Although Paul Rays values survey (1996) revealed that some 20 to 45 million Americans are attracted to integral values, Ken Wilber recently pointed out (2000, Introduction) that this is not the same as possessing fully-developed integral consciousness. Citing the extensive research of Graves, Beck and Cowan, Wilber said that only 1 percent of the population has developed Integrative and 0.1 percent Holistic thinking. Thus, although millions of us are now pointed in the direction of an integral society and culture, a much smaller number have developed their understanding to the degree that is needed for the most effective kinds of transformational activity.
The Several Kinds of Wisdom
Because wisdom is a widely misunderstood concept, it may be useful to begin with a few general observations about it. First of all, words of wisdom are not wisdom; they are words about wisdom, pointers at wisdom. Wisdom is internal, embodied by persons and in a somewhat different sense, by cultures. Wise actions are external. Thus, even wise actions are not wisdom; they are effects of wisdom. Wisdom is multifaceted, and because no two people develop all facets in the same way and to the same degree, there are many flavors of wisdom. That said, in all its modalities wisdom is a perspective-based, interpretation-based, evaluative mode of cognition. Wisdom is not about facts per se, it is about the context-linked meaning of facts. It is about the significance of facts and their implications.
When we think about transforming todays economic, political, social, cultural, and personal realities into the new realities needed for a sustainable, equitable, and highly enjoyable world, it is easy to get discouraged. The task seems overwhelming. Where do we begin?
When anything is clear enough or certain enough, true enough, real enough, beyond the point of doubt, than that something raises within itself its own requiredness, its own demand-character, its own suitabilities. It calls for certain kinds of action rather than others. If we define ethics, morals, and values as guides to action, then the easiest and best guides to the most decisive actions are very facty facts; the more facty they are, the better guides to action they are. the facts themselves carry, within their own nature, suggestions about what ought to be done with them.Maslow is telling us three important things: 1.) When we understand the present reality with great clarity and depth, we will also sense the kind of action that is needed. 2.) In order to understand reality in that deep way, we need relevant, totally convincing facts. 3.) To receive the subtle value messages inherent in those facts, we must approach them with a quiet, receptive, patient mind.
To follow Maslows prescription in the context of societal transformation, we face two serious problems. The first concerns a prior education that, for most of us, has not given us a sufficiently complete, sufficiently relevant set of very facty facts. Some of us were educated in the sciences. Others were educated in the humanities. Those educated in either of these two cultures often know little about the other,4 and few in either one understand much about economic realities. (Unfortunately, the education of most economists appears even more narrowly focused.)
This is not a satisfactory situation. To be able to deal effectively with the major biospheric, social, and economic problems of our day, we need to become more holistic knowers. We must acquire a deep and comprehensive understanding of the context in which those problems are set. We need to develop a broadly-based intellectual understanding of systems and the system hierarchy that pervades cosmos; the evolutionary process in its most general sense; consciousness; human cultures; economic systems; and various key principles, laws, and regularities which underlie functioning in all of these areas. Robert Ornstein and Paul Erlich summarized our task (1990, p. 12): We need to be literate in entirely new disciplines.
The second problem is that few of us encounter the reality around and within us with a quiet, receptive, patient mind. We dont listen to what is in that Taoistic, fully listening, non-interfering way. To correct this problem we need a very different kind of mental development not intellectual this time, but intuitive the kind of development facilitated by quiet-minded Eastern practices such as meditation. The exploration of ones own psyche in this way leads not only to a quiet, receptive mind, but also to an appreciation of the laws by which our inner, subjective lives operate; ethical understanding; moral behavior; and even insights into the nature of primal reality.
Each of the problems mentioned above has its rather obvious solution. Each calls for the particular course of action just mentioned. Together, these courses of action constitute a two-element strategy for developing deep understanding: On the one hand, go outward and acquire relevant intellectual knowledge. On the other, go inward and find self-knowledge and a quiet mind. Some day, a future integral society/culture will have programs and institutions dedicated to helping people do this. Today, however, it is likely to happen only through self-motivation and self-direction.
Although acquiring either kind of knowledge is not trivially easy, for most people the acquisition of intellectual knowledge is the more familiar, more comfortable of the two processes. For many, the exploration of new disciplines will begin with the sciences of energy, complexity, and information; systems and the evolutionary process; consciousness and the workings of the human brain/mind system; human cultures; and economic systems. If, in addition, we want to actually change what needs to be changed, we also need to understand ethics and techniques for changing ethical perspectives; probability as a decision-making tool; the techniques of conflict resolution and effective persuasion; and what people are proposing and already doing to solve the problems that the world faces.
