely differentiated consciousness.

Washburn, in his own words:

When it is very young, the emerging ego finds itself both attracted to the Dynamic Ground and fearfully dependent on it. This relationship is mirrored in the young toddler's external reliance upon the mother as both the primary source of love and the primary source of frustration when the child is not fed, held or otherwise cared for. In order to achieve some measure of independence from these prodigious, awesome experiences, the young ego inevitably seeks to buffer or separate itself. It does that by reducing both its interpersonal intimacy with the mother (or primary caregiver) and its acceptance of the internal flows of feeling that I call the Dynamic Ground. It creates a Primal (or Original) Repression. Repression is not a sin when committed at this age. It is a necessary part of the development of the ego. It adds something positive to our overall development. It gives the ego an independent space in which to grow. It's not a crime, it is a developmental necessity.

Washburn argues that his "regression in service of transcendence" is needed to regain the "Dynamic Ground" that we were born into but that ego development pushed us away from. Classic Jungian pre/trans confusion.

A more appropriate approach is to use therapy as way to go back and heal the inevitable wounds of childhood that have blocked development in certain areas of our lives. Various approaches work quite well, though I am fond of psychosynthesis and its work with subpersonalities. The most common hindrance to development is emotional blockage -- these blockages, which are often a form of wounding, must be addressed for movement up the Spiral to be possible.

The best overall approach to elevating vMemes is to engage in some form of a unified program of development. Integral Transformative Practice, which incorporates body, heart, mind, and soul into a single program, fits that agenda.

Meditation practice is good -- and necessary -- but it is not sufficient to achieving global vMeme change or enlightenment.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Physiology of Change

Day One of SDi Level II, Personal Emergence, focused on the physiology of change.

Dr. Bruce Lipton presented his views on how perception, or more precisely belief (the environment), shapes the function of our cells. His central premise is that thought patterns generate our health status. If we think we are going to get sick, we create the environment necessary to become sick. He was very clear on how cells respond to various signals, but he allowed thought and beliefs to remain abstract forms of energy, as though our thoughts don't create specific chemical environments in the body.

Lipton made some good points, but he left out the whole field of psychoneuroimmunology, a field pioneered by Candace Pert (Molecules of Emotion). Essentially, PNI states that our thoughts and emotions create specific chemical reactions in the body, some of which are healthy and some of which are toxic. The connection between perception and health isn't as abstract as Lipton intimated.

In arguing that the human body operates in much the same way as its individual cells, he made the point that the skin is the major organ influencing our health status because it is the organ that receives info from the environment. This idea is based on the fact that cells can exist for days or weeks without their nucleus, the supposed brain of the cell. Obviously, humans can't survive without brains, but Lipton argues that they are simply processors, and that the skin is the true center of our environmental intelligence.

Howard Bloom (The Lucifer Principle, Global Brain) wrapped up the day with a short presentation. He did, however, talk about the primary chemicals in the brain/body that generate change (serotonin, testosterone, and dopamine). This fills in part of what Lipton didn't cover.

Okay, here is my take on all this.

Several years ago I stumbled across something called biophotons while researching DNA as an intelligence locus. Essentially, biophotons are light particles (photons) emitted from living DNA (bio). What makes this fact interesting is that biophotons are coherent, meaning that they carry information. Every DNA molecule on the planet is emitting biophotons into the environment. Although it has not yet been proven (as far as I know -- info in this country is lacking), it stands to reason that DNA must also be able to receive and process biophotonic information.

The Germans are already using biophotons to assess cell health. An unhealthy cell emits incoherent patterns, while healthy cells emit coherent patterns. The frequency and coherence of biophotons reveal a great deal about the health of the given cells. The Germans have successfully used this technology to diagnose cancer. ("While normal tissue follows this optimization principle, tumor tissue has lost this capacity by a critical loss of coherence," according to Fritz-Albert Popp.)

So, how does this relate to change?

