Episode 25: Steve McIntosh - Part 1 of Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution

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Looking at history, we can see that large-scale social progress has almost always been made through the emergence of new sets of values and expanded perspectives that provide a new view of the world, "transcending and including" the most enduring of the values of prior worldviews. As is and has been for fifteen years the underlying theme of all the Living Dialogues with Duncan Campbell, we can thus see that in this century a better and sustainable future will come to us as together we participate in co-creatively midwifing this new latest "evolutionary" worldview into existence. By your deep listening participation in these two dialogues with myself and my good friend and colleague Steve McIntosh, you will be directly a fellow co-creator in exactly this process. Part 1 of this two-part dialogue lays the historical and conceptual groundwork, as we embark on this building project together, not unlike those before us who labored to co-create the great physical architectural hymns such as the vedic temples, gothic cathedrals, etc. More details on this episode go to http://www.personallifemedia.com/podcasts/living-dialogues/episode025-steve-mcintosh-integral-consciousness.html


Steve McIntosh – Part 1 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. 

I’m your host, Duncan Campbell, and I’m delighted to have for this program of “Living Dialogues “as my guest my friend, Steve McIntosh, author of “Integral Consciousness” and “The Future of Evolution – How the integral world-view is transforming politics, culture and spirituality.”

This is part one of a two-part dialogue, the second part of which will be next week here on “Living Dialogues” and in the meantime you can go to his website: stevemcintosh.com, has extremely valuable information about, not only his book, but also a blog that he’s done on the spiral, which we’ll be talking about today; and five interviews that have been done with Carter Phipps of “What is Enlightement” magazine. And so we want to direct you to those for further information of going deeper into Steve’s work because today we’re going to have a dialogue between the two of us, which will create some new material. And so, Steve, it’s a real pleasure to have you here!

Steve McIntosh: Thanks Duncan. It’s a pleasure to be on “Living Dialogues”.

Duncan Campbell: And so let’s talk about the concept of dialogues since that’s going to be, we might say the matrix or the womb or the environment in which we’re going to talk about these things today and one of the things that we always say here on “Living Dialogues” is to acknowledge that whatever comes out, whatever is evoked in the vocalization of either yourself or myself is directly related to the deep listening of our audience.

That we find in the dialectical evolution of articulation as well as manifestation, that the deep listening is what calls forth the articulation in the same way the intensification in dialectic of a thesis or a single manifestation calls forth a response.

It’s like “call and response” in Gospel singing and in many kinds of things that we see in the biological environment and so on. In fact, it is the characteristic of evolution itself, which co-emerges with these forces of, we might say, masculine and feminine energy and they’re pulled along by this word, that both of us use, “morphogenetic”, field which not only pulls along evolution itself and we all respond to, but you and I are going to be in response to that morphogenetic field of our listening audience as we speak here today.

And a quick note on that, the morphogenetic field is a term of Rupert Sheldrake, the biologist world-famous for his work on morphogenetic fields. He has been here on “Living Dialogues” and my two dialogues with him are available, by the way, at “personallifemedia.com”, and click on the Living Dialogue’s icon there; their archive there and there’s background there if you’re interested in what Steve and I talk about.

Rupert tells us how he got the concept of morphogenetic. You know, morpho meaning “form” and genetic meaning “creation of form”.

So we’ve got some resources here we’ll be telling you about and particularly what we want to talk about today is Steve’s book, “Integral Consciousness” that’s one concept we’re going to unpack and a set of references. And “The Future of Evolution.”

And so as we start we’ll just mention that the nature of our conversation here, in addition to being one of dialogue, we’re going to start with grounding it in our own personal experiences – another characteristic, I would say, of the integral view.

So Steve, perhaps before we talk concept and before we talk process, how did you come to be the author of this book and particularly to realize your destiny as a philosopher as well as Renaissance man? You’ve been a creator of businesses; you’ve been a lawyer and so on.

Steve McIntosh: Well Duncan, I’ve been on a spiritual path for a long time and really I’ve considered my real career my spiritual career. And as I’ve tried to develop myself spiritually I’ve felt a sense of increasing personal responsibility to try to make a difference in the suffering and problems, growing, global problems that we are constantly experiencing here in the world.

