22nd March 2008
Self-reflexive Challenges of Integrative Futures
- / -
-- Controversy | Doubt vs Certainty |
Questions vs Answers | Future development
Witness | "Shadow" |
A question of style?
Integrative implications and the hidden dynamics of denial
A pattern language for design of appropriate complexity?
Abstract: Contrasts the approach to "futures" characteristic
of Ken Wilber, and Integral Futures, with the approach taken by David Lorimer,
and the Scientific and Medical Network. The differences between these approaches,
for any integrative understanding of futures, are presented as arising from
stylistic preferences and biases which are usefully highlighted with a range
of metaphors. These however highlight the challenge of any more integrative
understanding, especially in the light of hidden dynamics of exclusion in
a questionable effort to demonstrate that one approach is "better" than another
in a complex human endeavour -- especially when the future is sensed strategically
through other metaphors than "vision". Consideration is given to the possible
use of a pattern language to address such issues, especially given questions
regarding the adequacy of text on a conventional surface to hold complex
significance and interrelationships. It is concluded that integrative futures
is then the strange quest for how cognitively to embody the extremes represented
by Wilber and Lorimer in the present -- to evoke the greater harmony through
engaging creatively with the dissonant pattern of imperfections.
Augmented version of an earlier document (Wilber, Lorimer,
Varela and Everything
2003) in response to the critique in the special issue of Futures:
the journal of policy, planning and futures studies
(40, 2, March
2008) on "integral
futures". It appears under the revised title in
a different format in that journal (2008) with other responses. Abridged version published in: Futures
, 42, 2, March 2010, pp. 154-161
This exploration is about "everything" as exemplified by the initiatives
of Ken Wilber and David Lorimer. More precisely
it is about how such reflections affect me and enhance or inhibit my own integrative
Part of the fascination in endeavouring to craft a comment on the special
edition on "integral futures" (Futures:
the journal of policy, planning and futures studies, 40, 2, 2008), as edited
by Richard Slaughter, lies
outside the technicalities of academic discourse through which positions are
presented, criticized and debated. The question for me, and I assume for others,
is how a coherent understanding is enabled in the face of a spray of "points" and "lines" of
argument -- to say nothing of the very "volume" of such discourse
which somehow makes up the "body" of
available knowledge at this time. At the same time one knows full well that
pre-logical biases and preferences swing into play in filtering, weighting
or dismissing content considered (highly) significant by others. One may also
be aware that the body of knowledge, like any planet, has "curvature" --
giving rise to "horizon effects" that ensure that some knowledge
will not be available to me and that some I prefer will be cast into shadow
when those others are appropriately enlightened.
It is for such reasons that it is valuable to consider the challenge for
anyone coming to integrative questions for the first time and struggling to
work out what are the integrative relationships between positions that seem
to be at odds with each other -- especially when those differences and dynamics
are not integrated into what are put forward as integrative frameworks. My
own early attempt to honour those who took integrative matters seriously
was the profiling in 1976 of 421 "Integrative,
Unitary and Transdisciplinary Concepts" within the context of the Yearbook of World Problems
and Human Potential with a
bibliography of relevant studies. That exercise also endeavoured to associate
those understandings with the separate extant set of understandings of "human
and of "human values" as described in Futures at that time
and Human Potential: a data interlinkage and display process, Futures:
the journal of forecasting and planning,
7, 3, 1975, pp. 209-220).
However one of the obvious challenges was whether the degree of integration
of any integrative endeavour got beyond the binding of the book in which the
various approaches were presented (delightfully named as Buchbindersynthese in
There is also something subtle to be questioned in any "confrontation" between
one's own "integrative" efforts over the years and those of any other
-- however wise, experienced or honourable. This is the context for considering
here the work of Ken Wilber (and "integral futures"), in contrast
with that of David Lorimer (notably
as director and principal bibliographer of the Scientific
and Medical Network and its Network
The achievements of Ken Wilber in addressing a wide range of issues articulated
in many traditions and disciplines are truly heroic. His energy and productivity
with regard to "consciousness" have been widely acknowledged. His
books touch in various ways on these topics (The Spectrum
1977; A Brief History of Everything,
1996; A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for
Business, Politics, Science and Spirituality, 2000).
