Episode 26: Steve McIntosh - Part 2 of Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution

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In Part 1 of this two-part dialogue we laid the historical and conceptual foundations of our collective evolutionary project, not unlike those before us who labored to co-create the great physical architectural hymns such as the vedic temples, gothic cathedrals, etc. Now in Part 2, as we continue this project together, we see how to let go of the scaffolding necessary at the beginnings of various spiral stages of human evolution, and at the same time preserve the essence and nurture the best of each stage. New insights arise within the dialogue regarding historical examples such as the Western Renaissance and movement from feudal to democratic modern societies, and contemporary evolutionary challenges such as the various competing warrior, traditional, and modern subcultures within war-torn Iraq, revealing personal and policy ways forward toward planetary awareness and self-governance from an integral and dialogic perspective. More details on this episode go to http://www.personallifemedia.com/podcasts/living-dialogues/episode026-steve-mcintosh-integral-consciousness-part-2.html


Steve McIntosh – Part 2 of Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution

Announcer:  This program is brought to you by personallifemedia.com.


Duncan Campbell: Steve, in your book I just have to really thank you because it’s the product and fruition of a true heart and a great mind at work here in inviting us all to be in our hearts and our own great minds as we go forward.

Steve McIntosh: Well Duncan I have to mirror those same sentiments back at you and thank you very much for again this program and for these dialogues and for your wisdom regarding the dialogical nature of the way forward.

Duncan Campbell: From time immemorial, beginning with indigenous councils and ancient wisdom traditions, through the work of Western visionaries such as Plato, Galileo and quantum physicist David Bohm, mutually participatory dialogue has been seen as the key to evolving and transforming consciousness; evoking a flow of meaning, a dia, flow of logos, meaning – beyond what any one individual can bring through alone.

So join us now, as together with you, the active deep listener, we evoke and engage in living dialogues. 

Duncan Campbell: Welcome once again to Living Dialogues. I’m your host Duncan Campbell, and with for this particular dialogue I’m really, really delighted to have my friend Steve McIntosh again as my guest. Steve McIntosh is an independent scholar and long time participant in Progressive Culture. He is the author most recently of ‘Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution: How the Integral World View is Transforming Politics, Culture and Spirituality’. He is an original member of the Integral Institute Think Tank and has taught Integral Philosophy to a wide variety of audiences. An honor’s graduate at the University of Virginia’s Law School and the University of Southern California Business School, Steve is the president of Now and Zen, Inc., an international manufacturing company marketing natural lifestyle products which he has invented. In the past he has been the attorney for a very large and successful company and he’s traveled extensively throughout the world and had a variety of very successful careers, including working as an executive with Celestial Seasonings Tea Company. He can be reached at stevemcintosh.com. That’s McIntosh, spelled m-c-i-n-t-o-s-h, stevemcintosh.com. And this is part two of a two-part series and Steve, I must say it’s a real pleasure to have you back here on Living Dialogues.

Steve McIntosh: It’s a pleasure to be here Duncan, thank you very much for having me.

