Note from the field: Steve McIntosh and Carter Phipps Unplugged

Rafael Nasser

Steve McIntosh is the CEO and created Now & Zen’s brand aesthetic by combining the harmonic proportions of sacred geometry with motifs from traditional Japanese culture. This has resulted in product designs that have a timeless, universal appeal. Prior to the incorporation of Now & Zen, Inc. in 1995, Steve was Director of Corporate Development and General Counsel of Celestial Seasonings tea company. He is the author ofIntegral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution. Steve grew up in Los Angeles and now makes his home in Boulder, Colorado with his wife, Tehya, and sons, Ian and Peter. He can be contacted at:

Carter Phipps, Senior Editor, is the magazine’s leading commentator on contemporary politics. His exploration of what he calls “Enlightened Politics” resulted in a WIE major feature, “Is God a Pacifist?”, a philosophical analysis of war, peace, and nonviolence in our post-9/11 world. He received his BA in Business Economics from the University of Oklahoma, worked as an engineer for computer networking systems for a number of years, and has studied and practiced the Evolutionary Enlightenment teachings of Andrew Cohen for almost fifteen years.

Steve McIntoshCarter PhippsThe clapping hands reflected the high energy buzz in the room. The applause was aimed at Steve McIntosh and Carter Phipps who dazzled and charmed a packed audience in New York City on January 30. The event, co-sponsored by EnlightenNext and the Integral New York City Salon, was billed The Rise of the Integral Worldview. It began at seven and when I finally exhaled two winged hours later I was profoundly transformed.

Steve and Carter were brilliant. The inspired ideas they articulated originated from a higher, deeper more inclusive space. Moreover, they didn’t just talk about integral consciousness. They embodied integral consciousness and emanated a soulful presence while juggling complex evolutionary ideas with heartfelt awareness. The extra oomph in the applause was a collective thank you for the gracious example they set with effortless ease.

I wasn’t surprised. I read Steve McIntosh’s book Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution the week it was released last fall and I quickly realized that he was an emerging voice in the integral movement that would make important contributions to the ongoing discourse. I’ve been an aficionado of Carter Phipps’ lucid articles in What is Enlightenment? for years and regard him as a beacon for evolutionary consciousness.

The alchemy of the two perspectives was bound to enlight and delight. I expected my vision to be stretched and it was. The program consisted of a brief introductory remark made by each speaker followed by a Q & A session.

I’d like to invite you to share the experience. Some of the evening’s highlights follow below. A recording of the entire presentation is available on

Carter: It’s nice to be here. We thought that what we would do tonight is say a few things about what the rise of the integral worldview means for us. Each of us will speak a little bit about that but then we want to take questions about what integral means and how it impacts culture.

The integral worldview represents a new worldview and it is worth reflecting on what that means because worldviews are our deepest conclusions about life. It is worth taking that in. As much as an integral worldview may be about embracing new values, new ideas and a new understanding of culture, it is also about the internal world. It’s about a new place to stand in our own consciousness. What we can see out there depends on where we stand in here. In my own life, I went through a very profound shift in my own consciousness, and then as I began to look out at culture I began to see things differently. It’s that deep. So I want everyone to think about what integral might mean with this kind of context..

Steve: The reason I’m interested in the integral worldview is that all my life I’ve had a sense of personal responsibility for the troubles of the world. With globalization the world’s problems are becoming more and more local so there is a sense of urgency. It’s not just a do-gooder mentality. It’s also in our self interest to make a big difference. And the integral worldview is that which I found to be the most pragmatic and effective way to make a significant difference because when you begin to look at all these problems through the integral worldview, whether it’s global warming, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, it’s largely a problem of consciousness. The solution to every problem involves raising consciousness and that’s what integral consciousness is good for.

About four hundred years ago we saw the rise of the modernist worldview which lifted us out of feudalism and now modernism has become a global phenomenon although the majority of the world’s population is still at a premodern stage of development. Modernism has brought many disasters as well as dignities. This has required further developments beyond modernism.

In the 17th century philosophy supplied the new way of seeing. Renee Descartes’ Metaphysics framed a new set of values that then brought about a scientific way of seeing, new transcendent forms of political organization in the form of democracy and then eventually the industrial revolution and modernism’s problems.

