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The Integral (R)evolution

September 10, 2009 3 comments

At this very moment, there is something of a revolution occurring around the world, sweeping through almost every facet of the human condition–psychological, spiritual, cultural, political, technological, ecological, etc.  All the old and partial approaches to reality are being questioned, and new and more integral responses are being explored, laying the foundation for an entirely new era in human civilization.

It is not the first revolution the world has ever seen, and it will certainly not be the last. But it is the first that does not insist that everyone adopt a new philosophy, a new worldview, or a new monolithic way of being—even while new philosophies, new worldviews, and new ways of being are constantly laid down as we speak.  It is a revolution that fully embraces us wherever we may be in our own development and allows us to be who we already are—even while it points out all those aspects of our lives where we still need to grow.

Welcome to the Integral Revolution, history’s response to the observation that “problems cannot be solved from the same level of thinking that created them.” We’ve been handed an entirely new set of problems and complexities that would have been unimaginable just fifty years ago, bringing us ever closer to fulfilling our limitless potential as conscious and compassionate human beings, slowly bootstrapping our way to infinity.

When contemplating the possible shapes and sounds of our newly emerging revolution, it is useful to track the similarities and differences it may have with other cultural and spiritual transformations in our past—most notably the postmodern revolution of the 1960’s. The sixties, of course, were the inevitable result of a perfect storm of social and cultural currents.  Our hearts and minds were being expanded in two directions at once: we were growing as a culture vertically into an entirely new stage of consciousness (postmodernism/pluralism), as well as horizontally through states of consciousness (spiritual, altered, etc.).

Vertical development is the natural evolutionary response to the rise of new complexities in our lives, pushing the human species through archaic, magic, mythic, rational, pluralistic, and integral waves of consciousness, and onward toward a greater and greater sense of human dignity.  In this succession of values and worldviews, the sixties became a staging platform for the newly emerging pluralistic stage of development, as seen in the rise of postmodernism as an intellectual and artistic framework, an explosion of pluralistic values emerging around the world, a rapidly accelerating media industry that seemed to make the world smaller and smaller by the moment, the urgency of civil rights and racial desegregation, a newfound curiosity and empowerment around human sexuality, etc.

At the same time that we were just beginning to explore a whole new vertical stage of consciousness, another major force of transformation began to sweep through culture.  The sixties became a test-tube for experimentation with various spiritual and psychedelic states of consciousness, catalyzed by the sudden appearance of two extremely powerful methods of state-change: a massive influx of Eastern spirituality and mystical thought, as well as the introduction of psychedelic drugs—both of which placed major emphasis upon the importance of raw, direct experience of reality.

The confluence of these two powerful currents of human development made for one of the most fascinating and colorful revolutions in recent history, forever changing how we relate to the world, to our culture, and to ourselves.

It is easy to wax quixotic about the sixties, forgetting that it was a period of time littered with its own tragedies, heartbreaks, and casualties—after all, the hippie movement was itself book-ended by a number of devastating assassinations, and one can only wonder what would have become of the counterculture had it not been so crippled when its greatest leaders were murdered in the prime of their influence.  On the other hand, it can also be easy to dismiss the psychedelic sixties altogether as naïve, excessive, narcissistic, intellectually effete—and ultimately doomed to collapse under the tremendous weight of pragmatic reality.  But regardless of how we relate to the social and cultural zeitgeist of the sixties, entire generations of X’ers and Y’ers have since felt as if they’ve somehow missed the boat entirely.  We feel as though we standing in the glorious, gluttonous Technicolor shadow of our parents, wondering to ourselves if the time for our own revolution will ever actually come.

Well make no mistake about it: the time has come. Though it is no longer merely a revolution of the mind (ours is a revolution of the “body, mind, and spirit in self, culture, and nature”) and though it is still in its very early stages of emergence (with a long way to go before it reaches any sort of “tipping point”), its influence is already beginning to sweep across the world.  It is happening right now at this very second.  The very same currents of growth and development that set the initial stage for the sixties revolution—vertical and horizontal growth through stages and states of consciousness—have begun to flow together once again, creating an upswell of consciousness, care, and creative novelty that has not been seen in decades.  Our revolution approaches; all we can do is hope that our soundtrack will be as cool as theirs was.

During the sixites, we were almost entirely subject to these two mighty currents of evolution, unable to differentiate or even discern the forces that were dramatically shaping our minds and our hearts. But now we have a map—one of the most significant differences between the new revolution and the old—that can actually help make sense of the chaotic territory of human potential.  And not just any map; it’s a map that shows us where exactly we are at any given point in relation to the full totality of the natural and spiritual world.  A map which, for those casualties of addiction who became irrevocably lost in the psychedelic wilderness of their minds, could have been immensely useful fifty years ago.

It might be fair to say that the worldwide transformation promised by the sixties counterculture was largely stillborn, its momentum permanently hamstrung by political assassinations and various forms of cultural fallout. But evolution has continued surging on nonetheless, pumping, pulsing, and pushing humanity into the horizon of tomorrow’s possibilities.

The Integral Revolution is one that is based upon principles of compassion, clarity, and inclusiveness—principles that also defined the sixties revolution in many ways, though they did not have the sophisticated tools and methodologies that we currently have, nor the complexities of today’s world and the capacity for integral thought that arises alongside them.  Although we do not yet know what shape our own revolution will take, when it will hit critical mass, and how exactly it will transform our lives and our world, we do know that it is happening only because of pioneers like you, dedicating your lives toward deepening and enriching our humanity and divinity alike.

A willingness to step beyond our personal and cultural points of view while remaining true to our own unique perspective; to sanctify the common ground between different sciences and different spiritual traditions while fully honoring and celebrating the differences between them; to hold all the contradictions and paradoxes of knowledge gently in one hand while cutting through the confusion and fragmentation with the other—these are precisely the sorts of qualities that define Integral Revolution. Shouting William Stern’s slogan from the mountaintop like a 21st-century battle-cry—Unitas Multiplex!—we find unity within the heart of diversity, forged deep in the furnace of purpose.

The Integral Revolution: the result of an unstoppable force meeting an unmovable subject.

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