Sunday, October 4, 2009

Second Tier Speculation Traps

In commemoration of al-Qaeda’s attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, Ken Wilber has posted a number of articles and webcasts on his web site. One of them, unfortunately undated, is a video in which he discusses a putative “Integral World Federation,” something he first explored in A Theory of Everything. Another video, evidently filmed sometime before Barack Obama consolidated his nomination victory over Hillary Clinton in last year’s primary season, elaborates some of the themes of the first.

He also links to his brilliant analysis of politics in the emerging world, written in 2002, entitled “The Deconstruction of the World Trade Center”—still a highly important attempt to put his arms around what he later has called a “transpartisan politics.”

It is instructive, I think, to read “Deconstruction” first and then watch the videos. We get to see the challenges of gridding the theory against reality and practice. More importantly, we see the limits of forecasting the specific content of memetic evolution, because as Wilber well knows and has noted before, the nonlinear nature of evolution means that we simply cannot predict the nature or contour of an emergent from the nature and contour of its source.

But, of course, being meaning-making machines, we are nonetheless compelled to try. It’s both fascinating and a bit sad to watch Ken make the attempt. He’s such a brilliant theorist that we tend to forgive his stumblings at forecasting, but really he ought to know better. I suspect some of his falling short is a product of his lack of much experience in the rough-and-tumble world of actual politics, but some of it is simply forgetting what he has already taught us about the nature of the Second Tier.

Given the extraordinary status he has achieved among many would-be integralists, it’s important that we be willing to disagree and perhaps even correct him in those rare instances where it might be necessary.

Wilber has been interested in the political expression of Spirit’s evolution from the beginning. The concluding chapter of Up from Eden, entitled, “Democrats, Republicans, and Mystics,” first offers his insight that liberals tend to assign exterior causation to explain problems, while conservatives favor interior factors. He comes back to this in A Theory of Everything, this time with an AQAL perspective.

As a preliminary analysis, this explains a lot, although, as we will see, it is incomplete, if not actually facile. This is because he failed to explain why this dichotomy exists. This is important in light of his assertion, in explaining the Type dimension of AQAL, that liberal and conservative are examples of Types.

The challenge for Wilber, as well as for the rest of us, is that Second Tier experience, particularly as a center-of-gravity state, is extremely rare. I suspect that while Wilber himself may be there—although as I listen to him on these videos, I wonder—he must have little company.

So what that means is that all of us First Tier dwellers are interpreting what he’s telling us through the presumptions of these prepersonal and personal waves.

This is basically folly because, as Wilber insists over and over, quoting Clare Graves, transcendence into the Second Tier involves a “momentous leap” of consciousness, a nonlinear transformation that completely re-orders our mental and moral maps, and rearranges the hierarchy of what is important and what is not.

Just as the adult no longer sees the world as he did as a child, even though he can still remember (vaguely) that experience, so too when we are brought into the Second Tier our First Tier presumptions are so reorganized and transformed as to be unrecognizable. This is the cause of the sense of freedom that characterizes every breakthrough into a new wave of consciousness. The old ways of being fall away, and a sense of unending possibility pervades the new.

One of the vexing qualities of First Tier memes, made even more insufferable by Boomeritis Green, is the conviction that each alone has the correct way of seeing and interpreting reality. Every other meme is a threat to the triumph of the any given meme, and they are therefore at constant war with one another (see “Three Blind Memes,” below).

This aspect alone should give us pause when trying to describe a world dominated by transpersonal waves. It is difficult indeed to portray a realm characterized by identification with all the earlier waves from an assumption that there is a right and a wrong way to do so.

Further, once one enters the Second Tier, one also enters the transmental realm, where the process and product of rational mentation no longer dominate ways of knowing and communicating. The rational, after all, is the realm of the personal egoic, which made possible the Orange modern and Green postmodern worlds. But one of the very origins of transrational emergence is the experience of the limitations of the rational in service of evolution.

That said, let us look at Wilber’s attempts to describe a transpersonal, “transpartisan” politics.

Wilber’s Observations on Integral Politics
 To get at a Second Tier political consciousness, Wilber leans on the insight he elaborates in A Theory of Everything that the American Constitution offered a “moral stage five” governance for a moral stage three/four society. Moral stage five (as described by Lawrence Kohlberg in his 1958 doctoral thesis) is essentially a characteristic of the Orange rational/egoic wave of consciousness. America in 1789, although predominately an Amber agricultural economy, was already eager to adapt the industrializing thrust of the mother country. And England itself, although still governed by an aristocratic autocracy, was experiencing the political tremors set off by the Industrial Revolution that would lead to the great democratizing reform movements of the mid-nineteenth century.

The brilliance of this document is that it found a way to institutionalize the worldcentric, postconventional stance and let it act as a governance system for people who were not, for the most part, at that higher level. The Constitution itself thus became a pacer of transformation, gently encouraging every activity within its reach to stand within a worldcentric, postconventional, non-ethnocentric moral atmosphere.
Wilber’s point is that the Founding Fathers, fascinated by the ideas of Locke and the Scottish Enlightenment and, particularly in the case of Alexander Hamilton, conscious of the new nation’s extraordinary potential for economic growth, invented a structure of governance that would foster and encourage individual initiative, the source of all wealth creation.