Evolution does not end with modernism. At the beginning in the 19th century but coming to fruition in the 60’s and 70’s there arose a significant worldview beyond modernism. Some call this worldview postmodernism. Postmodernism emerges as a stark antithesis to modernism. The rallying cry of modernism was embodied in the slogan “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”. This emphasized new values, a new kind of truth, beauty and ideals of morality.

Postmodernism emerges where modernism becomes most successful, in America, where modernism had reached its apogee. The children of the most successful forms of modernism realized that modernism was rather exhausted. Its stale materialistic values had taken the world as far as it could be taken. The only place to go was in a dialectical move away from that direction. This brought about the rise of the postmodern worldview whose rallying cry was “ Turn on, tune in, drop out”. Postmodernism reflected an entirely new set of values that include egalitarianism, multiculturalism, environmentalism, feminism, gay rights, and human rights of all kinds. Postmodernism has made some great strides.

Integral consciousness includes all the healthy and enduring values of postmodernism while also recognizing its limitations and pathologies. We need to tease apart the enduring values of a worldview from the values that are focused on civilizing the level that came before. The integral worldview is a second Enlightenment. The first Enlightenment, modernism, opened up the external universe to a new era of scientific discovery. It was a new way of seeing. The values gave the perspective that provided the power to literally grab hold of the stuff of the external universe and literally move it around in way that premodern consciousness couldn’t. Now we have the second Enlightenment and we see many parallels in history. The integral worldview is opening up the internal universe of consciousness and culture to a new era of exploration and discovery. The integral worldview can impact our world by helping us raising consciousness more effectively.

Integralists don’t recognize these other worldviews as bad. They are appropriate for a given set of life conditions and they have healthy and enduring values. Nor do we see that there is an imperative to evolve. People have a right to be who they are. But we do want to alleviate trouble and suffering in the world and we can see that the solution to that involves raising consciousness. Our technique is, as Alfred North Whitehead said, through gentle persuasion through love. That’s certainly the way we’d like to approach it, with no coercion in the evolution of consciousness.

Audience: I’d like you to define some of the core values of the integral worldview and explain how they would be an evolution of the postmodern worldview.

Steve: One of the key values of the integral worldview is evolution itself, development. Postmodernism strives to make the world a better place in it inclusion of what has been marginalized, exploited, left behind or excluded by modernism before it. Postmodern values have a tendency to value everything equally, in its more extreme expressions, which is evolutionarily appropriate because it brings in everything. When we go beyond postmodernism and recognize, for example, that not all forms of spirituality are created equally and that some are truer than others. We begin to discern that which is more evolved from that which is less evolved but in a way that is fortified by postmodern sensibilities.

The other distinguishing characteristic of integral values is that they recognize that human culture and consciousness have evolved through a series of stages. There is a tribal stage, a traditional stage and modern and postmodern stage as I described. When postmodernism looks at modernism or traditionalism there is a tendency to see these worldviews primarily for their pathologies discounting the enduring values and the foundational role these worldviews play in the development of the culture.

With integral consciousness we can look back at these earlier worldviews and recognize the each worldview contains enduring values, dignities, as well as pathologies. Integral consciousness can use these other worldviews. It can see that traditionalism has extremely important values that are foundational to our society. If we raise children without a degree of traditional values they can become narcissistic. Postmodern parents know that structure is something they often neglect.

The pathologies are closely woven together with the enduing values. So when you look at the values from the outside it is easy to see the pathologies coloring the entire way of being in that stage. But with an integral worldview we can make common cause with those enduring values. We are not in antithesis with them. We are now ready to reintegrate at a higher level traditionalism, modernism and postmodernism and hold these values in an inclusive whole. This is one of the epistemological capacities of the integral worldview.

Carter: When any worldview emerges it generally will have elements that we can recognize as being valuable and others elements that will prove to be problematic. In the magazine we have often featured religious teachers that come from very traditional structures. Postmoderns don’t really like that because that traditional structure often accompanies a social worldview that can be regressive. But there can also be spiritual and religious richness in the traditional structure as well. At times we’ll feature a religious teacher with the understanding that there is a lot that goes along with their worldview that we don’t want to embrace. But that doesn’t mean that there is no value there. An integral worldview can allow us to appreciate real contributions from other worldviews. If we dismiss them, it can cause all kinds of problems. Ultimately what it causes is the culture wars.