Paul Rays cultural creatives espouse values which indicate development to the early vision-logic stage in Wilbers schema and the Sensitive Self wave in the Beck and Cowan schema. This level of personal development is characterized by egalitarianism, ecological sensitivity, emphasis on dialogue and relationship, affective warmth and sensitivity, the enrichment of human potential, and more (Wilber, 2000, Introduction). Wilber pointed out long ago (1977, 1981) that the psychological and the spiritual are just locations on one expansive spectrum of consciousness. Deficiencies at the less-developed end are addressed through psychological therapies. Deficiencies at the more-developed end are addressed through spiritual practices. Beck and Cowan identify eight locations on this spectrum: 1.) Archaic-Instinctual, 2.) Magical-Animistic, 3.) Power Gods, 4.) Conformist Rule, 5.) Scientific Achievement, 6.) The Sensitive Self, 7.) Integrative, and 8.) Holistic. Thus, the task faced by the typical cultural creative who currently hovers around location six is that of further developing Integrative and Holistic characteristics. And, since all three of these locations reside at the highly-developed end of the spectrum, the developmental tool of choice will be one or more spiritual practices. A variety of practices from Eastern and Western mystical traditions would be suitable. Here I mention two that have proven especially effective for Western practitioners. The first goes by the names mindfulness, Vipassana, and Insight meditation. The second is the Tibetan nondual practice called Dzogchen.
In line with Maslows contention that deeply understanding what is reveals what needs to be done, this paper suggests a two-pronged developmental strategy: Go outward and acquire relevant intellectual knowledge. Go inward and find self-knowledge and a quiet mind. It is suggested that we intellectually acquire knowledge of the sciences of energy, complexity, and information; systems and the evolutionary process; consciousness and the workings of the human brain/mind system; human cultures; economic systems; ethics and techniques for changing ethical perspectives; probability as a decision-making tool; the techniques of conflict resolution and effective persuasion; and what people are proposing and doing to solve the problems that the world faces. Regarding self-knowledge and the development of a quiet, receptive, Taoistic approach, it is suggested that we involve ourselves with mindfulness meditation and, at some point, Dzogchen practice.
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Macdonald, Copthorne (1995). Getting a Life: Strategies for Joyful and Effective Living. Toronto: Hounslow Press.
Macdonald, Copthorne (1995-2000). The Wisdom Page. (An online compilation of wisdom-related resources various texts concerning wisdom, references to books about wisdom, information about organizations that promote wisdom, wise activities, and listserv groups concerned with aspects of wisdom.) http://www.cop.com/wisdompg.html
Macdonald, Copthorne (1996 ). Toward Wisdom: Finding Our Way to Inner Peace, Love & Happiness. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing Co.
Macdonald, Copthorne (1998). Implications of a Fundamental Consciousness. A paper presented 1 May at the Tucson 3 Toward a Science of Consciousness 98 conference, Tucson, AZ. [Can be read online at http://www.cop.com/cmtu3htm.html]
Maslow, Abraham H. (1971). The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. New York: The Viking Press.
Ornstein, Robert and Paul Erlich (1990). New World New Mind: A Brilliantly Original Guide to Changing the Way We Think About the Future. New York: Touchstone.
Ray, Paul H. (1996). The Integral Culture Survey: A Study of the Emergence of Transformational Values in America. Sausalito, CA: Institute of Noetic Sciences.
Snow, C. P. (1959). The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Wilber, Ken (1977). The Spectrum of Consciousness. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House.
Wilber, Ken (1981). No Boundary: Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth. Boston: Shambhala Publications.
Wilber, Ken (1995). Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution. Boston: Shambhala Publications.
Wilber, Ken (1996). A Brief History of Everything. Boston: Shambhala Publications.
Wilber, Ken (1997). The Eye of Spirit: An Integral Vision for a World Gone Slightly Mad. Boston: Shambhala Publications.
Wilber, Ken (2000). Collected Works of Ken Wilber: A Brief History of Everything, the Eye of Spirit. (Volume 7 of the series.) Boston: Shambhala Publications. [The Introduction can be read online at http://www.integralage.org/docs/WilberV7.pdf]
1 P.O. Box 2941, Charlottetown, P.E.I. Canada, C1A 8C5 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.cop.com
2 This terminology refers to Wilbers four-quadrant perspective on reality presented in Wilber, 1995 and Wilber, 1996.
3 This perspective on reality is discussed in Macdonald, 1994 and Macdonald 1998.
4 Unfortunately, much of what C. P. Snow said about this situation more than forty years ago still applies. See Snow, 1959.