11/27 – Building an Integral Culture

Eugene Pustoshkin

Eugene Pustoshkin

Eugene Pustoshkin

Eugene Pustoshkin

I went to sleep and woke up thinking about something Ken Wilber said in the previous day’s talk at the Integral Center (Boulder, Colorado, USA)—an important talk which I recommend all to watch.

At some point in the talk Wilber spoke about the differences between translation and transformation (I partially touched this issue in one of my previous post regarding obstacles to the transpersonal).

In my own words, he spoke that transformation to a new stage of development brings forth an entirely different world in which you have to re-invent everything; and in this world you simply cannot accept the inventions of the world by previous stages (meaning that you have got to work on and construct and enact and inhabit your own particular worldspace). He also spoke that at some point you have to simply stop disidentifying and actually spend time enacting a particular stage of consciousness as a level of being in a comprehensive way (building culture and institutions related to that).

In relation to this he mentioned that 99,9% what we actually do is translation not transformation. You actually have to live and inhabit your structure of consciousness. And he said that it is important to reach turquoise and actually start translating it, not attempt to transcend and include it in the next stage. And he also said that it is virtually unknown and a mystery why some people stop development at a particular point, while others don’t.

While I agreed that translation and transformation are two important wings of the developmental process and that translation is usually a hard work that takes most of the time (indeed, this seems to be true in my own subjective experience as well), I wondered where the precise percentage “99,9%” comes from? I tend to think right now it is more like a metaphorical way of accentuating the importance of translation in a subculture where a too big emphasis might be put on transcendence (this hypertrophied drive to transcendence only might happen partially due to not understanding that a stage of consciousness is also a station in life). It is evident that Wilber meant this number precisely in such a metaphorical way.

Psychologically, I tend to think that the growth and development is a unitive process that includes (or at least may include) transformation and translation simultaneously. I mean that at some point (could it be when the self-transcendence need kicks in) one’s translation involves simultaneous transformation. I wonder if this is a feature of third tier that differentiates it from the existential self-actualization second tier? What would you say?

The other thing that made me ponder a bit was the injunction to get to turquoise and actually start to live there and not attempt to transcend turquoise prematurely but do a lot of solid translation of this stage. On the one hand, I fully agree with the idea that it is important to strengthen this fulcrum of development and its appearance in society because it basically means mature centauric self (which could in some cases serve as a basis for further transpersonal stages). So, generally, for the entire society I think it is crucial to institutionalize translations of this most complex personal stage.

On the other hand, it is important not to misunderstand what Wilber actually meant. Creating a virtually non-existent structure-specific culture might actually take more time than it might take any individual personally to get through a particular stage of development; so within communities of AQAL Integral scholars-practitioners I am not sure that privileging turquoise over teal (an earlier stage) or indigo (a later stage) is something that needs to be taken for granted. I think that one of the important notions would be to attempt to build interstructural links between structure-specific forms of translation. I don’t think it is an imperative that there must be a cultural hostility between stages of maturity. When I am 4 years old, I don’t have hostility for someone who is 8 years old; often, we see friendships and comradeships growing.

So, if we speak not about general action in society but about building sustainable communities of Integral scholars-practitioners, I think it would be a wise strategy to legitimize expressions of all levels and look for ways how to establish mutual aid between teal, turquoise, indigo, and later. We need to explore the role of friendship and comradery in this (and, of course, loving relationships and agape). For instance, Bill Torbert points out the importance of cultivating life-long friendships. And Pitirim Sorokin, the founder of the Department of Sociology at Harvard University, offered important perspectives on mutual aid and altruism (mutual aid as a factor of evolution was also the famous thesis by Peter Kropotkin).

What I think is as follows: I think that if we attempt to catalyze an emergence of the habit of emancipatory culture in LL which would act as an integral grid or matrix that legitimizes and enables the entire developmental ladder, including cultivating not-knowing and acceptance and embrace of later or higher stages of consciousness, from the very beginning, this would be a strategically better position than if, say, we focused on creating a culture which comes strictly from personalistic turquoise, while detaching ourselves from our later-stage and more mature colleagues and forms of consciousness in general.