And so I’ve been on a multi-decade quest to try to understand, not only how I could make a contribution to the improvement of the human condition, but how all of us could be more effective in making a difference in the world because I know that many in my generation, like yourself, are very interested in doing what they can and are looking for practical ways that they can make a meaningful difference.

Then of course, we always remember Gandhi’s famous saying, that we must become the change want to see in the world. And this sometimes makes me feel like I’m not yet worthy enough on the inside to be focusing on the outside. But the rise of this newly emerging, integral, worldview, which has really come on the scene only in the last decade, the parts of it have just come together and it really is truly an emergent worldview; a new perspective that brings new powers and new possibilities. This integral worldview has been something that I’ve been participating in and growing within and now I’ve been called to write this book and participate in it further.

Duncan Campbell: One of the things that I want to stress here is there are many parallels between your life and my life. Much as you’ve just described your own I’ve been on a spiritual path, we might say, as have many of our listeners since we were five, six years old. And self-consciously so. And that has been the largest matrix, we might say, our call from evolution itself, from the universe for, we might say, for the soul’s unfoldment. And we want to stress here that all of us are collaborating in midwifing and birthing this new level of consciousness. That, I think, is one of its hallmark characteristics.

The days of Moses on the mountain, in a sense, are over. You know where a single person, usually a male, a patriarch, a prophet of some sort, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha – whoever – essentially either sits under the tree like Buddha as a reformist in the Hindu tradition, or like the Abrahamic tradition we have Moses, we have Jesus, we have Mohammed; they essentially go up to the metaphorical mountain and they get the download from God, Spirit, Creator and they come down and essentially what happens is it gets franchised institutionally over the next few thousand years and corrupted and degraded into forms of fundamentalist religion.

And many of us, raised in conventional religious backgrounds, got the realization that something had gone awry. The boat had, sort of, gone off course and so we had to get off the boat and expose ourselves to other traditions and other perspectives in order to continue on the journey; the hero’s journey that we’ve all been on, including all of our listeners.

One of the things I wanted to stress with you is that you worked in the business world. You were not only a lawyer for an important company - you went to law school - but you also founded your own company, “Now and Zen.” And so you are not someone who is like an ivory tower academic or intellectual. You’re bringing you’re real-world, inter-subjective experience, we might say, in many realms into your other love, you’re calling of philosophy.

And I just wanted to share with you that I have this very similar background. When I was in college I was a history and philosophy major which is about the best preparation I think you could have to be an integral thinker because, as we’ll see in your book and in what you’ll talk about, it’s an of appreciation of historical developmental lines as well as an overview of philosophy that really comes together here that makes it so interesting – this integral philosophy.

And also in my first year in college I was in a philosophical class, a class on philosophy that had eight members, and it was all about dialogue, it was all about Plato and Socrates; which is one of the great points of departure for your book on beauty, truth and goodness which you bring forth in a very very interesting way. 

And then in my second year we began with Hegel and then we did the young Marx and we did Nietzsche and the existentialists and so on. Hegel is another person who, in your book, you credit with the immense contribution he made of his idea of history evolving through time in the 19th century.

Steve McIntosh: I characterize him as the first integral philosopher.

Duncan Campbell: You do and I think correctly so in a certain way. Although, Plato and Socrates really, you know, have a role to play here that we could also acknowledge. And so I think in this first part of our dialogue, what would be really interesting is for you to just give a real brief sketch of integral philosophy, just touching on some names because you go into such beautiful detail in your book, those that are interested can really get it there or on some of these interviews that are already on your website.

But secondly, what I’d really like to do is then move to the evolutionary part with you where you give such an excellent description of the spiral of evolution and spiral dynamics - that’s been around now since 1996, 1995 and many of us know about it - but your summary of it, I think, is so excellent that we could, sort of, introduce that here.

Then what I’d like to do in the program is maybe give some examples, just so we set up the conversation so people can go deeper with you, of the various points on the spiral such as, warrior, traditional, tribal, modern, pre-modern and give some examples of where we are in the world today. You have excellent diagrams in your book and charts where you say, for instance, the indigenous culture is 5% of the world today and has 1% of the assets, the traditionals are, I think, 55%.