Ken Wilber is necessarily a controversial figure. Part of the purpose here
is to explore how what he has achieved, and how he has achieved it, challenges
my own understanding. This is given a particular focus by the seeming completeness
of his understanding expressed through his much-cited AQAL "quadrant
-- and the certainty of his perspective in terms of what he terms the Witness.
1. Controversy: In what way does any "Theory of Everything",
like Wilber's, allow for, or predict, controversy? In such a model, where
are those who do not subscribe to it? How do they "have their place" within
the framework with which they disagree? Is their state of consciousness to
be understood as being of a less refined form? To what extent does Wilber's
model imply that those who disagree with it are necessarily less aware -- namely
that agreement with it is an indicator of a subtler state of awareness?
There are many insightful spiritual traditions with strong advocates. Without
questioning the merits of the synthesis achieved by Wilber, surely a major challenge
is to position the variety of other patterns of insight in a manner that honours
the decades (if not centuries) of dedication to such disciplines?
The delicate question here is how to position understanding that may be perceived
as "lesser" in the light of some other model without precluding
the possibility that from some other perspective it may indeed offer a worthy
pathway and ultimate insight, that may be equal, if not "superior" to
that advanced by Wilber. Is it possible that appropriateness may be a function
of education, culture, genetic disposition, or other predetermining factors?
More fundamentally however, what role does controversy -- and the clash of
perspectives -- have in relation to the subtler states of consciousness? Is
the dynamic it represents fundamental to life and awareness in some way -- in
a world in which many aspire to "make a difference" and are extolled
to do so in a competitive environment?
2. Doubt vs Certainty: Wilber's work appears notably lacking in doubt.
Certainty has been sought and achieved and wrapped into a model. Where is
doubt in that model? Is it in someway implicit in the challenge of understanding
the transition between various levels of the model?
In many traditions the struggle with doubt and the accommodation with uncertainty
are important dynamics. Mathematics has had to become resigned to its failure
to achieve the level of certainty that was its original goal (Kurt
The poet John Keats is renowned for recognition of the essence of maturity
in terms of
"negative capability". This is the capacity of "being in uncertainties,
mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason".
Does the absence of doubt preclude dialogue of a quality from which mutual
learning can emerge? No doubt, No dialogue?
How does Wilber provide for such dialogue in a context in which his model,
as with many others, generates controversy? He himself deliberately avoids
the conventional pattern of conferences and dialogues -- with occasional exceptions
where these are primarily centered on his work. Is this a form of avoidance
of challenge by those who might consider themselves his peers -- however erroneously?
As a lifestyle choice, this may not be cause for criticism, but it does raise
the question of how his model catalyzes fruitful dialogue in contexts where
others prefer other models.
3. Questions vs Answers: As with much spiritually-oriented discourse,
Wilber positions himself through his model as an answerer of questions. This
is the traditional guru-disciple relationship that is honoured in many traditions.
The disciple asks the questions. The guru answers them.
Does the guru have questions that he might appropriately address to other gurus
in a dynamic in which all are questioners and answerers? Why is the dialogue
between gurus of very different persuasion so impoverished -- given their undoubted
What is the status of "question" or "answer" in relation
to theories of Everything? Do questions
and answers occur at certain boundaries? To what extent do they reflect a dualistic
dynamic that needs to be transcended to hold any subtler modes of awareness?
More intriguing still, why is a Theory of Everything framed as a noun, when
it might be a verb or some other grammatical device?
4. Future development: A major challenge for any model is its status
in time. As a Theory of Everything, how eternal and sustainable is Wilber's
model? There are many models that claim to be unchanging, notably those associated
with scriptures. Their relationship to other models constitutes a major challenge
When such models are effectively "set in stone", one must either
subscribe to them -- thereby automatically distancing oneself from others --
or subscribe to some other model, thereby finding oneself marked or stereotyped
by the first.
How does Wilber's model account for development of understanding over time?
