Individual v Environment

[...] when it comes to the cause of human suffering, liberals tend to believe in exterior causes, whereas conservatives tend to believe in interior causes.

 That is, if an individual is suffering, the typical liberal tends to blame external social institutions (if you are poor it is because you are oppressed by society), whereas the typical conservative tends to blame internal factors (you are poor because you are lazy).

 Thus, the liberal recommends exterior social interventions: redistribute the wealth, change social institutions so that they produce fairer outcomes, evenly slice the economic pie, aim for equality for all. The typical conservative recommends that we instil family values, demand that individuals assume more responsibility for themselves, tighten up slack moral standards (often by embracing traditional religious values), encourage a work ethic, reward achievement, and so on.

The important point is that the first step toward an integral politics that unites the best of liberal and conservative is to recognize that both the interior quadrants and exterior quadrants are equally real and important. We consequently must address both interior factors (values, meaning, morals, the development of consciousness) and exterior factors (economic conditions, material well-being, technological advance, social safety net, environment) - in short, a truly integral politics would emphasize both interior development and exterior development.

[Ken Wilber]
A Theory of Everything, p.84

The Colour Spiral

All of these memes [colours] has something to contribute.

But what none of the first-tier [from beige through to green] memes can do, on their own, is fully appreciate the existence of the other memes. Each of the first-tier memes thinks that its worldview is the correct or best perspective. It reacts negatively if challenged; it lashes out, using its own tools, whenever it is threatened.

Blue order is very uncomfortable with both red impulsiveness and orange individualism. Orange individualism thinks blue order is for suckers and green egalitarianism is weak and woo-woo. Green egalitarianism cannot easily abide excellence and value-rankings, big pictures, hierarchies, or anything that appears authoritarian, and thus green reacts strongly to blue, orange, and anything post-green.

All of that begins to change with second-tier thinking. Because second-tier consciousness is fully aware of the interior stages of development - even if it cannot articulate them in a technical fashion - it steps back and grasps the big picture, and thus second-tier thinking appreciates the necessary role that all of the various memes play. Second tier awareness thinks in terms of the overall spiral of existence, and not merely in terms of any one level.

[Upon reaching second-tier thinking one can] vividly grasp the entire spectrum of interior development, and thus see that each level, each meme, each wave is crucially important for the health of the overall Spiral.

[...] without second-tier thinking [...] humanity is destined to remain victims of a global "autoimmune disease," where various memes turn on each other in an attempt to establish supremacy.

This is why many arguments are not really a matter of the better objective evidence, but of the subjective level of those arguing. No amount of orange scientific evidence will convince blue mythic believers; no amount of green bonding will impress orange aggressiveness; no amount of turquoise holism will dislodge green pluralism - unless the individual is ready to develop forward through the dynamic spiral of consciousness unfolding.

[Ken Wilber]
A Theory of Everything, p. 11-14


An integral synthesis, to be truly integral, must find a way that all of the major worldviews are basically true (even though partial).

It is not that the higher levels are giving more accurate views, and the lower levels are giving falsity, superstition, or primitive nonsense. There must be a sense in which even 'childish' magic and Santa Claus myths are true. For those worldviews are simply the way the world looks at that level, or from that wave, and all of the waves are crucial ingredients of the Kosmos.

At the mythic level, Santa Claus (or Zeus or Apollo or astrology) is a phenomenological reality. It will do no good to say, "Well, we have evolved beyond that stage, and so now we know that Santa Claus is not real," because if that is true - and all stages are shown to be primitive and false in light of further evolution - then we will have to admit that our own views, right now, are also false (because future evolution will move beyond them).

But it is not that there is one level of reality, and those other views are all primitive and incorrect versions of that one level. Each of those views is a correct view of a lower yet fundamentally important level of reality, not an incorrect view of the one real level. The notion of development allows us to recognize nested truths, not primitive superstitions.

[Ken Wilber]
A Theory of Everything, p. 111-12


I am often asked, why even attempt an integration of the various worldviews? Isn't it enough to simply celebrate the rich diversity of various views and not try to integrate them?