Duncan Campbell: In part one of our dialogue we talked at some length about what has come to be known as The Spiral. We also talked about the nature of what is meant by Integral Consciousness and a number of other foundational things to lay the groundwork for further elaboration in this dialogue. So I’ll just summarize in a sense what we said before, which is that recent research based on two centuries of philosophic thinking and more has confirmed in Developmental Psychology that the individual personal development that we’re familiar with, stages of growth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, maturity, has it’s parallels in the development of human culture and human history and human societies. And this has been a very interesting contribution of the thinking right at the end of the 20th Century and as we embark on the 21st Century because now we find ourselves worldwide in a situation where because of the internet, cable television, satellite, telephony and all of these other, international air travel available at affordable prices to many people, all of these other modalities that are putting us really into a kind of planetary consciousness, a planetary awareness, and people are responding to that in very different ways, and what we can see with this integral view, what has come to be called an Integral View, is that everybody interacts out of a particular worldview, they’re influenced by a certain way of understanding and perceiving the world. So of the apparent randomness or chaos, conflict that may be seen worldwide, there are underlying, we might say structures of meaning that people create in order to make sense and purpose out of their situation. And these, we might call them worldviews, and what is really interesting is that because of this planetary evolution in communication people in different parts of the world are being exposed to other worldviews outside of and different than the ones that obtain in their particular, let us call it ‘local neighborhood’. And the way you’ve talked about this in terms of individual development is that each individual finds a location for his or her identity through structures of meaning and culture. And we’re just now going to recap what those are in one particular way of looking at it. The way that I and other with me on Living Dialogues for the last fifteen years have talked about this as we’ve moved from the 20th Century to the 21st Century is to use the human developmental cycle as a marker if you will or a model for what’s happening in the historical development of the species itself. And so we talk about how the human species has evolved from embryonic level, to a childhood level and then moved into an adolescent level and many people, myself included, believe we’re now on the whole in a late adolescent stage where we have to initiate beyond this kind of swinging back and forth at adolescence often experience of trying to be their own person and then sort of joining the group. So we go back and forth between our impulse to individuate and be the rebel and to establish ourselves with our own power, and then to amplify our power, be, being part of a group. Interestingly enough, the Spiral approach that we talked about last time, sees human development in culture moving in much the same ways that lets us say the childhood phase, the early phase of mystical participation with nature, our indigenous heritage, then moves into an adolescent phase which has four sub-parts. We talked about Warrior Culture, Traditional Culture, Modern Culture and Post-modern Culture, and we’re now talking about moving beyond that into a larger view that sees all of them interacting. So just to give people a final marker before we talk about today’s question is ‘What drives the Spiral? What is the nature of Evolution?’ I just want to give some figures to give people a sense of what we’re talking about. Indigenous culture is estimated at being about one percent of the global population at this point. Warrior Culture, which is we might say the tribal chieftain kind of culture that we see on the screen in Afghanistan and parts of Iran and Iraq and etcetera, is about twenty percent of the world population by estimates. Traditional Culture, which would be the great world religions including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Budhism, Hinduism, are seen as traditional cultures, and that’s about fifty-five percent of the human population. Modernist Culture, with its emphasis on wealth creation, individual achievement, what’s led to global corporatism, the developed world as it is known, about fifteen percent of the world population, and finally Post-modern Culture, which is basically looking for a larger inclusiveness, multi-culturalism, emphasis on human rights, respecting the environment as the same time we’re doing economic development, about five percent of the human population. So, with that background maybe one way we could approach it this time and go to another level of depth in this exploration is to ask the question, “What drives the Spiral?” and you have talked in your book very beautifully about beauty, truth and goodness, and what you mean by that and how it relates to this evolutionary perspective.

Steve McIntosh: Yeah, because the integral worldviews very much concern about our growing global problems both environmental and political, it sees the evolution of consciousness and culture as the ultimate way out of these problems, and as it looks at the evolution of consciousness as culture, it recognizes, as you said, that there hasn’t been a seamless continuum of growth in the human condition, but that there have been distinct stages of consciousness and culture, whichever isn’t along the timeline of human development. And as we look at these stages, these worldviews if you will, what they appear most to be are systems of values, dynamic evolutionary systems that, if you will, metabolize values. The life conditions, the negative life conditions that they encounter at their time of history, give rise to a specific set of values, what I like to call an octave of values, that goes with the particular values of their time and history. And as, as those problems become solved the very solutions to those problems create a new set of problems, which then calls for the next development stage of values which arises in antithesis to the values that have come before and we see a dialectical progression where there is one set of values will emphasize the expression of the self, and then there’ll be a return to a more communitarian orientation where the emphasis will be on the sacrifice of the self for the sake of the group. And although we can see these stages of human evolution swinging back and forth from individualistic to communitarian, we can also see that there’s a general progression in complexity. So for example, we see these value systems moving from a egocentric perspective and then to an ethnocentric perspective and increasingly to more, what I would call, world-centric perspectives of value. And so, human nature is evolving and it’s evolving through these series of values. Now, talking about values, it’s a pretty abstract and philosophical term and of course the term itself has baggage because its been adopted by the Christian right, but the term values…

Duncan Campbell: Not only adopted but the, apparently in an attempt to expropriate it in a proprietary way that we are the values people…

Steve McIntosh: Values voters, values people, yeah.

Duncan Campbell: And the other people are not and this is very interesting because it illustrates the polarity that is part of the problem, this black and white thinking, this assertion that this is the right way and this is the values way for instance and everything else is the wrong way, and if you’re not with us you’re against us and you don’t have values. But everybody has values.

Steve McIntosh: Well and the whole point of the integral worldview is to develop a more sophisticated understanding of values that recognizes the enduring values of every one of these stages of human development, aspects that we need to carry forward and include if we’re going to be transcendent, as well as those aspects which are scaffolding, which were appropriate at the time, which can now be appropriately pruned away as we, as we make our way up, in the, in the more world-centric levels of human culture.