What AQAL has been successful at is opening up the space for higher transpersonal potentials even to those who haven’t reached those potentials or didn’t know they even existed. I think it is totally appropriate for a middle-school student to look up to a high-school student (say a captain of a high-school football team or a cheerleader) and be inspired to become someone like him or her (even though structurally there is a certain developmental differential).

In the same way I think it is important to construct a culture of mutual respect and mutual aid which builds not only intergenerational links (links between generations of physical age, UR) and not only interparadigmatic links (links between different paradigms and lifestyles in LL) but also interstructural links (links between structures of consciousness).

I think that Pacific Integral (with Terri O’Fallon, Geoff Fitch, Venita Ramirez, and others) attempts to do something like this—attempts to be a container that embraces these different forms of consciousness and their co-existence. I don’t think building an entirely turquoise community is a sustainable idea: for a healthy dynamics any community has to have a developmental differential in order to become a truly “great chain” or “conveyor belt” of being (that spans body, emotions, mind, soul, spirit—or simply body, mind, spirit). Otherwise there might be, I believe, risks of blockages, fixations or developmental arrests.

This, of course, would require communal efforts at having multiple dialogues and building bridges and constructing comprehensive cultural habits of ethics (which would allow both intensive individual and intensive collective activities—and their intermesh). I think enacting the notion of involving the natural processes of growth and transcendence and maturity that happen at all stages of life as our allies would provide more sustainable paths for creating a better culture (LL) and society (LR). Structure-specific clubs are important too and they can be parts of this culture.

In this process of creating a more integral culture or more integral cultures I also think we need to pay a lot of attention to learning what it means to be healthy functioning individuals-in-communion at each of the stages of being (and how such communions could happen in integral relationships with others). As Martin Ucik explores in his work, men and women date while being at different stages. It is obvious that men and women enter relationships in a dynamics that involves multiple developmental differentials. Same goes for other kinds of relationships (of which, as I mentioned, life-long friendship is an important type of relationships).

In evolutionary terms, it is possible to say that respect towards representatives of later stages of maturity (epitomized in elders of our society) that we normally have in healthy situations can have an adaptive value (eros; transcendence); and we can also say that respect of later stagers towards earlier stagers can also have an adaptive value of adding cohesion to society (agape; compassion). I think situations of interstructural conflicts and warfare are not the destiny of humanity; I think there are probably as many instances of interstructural co-existence as there are instances of interstructural conflicts.²

From what I learned so far I think that Don E. Beck’s Spiral Dynamics Integral (thanks to my conversations with Albert Klamt) might be one of the approaches that attempt to understand how to work with cultures pragmatically in this way and implement this understanding effectively in real life settings. We can look for other approaches as well.

I am looking forward to hearing and reading your thoughts and ideas on this.


¹ The Conversation with Ken Wilber in the Integral Living Room (November 1, 2013) (You can access and watch the recording there.)

² We also, in my opinion, have to emphasize the importance of healthy (versus unhealthy) aggressivity and aggression, strife and differentiation. Learning how to facilitate and actualize conflicts in healthy ways in order to allow the emergence of critical discernment and differentiation is important. As many approaches show (for instance, Arnold Mindell’s approach to group work), repressing a conflict can bring forth very dysfunctional and destructive consequences. But this is probably a separate topic for a different discussion.

About the Author

Eugene Pustoshkin is the Bureau Chief & Associate Editor for Russia at Integral Leadership Review. He graduated as a clinical psychologist from St. Petersburg State University, Russia, in 2010. He co-founded, a web project dedicated to promoting academic studies of altered states of consciousness. As a psychologist he maintains a private practice within the framework of Integral psychotherapy and Holoscendence. His interests include integral and transpersonal approaches to individual and social transformation, global citizenship, cross-cultural integration, transdisciplinarity, and networking. One of his main focuses is pragmatic application of Integral Spirituality and Integral Psychology to life and exploration of the unity of tantric and gnostic paths of the world. He can be reached via email and via Facebook.

Leave a Comment