Well, recognizing diversity is certainly a noble endeavour, and I heartily support that pluralism. But if we remain merely at the stage of celebrating diversity, we ultimately are promoting fragmentation, alienation, separation and despair. You go your way, I go mine, we both fly apart - which is often what has happened under the reign of pluralistic relativists, who have left us a postmodern tower of Babel on too many fronts.

It is not enough to recognize the many ways in which we are all different; we need to go further and start recognizing the many ways that we are also similar. Otherwise we simply contribute to heapism, not wholism.

Building on the rich diversity offered by pluralistic relativism, we need to take the next step and weave those many strands into a holonic spiral of unifying connections, an interwoven Kosmos of mutual intermeshing. We need, in short, to move from pluralistic relativism to universal integralism - we need to keep trying to find the One-in-the-Many that is the form of the Kosmos itself.

[Ken Wilber]
A Theory of Everything, p. 112


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The Colour Wheel

Analogous colors are any three colors which are side by side on a 12 part color wheel, such as yellow-green, yellow, and yellow-orange. Usually one of the three colors predominates.

Complementary colors are pairs of colors which, when combined, cancel each other out. This means that when combined, they produce black, or if colored light (rather than pigment) is used, they produce white. When placed next to each other, they create the strongest contrast for those particular two colors.

Due to this striking color clash, the term opposite colors is often considered more appropriate than "complementary colors".


The colour wheel reminds us that opposing viewpoints can be held within the same structure. 

We can apply this analogy to ourselves as individuals, or to the larger collection of individuals that we call a society. Indeed, the wheel even suggests that not only can these pairs be seen as opposites but they can also be seen as complementary. Both descriptions offer us something useful.

How can two opposing views of something both be true?

Imagine you have two pairs of sunglasses, one with red lenses, the other with green lenses. You give these sunglasses to two people; one wears the red, the other wears the green. Both stand in the same room. You ask each to describe the colour of the room. One says 'red.' The other says 'green.'

If the room is red, then it cannot be green. If it is green, then it cannot be red. One truth appears to negate the other. Which colour is it then - red or green?

This is a trap we often find ourselves walking into on a daily basis. The Truth of the situation is that both views are 'correct.' But correct is a misleading word. It may be better to say that both offer us a truthful view. It is through the combination of these views that we get nearer to Truth with a capital 'T.'

The Truth of the colour spectrum is in the combination of all colours: white light. The same can be said about the spectrum of people. We each offer a view, one that is characterised by the various lenses that we wear. Our lenses arise from our individual biases; which, depending on what you believe, arise from our various experiences and/or our basic personality type. Whatever you attribute the cause of our lenses to be, it is undeniable that we all wear them: that each of us offers a unique view of things.

In the same way that the colour wheel contains an infinite variety of colours, each one merging into the next, the people-wheel comprises an infinite variety of views. Whilst one colour may be indistinguishable from its neighbour, each is also unique.

And whilst a certain situation may call for red rather than green, this does not mean that red is any more truthful than green. It simply shows us that each colour has its strengths and weaknesses, and that in one context a certain colour may be more appropriate, and in another it may not.

So whilst each colour holds an equal - and often opposing - truth, it is context that defines a colour's value in any given moment.

In referring to our opposite as complementary we acknowledge that together - as a pair of opposites - we form a balance. In a larger sense, we need them, and they need us. Remove any of the colours from the spectrum and we lose the ability to create white light - in other words, we lose our path towards Truth.

It is all too easy to fall into the trap of believing our own view - our own colour - to be 'the right one.' In times like these we would do well to remember the wheel. In remembering that all colours are needed to form the balanced spectrum, we are able to put our own little contribution into perspective.

That little feeling we often get, that we alone hold the Truth, is a trustworthy one. What we are sensing is the white light from which our individual colour was refracted. Our only mistake is to confuse our surface truth - our small piece of the spectrum - with the universal Truth of white light. It is when we are able to see beyond our individual viewpoint to the larger balance - the full spectrum - that we are able to to see things in a more balanced and Truthful light.