Duncan Campbell: So this is an interesting analogy that you’ve made and you make it in your book about scaffolding that was necessary at a particular time to, in a sense, set the structure. But there’s really only an essence of the structure that survives when the scaffolding, which serves its purpose and is no longer necessary, is pruned away or dropped away as you say. So lets take an example. Perhaps we can go back to the example that we talked about in our prior dialogue of the ‘enlightenment’. Lets talk about Traditional Culture in the West and how it evolved into what we call Modern Culture, and what was the scaffolding of the Traditional Culture that is best to fall away and what was the enduring value that we should all be preserving, even now as we move even beyond Post-modern Culture?

Steve McIntosh: Well, the most obvious kind of worn-out shell or scaffolding of Traditional Culture was the feudal political system that had little or no opportunity for class mobility or most were locked into a kind of economic slavery, and while that rigid political system was effective at dealing with the problems of Warrior consciousness that it arose to try to transcend, it eventually became its own problem that called for further transcendence to a higher level of political system, which we can recognize as Democracy. Right, Democracy supplanted feudalism and few would disagree that, that that has been, that it represents moral progress. For all democracy’s problems where it can flourish it does provide a higher level of culture than certainly feudalism.

Duncan Campbell: So lets go back to another thing that people are familiar with, with Camelot and King Arthur. You know, in the book the once and future king, T.H. White in 1939 wrote about how Arthur’s motivation and inspiration as a new paradime thinker we could call him was to go beyond might versus right. Might versus right we could say is shorthand for the Warrior culture that emerges out of tribal affiliation or the indigenous world, where the indigenous world has the beauty of participating in an embedded sense of mystical identification with nature, just like an embryo in a womb. But the downside of the tribal indigenous culture is that it doesn’t have room for the emergence of individuality and creativity. The tribal, I mean I’m not saying this enemy hardened fast way, but relatively speaking, the tribe as a survival entity at that point in history was more important than striking out on your own because if you struck out on your own you probably couldn’t feed yourself or clothe yourself and really survive. It was necessary to be in the communitarian mode just to survive in that early level. But then when we had agrarianism and we moved beyond that kind of situation there was an opportunity for people to have strong leaders, tribal chieftains, forts, supplies of food, raids on other tribes, etcetera. And that eventuated in might makes right. In other words, the strongest won and took what they wanted and the weaker people did not. And so this value system of traditionalism arose out of that, a kind of higher moral standard, like King Arthur was talking about people being of service to protect the weak voluntarily.

Steve McIntosh: Well the Arthurian legends are developed, of course, late in the medieval period as a way of glorifying the chivalry and the more romanticized values of traditional conscious, which include honesty, decency, respect for authority, respect for tradition, and there are a lot of aspects of those values which our civilization can’t leave behind. In other words, we see how civilization collapses back in certain parts of the world where the values of traditional consciousness have been swept away. Unless these values are there, there’s not what Jefferson characterized as public virtue, enough of a sense of civil obedience and a willingness to play fair and a willingness to live by the golden rule that are all prerequisites to democracy and free markets. Without those play by the rules values in place, then these higher levels ultimately collapse back into what Tom Freedman calls a cleptocracy, where corruption pretty much keeps things from happening functionally.

Duncan Campbell: Cleptocracy meaning, you know, raiding from, stealing from the public good we might. Cleptocracy meaning, you know like a cleptomaniac, someone that steals.

Steve McIntosh: Right, where everything is corrupted and crime is rampant and more so than you’d find in the corners of a modern society here, like in America.

Duncan Campbell: And an interesting example of that is contemporary Russia. In fact when I was there in 1991 on the barricade defending Yeltsin at the White House, which was the Parliament building, I happened to be called there we might say by history itself. You know, no one could have predicted this was happening and what I saw was a transition from the rigidity of an imposed communist regime we might say, an imposed communitarian ideology, into this moment of freedom and everybody could feel it personally and it was very inspiring and transcendent. But they were unable to move directly into a higher level stable democracy, and as I, you know, been in correspondence with people since then, I’ve heard many stories of how it did in fact collapse back into a kind of mafia driven, chaotic, we might call Warrior Culture, where the strongest actually stole whatever they could, they oppressed others, you know the mafia for instance, became so strong that, for instance, business men that it didn’t approve of or maybe didn’t pay the protection money were defenestrated right there in the hotel, the main hotel in Moscow, Western business men at some point were actually thrown out of the window and murdered by this kind of mafia culture, which is not at all entirely eradicated to this day.