So this would just be great as a map so that when we start talking about the practical and political and cultural applications of your thought, people can really see how penetrating it can be as a tool. To look at such confusing things as the Iraq war, terrorism, the rise of Islamic extremism, the effect of global corporatism, the consumer culture all these things that affect our lives.

So let’s embark on that, step-by-step, and let’s start, real quick, with just a little sketch of…perhaps the spiral is the place to start.

Steve McIntosh: Okay! Well the spiral of development is what we characterize as an internal universe structure. That is, human consciousness, over the last 40,000 years, has shown a distinct degree of evolution. While there are certain aspects of our ancestors that we don’t possess, the human mind in its ability to process information, its values and its esthetic understandings has clearly become more complex and developed and the way that’s happened is that as human culture over the years, has accumulated; people are standing on the shoulders of the giants of history and achieving higher levels of cultural evolution all the time.

So this spiral development is the recognition that human culture does not evolve in a sort of seamless continuum.

Like many aspects of development, it proceeds by stages. That is, there have been stages of human history and these same stages of human history are recapitulated within the development of each human consciousness as they grow up from childhood. So you have a fantasy stage in childhood, then you have a highly independent, kind of rebellious stage and then perhaps a conformist stage and people typically rise to the level of consciousness that their culture affords them.  If they grow up in a highly developed form of culture then it’s natural that their consciousness will grow up to that level and sometimes even beyond it. 

And so the spiral is an inter-subjective structure. It’s a structure made out of relationships, made out of agreements, made out of language and it exhibits systemic properties just like the evolutionary systems found in cosmology or biology. What integral philosophy uncovers is a new realm of evolution, which we characterize as the internal universe.

The internal universe has evolutionary, systemic structures, of consciousness and culture that cohere together as larger system, which is known as this spiral. Its structure is spiral or like a helix because it develops through a kind of a dialectical process, which we can characterize as thesis, antithesis and synthesis, originally recognized over 200 years ago by Hegel.

Duncan Campbell: Excellent! So let me just contribute here that in the many many programs we’ve done here on “Living Dialogues”, we have given a version of that developmental process of human consciousness in a simple form that is immediately accessible to any of us.

And that is, if we look back at the history of human evolution we find that from the very moment our predecessors emerged from the tide pools and eventually took form as humans that in our indigenous consciousness, up until about say 35,000 – 40,000 years ago when the first cave paintings came up, we could say that it was, as anthropologists characterize it, “la participation mystique” – a mystical participation. That people of our species experience themselves as embedded in a fully alive universe; the plant kingdom was alive it had consciousness; the mineral kingdom, the land itself had consciousness; the animal kingdom had consciousness; they had consciousness.

They were in a continuum of consciousness; let’s call the whole thing “Mother Nature”. And so they were embedded like an embryo in a womb and gradually the impulse for self-differentiation and self-empowerment arose – very much like it does in human development, which we all experience.

After we come out of the womb we are then embraced in the protection, hopefully, of a good family but the child during childhood is embraced in the womb of the family. Again the mother, “Mother Nature” is dominant here, father-protector principle is happening but at some point we all have to leave home in order to enter adolescence, which is this great initiatic, long period where our identity is being forged as we swing between the extremes of individuation and communal belonging.

Finally we, hopefully, will initiate into a higher maturity of bringing together the inner and the outer and bringing together the inner masculine and inner feminine so that we can actually make a sacred marriage in the external world and create, literally, a new generation.

So if we look at it from that perspective we see this early indigenous stage is dominated by the feminine energy of nurturing and protection and the second adolescent stage, altogether, is a stage of breaking away, like the movie of the same title, where you’re breaking away from home. You’re beginning to forge an, as yet uncoet [unco het?] identity, and this is the masculine principle, we might say, of death and liberation. The feminine principle is normally associated with life and nurturing. Death to the old way and the birth of a new way and so on.

And so the way I see the spiral, now, that you can go into, is that in detail, the spiral, in spiral dynamics and in your work and the work of others, breaks down that adolescent phase into four distinct phases.