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Addiction: the Short and the Long of It

Here are two ways in which we can view addiction:

1. As an individual problem
2. As an environmental problem

We must ask ourselves: what is the wisest way to view it?

To answer this question, we must first know our goals. What kind of society do we want? For example, someone who desires an unbalanced society in which the few exploit the many will suggest different solutions to someone who desires a more level playing field. As a collective, our goals must be based on consensus. Our wisdom, and our solutions, then spring from these goals.

This isn't to suggest that the goals we settle on, and the wisdom we let guide us, are always going to be healthy for us; at an individual or collective level. Many of us chase goals that are decidedly unhealthy. Collectively we are currently driven by the wisdom of commerce, which is healthy for corporations, but unhealthy for human beings. Each of us must look in our hearts to decide how it is we want the world to be. It is here that true wisdom resides.

Perhaps how we view addiction depends on our understanding of what it is. One way of looking at it is to place emphasis on the object of the addiction. This approach focuses on 'addicts' and 'addictive substances.' It is what we could call the narrow, or short-sighted, approach. We focus on the immediate problem, the stimulus. Yet if our focus remains here then we risk overlooking the cause of that stimulus. To use a cycling analogy, it is akin to fixing a puncture in your bicycle inner-tube, yet overlooking the thorn that is stuck in your tyre. You have solved the immediate problem (the hole that let out the air has been patched), but have failed to address the cause (the thorn that caused the hole remains in your tyre). Thus, in time, the problem will reoccur.

All things can be approached with either a short or a long view. Which view we tend to take depends on the type of person we are, and whatever biases we may have picked up over the years. Thus, one view is, in itself, no better or worse than the other, in much the same way that a square is no better than a circle. However, in a certain context one view may serve us better than the other; just as a circle makes a better wheel, and a square makes a better brick.

Of course, we can take either view in any given situation. But what type of person we are will determine which mindset we tend towards. Some are naturally biased towards the long view, some towards the short. Clues to this can be found in labels like 'men of action' and 'men of words,' amongst other terms. Taking the long-view is like standing atop a mountain; from such a height we are able to see how all things fit together - how the river winds around the forest; how the city streets form a geometric pattern. But what we cannot see are the details. The cracks in the pavement; the stones on the riverbed; the insects in the grass. The short-view is to be found at the bottom of the mountain. From here we can see all of those details. But we don't see how anything fits together. These views complement each other, and together they provide a full picture.

In taking the short-view we are able to devise short-term solutions. One of the good things about such answers is that they are quick. The short-view is decisive; if your boat is on fire then you jump into the water. It may strike you later that there could be predators around, or that you may freeze. The moment required a decisive decision - weighing up your options could have cost you your life. Thus, in this context, a short view was favourable.

When looking at the issue of addiction, the short-view takes the first things that it gets to along the line of causality - the substance and the addict - and it looks for solutions at this level. It comes up with ideas like the following; prohibiting certain substances; urging restraint and self-control; criminalising addicts; support-groups; and so on. All are short-term solutions, and may have varying degrees of success in the short-term. They are the patch on the inner-tube. Patch the hole and no more air can escape: take the substance away and no-one can get addicted to it. Logical and effective. For a while.

The long-view travels further along the chain of causality. If it works its way back far enough it may begin to realise that an addict is not an isolated individual; and if it goes further it may see that addiction is not an isolated problem. It may see that it shares a root with a lot of other seemingly unrelated problems. And that most of these problems stem from a dysfunctional environment. The problem for the long-view is always where to draw the line; where to stop chasing that endless chain of causes. Wisdom may well dictate this line.

To state it one more time: there are two ways in which we can view addiction:

1. As an individual problem (short-view)
2. As an environmental problem (long-view)

It is natural for a long-view to see the environment and the short-view to see the object within the environment. One sees forest, the other trees. Both are important. But which will offer you the best solution to achieve your goal? And what is your goal?

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