Audience: Can you talk about integral politics?

Steve: Integral politics starts with recognizing that the culture war has caused lots of political stagnation in this country. Postmodernism came along and rejected the values of modernism and traditionalism and this was an evolutionarily appropriate step which created new forms of culture which continue to serve us today. But now we recognize that when postmodernists condemn the value poverty of modernists and traditionalists we can see that all this does is push people into their corners which really serves the more aggressive segments of our society.

So now the postmodern worldview, from a cultural perspective, is serving as a cork keeping things stagnant in the body politic of America. One of the important political jobs of the integral worldview is to unstop the cork so that consciousness can move up across the board.

As we carry forward some of the enduring values of traditionalism and modernism we’ll find that they can carry forward some of the traditionalists and modernists themselves into a new era of progressive agreement. Postmodern political solutions often add up to the admonition that we all need to come together and wake up to the fact that we are all one people. We are all one people and if indeed we could wake up that way it could provide many political solutions.

Unfortunately, evolution doesn’t work that way and so if our political solution involves some miraculous great awakening, that’s not a pragmatic political program. Now life conditions are such that we need to get serious about getting results. We want to create a new kind of progressive agreement that doesn’t involve the world miraculously waking up and becoming postmodern. This can be achieved through the integral worldview.

It is estimated that at the time of the American Revolution only about ten percent of the population was able to make meaning at the modernist level. Most were premodern in their worldviews and values. Yet this was enough of a critical mass where people where willing to lay down their lives to create a transcendent form of political organization.

Carter: Democracy was representative of a modernist worldview in that sense.

Steve: Right. Each one of these worldviews brings with it a new octave of values. The goodness segment, morality, brings forth a kind of political organization that goes with it. The kind of political organization that goes with the tribal worldview is a chief and a tribe; the kind of political organization that comes with traditional consciousness in all its forms, East and West, is feudalism.

It’s not ideal but at that stage it’s the best they can do and it’s a significant step from what came before traditional, before there was any kind of law and order. You could be killed at any moment. Traditional consciousness is conformist. It conforms to authority. If people are sheep democracy doesn’t work. You need modernist consciousness in a population. Without it democracy is neither achievable or sustainable or maybe even desirable.

Carter: This is a big issue driving politics. One of the big concern today in political circles is what are the prerequisites in a culture for democracy? This is a big question right now. A lot of cultures don’t seem to be ready for democratic structures. Integralism has a way of explaining this. That’s a serious issue that can be clarified from the integral perspective.

Steve: The key is internal development. In other words you can give people modernist technology and it’s still not going to produce a sustainable modernist economy for very long. Unless there is internal development modernism doesn’t work. It doesn’t produce the kind of middle class economic structures that the developing world is looking for nor does it produce the sort of uncorrupt stable political structures which is what we see as the next step for much of the developing world.

The long term vision for integral politics, and not all integralists share this view, is that eventually we’d like to see a limited form of federal union among democratic nations with more and more nations being gradually accumulated into it, somewhat like the EU. Without integral values that can appreciate all the stages and understand how cultural evolution occurs some kind of world federalism is not desirable or achievable.

When nations are competing with each other it is very difficult to produce any kind of global cooperation, any kind of global human rights or global minimum wage or democratic oversight over the globalizing economy. But gradually with the emergence of some kind of democratic global law we can begin to address these increasingly global problems that competing nation states cannot address.

Neither are we talking about a super UN. We can see that the UN is a relic of World War II. It’s not naïve internationalism. Just as the wisdom of Enlightenment philosophy was critical to creating the safeguards and the structures of the US Constitution and other forms of democracy so too will the wisdom of integral philosophy be used in creating the structures and safeguards of a moral global legal structure that can still leave nation states in place and will be evolutionary, not revolutionary.

Audience: What would a post integral worldview be?