First there’s the warrior culture; then there’s the traditional culture, which tends to be more communal; then there’s the modern culture which swings back toward the individuation and then there’s the postmodern culture, which we’re now in, which swings back toward emphasis on the communal and all of these, in a sense, lead to the next stage which is what is called, in this philosophy, the integral stage which transcends and includes in the same dialectical way that Hegel did. And what that means is that it breaks out of the often-polarizing adolescent consciousness, which is, “Me good, you bad. My high school has to win for my identity; your high school has to lose.”

So it’s very very polarized even in the postmodern manifestation where to be inclusive they have to shame and degrade what is called in the academy the “Dead White Man’s European Writer” canon. You know, “out” with Shakepeare, “in” with people that have been marginalized and read only them.

And so there’s still this polarity and not acknowledgement of the building block elements and the gifts of these prior stages and so could you, as you do in the book so excellently, maybe take us from that breaking out of the tribal consciousness into the warrior consciousness, lead us through those four phases; and what their gift is and what the problematic was that led to the evolution of the next stage?

Steve McIntosh: Yeah, that’s one of the insights of integral philosophy. Each one of the stages of the spiral has both a dignity, an enduring contribution to civilization that’s an important building block that we can’t dispense with as well as a disaster or series of pathologies that we do well to prune away. And sometimes, teasing out the pathologies from the enduring contributions is a difficult task and that can only be done in solidarity with the very values that you’re trying to work with. So…

Duncan Campbell: Some kind of empathy.

Steve McIntosh: Yeah. So what we see - these three major worldviews that are in the cultural war in American body politic today, which I characterize in my book as traditional consciousness, modernist consciousness, and postmodern consciousness.

Traditional consciousness is, of course, associated with the values of conformity to the authority of rightful institutions, piety and respect for belief systems. We see it in the media often characterized as sort of backward fundamentalism. But traditional consciousness, when it first emerged in history, was a major step forward and there are, as explained in my book, very important aspects of traditional consciousness that we can’t dispense with.

Duncan Campbell:  Let’s hold on right there because you skipped over in this tripartite thing, which is very contemporary, something even preceding that in-between the indigenous tribal mind and the first evolution of adolescence, we might say, is the warrior mind. The tribal mind moving out of emphasis on the collective to actually beginning to make the chief, the hero person or power, power begins to dominate rather than the collective. Individual heroes come out in that stage, we might say to try and get a handle on it, and we look at modern day Iraq or contemporary Iraq we see that the traditional fundamentalism is there in the Islamic extremism. But that’s a religion that actually evolved from a kind of wild, tribal culture, which didn’t have any formal book, or religion or institutional aspects. So co-existing in Iraq right now, we see: the wildness of the warrior stage with all of the separate chieftains that have power brokering abilities, we see the traditional stage of Islam including its extremist elements, we see the modern stage of America’s being in there with all this modern technology and we see the postmodern criticism of the war for not bringing all this together.

Steve McIntosh: Yes, the situation in the Middle East is definitely well described and interpreted through this lens that allows us to see these stages of consciousness; and they’re not so much types of people as they are types of consciousness within people. When you look at, for example, the situation in Iraq through the lens of this spiral of development you can see how the traditional stage of Islam is struggling to create a moral society but it often becomes stymied in its efforts because it remains not separated properly from the previous stages of the tribal and the warrior types of consciousness that currently infect it.

We saw the same thing happen in Europe during the Renaissance and the subsequent Enlightenment where much of Christianity had become corrupt; it had collapsed back to the warrior levels and we saw how there was a purifying Reformation whereby the warrior elements of the religion were purged so that traditional stage could become more moral, more successful and thus provide a platform for the later emergence of the modernist level. And that’s what we’d like to see happen with Islam.

Duncan Campbell: So let’s identify those. That’s an excellent historical reference; let’s identify the warrior elements there, of Christianity that then evolved into traditionalism.

Steve McIntosh: Well warrior consciousness is an egocentric consciousness. Although it..

Duncan Campbell: As are all the subsequent stages but in more attenuated ways.

