by Joel Pitney and Carter Phipps
What Is Enlightenment Aug-Oct 2008
All around us folks whose consciousness’ center of gravity is Green are lusting to call themselves Integral. This is not difficult to understand. Green, with its sensitivity to the right of all humans to their individuality without judgment or suppression, is the leading edge of mass consciousness today. Its worldcentric orientation leads it to be fascinated by interpretations that, while barely registering in the mass culture, excite its practitioners to exaggerate what Green actually has to reveal.
Historically we can see that being at the leading edge usually results in inadequate or inaccurate assessments of the actual contribution those leaders are making to whatever exploration they have undertaken. Columbus thought he was discovering a westward shortcut to Asia. Freud thought he was uncovering the key to the unconscious. Einstein thought his cosmic constant a grave error, and so on.
In the unpublished second volume of his Kosmos trilogy, Wilber hypothesizes that the waves of consciousness are not fixed and unalterable, but rather are structures characterized by probability. The older the wave, the more probable that predictable characteristics associated with that wave will manifest with dependable frequency and composition. Wilber calls them “Kosmic habits.” The earliest prepersonal levels up to Amber are at least ten thousand years old. We humans have inhabited and manifest these in our countless millions long enough to have worn a predictable groove in the mass consciousness.
Orange, on the other hand, only began to discernibly emerge in the Axial Age, and then only among a handful of people. It did not arise as a mass phenomenon until after the European Renaissance in the fourteenth century CE. Thus Orange, the wave of consciousness that predominates in the Advanced Sector, is actually only about six hundred years old as a collective expression.
And Green is a veritable baby, arising only after the turn of the nineteenth century as a distinct wave, and emerging as a mass phenomenon only four decades ago. Its appearance distinguishes the Baby Boom generation, still thriving today. So, with all its advances over Orange, Green is nonetheless a very unstable wave. Wilber has analyzed at length its current predominant “Boomeritis” variant, with its shadow narcissism subverting its transcendent promise. No wonder most Greens who pay attention mistake themselves for Integrals. It sounds so much better.
But the Integral waves are the leading edge of the transpersonal, Second Tier bands, while Green remains the highest expression of the First. As Wilber has carefully pointed out, one of the characteristics of First Tier waves, manifestations as they are of the prepersonal and personal, is their inability to embrace the entire spectrum of consciousness. Each perforce is convinced that its worldview is the only possible worldview, and that whoever is not centered in its wave is simply in the wrong one. Wilber characterizes the resulting struggles as the “First Tier food fight.” (I analyzed how this First Tier food fight characterizes current events in a four-part essay in 2006 entitled “Three Blind Memes” at Enlightenment.com.)
This is almost tediously reflected in American politics with rather amazing precision. The Democrats, the party of Boomeritis Green, severely criticize the Republicans, the party of Amber/Orange, as atavistic, greedy, insensitive, and fond of war. The Republicans in turn see the Democrats as unpatriotic, heedless of individual sovereignty, and unwilling to do whatever is necessary to defend the country.
This trend began in the election of 1972 and has been played out with few variations every four years since, and the upcoming election continues the trend. Barack Obama is the perfect Boomeritis Green candidate, while John McCain is the perfect Orange/Amber exemplar. (The What Is Enlightenment editors tacitly acknowledge this by the cover title of this article: “Explaining the Obama Phenomenon”—a sentiment that barely shows up in the article itself.)
“Wake up!” examines the analysis and aspirations of Paul Ray and Jim Garrison of Wisdom University as they wrestle with whither the emerging Green wave should direct itself. Ray, along with Sharon Anderson, wrote The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World (New York: Harmony Books, 2000), which identified—without the Wilberian nomenclature—people in whom the Green meme has emerged.
Since the 1960s, 26 percent of the adults in the United States—50 million people—have made a comprehensive shift in their worldview, values, and way of life—their culture, in short. These creative, optimistic millions are ate the leading edge of several kinds of cultural change, deeply affecting not only their own lives but our larger society as well. We call them the Cultural Creatives because, innovation by innovation, they are shaping a new kind of American culture for the twenty-first century.Ray and Anderson examine in detail the characteristics of these Cultural Creatives, and they do indeed cohere with those of Wilber’s Green wave of consciousness—always keeping in mind the caveat that this meme is extremely young and has not yet—could not yet—settle down into a structure with a high probability of exhibiting the same worldview and values among all in whom it manifests.
. . . They are the drivers of the demand that we go beyond environmental regulation to real ecological sustainability, to change our entire way of life accordingly. They demand authenticity—at home, in the stores, at work, and in politics. They support women’s issues in many areas of life. They insist on seeing the big picture in news stories and ads. This is already influencing the marketplace and public life.
In both the book and in the article, Ray acknowledges that the Greens have still to coalesce into a self-conscious movement. Greens are “a population and not yet a group.” Because, according to Ray and Garrison, “this demographic is still so new . . . many cultural creatives still labor under the assumption that they are alone in their attitudes and fail to recognize the public significance of their individual values.” But they think this can change. “Hence, Ray and Garrison aim to give the cultural creatives a unifying identity, allowing them to see themselves, their vision, and their work as part of a larger emergence.”
So far, so good. But the arena that Ray and Garrison have chosen for rallying the Cultural Creatives is perhaps the one least likely to lend itself to the task. “It is in politics that Ray and Garrison hope this unifying identity can make the biggest difference. Ray characterizes the political views of the cultural creatives as being neither left nor right but representing a whole new ideological dimension he call ‘the political north’ or the ‘new progressives.’”