Whilst he gives considerable attention to the development of understandings
of consciousness, he positions his model as the culmination of such development.
How then does such a Theory of Everything provide for its own development? Its
structure would seem to preclude any analogue to growth rings in a tree trunk.
Such development may derive from evolution in Wilber's own thinking, within
his lifetime. Others may offer ways forward that supercede his Theory of Everything
-- as suggested by David Lorimer with respect to the recently published work
of Jorge Ferrer (Revisioning Transpersonal Therapy: a
participatory vision of human spirituality, 2002). To what extent does
any model of the status of Wilber's constitute an act of colonizing the future
of the development of consciousness and understanding -- a form of conceptual
imperialism? By saying what "is" for others,
to what extent does it preclude new insight as has tended to be the case
of those models "set
in stone" in the past?
This question is rendered all the more complex because, as a model that identifies
the awareness of timelessness, how new insight emerges over time to challenge
a particular model is a dynamic that constitutes a paradox. In a sense there
is "nowhere" to go in space-time because one is already "there".
But movement in space-time nevertheless has its "place" in a model
that transcends space-time.
5. Witness: Wilber attributes the highest value
to the awareness of the Witness through which the essence of "everything" is "tasted" (One
Taste: The Journals of Ken Wilber, 1999)
He positions this awareness as the culmination of many disciplines requiring
years of training to which only the very few are prepared to submit themselves.
Whilst few would question his dedication in achieving such awareness, his
account of it does position him as having an exclusive insight from which
he can make pronouncements that only the foolhardy -- from the perspective
of his model -- would dare to challenge. To what extent has he designed and
built himself an impregnable castle or prison? To what extent are the insights
of that castle more accessible to others than his claims imply? This possibility
is highlighted by the contrast in many traditions between rapid enlightenment
and that which is the fruit of long effort as reviewed by Peter Gregory
(Sudden and Gradual: Approaches to Enlightenment in Chinese
Thought, 1991). In Christianity
any such rapidity is indicated in terms of "grace".
The "centro-centric" understanding of Everything through Witness
awareness precludes the possibility of distributive understanding of Everything.
By this might be meant the possibility that, as with the fingers of a hand
endeavouring to hold a ball, Everything can only be "grasped" by
several fingers together. Is it possible that his Witness awareness is but
one of the fingers and that fingers from other models are required for larger
awareness? Of course
"grasp" is an entirely inappropriate metaphor as he would indeed
6. "Shadow": There is a long tradition of considering that
gurus who have struggled towards wisdom and subtler modes of awareness, as
in the case of Wilber, are in many ways above criticism -- to the point of
free". Indeed the problematic facets of their characters are not a matter
for reflection by their disciples, typically urged into "positive thinking".
Such facets only emerge in accounts by the disaffected whose objectivity
is itself questionable -- as "negative thinking". Is the existence
of such problematic facets of relevance to the insights of any Theory of
Everything? Is the failure to address them in a non-dualistic manner evidence
of the kind of polarized thinking such a model seeks to transcend?
Of what relevance are the insights of depth psychologists suggesting that
it is through such "shadow" features that greater integration and
maturity lie? Is it not the case that such shadow features are precisely what
undermines meaningful interaction between those of differing traditions and
approaches to subtler forms of awareness? Again, is concern about such shadow
dynamics not a healthy corrective to false certainty -- enabling the degree
of doubt vital to new learning?
7. Formal metaphors: Wilber's core model takes the geometric form
of concentric circles divided into four quadrants. As such it resembles a mandala
or yantra. But there are many kinds of mandala or yantra that are used to carry
other insights into the realms of consciousness. More generally still, to what
extent do many features of mathematics (and especially geometry) not have the
capacity to act as templates to carry insights of relevance to a Theory of
Everything? The point to be made is that it is possible that is the class of
such features that may have the capacity to carry the degree of diversity characteristic
of Everything -- and that the geometrically simple form selected by Wilber
is not adequate for some purposes that the model is required to serve.
