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Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution

Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution

The integral worldview represents the next crucial step in the development of our civilization. Through its enlarged understanding of the evolution of consciousness and culture, the emerging perspective known as integral consciousness provides realistic and pragmatic solutions to our growing global problems, both environmental and political. As McIntosh convincingly demonstrates, the integral worldview’s transformational potential provides a way to literally become the change we want to see in the world. This is really two books in one: the first half serves as an accessible and highly readable introduction to the power of integral consciousness, with the second half making a variety of original contributions to the integral perspective and breaking new ground in the application of integral philosophy to politics and spirituality. Moreover, McIntosh provides a much-needed contextualization and critique of the integral worldview’s leading author, Ken Wilber, which helps make integral philosophy relevant to a larger audience.

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Customer Reviews

59 of 67 people found the following review helpful 4.0 out of 5 stars
A wonderful refinement of the integralist theory, June 21, 2008 By  Leopold Boeckl (USA) – See all my reviews
Mr. McIntosh does a superb job in refining what the integralists had previously written concerning the spiral integral. His prose is easy to read and his points are made very clearly. If you have ever been frustrated or confused with Cowan and Beck’s explanations in Spiral Dynamics then please read this book. It explains and refines their model in a lucid and succinct style. If you have ever felt that Wilber’s explanations for his AQAL model left you wanting then read this book as McIntosh lays it out and then builds on it beautifully.

What the author does exceptionally well, five stars in Amazon parlance, is layout a model where he cores the evolution of spiral integral theory to three main topics. Those topics are psychology, science and religion. He does the best job of all the integralists’ writings to explain how the integral model evolved into existence on the psychology and science. Though he does not denigrate religion he does not explain the evolution for the third leg of the stool with the detail and deftness he delivers on the other two legs.

Mr. McIntosh should not be faulted for this as this flaw is one which all of the integralist theorists share. That is they play fast and loose with history, quoting events in time as it suits their arguments instead of adhering to the evolved model as they do with psychology, science, biology etc. This is somewhat ironic as the author dings Wilber for this in the book and then proceeds to replicate the same behavior himself in support of his arguments.

McIntosh departs from the integralist theorist peers in majoring in the explanation and refinement of integralist theory almost completely for the group spiral and not the individual. This is one of the factors which make his book much easier to understand than all the others. When walking through a theoretical landscape the switching between group and individual models makes complex theory much more difficult to follow. In fact I think it creates a mindset in most integral theorist writers to create identical symmetries between the group and the individual where few actually exist. The author escapes from this trap by staying on the group throughout and this is a fundamental reason why his book succeeds where others have not.

The reason the author is awarded four stars for such a wonderful refinement of integralist theory is because of he has not factored in any standard model for history. I will admit that while I do focus on the history of humankind in an effort to try and define a standard model, the integralists must understand that there is such a standard model analogous to the one being refined in physics. I would ask the author when he crafted his model for a three legged stool – who or what is sitting on that stool? The answer of course must be human history. Since McIntosh majors in the group it has to be our collective evolutionary history sitting on the stool. The failure to make this connection causes the author to make historical assumptions which skew the potential applicability in his projections for the future where he does spend time to carefully make integral consciousness operational. Therefore allow me a moment to layout but the briefest and barebones model for human history so that this point can be clearly seen by the integralists and their readers. Until this factor has been taken into consideration in their models there will be no adoption and refinement for their ideas in the academic community. This is not a minor issue.

For those integral theorist and readers out there, I must state categorically that there exists a standard model for the telemetry of human history in exactly the same as there is for psychology, physics and physiology. There has been only three economic ages for humanity: the hunter-gatherers age (200,000-12,000bce), the agricultural age (12000 bce-1770ce) and the industrial age (1770ce through the foreseeable future).

At the very moment in time when our ancestors had fully developed the modern sized mind (starting 30,000 years ago) we see world wide an explosion in what we today call art. What they depicted was their first worldview which can be historically catalogued because wherever our ancestors were they drew the same types of images (lethal wild animals, vortex symbols and the pregnant Venus figures). These were not their grocery lists or individuals expressing themselves but rather the start of our unique magic based human worldview in pictorial form as drawing is always the precursor to writing. This was humanities 1st historical Axial Age. The Mind in the Cave and Inside the Neolithic Mind are two excellent books written by David Lewis-Williams and David Pearce which have proven this and taken their model to an accepted academic standard.