The human body is sending out and receiving billions of biophoton signals every moment. It is a constant means of communication with our environment. As the environment changes, thereby changing our life conditions (the primary factor in changing a system within the Spiral Dynamic framework), our bodies pick up this information and respond accordingly with neurochemical responses that can, as Lipton points out, alter our genetic code. This may be the single most important contributing factor in biological evolution.

Once we understand how this works, it gives a whole new significance to the idea that how we treat our environment is how we treat ourselves. As we destroy our environment, we change our life conditions for the worse. Over time, maybe over decades or centuries, this will change us, our health, and perhaps even our evolutionary arc.

It is likely to be proven crucial to our continued evolution that we STOP DESTROYING OUR ENVIRONMENT. Every detrimental change to our environment will eventually produce a unique biological response in our bodies and in our genetic code.

Okay, off my soapbox.

On a more practical level: Introducing a person into nature has been shown to have a calming effect on the body, improve the status of depressed persons, and help realign biological patterns that have been corrupted by a lack of exposure to nature (E.O. Wilson's Biophilia Hypothesis and here -- or here for Howard Bloom's take on how environment influences evolution).

To fully understand and engage the change process, we must understand how our exposure to other living things changes us at the microbiological level. While this focus of research only engages one quadrant of the change process, it is one that has been mostly neglected until recently. We need to change that.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Don Beck: I Don't Know How to "Grow" People

I must sheepishly admit that I came to the SDi Personal Emergence confab with the thought that I might learn some tools or techniques for helping people progress along the Spiral. After completing the Level I certification, I have been completely disabused of that notion.

I know that "global" change is rare and difficult to attain, but I had hoped that I could learn to promote growth within specific developmental lines (such as self-worth, emotional intelligence, or kinesthetic intelligence).

Don Beck is adamant in his belief that it is not his role to "grow" people. At best, he tries to create a "habitat" in which the life conditions are such that growth becomes possible. This is a hugely valuable lesson for me.

As a trainer, I spend most of my time working with people in the upper right quadrant of their lives (exterior-individual), focusing on nutrition, exercise, and behavior. While I also pay attention to the upper left quadrant (interior-individual), focusing on emotional blocks or self-talk that defeats efforts in the upper right, neither of these areas really creates a habitat that can promote change -- of any kind.

There are some ways that I do promote that habitat -- structure, accountability, safety, encouragement -- but I think I can do more to help create the life conditions that can promote change. I'm not looking for global change anymore, or even movement up the Spiral -- I simply want to create the conditions in which my clients can achieve first-order change (adjustments in lifestyle, habits, or beliefs).

I will be exploring this idea in more depth when I am back in the world -- look for an SDi-based update to The Integral Fitness Solution, coming soon.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Mean Meme War

Fellow blogger and integral enthusiast coolmel alerted me to an ongoing war between Cowan and Wilber -- mostly it's Cowan hating on Wilber/Beck. Cowan has hurt his argument by descending to name-calling, but he raises some valid points before doing so.

Here are links to the relevant articles. I leave it to the reader to form an opinion based on evidence and personal experience.

"The Missing Links" of Spiral Dynamics and Ken Wilber: The Mean Orange Meme (MOM)and the Healthy Green Meme (HGM) by Bill Moyer

Wilber's reply: On the mean memes in general: Red to blue to orange to green to yellow by Ken Wilber

Cowan's reply to Wilber: Response to Ken Wilber's Response to "The Missing Links" of Spiral Dynamics and Ken Wilber, a posting by Bill Moyer on the Post-Conventional Politics (Post-Con Pol) discussion list, reproduced on The World of Ken Wilber website by Chris Cowan

For additional rejection from Cowan's camp of the Beck/Wilber work, see The Mean Green Hypothesis: Fact or Fiction? by Dr. Natasha Todorovic.

Defining Integral

There is a bit of a war (see The Mean Meme War) between Chris Cowan co-author of the original Spiral Dynamics book) and the Wilber/Beck integral camp. A recent article from Cowan's NVC Consulting group, entitled "Premature Integral," argues that much of what is discussed as integral really isn't.