Steve: If we look for higher stages of consciousness we can see perhaps saint and sages who exhibited forms of consciousness that were ahead of their time. We might be able to recognize, for example, postmodernist consciousness in St. Francis of Assisi who lived before postmodernism. He loved nature, he was very sensitive, and he loved animals. He was clearly ahead of his time. Although he had a medieval worldview and had a traditional center of gravity in many important ways he also was exhibiting these transcendent postmodern values that didn’t become cultural structures for hundreds of years. And if we compare St. Francis to, let’s say, Henry David Thoreau, who was still way ahead of his time, you could see that they are both postmodern in many identifiable ways. But Thoreau is more postmodern based on what we understand it mean today. The difference between Thoreau and St. Francis is that Thoreau came after modernism had become established. His values were able to form in a more recognizable and complete way because he had the problems and successes created by the stage that’s necessary for postmodernism. Postmodernism requires modernism. So Thoreau is more postmodern.

Integralism is in its infancy right now. Here at the beginning of the integral stage we might compare it to the emergence of modernism in the 17th century with Descartes and Spinoza and Locke and some of the early Enlightenment philosophers. At that time you didn’t see a lot of postmodern values because modernism had to become established before postmodern values could form. But then towards the end of the Enlightenment, as modernism begins to take shape we see harmonics of postmodernism in the form of Rousseau and the Romantic Movement and later the Transcendentalists like Emerson and Thoreau and Whitman. You can see postmodernism beginning to form among geniuses and intellectual elite. But it took some time for it to burst in cultural structures that had political power in the 60s and 70s.

So here at the beginning of the second Enlightenment we haven’t achieved the successes of the integral worldview that will be necessary to create the antithesis. For one worldview to form we need the worldview before it to have achieved a relative degree of success because it’s those problems created by those very successes that the other worldview pushes off. It uses this dialectical engine of evolution. We might expect that as Integralism becomes more developed, as it begins to gain cultural cache and more people begin to agree with it that we’ll begin to see harmonics of post-integral consciousness and we might pick our favorite sages and say they have post-integral consciousness and beyond. But it’s not a cultural structure and it’s not being fed by the inevitable pathologies that will arise as intergalism becomes successful.

I do describe post integral consciousness, to a degree in my book and I even offer a potential critique of the inevitably antithetical post-integral worldview will look like. What will they critique about the integral worldview? They’ll say that we are too hung up on worldviews. That we’re aloof, we’re elitists, and we lack patience. We are not sensitive. So we can anticipate that post-intergalism will be a harmonic of postmodernism to a degree. Postmodernism is different than traditional consciousness even though they share similarities. The intervening stage of modernism makes them very different. Post-integral consciousness will be distinctly different than postmodernism because there will be this intervening stage of history and culture which we anticipate with the arrival of the integral worldview.

Carter: This question is interesting because one of the powers of integralism is this new understanding it has of worldviews. And you can start to understand it simply as new information or knowledge. But I don’t think it’s just knowledge because for me the integral worldview is something that began as a spiritual revelation. And we can get in touch with a revelatory evolutionary understanding of spirituality and a spiritual force that is not separate from the current of evolution and life. I began to realize integralism as a spiritual revelation long before I knew anything about the ideas we are speaking about tonight.

The structures of spiritual revelation at one point in history took us outside of the context of time and allowed us to transcend the self and history. But because the nature of our minds and of our culture has literally changed, the way we recognize a spiritual revelation is different today. Today we can begin to recognize those currents that are thrusting us forward at the most basic fundamental level of life as kosmic forces. That’s the spiritual side of things that gets outside of philosophy. There’s a power in that realization that gets into what some people might call integral spirituality.

In my own experience I can see as that eventually my understanding of what life was about at this fundamental spiritual level started to be translated into my own consciousness and impact my ideas about culture. Integral ideas began to fit with that deeper revelation and an integral understanding of life began to co-mesh with it.

So integralism, I would suggest to you, is not new ideas. It is, but it’s more than that. It is much more than that. It has to do with where we are living in terms of our own consciousness. Does that mean that you have to have a spiritual revelation to embrace integral? I’m not saying that. What I am saying is that there is a lot more to these dimensions than ideas. There are deeper dimensions to what this means. It’s not just about understanding the particular stages of history but also understanding the developmental nature of life and the evolutionary structures of kosmic history. Integralism is not just an intellectual process; it’s also a spiritual process.

Rafael Nasser is a writer who lives in New York City. He is the Director of the New York Chapter of the Center for Human Emergence and has worked with Don Beck in the Middle East. He is the author of Under One Sky, and is currently co-authoring a book on subtle energy development with qigong master Robert Peng.  He can be reached at