Perhaps this is so. Ray says that this population, “as large as forty-five percent of the American electorate, is chiefly responsible for the success of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.” As we have already seen, this demographic has been the base of all Democratic nominees, with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter, since 1972.
A cursory look at Obama demonstrates the enormity of the challenge that Ray and Garrison have undertaken. Obama has made a new politics, one that transcends the old categories like partisanship or race, the centerpiece of his campaign. His rhetorical elucidation of this post-partisan world does indeed set the hearts of many Greens aflutter. “Imagine no possessions/I wonder if you can,” John Lennon sang in what has become a Green anthem. Indeed. Barack's soaring speeches are just the latest version of that universalist affirmation.
But his challenge—and by extension, the cultural creatives’—is to demonstrate actual transcendence. Walking the talk (aka authenticity) is supposed to be a hallmark of the new consciousness. One labors in vain, however, in scrutinizing Obama’s record (or Joe Biden’s, for that matter) for examples of what this new world actually looks like or how it behaves. He can talk about it, but has never actually made it happen.
Perhaps it is enough to enunciate the vision when no one else is doing so. But here is the rub: as long as Green remains First Tier, it isn’t actually interested in transcendence; it’s interested in domination. This doesn’t make it bad; it’s just the way First Tier memes are. As long as the prepersonal or personal predominates, Second Tier or integral consciousness can only be felt as occasional peak experiences, not as a permanent trait. Thus even these brief excursions into the transpersonal will be interpreted through the personal presumptions.
The article does not give enough evidence to demonstrate whether Ray or Garrison themselves have a center of gravity in the Second Tier. Clearly their aspirations are transpersonal. And perhaps after all it is wise to take on the most recalcitrant of arenas, politics, as the crucial experiment in a unifying identity. There is something to be said for going where the defenses are strongest.
I do not like to give energy to the negative, so I will simply observe that there are significant obstacles in Ray and Garrison’s way. I have spent the last ten years as a full-out participant in the Unity movement, whose tenets are self-consciously transpersonal. I have many wonderful friends in my congregation, conscientious spiritual warriors and trekkers, authentically undertaking the leading edge of the Atman Project.
Very few of these wonderful people are in the least bit prepared for post-partisan politics. The cultural habit of making our opponents wrong is an extremely strong one. Whenever the minister enjoins the congregants to see George W. Bush as a child of God as beloved as any “progressive” politician, there is visible and palpable resistance.
In the line of cognition, which Wilber says always leads the rest of the pack in development, my fellow congregants get what the minister is saying. They acknowledge the truth that all beings are equally graced by our humanity to the lives we choose—the essential Green improvement upon Orange. And yet, to reset our minds so that Bush is the equal of Obama is, for most Boomeritis Greens, to pass through the eye of the needle.
Why? Well, the journey into the transpersonal is, as Wilber quotes Clare Graves, “the momentous leap.” For our identity to transcend the individual body/mind, the “skin-encapsulated ego,” requires enormous energy. It is the spiritual equivalent of escaping the earth’s gravity field. Remember, 70% of the world’s population is still at Amber! They exert an enormous pull against all the later memes.
(At the same time, the depth of the later memes gives them energy and pull as well. Orange in five hundred years has managed to vanquish Amber—for the most part—in the Advanced Sector, which has outproduced the rest of the world in material wealth creation by orders of magnitude. This mammoth surplus has undermined, as Osama bin Laden and his Islamist fellow travelers have correctly adduced, the traditional structures of tribal societies. So even though they are the vast majority of our population, they cannot in the long run prevent transcendence. Transcend, include, and integrate: this is how Spirit evolves. The Singularity may indeed be near.)
Significant inner work must be done in order to clear the way for the momentous leap. As Wilber has pointed out in Integral Spirituality and in much of his other recent work, the Shadow looms as a powerful barrier to transcendence. Unhealed lines of development, particularly in intimacy and relationship, can stop cold development headed toward the transpersonal. We must be not only willing but convinced that we can trust each other in the creation of a new, Second Tier-centric world. We must identify with this new world, as this newer world, in order to create and nourish the new organizations that will characterize the transpersonal.
Even Wilber has a difficult time describing this. In his lengthy give-and-take with Tami Simon on Kosmic Consciousness, he manages only the most cursory of descriptions of the “level-seven international police force.” We can of course forgive him his sketchiness since, as he observes, it is impossible to predict the contours of emergents of the future.
In the meantime, he insists, given the predominance of the prepersonal in our world today, and the power of the shadow both personal and collective, the primary work of the integrally-informed person is to encourage the mass consolidation of a healthy personal ego!
However, I am not sure that when Ray and Garrison speak of creating a “dynamic forum for ‘the best scientific and technical minds we can aggregate’ to generate global-scale solutions to our most pressing challenges . . . and fast,” that they mean this global Atman project. The mistake First Tier memes tend to make is the trap of Flatland, and if Ray and Garrison’s politics focus only on the Right-hand Quadrants, they will be tremendously handicapped in reaching their goal. And while Green is certainly capable of an AQAL approach to creative global solutions, Boomeritis is not.
We can certainly wish our colleagues well in their endeavors. However, the tendency to conflate Green with Integral is a serious problem, one that will only be worked out in the fullness of time. The optimistic prognostications notwithstanding, the Integral Age remains only a potential in the soul of humanity.