Steve McIntosh: But when we can begin to, to see the evolution of consciousness and culture from a vertical perspective that understands, not only the external manifestations of these, but the underlying values that are driving them, we can also see where pathologies are occurring in cultures like Russia as a result of these, these stages being ill formed or dysfunction occurring because it was, the scaffolding became fixed in place or you know, we weren’t able to transcend those values adequately. But once we can see that human consciousness has evolved along this, this Spiral structure of development, it gives us an ability to work with values more directly. You mentioned in the beginning the beautiful, the true and the good, and so when talking about values I like to use this rubric, which of course originates in Plato but which has been the primary, beauty, truth and goodness as the primary values has been a part of the Western cannon really up until Post-modernism, which rejected any kind of idea values. But when we have a more sophisticated understanding of how the beautiful, the true and the good are relative to every one of these stages, but what’s absolute about them is that regardless of the assessors psychic location, there is something that’s true, something that’s beautiful and something that’s good and we can see how these values express themselves in these discreet stages, and through this more broad understanding of how values flow in a circuit and how they act in a way as the equivalent of energy in the eternal universe, that as these cultural structures of consciousness are actually dynamic systems in themselves similar to organisms, and just as organisms are systems that have a metabolism of energy, these internal systems of consciousness and culture have a metabolism of values, and by recognizing this with greater sophistication through this new understanding of the internal universe provided by the integral worldview, we can begin to contact consciousness where it is and help it to evolve from wherever we find it.

Duncan Campbell: And interestingly enough we might look at indigenous consciousness really right at the beginning and even today we know prayers that are offered from a traditional tribal perspective such as, “I walk in beauty before me, I walk in beauty behind me, I walk in beauty to the left of me, to the right of me, above me and below me”, is a way of articulating a sense of belonging in a world that is characterized by the values of beauty, and the truth of your alignment with a natural world leads to a kind of goodness, a lifestyle, a way of being that’s in harmony with the environment. And so, here we have an indigenous formulation of beauty, truth and goodness that is not simply the philosophical naming of it that we’re familiar with in the Western tradition, but predates the Western tradition and I think if we just look at our human experience we can see that anywhere in the world these three values, beauty, truth and goodness, are going to be inherent in any cultural worldview.

Steve McIntosh: Yeah, I like to describe these as the comprehensible elements of deity and wherever people are having spiritual experience, which is authentically had at every one of these stages, that these values come to us in the form of that which is beautiful, that which is true and that which is good, and when we begin to recognize each one of these stages we can see that, like for example indigenous forms of value have aspects that are not just nice to include, but absolutely essential for inclusion in our larger estimates of what is good and worthwhile as we try to transcend the world and its current states of dysfunction.

Duncan Campbell: And lets talk about the transition from Modernism to Post-modernism. One of the things that you talk about in your book is Modernism coming out of, for instance, the Western enlightenment. You’ve talked about how the transition from the feudal either/or hierarchy that you’re, you know, either with the church and the Lords or you’re a surf and basically there was a lot of human misery that went with that particular political and economic and spiritual structure, where there was the divine right of kings it was said and sort of the right of the Lord, the Duatasenior, to actually the Deflower, the wife of the Surfs, just to show that they belonged to the master and so on, and the evolution beyond that was because the emergence of a middle class which had an independent locus or location of power that came about through the industrial revolution, the accumulation of capitol, the scientific revolution and so on, and so at some point a lot of economic and social benefits were achieve by modernism where there was greater distribution of wealth, we went beyond this polarity of, you know, the very wealthy and the very poor, but now it seems that in modernism we’re recopituating that. We’re in a global situation now where billionaires are increasing exponentially, and also the middle class is falling into levels of disparity, vise a vie, the very wealthy that we’ve not seen the, you know, in the whole 20th Century that relative position of the very, very wealthy and the ordinary people, is changing back into a greater disparity which is, in a sense, a kind of problematic outcome of modern culture because certain values have been ignored or pushed aside in favor of wealth accumulation as a driver of economic benefits. So talk about how Post-modernism is a response to these exaggerations or extremes that have come about in modernism.

Steve McIntosh: Well as we look at the emergence of the, historically significant new worldviews or value systems, we can see that in general it’s only in the examples of the, where a previous stage has become completely successful that it provides a platform for its own transcendence in its own antithesis in the next stage.

For full transcript, please contact Duncan Campbell