Considering that I am currently taking Beck's SDi certification course, I'd have to respectfully disagree with Cowan's assessment of the integral camp. I do believe he has some valid points in objecting to how SD has been used by Wilber, but my experience of Beck suggests that he is trying to stay true to Graves' original work, while presenting it in a marketable "integral" wrapper.

From the article:

“You’ve got to differentiate before you can integrate,” commented Ed Edwards - futurist, physicist and businessman - during a discussion at our SD certification training in Santa Barbara. (The next is April 18-24, 2005.) This remark sheds light on an idea some Spiral Dynamics enthusiasts find compelling. The word “integral” is playing large and loud for many who have come to Dr. Graves’s work via the Wilber-oriented route. Indeed, it’s been tacked onto Spiral Dynamics to market a separated branch of the work from ours by slight rebranding. (The differences go far beyond mere labeling at this point, but that’s another story.) What’s going on?

Integration has a number of meanings and usages depending on what is being integrated and in which field: philosophical ideas, people, mathematics, electronics, social categories, business units or departments (i.e., manufacturing integrated with distribution), political systems, economic interest groups, consciousness, spirituality, etc. Thus, for many people “integral” is merely an adjective describing connectedness and openness to drawing together a range of parts, functions, information/insight. The word “integrative” has been part of Spiral Dynamics for years as a synonym for systemic-type thinking, one of the variations of conception within the open-ended SD model.

For others, though, the adjective “integral” has taken on metaphysical significance and become a noun. It’s an organizing principle to rally their thinking – the flag that flies over their lives. Much as a religion provides the answers for righteous living to True Believers who have adopted other spiritual philosophies, integral becomes a goal of life. This form of integral becomes a state of being, an existential condition: “I am integral!” “Proud to be an integral!” “My child is integral at Thomas Edison Elementary School.” SD turns into articles of faith.

In our experience, many of the people using the word thusly are following a fashion trend, tossing it around without thinking through the implications. The idea that everything connects is alluring; coalescing an eclectic mix of fields into a laser-like focus sounds intriguing; and pulling all the fragmented chunks together and replacing them with holism or a unified field that explains everything has been a dream for many thinkers, including Graves. The catch is, as Ed pointed out, one must also be able to differentiate clearly. It’s not a matter of integral OR differential – both are important. However, the concentration on integral has blinded many to a broader range of possibilities.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Thought for the Day

"The important thing in Spiral Dynamics is not the Spiral, it's the dynamics." --Don Beck

Too many of us get bogged down in the Spiral colors and ignore the dynamics of how the colors operate.

Personal Emergence and Spiral Dynamics

Many of us have assumed that personal emergence along the Spiral moves step by step, from one vMeme to the next. However, during yesterday's session Beck suggested that many people move along in a much more focused way. There are two possible tracts that people can take: warm colors, with an external, individual focus (beige, red, orange, yellow) or cool colors, with an internal, communal focus (purple, blue, green, turquoise). People who progress in this way will only experience the opposing colors as much as necessary to create dissonance in order to move to the next stage along their track.

However, part of the emergence into second tier for these people will require that they go back and "pick up" the vMemes that were only minimally experienced in order to create a healthy stack of first-tier vMemes. So, for example, a cool-color person may end up spending a lot time at yellow in an effort to flesh out the lower vMemes.

This adds new info to my understanding of the Spiral and how it works in people's lives. It is especially important for the book I am writing on Personal Emergence -- more to come on that in the near future.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Democracy in Iraq Will Fail

I've tried to talk about this issue before on Raven's View, but it's hard to use the language of Spiral Dynamics with those who are not familiar with it. Here, some of you are already on board, and the others have at least a passing interest or curiosity.

Today Don Beck talked about how the higher vMemes have a tendency to impose their own values on the lower vMemes and expect a positive outcome. For example, many early efforts in South Africa to end apartheid failed due to the types of solutions being offered. When he began working with the various factions, his first priority was to assess which vMemes were being represented. The solutions were tailored to the Memes.

In essence, you cannot end Red Meme power quests with Green Meme communal respect.