Whilst a circle may indeed be understood as a basic means of carrying the notion
of Everything, Emptiness and and Nothingness, what functions might other mathematical
features have that are not well-carried by that chosen for the expression of
What mathematical transformation could usefully be applied to complexify
the basic model? What would be the additional significance of representing
the model in three dimensions as concentric spheres -- with eight quadrants
instead of four, for example?
Whereas Ken Wilber's strength may be understood as a synthesizer who has positioned
his output in a manner to gather a network of enthusiastic supporters for
his work, David Lorimer is an exemplar of a quite different strategy. The
mission of the Scientific and Medical Network (SMN), and its journal (Network
Review) has been declared to be: "To challenge the adequacy of scientific
materialism as an explanation of reality". In fulfillment of this mission
it organizes conferences and workshops, notably on consciousness-related
issues. The journal carries articles on a wide range of topics in conformity
with this mission.
Whereas Ken Wilber's efforts result in a synthesis, in the formal construction
of which the contributions of others are barely relevant, the Network Review
carries the variety of perspectives that point in various ways to such a synthesis.
However any reading of a whole issue makes it absolutely clear that, although
there may be some resonant associations between some contributions, it is
the contrasting features of the diversity of contributions which is most striking
as described by the author in that journal (Musings
on information of higher quality, Network Review:
journal of the Scientific and Medical Network, 61, 1996, pp. 32-33)..
The image that comes to
mind is of a conference hall with the many contributors each pointing to
where the overarching truth is to be located -- but pointing in quite different
directions. There is no synthesis in the wilberian sense. Many contrasting
Theories of Everything -- and ultimate states of consciousness -- are presented.
This might be said to respond to the concern expressed by Marcus Bussey in
this issue (Resistance is not futile: escaping the integral
the journal of policy, planning and futures studies, 2008)
There is a paradox lying at the heart of integral futures (IF). This paradox
is built into the word integral which, as Joseph Voros points out, is rooted
in a meaning base which includes: 'whole, complete; essential; balanced;
joined into a greater unity' [Integral futures: an approach
to futures inquiry, Futures, 40, 2, 2008, p.197). It is this
word 'unity' that
troubles me and explains why, although as Jennifer Gidley and Gary Hampson
(2008) point out there are multiple 'integrals' in
circulation, I generally avoid both the noun and the adjective in my work.
However, for the purposes of this discussion, the focus here is on David Lorimer's
role in providing extensive reviews of numerous books for the thrice-yearly
issues of the journal. The argument here is that there is an interesting sense
in which, in contrast to Wilber's static model, it is the dynamic of Lorimer's
continuing passage amongst this diversity of perspectives -- effectively "walking
their talk" through his brief, but assiduous and sympathetic identification,
with each such worldview -- that provides a form of distributive synthesis.
The coherence binding the disparate and competing (and occasionally mutually
disparaging) theories of Everything is the proactive awareness of David
Lorimer. It is his dynamic awareness that is a crude analogue to Wilber's
Witness awareness -- for indeed Lorimer is bearing witness to the variety
of endeavours to give form to a Theory of Everything (including that of
Lorimer's achievement is to provide a framework through his activity through
SMN to transcend the phenomenon identified by Mara Bellar (Quantum
Dialogue: the making of a revolution,
1999), namely how world
famous scientists associated with the development of quantum theory promoted
their views by dismissing their opponents as "unreasonable" and
championing their own not-so-coherent ideas as "inevitable".
This dynamic synthesis does not lend itself to articulation in some closed
and final form. In fact it is Lorimer's receptivity to further insights that
is vital to ensuring the viability of SMN as an attractor. He may however
venture such a partial synthesis in the moment for particular purposes (Radical
Prince: The Practical Vision of the Prince of Wales, 2003).
The point to be made here is that the larger perspective is poorly represented
through any one Theory of Everything at this time -- especially because of the
way in which each such theory is challenged to account for theories that do
not fully accord with it. Such discordant theories are nevertheless part of
the reality to which all are exposed and from which all must elicit a synthesis,
if only by excluding as inadequate all but the one which they prefer.
Perhaps it might be useful to see the Scientific and Medical Network as an
orchestra in which the various instrumentalists are pursuing different theories
of harmony. Certain chords and melodies may briefly articulate and give coherence
to the whole, but the creative dedication of each musical explorer is not (yet)
to be sacrificed to an overriding pattern of concord. It is within this context
that David Lorimer moves as a new type of "conductor" whose role is
specifically not to impose order upon the whole. Rather through indirection
he must seek to ensure that one instrumentalist is at least aware of the experiments
undertaken by another, in the hopes that from this awareness may emerge a collective
responsiveness to a larger understanding. As a conductor of the most avant
garde form, it is his role to bridge between the most disparate musical
experiments and to hear the "overtones" that justify their seemingly
A question of style?
As a philosopher, Nicholas Rescher (The Strife of Systems:
an essay on the grounds and implications of philosophical diversity, 1985)
responded to such distinctly unintegrative conflict by concluding:
For centuries, most philosophers who have reflected on the matter have been
intimidated by the strife of systems. But the time has come to put this behind
us -- not the strife, that is, which is ineliminable, but the felt need to
somehow end it rather than simply accept it and take it in stride. To reemphasize
the salient point: it would be bizarre to think that philosophy is not of
value because philosophical positions are bound to reflect the particular
values we hold.
This said however, Rescher's argument does not necessarily preclude the possibility
of new ways to take the strife "in stride". Indeed it has been argued elsewhere
by the author that new forms of transdisciplinarity may effectively emerge
from "striding" (Transcending
duality as the conceptual equivalent of learning to walk, Journal
of the Interdisciplinary Crossroads, 2, 2, 2005).
A largely forgotten philosopher, W T Jones (W. T. Jones, The
Romantic Syndrome: toward a new methodology in cultural anthropology and
the history of ideas,
responded to the curiously conflictual dynamics of the many authors
seeking to define the "romantic period" and produced a set of
seven axes of bias on which they were variously positioned -- thereby predicting
the nature of the dynamics between them in academic discourse. He generalized
the approach to other domains, presumably making it relevant to the debate
on matters "integrative". There are several other authors who have
produced other such characterizations that could be used to the same end
A more specific approach might be to identify interesting metaphors by which
to characterize and distinguish approaches to matters "integrative", raising
the possibility of metaphorical challenges and resonances between them:
- spatial metaphor: To what extent can the AQAL structure
be compared to the biblical Tower
of Babel on which people progress upwards
to greater insight? Is the approach of Lorimer then to be seen as equivalent
to the management style of "walking the floor", exploring the many
buildings in a more or less urbanized knowledge environment that continues
to develop organically?
- garden metaphor: Is the AQAL structure to be
compared to a highly formal garden, whereas that of Lorimer to an untamed
wilderness garden -- or perhaps an extensive botanical garden specifically
seeking to include a wide range of exotic species?
- symbolic space: Is the highly structured integral approach to be compared
to the eternal qualities of the imperial Forbidden City of Beijing, or the
Imperial Palace of Tokyo? Does that suggest that the challenge offered by
Lorimer is the contemplation offered by the empty spaces and varied perspectives
in a classic meditative Zen temple garden -- in which underdefinition is
the highest art?
- culinary metaphor: Is Wilber to be compared to a French
master chef, distinguished by the taste he has brought to the categories
presented , with Lorimer to be compared to a Japanese master chef
distinguished by it being impossible to determine whether he has done anything
to the categories presented in the raw?
- gallery metaphor: Is Wilber to be seen as offering a
collection of carefully chosen paintings in a viewing gallery forming a gentle
spiral from the ground level up to the top of the building -- precisely ordered
into stages along the way (as at the Guggenheim
Museum in New York). By contrast Lorimer might be understood as offering
a vast and "rambling" collection across the years -- which can
be systematically explored, as with the Hermitage
Museum in St Petersburg, only over a lifetime.
- music metaphor: As a symbol of integration par
is Wilber effectively promoting what the Catholic Church distinguishes as
"sacred music" -- uplifting to the human spirit understood in a particular
way -- in contrast with the vast array of other musical forms by which people
are variously "uplifted" according to their own lights? Is "integral futures"
then to be challenged by its diabolus
in musica -- the forbidden chord?
In terms of the gallery metaphor, one may like or not like any piece to
some degree. But it is surely unhelpful to focus on whether this
or that piece is true in some unique sense that marginalizes all others. They
may be facets of a larger understanding, but it is less helpful to be attached
to any one as especially true. Is this saying that we are moving into an era
(if we are not already there) in which the collection of such pieces will become
more vast than those of the works in the Hermitage collection. In the quest
for "integrative", what can one hope to derive from walking its galleries?
Is it rather the case that in the new era many will have their works "hung"
in special collections on the web to be perused with a variety of agendas?
Many others will be hung more discretely -- if not privately.
Integrative implications and the hidden dynamics
then is what does all that constitute? What happened to simplicity? What happened
to a simple integrative truth or insight -- philosophical or religious? The
inconvenient truth about truth would seem to be that its simplicity is not
to be found where it would be most convenient for it to be. Is the very size
of the collection in process of creating a cognitive analogue to that of overpopulation?
Of course many of the integrative works on display are pushing for the uniqueness
of their own perspective. But why the assumption that the rest of the world
should be persuaded of the merit of that truth above all others?
The challenge is then of how one prefers to explore competing alternative
understandings of "integrative". It is within such a context that
causal layered analysis (CLA) has a role to play as presented by Sohail Inayatullah
(The Causal Layered Analysis Reader: Theory and
Case Studies of an Integrative and Transformative
There is something unsatisfactory about discourse with strategic implications
when it is challenged by lack of self-reflexivity -- especially when those
who disagree with the implications exploit any such weakness to oppose them.
Is "integral futures" to be assessed in relation to CLA as a "better
as the arguments of the critiques of C. Riedy (2008), R. S. Slaughter (2008)
and J Voros (2008) would seem to imply? Or should be assessed as a "mousetrap"
which subsumes the functionality of CLA, rendering the latter of problematic
significance. Marcus Bussey (2008) skillfully explores the implications
of this attitude as he detects its manifestation in their arguments.
The irritation for any observer of the quest for "integrative" is this
obsessive need to be right and to marginalize others as wrong or inferior --
with little consideration of for whom this evaluation may usefully hold. From
the perspective of Jones 7-fold axes of bias, it is the degree of separation
of preferred integration within that space that then determines how wrong each
perceives the other to be. The challenge is what then?
Perhaps most tragic -- in a period when contrasting perspectives are presumably
essential to governance in crisis -- is the manner in which preferences and
problematic dynamics engender forms of discourse that are rarely if ever "integrated"
into "integrative" frameworks.
This is most evident between the leaders of distinct approaches
-- who are not renowned for enhancing the quality of their dialogue (if they
ever meet) to ensure the emergence of higher levels of integrative insight.
To make the point as vividly as possible this has been described elsewhere
by the author using the metaphor of body odour (Epistemological
challenge of cognitive body odour: exploring the underside of dialogue,
2006). It is not so much whether we can share each other's "vision",
it is that many of our decisions are based on whether the initiative of the
"smells" right. Decision-makers, especially entrepreneurs, may talk
in public but they may well act on "smell" in private -- whether
attracted or repelled by cognitive pheromones, as discussed previously (Metaphor
and the language of futures, Futures, 25, 2, 1993, pp. 275-288).
Rather than "vision" or "smell",
Wilber (1999) has favoured "taste".
This ignored integrative issue is currently exemplified in the very specific
case of the future strategic integration for a future Mediterranean Union
as proposed by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France and opposed by Angela Merkel,
Chancellor of Germany. As indicated by Ian Traynor (Germany
pours cold water on Sarkozy union, The Guardian, 14 March
Diplomats say the fundamental problem is one of personal chemistry, with
Merkel's self-effacing sobriety jarring with Sarkozy's attention-seeking
A pattern language for design of appropriate complexity?
In considering the above metaphors it is tempting to consider that "integration"
could be treated as a challenge of design in response to taste -- as a matter
of "cognitive decor". Such an approach could be given considerable
focus through the work of environmental architect Christopher
generalizing his approach to the design of spaces
-- places in which it is a pleasure to be. His work had been based on abstract
on the Synthesis of Form, 1964)
followed by insights into a set
of practical patterns (A Pattern Language,
-- then related to the widely recognized
nature of the attractiveness of such spaces to which he refers as the "quality
without a name" (The Timeless Way of Building, 1979).
Of significance however is Alexander's approach to participative design, namely
how people and communities choose from patterns and combine them to enhance
"quality without a name". This must surely qualify as an integrative
approach of a high order. However, with similar concerns, it is appropriate
to note the possibility of cognitive analogues to the arguments of Lars Lerup
(Building the Unfinished; architecture and human action,
1977) who rejects
of established architecture and its attempt to create a perfect fit between
people and their physical settings -- thereby neglecting the manner in which
people subsequently act upon their surroundings. This view was also strongly
promoted by an early architectural futurist Yona Friedman. What indeed are
the cognitive analogues to the design of integrative spaces -- perhaps as envisaged
by Marsilio Ficino?
The very use of the term "pattern" reinforces the particular visual
bias through which patterns are recognized. It is therefore valuable to recognize
the challenge offered by Michael Schiltz (Form
and medium: a mathematical reconstruction. Image
[&] Narrative, 6, 2003)
in relation to the calculus of indications of George
Spencer-Brown (Laws of Form, Allen and Unwin, London,
1969/1994). Schiltz notes
that form/medium is "the image for systemic connectivity and concatenation",
as described by Humberto
Maturana and Francesco
Varela. he further notes, that the notion of "space" is the key to reflexivity
appropriate to any discussion of form and medium:
It was our choice to write in a plane surface that has made that distinctions
indeed do cut off an inside from an outside, that 'differences do make
a difference' (Gregory
Bateson). Covert conventions at a level deeper than the level of form,
preceding the level of form, have determined what the form would do. There
lies a chance for developing a medium theory here. In this concrete case:
the medium of the plane surface makes the difference. And in general: the
topology of the medium makes the difference between distinctions making
a difference and distinctions not making a difference. 'It is now evident that if
a different surface is used, what is written on it, although identical in marking
may be not identical in meaning"... Spencer-Brown has shown us that the 'medium
is the message' (Marshall
Hence, we are writing in a space that connects the level of first-order
(operand) and second-order (operator) observations. That space is a torus.
If considered operationally, distinctions written on a torus can subvert
their boundaries and re-enter the space they distinguish, turning up in
their own form. The marked state cannot be clearly distinguished
from the unmarked state anymore, leading to the 'indeterminacy' of
the form. As the calculus explains, the state envisaged as such is a state
not hitherto envisaged in the form. It is neither marked nor unmarked.
It is an imaginary value, flipping between marked and unmarked, thanks
to the employment of time. The form of the re-entry,
as described here, has been the source of many commentaries....
Such conceptualization diverts sharply from an intuitive understanding of
a medium. As seen here, a medium is far from a Euclidean container. Rather
is it introverted space, it is identical to the topology of the form,
it is the form's 'deep structure'.
What is then to be said of integrative approaches variously engraved as linear
text on a planar surface -- or the consequent inhibition of their possible
connectivity with other such approaches? Does the integration of spiral
dynamics into integral futures respond to the concerns raised by Schiltz?
Does the approach exemplified by Lorimer allow for the emergence of such complexity
even if it does not reduce it to a conveniently comprehensible formula? Such
questions have notably been addressed by the author in relation
to Wilber's "one-way" use of the conveyor metaphor (Potential
misuse of the conveyor metaphor: recognition of the circular dynamic essential
to its operation, Journal of
Futures Studies: epistemology, methods, applied and alternative futures,
12, 1, 2007, pp. 109-130).
The bias of this commentary lies in a preference for an understanding of "integrative"
that accepts and transcends the challenge of Wilber vs Lorimer vs Anyother
Theory of Everything. This challenge welcomes the formal garden offered by
Wilber and the charming disorder for which Lorimer offers a hands-off curatorial
role. Life is enriched by the co-existence of papal dynamics and stewardship
dynamics -- but it is their relationship that calls for more complex insights.