Steve McIntosh: Well certainly egocentrism can be found at every level to a degree.

Duncan Campbell: Yeah.

Steve McIntosh: But one of the values of the warrior stage is individual autonomy and the aggression of the ego emerging from the more sort of stable level of the tribe.

Duncan Campbell: And the embedded level.

Steve McIntosh: Right. And warrior consciousness is a very important step in the development of human culture because it breaks the inertia of tribal consciousness, which can go on for thousands and thousands of years.

Duncan Campbell: In which new forms do not get birthed!

Steve McIntosh: But as it breaks out, it creates extremely problematic life conditions – warlike life conditions – that create, what I call, a powerfully problematic set of life conditions that call for further evolution. And it’s because of the very problems of warrior consciousness, that define the values and the culture of the traditional consciousness comes after, and this is where the majority of the world’s population now finds itself; within this traditional stage of the traditional worldview.

Duncan Campbell: And so this is an excellent opportunity for you to segue way from the Enlightenment of the 17th century, which was the beginning of modernism breaking away from a decadent traditionalism and mystification of the degraded, institutional church of the Holy Roman Empire and how that, in a sense, is a harmonic with what’s happening now; that in a sense, with this integral view, the dialogic view as I call it, is the second enlightenment. It’s the 21st century trope on what happened 300 years ago. So maybe illustrate how we went from traditional to modern by talking about the Enlightenment in the 19th century and kind of bring us current.

Steve McIntosh: Right. Well the dialectical progression of the stages of human culture as traditional consciousness became successful, in Western Europe especially; we see the emergence of the radical new development in human consciousness, which is characterized as modernist consciousness.

It has a unique set of values, which emphasizes reason, scientific discovery and eventually brings spectacularly tangible results in the improvement of the human condition through democracy and through the development of a material civilization, which of course, brings its own problems, which then precipitates the emergence of the next dialectical movement which I characterize as the postmodern consciousness. This is what Paul Ray calls the “Cultural Creatives” and now represents about 20% - 25% of the population of the U.S. It’s also very big in Europe, Canada and Australia.

Duncan Campbell: Before we go on, under Paul’s sociological research, which was conducted over 15 years before he published his book in the year 2000 sponsored by the Fetzer Institute and others, hundreds and hundreds, thousands of interviews, he found that approximately 25%-28% of the American population, shockingly to most liberal consciousnesses that read the New York Times, is actually fundamentalist/neo-traditional and maybe only about 20%-22% are what we might call postmodern or “Cultural Creatives” and the rest are what we call “Moderns” that are kind of hanging on with the basic, secular, consumer culture.

Steve McIntosh: Right and I should mention that Paul Ray’s research has now been supplemented by an even larger sociological project run by the University of Michigan, called the “World Values Survey”, and they found similar percentages within the developed world which they refer to as “Post-Material” culture. And again, it’s a small percentage of the developed world and it’s only occurring in the places where modernism has been most successful. Again, in order for a stage to produce the conditions wherein a new emergent stage can transcend it, it needs to succeed. So that’s why we want to see, we want to empower these lower stages and help them become as functional as they can they can facilitate further evolution all the way up the spiral, if you will.

Duncan Campbell: And not only that but maybe avoid some of the mistakes that we made, and this is kind of a teaser now for next week because we only have about five minutes left to really get the groundwork laid here and we’re really going to invite the people to please stay tuned next week.

We’re going to take this beautiful groundwork and we’re going to then articulate out some of its manifestations. One of the things we hear these days from some neo-traditional societies is, around the world looking at our developed world with our hyper-commercialism and Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and whatnot, is, “We don’t want that in front of our kids – that’s too destabilizing, it’s actually decadent to be frank. But you know what? We want your computer chips but we don’t want your potato chips.”

Steve McIntosh: [laughing]

Duncan Campbell: And this says it all, in a way, this is the great opportunity for globalization from a conscious, integral view is how can we find a way to help guide a necessary spiral development with computer chips instead of shoulder-held missiles, on the one hand, and with healthy organic foods instead of potato chips on the other side.

For full transcript, please contact Duncan Campbell