Just as in the hunter-gatherer age, three quarters of the way through their agricultural age suddenly humanity rewrote (800bce) their inherited worldview to one which was human centric and no longer strictly a nature based magical model. They did this because they had moved into increasingly larger villages, towns, cities, city-states and some even empires and the old rules simply did not successfully regulate human interaction. The first written texts attest to the changing worldview from their inherited one of animal sacrifice to feed their gods and keep the world in balance. Over time the sacrifices become symbolic, though a majority of the inhabitants on earth still saw them in the same way that the hunter-gatherers had tens of thousands of years before. It was only by the end of the agricultural age that majority had switched over to this very ne worldview.

Ancient times were an extremely brutal environment and the only way forward was to evolve a new golden rule centric worldview (do onto others as you would have them do onto you). That golden rule is at the core of all of the major religions which came into existence during the agricultural age to address this problem of human violence. The remainder of the farming age was spent in refining and codifying the rules for humanity which peaks in the middle Ages. This can be seen as late as the New Testament when Jesus throws the animals out of the Temple courtyard in one of his few recorded rages because even the symbolic act had become repugnant to the evolving worldview. Karen Armstrong lays out the change over magnificently in her book The Great Transformation, though her thinking is still not academically accepted as no scholar is willing to stake their career on the line against the current firewall that scholars have drawn in the sand between pre history (pre written history called prehistoric) and written history. Once that line is breached the progression from hunter-gatherer images traversing down through Sumerian, Akkadian, Egyptian and the ancient Hebrew scrolls will be self evident even for the causal observer in terms of the removal of animal and nature worship from popular worldview.

As we entered the industrial age the inherited worldview is coming under increasing review and will result in a 3rd Axial Age in the future (at two more long waves out by my reckoning). What the integralists such as the author must remember is that their philosophy will not be the trigger for this event. Their evolved worldview can serve to make the transition a less violent and difficult event than the previous Axial Age change was but will not likely serve as the tipping point. This can be seen clearly from the agricultural ages shift in worldview when there had been a broad spectrum in religious thinking from Archaic to Integral from a Spiral model perspective. What was codified was what the author references as the Traditional spiral. In other words the lowest common denominator for humanity was selected so that everyone could be brought onboard.

The major change in the industrial age is the rise of nations and the associated nationalism which comes with it at the group level. Nations will have to work through how they are going to successfully interact with one and other but this is not where integral thinking will be of effect as those rules will evolve from purely economic bulwarks. This is where the author's lack of factoring in the standard human history model reduces his thinking in his book. Integral thinking must occur as evolution does from the individual to the group. Multiculturalism will only grow from individuals and not by legal codes enforced at the end of a rifle barrel as all laws ultimately are. None of the previous Axial Ages were legislated into existence they simply grew organically out of the spectrum in evolving thinking.

Because Integral Consciousness has not been accepted academically the practice of playing with human history is an ongoing and ill-advised practice. However until a standard model is placed as the baseline for integral theory, it can never be accepted in the academic communities which serve as diffusion centers for all accepted human thinking. One can no more adjust the telemetry of human history than one could remove gravity from the earth. In other words the stool can't float to fit the theoretical models together but must be a foundational component of integral modeling theory. Therefore McIntosh and all the integralists must finish the work in building an academic quality model before embarking on political roadmaps such as the one the author proposes in his book. It is for this reason that it is four stars though to be honest this is not a flaw of the author by himself but is shared by all of the integral writers. McIntosh does further refine integral theory in his book but muddies it with premature moves to operationalize the excitement of the changes we are all now seeing in the world today.

Finally McIntosh clearly possesses a brilliant mind. What those of require who follow the evolution in integral theory is for the author to focus on completing the model to an accepted academic standard. There is where these philosophical giants can make their contribution to the world which our children will inherit. That is the application of integral consciousness which is required for the road ahead in my opinion.

30 of 34 people found the following review helpful 5.0 out of 5 stars
Much Needed Synthesis of Integral Thoughts (e.g., consciousness evolution) and Thinkers (e.g., Ken Wilber), September 10, 2007 By  Jordan Gruber (Menlo Park, CA

Menlo Park, CA USA) – See all my reviews

Instructive, impassioned, and articulate, Steve McIntosh has gifted us with a provocative synthesis of integral thought and thinkers. Both historical retrospective and moral-evolutionary prognosis, Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution challenges us to test what we already know against what we hope may one day be possible.

Fans of Ken Wilber may have differing reactions to the fair-handed but discerning treatment of their intellectual hero that makes up a relatively small part of this book. In addition to his very thorough walk-through of integral thought and thinkers, McIntosh also provides fresh and original insights, especially with regard to integral politics and the actual real-time functioning of the inter-subjective realm of being.