Integral futures is necessarily challenged by the difficulty of Ken Wilber
in having positioned himself and his ventures in a style to be caricatured
as the Craig Venter (A
Life Decoded: My Genome, My Life. 2007)
of memetics (rather than genetics)! One is concerned with mapping and "cracking" the
human psychosocial "genome"
and the other with mapping and "cracking" the human genome -- and
then exploiting any exclusive patents to the full. Both might even be said
to be equally concerned with "spiral dynamics".
There are learnings to be
derived from the comparison with both the papacy and Venter.
This is evident in the efforts made to control or marginalize the intellectual/memetic
copyright of others. In the case of Venter, the predictability expected from
his success has been undermined by the complex dynamics of folding proteins.
The Pope has been faced with the legacy of his predecessor's excommunication
of Galileo and Luther centuries ago -- with a degree of rehabilitation being
offered only in this current decade. What is the nature of the "excommunication"
that "integral futures" might now practice and how long might it
take for that to be regretted? How does "excommunication" feature
in integrative thinking? What dialogue guidance does "integral futures" offer
to those who might find reason to disagree with it? (Guidelines
for critical dialogue between worldviews, Journal
of Futures Studies: epistemology, methods, applied and alternative futures,
11, 2, 2006, pp. 137-154).
One designer of complex modern airport buildings makes the valuable distinction
that appropriate integration may be sought through the simulated representation
of the flow of people and goods through the airport -- a conventional
systems explanation. This view "from another plane" he distinguishes
from the valuable insights to be obtained by viewing the airport from within
the reality of any flow through it
It might be argued that "integral
a judgemental explanation from
the plane of a "cyclopean" meta/virtual perspective, as in the first
case. Is there also a need for insight from within the flow -- an "implanation",
as argued elsewhere (Cyclopean
vision vs Poly-sensual engagement, Journal
of the Interdisciplinary Crossroads, 2, 2, 2006, pp. 219-251)? Above
all, however, there is surely a need for processes that reconcile the tendency
to assert primacy for particular methodologies and philosophies -- a paradoxical
need that could be understood as a self-reflexive joke.
The strategic challenge over centuries has been framed as the normative reduction
of multiple incommensurable prescriptions to a single integrative variant
-- the same "hymn sheet" -- whether by persuasion, manipulation or
violence. Resources continue to be allocated desperately to this end, despite
only too evident incapacity in the delivery of remedies, and abetted by both
"positive" reframing ("spin") and deep denial. Almost no
attention is given to the challenge of interrelating incommensurables and minimizing
the violence done to them in the process -- the challenge of "poly-ocular
to the avoidance of "sub-understanding", as argued by Magoroh Maruyama
(Polyocular vision or subunderstanding? Organization
Studies, 25, 2004, pp. 467-480).
is a challenge of embodiment that calls for a new order of self-reflexivity,
as presented by George
Mark Johnson (Philosophy
In The Flesh: the embodied mind and its challenge to western thought,
1999) and by Francisco
Varela (Laying Down a Path in Walking: essays on enactive
is again paradoxical given that this can itself be understood as just another
prescription -- even though, following Schiltz, its "inscription" needs
to be on a more complex surface that evokes a "postcription" as a
self-reflexive feedback loop. More elegantly, borrowing from the famous poem
Khayyám: When "The Moving Finger" has written, the challenge
is to where it then "Moves On".
As one provocative source of learning on the new thinking required
-- returning to the musical metaphor -- what could possibly be the secret
of the counter-intuitive success of the Really
Terrible Orchestra, as reported by Alexander McCall Smith (And
the band played badly, International Herald Tribune, 11
March 2008)? Lorimer's role in striving to include the painfully
challenged might indeed be compared to that of its conductor,
where Wilber would necessarily exclude those instrumentalists who undermined
the music of the spheres to which he is so well attuned. Integrative futures
is then the strange quest for how cognitively to embody both roles in the
present -- to evoke the greater harmony through engaging creatively with
the dissonant pattern of imperfections.
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