Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution

By Steve McIntosh

Summary by Leslie King, Atlantic University



          With a frustrated jab to the power button, the television, once blazing with the colors of artificial life and the problems of the world, turns blank. In this state it has the potential of a blank canvas. Then I think, "what if that dark blankness has the same potential as creating hope?" What if the blank screen could transcend the darkness of our current world issues and show us that what we are experiencing in our day-to-day lives is nothing more than growing pains of evolution?

          The screen would show a metaphor. Out of the darkness the form of an infant would appear. We would be oblivious to the special effect, as we viewers watch the infant morph into a toddler, a young child, and then a pubescent teenager. Perhaps we would relate to the leg cramps and other painful insinuations of the human growth processes as we watch the child grow into a young adult, leaving awkwardness aside for the grace of adulthood. And the metaphor? This would represent the process of evolution involving integral consciousness.

          Integral consciousness is a philosophy that is about the integration of the past and present to create a sustainable future. It makes sure we learn from each level of our growth, retaining the good and transforming the undesirable into something productive (making sure we do not make the same mistakes and regress). It considers objective, subjective and intersubjective concepts. The objective includes ideas that have a physicality to them or are scientifically proven -- things that are experienced externally. Subjective includes concepts that are known internally but are not tangibly proven with the senses, such as beliefs. Intersubjective consciousness includes the space between things. This can be thought of as the space between words when you have a conversation. Sometimes the pauses are just as important as the words themselves. The pause exists on its own, but is dependent upon the support of the words before and after it. In terms of integral philosophy, intersubjective consciousness is the relationship that occurs between two things. It exists in the minds of two or more people simultaneously and yet is not wholly of one person or another, but cannot exist without both people.

          The integral philosophy approach to consciousness and spirituality allows us to see the overall plot-line (staying with our television metaphor) of consciousness. Consciousness is part of the evolutionary scheme. It allows scientism (that which can be proven based on human senses) and spirituality to co-exist. Rather than saying that one of these is better than the other (or any other particular worldview), integral philosophy says, "Come on in. The water is fine, and there is room for everyone." It says to scientism, "Your ideas are good. They are stable and proven, but there is also room for things beyond that cannot be proven with the tangible senses." This is done through a systems science approach that looks at recorded history. Because events were recorded and organized (chronologically), they have a certain existence and can be studied. This is considered systems science because it shows that evolution occurs through a self-organizing dynamic system. Through this, we can study worldviews and begin to understand that portions of culture are about spirituality -- the beliefs that motivate and encourage people to live a certain way. Integral spirituality can provide a meeting of the minds to create a oneness of ideas --  not meaning that it claims one religion or thought process before another, but that it considers universal commonalties that help everyone to evolve. For instance, a spirituality based on fear can be dissolved into one that promotes compassion, morality and loving-kindness -- hope. It moves us forward rather than regressing us.

          Integral theory is important because it provides a new inclusive consciousness, one that can help evolve civilization in a positive way. It allows us to put our particular time in history into perspective, continue growing and helping others to grow. Where many see total decay and destruction, the integral philosophy shows us another side - how we can get past ourselves and our limitations. Imagine a funnel. Now imagine that it has wire wrapped around it. Remove the funnel, but keep the wire structure so the bottom is small and the top is wide. This is called a didactical spiral, which we will use as a timeline. At the bottom is infancy (archaic). Moving up, we come to tribal, warrior, traditional, modern, post modern and to the expanse of integral consciousness. Consciousness moves up this spiral, flowing from one into the next. Each level comes into being and is stable, then problems caused by that stability arise. These issues force the current level to its crises, and the solutions it creates brings forth a new consciousness. Integral consciousness considers all the levels and what moved them forward. Each level is important for sustainability of that level and all the other levels that follow.

          Through Integral consciousness, we can look at various worldviews and understand where they are in their consciousness development. To help them move forward, they can learn from the past of others, helping them deal effectively with their own issues. Rather than forcing them to skip other levels to join those in integral consciousness, they are encouraged to proceed through all the levels. If one level is not sustainable, then regression and collapse will occur.

          Integral consciousness draws much attention because it bridges some of the gaps between a totally rational mentality, the materialistic world, and a higher consciousness. It allows more room for evolving ourselves and the world around us. It gives a direction for the world to flow. It shows us ways to deal with emerging civilizations who have just embraced traditionalism or even modernism. It provides solutions where, without Integral consciousness, apathy, greed, elitism or violence might pervade.

          By diminishing and rooting out the above conditions, integral philosophy negates the idea that any one consciousness is the be all, end all consciousness. It negates any elitism, because there is always something more -- a higher consciousness, in which to evolve. It even admits that there are higher consciousnesses than the integral consciousness, thus eliminating its own elitism. It lets go of that which has not worked or has caused crisis , and it educates from the experience (such as consciousness that thrives on fear). In its spirituality it seeks to eliminate fear and create greater compassion in its place. It seeks to be rid of the self-serving behaviors that do not consider fellow man.

          In this regard, the new possibilities that integral consciousness provides are infinite. With its expansiveness, including space for all that has come before in its own time and place, it does not hinder evolution. It accepts the process that must occur to sustain each civilization and provides every member the opportunity to grow in the same way, through each level, until they too reach integral consciousness. As it is not an end of evolution, advancement is endless and positive actions for creating a better, healthier world are possible. Solutions can be considered based on where a civilization is in its evolution, not one that would work only for integral consciousness, but for society as a whole as each level is needed. For those who are at a different level of evolution, they can help others over the hurdles that must be faced before evolving to the next level.

          If I was the person on the metaphorical television, in looking at my own developmental stages, integral consciousness shows me a new perspective by validating my internal idea of time and place. I believe everything that needs to happen, happens in its own time and place. Integral consciousness allows for this, letting evolution happen as it will, but giving it direction. I see elements of all the consciousness levels within me and even glimmers of integral consciousness. However, now I see the challenges in my past, and those that I will undoubtedly experience in the future are not just aggravations for a life of trepidation, but rather are necessary for my own growth. Each has led me to the here-and-now, and in the future they will be there to help me grow into a more evolved human. This approach also gives me a more optimistic view of the future. The issues we are currently facing -- economic strife, gas and energy shortages, environmental problems now seem as if they are part of the grand system design. Without them we would remain stagnant. With them there will be positive solutions that will move us forward. I see a lot of modernism and post-modernism within my life. Now I understand how to move beyond the helpless feelings of change that needs to occur. I know not to stand in progress's way, but to be part of the positive solutions.

          And so we return to our regularly scheduled programming, seeing what evolution needs to encompass, remembering where we have been, and growing from the process. Civilization, like human life, goes from infancy to maturity, aging gracefully in the wisdom of the past and the hope for the future.


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