And, with the great hindsight of history, we can see how this experiment succeeded—probably beyond the wildest hopes of any of our Founders. As Wilber says, in this new system of government

worldcentric was being imposed on ego- and ethnocentric, repressing levels that are even more repressive. In the privacy of your own home you can believe anything you want, but no longer in public can you burn somebody who disagrees with you. You have to behave in public according to Orange laws.
Given the way history has unfolded, he asserts, it stands to reason that eventually something similar will happen on the world stage. Once the global population passes 5% at Second Tier, we will be on our way to a “tipping point,” which Wilber hypothesizes might occur at around 10%. 10% of the world’s population would be around 600,000,000 people, who would of course be unevenly distributed but mostly concentrated in those societies in which Green today is struggling to emerge and solidify as a separate and healthy wave.

Then he says something quite debatable, that this shift will first occur at the leadership level. Even now, he says, world leaders like Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Karl Rove (!) are “coming to play with us [i.e., integral thinkers].”

Well, of course, to the extent that significant concentrations of voters have themselves evolved into Second Tier consciousness, their leadership would naturally reflect that. But Wilber seems to be saying that leaders are generally ahead of the populations they serve, and are therefore positioned to make an Integral World Federation happen sooner than later.

Sorry; can’t buy that.

The Challenge of First Tier Transcendence
 Eighteenth century America was where the leading edge of consciousness development into Orange was most active. The dynamics of this emergence can be found, among other places, in the combination of Scottish Enlightenment political activism with the emotional convictions generated by the First Great Awakening of the mid-eighteenth century—themselves both informed by the ever-expanding literacy of the American colonists. In fact, constitutional experimentation had been underway for a century within the individual colonies, so that by the time the delegates gathered in Philadelphia in May of 1787, Americans had had a history of political trial-and-error much richer and more boisterous than their cousins in the Mother Country.

So in many ways, critical though their leadership was, the Founding Fathers were not ahead of public opinion so much as giving it a particular shape.

Further, even if we grant that they may have operated from a higher-order moral stage than the Amber/Orange world they lived in, but it is difficult to discern that this was their conscious stance. Their inability to secure the abolition of slavery certainly demonstrates the limits of this analysis, as does the closeness of the ratification vote.

What I am suggesting is that the advanced moral stage represented in the Constitution is a reflection of the trajectory of consciousness development within entire sectors of post-independence America, and not of an elite leadership group.

That is why I am unpersuaded that an analogous situation is emerging today, with key world leaders playing a global version of the roles of the American founders. It is difficult enough to find spiritual leaders in the Advanced Sector, not to mention the rest of the world, who evince evidence of Second Tier consciousness. This is because even the Greening of global consciousness is a new and fragile thing, and it is severely undermined by Boomeritis. There is simply no critical mass—yet—for integral consciousness.

I am utterly unimpressed by any comments about AQAL by Bill Clinton or Al Gore—or any other public figure, for that matter. They have said nice things about countless people over the course of their careers; endorsements do not constitute insights. Further, it is folly to associate integral thinking with the so-called “Third Way” approach pioneered by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. This is not to denigrate Blair’s insights; it is simply to observe this critical point: integral anything—medicine, politics, business, spirituality—arises simultaneously in all quadrants!

It is not adequate to seize upon Right Hand events as evidence of an integral emergence unless the concomitant Left Hand achievements are similarly in evidence. Talk is cheap, especially in the First Tier. It is difficult to overstate how radical transcendence into the Second Tier is. Graves and Wilber employ the term “momentous leap” to this transformation of consciousness to signify its revolutionary nature.

Wilber spends time in the videos meandering through scenarios of what a world government might look like. He postulates a tricameral legislature with a House of Representatives apportioned by population, a Senate to represent nations, and a “House of Wisdom” elected by the first two chambers “who will make decisions binding on everyone.”

This is all very lovely and, as he freely admits, highly speculative. But with the vast majority of the world’s population at Amber, it is still a requirement, as he says elsewhere, to support the emergence and consolidation of healthy individual egos! This Second-Tier insight, supportive of the entire spectrum, focuses on the actual needs of evolution: to help the Universe evolve more consciously.

Perhaps world government can emerge out of the commitment of those of us at the border of the Second Tier to do what we can to support Spirit’s continuous movement through us all. Those of us with conscious access to greater depth have the wherewithal to assist the rest of us to deepen ourselves. Talk of world government divorced from the urgent and difficult task of consciously accelerating the unfoldment of consciousness itself is, with all due respect, a Flatland approach.

The momentous lead into the Second Tier is the awakening of the Lower Left. The “I AM” shifts from the individual to various iterations of the collective. Not having much experience with this myself, I am reluctant to speculate what anything might feel/look/act like in the Second Tier.

I only know that I must be willing to do the work of opening myself to Spirit’s will for me/us so that It manifests through me with greater clarity, ease, and grace. Everything in this new world begins with leaving individual ego identity behind. Given how little experience the vast majority of us have with this, it is premature to waste much time wondering what it must be like.

Let us do the spiritual work, and let the manifestation take care of itself.

No comments: