The Developmental View

All of these memes [developmental stages] has something to contribute.

But what none of the first-tier 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

Transcend and Include

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

While Gebser’s major work, The Ever Present Origin (1949), sets out these structures in evolutionary sequence, he did not wish to imply that they are historical developments leading to integral consciousness as the ultimate human achievement.

While he presents his theory as a theory of the evolution of consciousness, he is adamant that he is not doing so within a fantasy of historical “development” or “progress”. Our tendency to think in such terms is an artifact of our dominant mental consciousness, in which our experience of time is linear and quantified.

Rather, reality is unfolding process, and the archaic, magic, mythical, mental and emerging integral structures are all valid ways of apprehending it.

From the point of view of rational-scientific culture, magical and mythical thinking are primitive and inferior forms of thinking which have limited value in the contemporary world.

However, we can argue that it is our capacity for mythical, and even magical, thinking that enables us to find meaning in our lives and gives us a grounding in the concrete world. Magical and mythical consciousness are neither better nor worse than mental-rational consciousness. They are simply older and different.

Re-owning and re-valuing them is a necessary step towards their integration in a new structure.  

The complexity of human behaviour comes out of the interplay of these several “layers” or “levels” of consciousness in whatever we do [...] Most significantly, all of the structures have both “efficient” and “deficient” forms [...] The later, more complex structures of consciousness are not better, or superior or “higher” than the earlier, simpler ones. They are simply later (in evolutionary and developmental terms) and more complex.

[Bernie Neville]
'Out of Our Depth and Treading Water: Reflections on Consciousness, Culture and New Learning Technologies'

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

Piaget started to understand that it was more important, not so much to understand the given structure of a knowledge structure, but to understand the manner in which knowledge structures transformed.

And that was partly illustrated in his description of stage theory, because stages were really movement from one set of axiomatic presuppositions with which the child was structuring the world, into a state where that system failed because it wasn’t sufficiently comprehensive; and then into the development of a new stage that could do everything that the previous stage could, plus account for all the things that the previous stage couldn’t.

That’s also why Piaget believed that knowledge actually accumulated, because each time there was a transformation the new structure had a wider range of applications than the previous structure, even though it kept all the advantages of the previous structure.

And that’s a good way of conceptualising progress […] if you think about a more sophisticated structure as being able to do more things properly, then you can certainly map out progress […]

[Jordan Peterson]
2017 Maps of Meaning 7: Images of Story & MetaStory

Third Order Thinking

Early adolescence marks the stage when schools and the broader culture demand of us that we undergo [a] transformation in our consciousness. We are expected to become capable of the cognitive complexity which Kegan calls third order thinking.

[The adolescent] can reason abstractly but cannot disidentify from her own reasoning […] She is capable of holding a coherent set of assumptions about life, a coherent disposition towards ultimate reality, but she is not capable of standing outside of it.

Third order thinking rationalizes a particular consensus view of reality, a particular way of imagining the world which is common to the family, tribe or culture. There is a taken-for-grantedness about the way the world is.

To stand outside this narrative, the adolescent must “leave home”, and experience the isolation and exhilaration of fourth order thinking.

Fourth Order Thinking

The contents of [the adolescent's] mind become the object of her knowledge, and she identifies with her capacity to reflect on them. Her thoughts become something she has, not something she is.

Her thoughts become the thoughts of an autonomous individual who does not depend on the authoritative voices of her culture to give them legitimacy, but can rather look at the evidence, whatever its source, and make successive approximations to the truth.

Not all of us manage to achieve this transformation, or if we do achieve it we tend to slip back into second order or third order consciousness for a good deal of the time. Our demand that students demonstrate this capacity for detached critical reflection may a source of stress for adolescents on the threshold of fourth order thinking. Others simply will not know what we are talking about.

Fifth Order Thinking

Our way of thinking, our way of determining the truth, is relativised as only one out of many ways of constructing reality. We cease to see ourselves and our truths as complete. Our truths are only complete in dialectic with other truths and our selves only exist in our interaction with others.


As a third order thinker I accept without question the truth as I have absorbed it. As a third order thinker you believe in your truth in the same uncritical way. I am right and you are wrong, and at best we tolerate each other.

As fourth order thinkers we each maintain a critical stance towards our truths, and our concern is to look critically at these truths and all other versions of the truth and decide which one best accords with the evidence.

As fifth order thinkers we regard all truths as partial, and if we find ourselves in dispute we are capable of constructing a truth which resides not only in both your partial truth and my partial truth but also in the tensions and contradictions between them.

In pre-scientific societies third order thinking was perfectly adequate to meet the demands of the environment. Fourth order thinking both enabled and was demanded by the Age of Science. The culture in which we find ourselves at the end of the twentieth century demands that we be capable of dialectical, post-ideological, transpersonal, fifth order thinking.

[Bernie Neville]
'Out of Our Depth and Treading Water: Reflections on Consciousness, Culture and New Learning Technologies'

[...] complex structures - whether intellectual, artistic, social, administrative or whatever - are only to be created and changed by stages, through a critical feedback process of successive adjustments.

The notion that they can be created, or made over, at a stroke, as if from a blueprint, is an illusion which can never be actualized.

[Bryan Magee]
Popper, p. 67

['Aufhebung'], often translated as sublation, literally means a ‘lifting up’ of something, and refers to the way in which the earlier stages of an organic process, although superseded by those that come after, are not repudiated by them, even though the later stages are incompatible with the earlier ones.

In this sense the earlier stage is ‘lifted up’ into the subsequent stage both in the sense that it is ‘taken up into’ or ‘subsumed’ into the succeeding stage, and in the sense that it remains present in, but transformed by, a ‘higher’ level of the process.

In a famous passage near the opening of the Preface to The Phenomenology of Mind, Hegel illustrates it by reference to the development of a plant:

The bud disappears when the blossom breaks through, and we might say that the former is refuted by the latter; in the same way when the fruit comes, the blossom may be explained to be a false form of the plant's existence, for the fruit appears as its true nature in place of the blossom. These stages are not merely differentiated; they supplant one another as being incompatible with one another.

But the ceaseless activity of their own inherent nature makes them at the same time moments of an organic unity, where they not merely do not contradict one another, but where one is as necessary as the other; and this equal necessity of all moments constitutes alone and thereby the life of the whole.

[Iain McGilchrist]
The Master and his Emissary, p. 203-4

Hegel further argued that Kant's philosophical revolution did not establish the final limits or necessary foundations of human knowlede but rather was one of a long sequence of such conceptual revolutions to which man as subject repeatedly recognized that what he had thought was a being-in-itself actually received its content by means of the form given to it by the subject. 

The history of the human mind constantly replayed this drama of the subject's becoming conscious of itself and the consequent destruction of the previously uncriticized form of consciousness. 

The structures of human knowledge were not fixed and timeless, as Kant supposed, but were historically determined stages that evolved in a continuing dialectic until consciousness achieved absolute knowledge of itself. What at any moment was seen as fixed and certain was constantly overcome by the evolving mind, thereby opening up new possibilities and greater freedom. 

Every stage of philosophy from the ancient Presocratics onward, every form of thought in human history, was both an incomplete perspective and yet a necessary step in this great intellectual evolution. Every era's world view was both a valid truth unto itself and also an imperfect stage in the larger process of absolute truth's self-unfolding.

[Richard Tarnas]
The Passion of the Western Mind, p. 380

[…] a paradigm emerges in the history of science, it is recognized as superior, as true and valid, precisely when that paradigm resonates with the current archetypal state of the evolving collective psyche. 

A paradigm appears to account for more data, and for more important data, it seems more relevant, more cogent, more attractive, fundamentally because it has become archetypally appropriate to that culture or individual at that moment in its evolution. 

The pursuit of knowledge always takes place within a given paradigm, within a conceptual matrix - a womb that provides an intellectually nourishing structure, that fosters growth and increasing complexity and sophistication - until gradually that structure is experienced as constricting, a limitation, a prison, producing a tension of irresolvable contradictions, and finally a crisis is reached. 

Then some inspired Promethean genius comes along and is graced with an inner breakthrough to a new vision that gives the scientific mind a new sense of being cognitively connected-reconnected to the world: an intellectual revolution occurs, and a new paradigm is born. Here we see why such geniuses regularly experience their intellectual breakthrough as a profound illumination, a revelation of the divine creative principle itself, as with Newton's exclamation to God, "I think Thy thoughts after Thee!" For the human mind is following the numinous archetypal path that is unfolding from within it.

And here we can see why the same paradigm, such as the Aristotelian or the Newtonian, is perceived as a liberation at time and then a constriction, a prison, at another. 

[Richard Tarnas]
The Passion of the Western Mind, p. 438

The question is one of faith, of choosing our own 'grade of significance'. Our ordinary mind always tries to persuade us that we are nothing but acorns and that our greatest happiness will be to become bigger, fatter, shinier acorns; but that is of interest only to pigs. Our faith gives us knowledge of something much better: that we can become oak trees.

What is good and what is bad? What is virtuous and what is evil? It all depends on our faith. Taking our bearings from the four Great Truths discussed in this book, and studying the interconnections between these four landmarks on our 'map', we do not find it difficult to discern what constitutes the true progress of a human being:

- His first task is to learn from society and ‘tradition' and to find his temporary happiness in receiving directions from outside.

- His second task is to interiorise the knowledge he has gained, sift it, sort it out, keep the good and jettison the bad; this process may be called 'individuation', becoming self-directed.

[E. F. Schumacher]
A Guide for the Perplexed, p.155

Modernisation theory, the critics say, ignores the independent role of the state in social change. The theory underestimates the importance of political conflicts in determining the course of historical events. It puts too much emphasis on internal forces in developing countries and overlooks the extent to which the early advantages seized by the West rested on the exploitation of colonial possessions.

Those who adhere to the modernization model have no way of accounting either for the persistence of traditional elites or for the resilience of traditional institutions like the extended family. The coexistence of traditional and modern elements undermines the claim that modernization is a "systemic" process. It now appears to be a highly selective process; and this discovery parallels the growing recognition that progress in technology, say, does not necessarily entail progress in morals or politics.

It should be clear by now that the concept of modernization tells us no more about the history of the West than about the rest of the world. The more we learn about that history, the more the rise of industrial capitalism in the West appears to have been the product of a unique conjunction of circumstances, the outcome of a particular history that gives the impression of inevitability only in retrospect, having been determined largely by the defeat of social groups opposed to large-scale production and by the elimination of competing programs of economic development.

Modern mass production was by no means the only system under which industrialization might have been achieved. In the words of Charles Sabel and Jonathan Zeitlin, it did not grow out of the "imminent logic of technological change.” It was the product of an “implicit collective choice, arrived at in the obscurity of uncountable small conflicts.”

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.163

The upshot of the Marxian scheme of history was that certain things had to happen in sequence, whether they happened under bourgeois or "proletarian" auspices: the destruction of the old landed aristocracy; the rise of a new ruling class in its place; the "annihilation" of small-scale production; the transformation of peasants and artisans into wage workers; the replacement of communal, patriarchal, and “idyllic” arrangements by contractual arrangements; a new individualism in personal life; the collapse of religion and the spread of scientific habits of thought; the demystification of authority.

Modernization was a "multifaceted process involving changes in all areas of human thought and activity," according to Samuel P. Huntington. According to Lerner, it was a "systemic" process that repeated itself "in virtually all modernizing societies, on all continents of the world, regardless of variations in race, color, creed."

It was best understood not as the Westernization of the world but as the recapitulation, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, of a series of events first played out in Europe. The example of the West might serve to stimulate a desire for change, but change came chiefly from within.

Changes in one part of the social organism were functionally interconnected to changes in other parts: thus the growth of trade, the development of a labor market, and the advent of factory production coincided with changes in family structure, the extended family giving way to the nuclear or "conjugal" family.

Weber pointed out that when “developmental sequences” are twisted into ideal types, the resulting constructs take on the appearance of a “historical sequence unrolling with the necessity of a law.”

For historians who inherit from the Enlightenment (in the form of Marxism) a belief that moral progress requires the replacement of local attachments and a parochial outlook by successively wider and more inclusive identities, culminating in the Workers' International, the intensely localistic element in nineteenth-century radicalism (not to mention the religious spirit that often informed it) comes as a disconcerting discovery.

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.154, 160, 162, 216

It is no part of his defense of the Populists to conscript them into the advancing march of progress. “They saw the coming society and they did not like it.”

For those who still believe that "modernization” is destined to carry the day, such a judgment will consign the Populists to the garbage dump of history. As Goodwyn notes, "the idea that workable small-unit democracy is possible within large-unit systems of economic production is alien to the shared presumptions of 'progress' that unite capitalists and communists in a religious brotherhood."

The obsolescence of small-scale production, a closely related dogma, needs reexamination in its own right, and Goodwyn calls for a new look at the "entire subject of large-scale agriculture in the modern state, both under capitalist and communist systems of organization."

The originality of Goodwyn's interpretation lies in his rejection of the usual assumption that progress brings democracy. He thinks, on the contrary, that a belief in the inexorable laws of development usually goes along with a certain contempt for ordinary people and their antiquated customs and ideas. In the 1890s, the “people" and "progressive society," he argues, represented contrasting and competing, not complementary, symbols.

The "contest between the people' and 'the progressive society'” ended in the defeat of the former and the rise of the progressive movement," a more cautious and limited movement than Populism, founded on the ruins of participatory democracy.

The denunciation of Goodwyn's work by Marxist historians confirms his contention that socialists share with liberals a dogmatic commitment to progressive views of history, which makes it impossible for them to see any value in the radical movements once mounted by small proprietors.

Small forms are "inefficient," [James] Green declares; and Populism, a defense of small farms and "traditional ways of life," was a "rudimentary," "petty-bourgeois" form of social protest.

The "condescension" that runs through these interpretations, according to Goodwyn, grows out of the "American historical tradition of conveying the national experience as a purposeful and generally progressive saga, almost divinely exonerated ... from the vicissitudes elsewhere afflicting the human condition."

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.220-1

I am working with some Cynefin associates into recognising the value of Kegan’s development stages, not as a linear progression but as a highly contextual set of modulators, the resultant map of which allows us to take the 3As [Agency, Affordance, Assemblage] perspective in determining the nature of change […]

[…] my issue with maturity models is not necessarily the description of their stages, but the idea that progress through them is linear. Hence my earlier suggestion of treating the stages in a non-linear way by describing them as modulators that can vary in strength etc. in different contexts.

Learning and maturity are emergent, contextual and complex processes.

[Dave Snowden]
'Stairways to heaven?'

Arnold Toynbee has elevated the Question-Answer Logic to a Challenge-Response structure in the history of culture. The Question becomes an act of defiance, a Challenge [English in original – trans.], with an accompanying Response. This is an important advance in capturing the historical sense; it allows one to recognize dialectical tension, beyond polarities, thereby leaving behind the psychologico-centered, individualist a-historicism of naturalist thought.

What is gained through this way of approaching things is extraordinary, because it touches on the dialectical structure of every historical situation.

But even Toynbee can't escape the typical danger that immediately threatens his specifically historical mode of thinking. By placing in succession his twenty-odd higher cultures or civilizations, one after the other, he erases the core uniqueness of the historical event; and with it goes the proper structure of the historical.

General laws of world history are of no importance. In the end, this amounts to the submission of history to laws or statistical probabilities in a functionalist vein.

[…] historical knowledge for Hegel is not simply a judgment [of the past] but also and simultaneously an act of progress. But in its systematic character [the dialectic] easily loses its grip on the uniqueness and the historical happening becomes transformed into a pure rational process.

The necessity of making every historical test the basis of a general law of history's ebb and flow has even wrapped the best and wisest minds of the nineteenth century in a dense fog of generalizations. The inflation of the historical event to a general law of humanity pays homage to a century guilty of naturalist positivism, incapable of understanding and evaluating any truth except as a foreseeable and to a certain degree calculable general matter of course.

[Carl Schmitt]
‘The Planetary Tension Between Orient and Occident and the Opposition Between Land and Sea’, Chap. III

Related posts:-
Lines and Circles 
The Colour Wheel 
Everything is Connected 
The Pyramid

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.

An Indian from Arizona states, "Among my people, gay is a special status ... The more unique someone is, the more valuable they are, the more unique their vision, the more unique their gift, their perspective, everything they can offer us something other people can't offer ...

The thing that's different about where I come from, is that all human beings are respected because all human beings have potential, all human beings have value."

[Walter L. Williams]
The Spirit and the Flesh, p. 229

At the least, our awareness of alternative attitudes and roles can allow us to appreciate the diversity of the human population, and the similarities that we share across the boundaries of culture.

[Walter L. Williams]
The Spirit and the Flesh, p. 275

Since it is the one indivisible will, which for this reason is wholly in agreement with itself, and reveals itself in the whole Idea as in an act, its phenomenon, though broken up into a variety of different parts and conditions, must yet again show that unity in a thorough harmony of these.

This takes place through a necessary relation and dependence of all the parts on one another, whereby the unity of the Idea is also re-established in the phenomenon.

Accordingly, we now recognize those different parts and functions of the organism reciprocally as means and end of one another, and the organism itself as the ultimate end of all.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, p.157

The manner in which Arcesilaus taught would have had much to commend it, if the young men who learnt from him had been able to avoid being paralysed by it. He maintained no thesis, but would refute any thesis set up by a pupil.  

Sometimes he would himself advance two contradictory propositions on successive occasions, showing how to argue convincingly in favour of either. 

[Bertrand Russell]
History of Western Philosophy ('Cynics and Sceptics')

The life which men praise and regard as successful is but one kind. Why should we exaggerate any one kind at the expense of the others?

[Henry David Thoreau]
Walden, p.19

You can’t collapse your political landscape into a single set of values […]

there are different values; one value might be accomplishment; another value might be achievement; another value might be hard work; another value might be equality. And fine, those are all useful values; but there has to be a continual dialogue between all of those values so that the whole value structure - which has to be diverse - doesn’t collapse into a single dimension.

Because then what you have is one tool for every problem, and that’s not good because the same tool can’t solve every problem […]

this is partly why I’m no fan of ideologues […] an ideological stance gives you a solution to every problem without ever being able to solve the problem; or maybe not even to articulate it properly.

[Jordan B. Peterson]
Where do SJWs come from?

The sensualist brags about the undeniable certainty of his reality, and the idealist insists on his.

Psychology has to resign itself to the existence of these two (or more) types, and must at all costs avoid thinking of one as a misconception of the other; and it should never seriously try to reduce one type to the other, as though everything "other" were merely a function of the one.

This does not mean that the scientific axiom known as Occam's razor - "explanatory principles should not be multiplied beyond the necessary" - should be abrogated. But the need for a plurality of psychological explanatory principles still remains.

[C. G. Jung]
Psychological Types, p. 41

Psychotherapy and analysis are as varied as are human individuals. I treat every patient as individually as possible, because the solution of the problem is always an individual one. Universal rules can be postulated only with a grain of salt.

[...] Naturally, a doctor must be familiar with the so-called "methods." But he must guard against falling into any specific, routine approach. In general one must guard against theoretical assumptions. To-day they may be valid, to-morrow it may be the turn of other assumptions. In my analyses they play no part.

I am unsystematic very much by intention [...] We need a different language for every patient. In one analysis I can be heard talking the Adlerian dialect, in another the Freudian.

[C. G. Jung]
Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1995), p. 153

It seems to me that the majority of people are unable or unwilling to 'think for themselves' and so need systems, or methods, in order to orient themselves to certain situations. Indeed, it seems rare to find a person who is willing or able to be as liquid; to remould themselves in light of what the situation demands. The majority of people, in most areas of their lives, need guidance.

If we define an adult as someone who is able to think for themselves; as someone who has the confidence, versatility - the maturity - to shape-shift when required (abandoning the comfort of familiar territory for the uncertainty of the unknown); and if we define a child as someone who lacks these attributes; then surely the great majority of people, in most areas of their lives, remain as children?

To respond effectively and appropriately to environmental demands.

At birth, each of us is given a particular Beginning Place within these Four Great Directions on the Medicine Wheel.  This starting Place gives us our first way of perceiving things, which will then be our easiest and most natural way throughout our lives.

But any person who perceives from only one of these Four Great Directions will remain just a partial man. 

For example, a man who possesses only the Gift of the North will be wise.  But he will be a cold man, a man without feeling.  And the man who lives only in the East will have the clear, far sighted vision of the Eagle, but he will never be close to things.  This man will feel separated, high above life, and will never understand or believe that he can be touched by anything.

A man or woman who perceives only from the West will go over the same thought again and again in their mind, and will always be undecided.  And if a person has only the Gift of the South , he will see everything with the eyes of a Mouse.  He will be too close to the ground and too near sighted to see anything except whatever is right in front of him, touching his whiskers.