This is the situation we face in having destroyed the power balance in Iraq through our invasion. The dominant vMemes in Iraq are Purple (tribalistic, kin centered), Red (egocentric, power driven), and Blue (absolutist, order driven). The center of gravity is Red.

We come in with our Orange Meme multi-party democratic ideals, with a strong dose of Green Meme egalitarianism (women's rights), and expect to be able to impose that system on a tribal people who are most concerned with power and religious control of power (RED-blue). It won't work. The minute we leave, the whole thing will collapse into tribal warfare.

If we really wanted to create order in Iraq, the goal would be to create a healthy version of Blue, especially a strong Islamic Blue, that can tame the "will to power" inherent in the Red tribal worldview. The result would likely be an Islamic government, but if the Blue Meme were healthy, it could rule peacefully and provide the boundaries necessary to bring Red into the Blue worldview -- which is the only way to tame Red.

As it stands now, we will either be in Iraq as peacekeepers for the foreseeable future, or we will leave and the whole thing will collapse.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Greetings From Boulder

I am in Boulder Colorado this week for level I & II certification in Spiral Dynamics Integral (Beck version). I am amazed at how beautiful fall colors can be when you haven't seen them in years. Not a lot of change with our saguaros in Tucson.

The level II cert. is in personal emergence, specifically on change. Since I started writing a book on this topic a year ago, I figure it might be the kick in the arse I need to get it finished. Plus, it's Spiral Dynamics, in Boulder -- too cool.

I'll keep you posted on any cool things I learn this week.

Monotheism Is Not the Enemy

Cenk Uygur has a new entry at Huffington Post arguing that all Jews, Christians, and Muslims are wrong to hold their particular beliefs. Here are some examples of his thoughts on the three faiths.

On Islam:
Osama bin Laden is insane. He believes God whispered in the ear of Mohammed 1,400 years ago about how he should conquer Arabia. Mohammed was a pure charlatan -- and a good one at that. He makes present religious frauds like Pat Robertson look like amateurs.

He [Mohammed] said God told him to have sex with as many of the women he met as possible. I'm sorry, I meant to say "take them as wives." God told him to kill all other tribes that stood in his way or that would not placate him with assurances of loyalty or bribes. God told him, conveniently, that everyone should follow him and never question a word he said.

On Christians:
George W. Bush is the most powerful man alive. He is a class A imbecile. He is far less intelligent than the average Christian. But like most of the others, he believes Jesus died for his sins. That idea is so perverse and devoid of logic it should shock the conscience. Instead, it gets him elected, and earns him the reverence of a great percentage of America. America! The most advanced country in the world -- run by a bunch of villagers who still believe Santa Claus is going to save them.

On Jews:
Did I mention Judaism? The chosen people? Come on, get off it. People walk around in clothes from 18th century Russia, thinking they have been chosen by God when they look like a bunch of jackasses. I'm tired of all the deaths because we did not want to give offense. Orthodox Jews are wrong and ridiculous.

I'm sure there are a lot of others who hold views similar to these, but to do so does not make one intellectually superior. It makes one ignorant.

Monotheistic religion, especially Christianity, shifted the focus of culture from acquisition of power to fear of divine punishment, and with that a concern with individual salvation. As such, it is a necessary stage in human evolution -- it tames the wild ego of the previous developmental level.

Granted, the worldview of monotheistic faiths is still mythically based and adheres to a prerational understanding of the world. Then there's the whole "God is bearded and wears white robes" thing that Uygur is really getting at in his post.

Still, the worldview of monotheistic believers created boundaries to rein in the ego, to focus it on something other than power and prestige. Over time, even those who do not move beyond a literal understanding of the monotheistic faiths (again, this is what Uygur is raging against) will develop rational thinking skills. They may move beyond mythic thinking in most areas, although their beliefs may still be mythically based.

These religions have served and will continue to serve a vital role in human evolution. Hating them is foolish. We should be focused on understanding why rational people can still hold prerational beliefs. We should also be looking for ways to make these faiths more positive in the lives of those who follow, and more appealing to those who haven't yet reached the level of a mythic worldview.