As a life-long student of integral thought and thinking, I heartily recommend this book to anyone who wishes to continue including-yet-transcending the bounds of their own spiritual and philosophical inquiries.

— Jordan Gruber, J.D., M.A.; CEO, Enlightenment.Com; Founding Member, Integral Institute; Producer of and Interviewer for: Speaking of Everything, the first-ever audio interview with Ken Wilber; The Practical Wordsmith and Ghostwriter-at-Large; Pioneer: ChiBounding.


17 of 18 people found the following review helpful 5.0 out of 5 stars
For those who can’t finish a Ken Wilber book . . ., January 8, 2008 By  Andrew Hollo (Melbourne, Australia) – See all my reviews
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McIntosh begins his book with some ambitious promises. Published in December 2007, Integral Consciousness is his first book and, in it, he spends 342 pages – in three parts – helping readers `wire up their brains’ to adopt the `new’ worldview of integral consciousness. He says that this worldview – or `higher state of consciousness’ – creates a larger and more complex experiential awareness that means the reader will see things they didn’t see before. And, that’s not all: “more energy for life, more compassion for others, more personal power and strategic wisdom”. And, before I forget, the ability to participate in a cultural revolution that is as profound as the Enlightenment was a few hundred years ago. Not bad for .95 and a couple of days of reading, huh?

I judge the success of the book like McIntosh’s if it can `pace and lead’ me to three things:
provide me with a different description of concepts I already know, in this case, the stages of consciousness and culture originally discerned by Clare Graves and refined into the body of work known as Spiral Dynamics by Don Beck and Chris Cowan;
explain and clarify ideas that I’ve formerly felt confused by. Here, McIntosh provides a very cogent explanation of the dialectical nature of the spiral of development. Also, for someone like me who’s quarter-read several of Ken Wilber’s books, McIntosh has done the hard work and provides helpful and clear explanations of holons, the AQAL model, and Wilber’s conception of lines and levels of development.
create some a-ha! moments. For me, this occurred with McIntosh’s work in linking the cognitive (objective), emotional (subjective) and moral (inter-subjective) in a way which completely transformed my conception of values-memes (although he writes the entire book without using the concept of the meme at all).

McIntosh has several agendas with this book and, to my mind, he succeeds with some better than others. He is an `independent scholar’, a philosopher in the 18th Century style: those “gentlemen of leisure” whose curiosity took them rambling across the (then) ill-formed landscapes of what would become The Sciences. McIntosh traverses philosophy, history and philosophy of science, psychology, evolutionary biology and spirituality – and ends up firmly in politics. His PR agent advised him to focus the public attention for the book on his message that integral consciousness will (eventually) create a form of global governance (shrewdly topical in that McIntosh and his countrymen will be electing a new President shortly). He gives an entire chapter and an Appendix to this concept and has gone so far as writing a “Declaration of the Values of Governance”. This is in keeping with McIntosh’s (second tier) belief that we are on the cusp of a transcendent shifts in consciousness which will naturally play out in the political arena, just as the orange v-meme played out in the late 18th century in France, the USA and England.

Now, for the things I like less about the book. There’s a strong purposeful stance i.e., that evolutionary consciousness is directed toward something. To quote McIntosh, “Ultimately, I think there is a `unity of truth’ about the real nature of spiritual reality, and as we ascend I trust we will all come to know this truth in its fullness” (p. 231). McIntosh is wisely guarded about his own spiritual views, although at one point confesses that the teachings of Jesus are those which appeal to him the most. I’m not convinced by McIntosh (or anyone else for that matter) that there are comprehensible `truths’ out there, even when our consciousness has evolved beyond the post-integral stage. This position seems at odds with his otherwise well-formulated view of humanity’s construction of reality based upon a dialectical spiral of consciousness and culture.

Almost as a footnote, I also question the structure of the book. While McIntosh provides sound justification for the two distinct parts and two Appendices, there’s an ultimate failure of unity. There’s just too much going on here, I fear. As a comprehensive summary (re-read the subtitle) perhaps that was his aim. I’d also have liked better footnoting and endnotes. But they’re mere quibbles in judging a book that is very clearly the summit of McIntosh’s labours over many years.

For anyone who has an interest in any of the topics he covers (spirituality, politics, integral theory, cultural evolution, developmental psychology) this is a well-researched, nicely balanced exposition of the key thinking in the world today – with useful original contributions from McIntosh himself. It certainly fulfilled the task of rewiring some segments of my brain, and refurbishing some existing – and decidedly dodgy – electrical work. And, over the coming days, weeks and months, I’ll look for evidence of greater energy, power, wisdom, compassion as well!

Last modified on Thursday, 22 September 2016 21:16

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