Each of us has as his personal Medicine a particular animal reflection.  The characteristics of this reflection are determined by the nature of the animal itself, and also by the location of our individual Beginning Place on the Medicine Wheel.  These two things, our Medicine Animal and our Beginning Place on the Medicine Wheel, together are the Beginning Gift to each of us from Miaheyyum.

For example, there are Eagle People, elk People, Bear People, Wolf People, Pheasant People, Otter People, Buffalo People, Mice People, Rock People, Cloud People, and as many other kinds of People as there are kinds of living beings on this earth.  And within each of these different kinds of People, there are other differences of the Four Great Directions.  Thus an Elk Person might be born a White Elk of the North, a Green Elk of the South, a Black Elk of the West, or a Yellow Elk of the East, depending upon the Direction of their Beginning Gift.

After each of us has learned of our Beginning Gift, our First place on the Medicine Wheel, we then must Grow by Seeking Understanding in each of the four Great Ways.  Only in this way can we become Full, capable of Balance and decision in what we do.

A person with the Beginning Gift of the Mind must always try to include his Heart in his decisions.  When he does this, he begins to turn upon the Medicine Wheel.  A man can live out his entire life without ever finding more than what was already within him as his Beginning Gift, but if he wishes to Grow he must become a Seeker and Seek for himself the other Ways.

When you have done this yourself, and when you have reached a full Understanding of the different Medicines of men, you will never feel surprised or threatened by the actions or decisions of your Brothers and Sisters. 

[Hyemeyohsts Storm]
Seven Arrows, p. 6-8

All students of man and society who have the first thing they need for such a difficult study, namely a proper sense of its difficulties, are aware that the constant danger is not so much of accepting falsehood for truth as of mistaking part of the truth for the whole of it. 

It might be plausibly maintained that in almost every one of the leading controversies, past or present, in social philosophy, both sides were in the right in what they affirmed and wrong in what they denied; and that if either side had been made to accept the other’s views in addition to its own, little more would have been needed to make its doctrine correct.

That’s how it is with every important partial truth; there are always two conflicting modes of thought, one tending to give to that truth too large, the other to give it too small, a place: and the history of opinion is generally an oscillation between the extremes.

Because of the imperfection of the human  faculties, it seldom happens, even in the minds of eminent thinkers, that each partial view of their subject is credited with its worth and no more than its worth. But even if this just balance does exist in the mind of the wiser teacher, it will not exist in his disciples, let alone in the general mind.

Thus every excess in either direction produces a corresponding reaction; and the only improvement comes from the fact that each time the oscillation is a little less wide than before, so that there is an ever-increasing tendency to settle finally in the centre

[John Stuart Mill]
'Essays on Bentham and Coleridge'

And now what is the result of all these considerations and quotations? It is negative in one sense, but positive in another.

It absolutely forbids us to be forward in pronouncing on the meaninglessness of forms of existence other than our own; and it commands us to tolerate, respect, and indulge those whom we see harmlessly interested and happy in their own ways, however unintelligible these may be to us.

Hands off: neither the whole of truth nor the whole of good is revealed to any single observer, although each observer gains a partial superiority of insight from the peculiar position in which he stands. Even prisons and sick-rooms have their special revelations.

It is enough to ask of each of us that he should be faithful to his own opportunities and make the most of his own blessings, without presuming to regulate the rest of the vast field.

[William James]
'On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings', Pragmatism and Other Writings, p. 285

Morality aims at a code of conduct to which everyone must conform. This must therefore also be a code that everyone can follow, and morality this necessarily addresses itself to the lowest common denominator among the people whose conduct it guides. 

This is the “levelling” effect, which Nietzsche so despises. The only actions it allows aim at the interest of each group as a whole and therefore at the interest of its weakest members. 

But the rules that prescribe such actions may not at all be in the interest of the (not very helpfully described) strong members of that group. They actually prevent them from exploiting qualities that may be dangerous to the group as a whole and by means of which they can distinguish themselves from their community and accomplish the deeds Nietzsche sometimes equally unhelpfully , describes as unique, high, or great.

The deeds need not themselves be dangerous to a society as a whole, not need the qualities and abilities that bring them about when exercised by the proper individuals create such dangers. The problems, he thinks, are generated when these qualities are encouraged in general within a society. 

But morality, according to Nietzsche, recognises only two alternatives: a feature is acceptable either in every case or in none. Morality, he repeatedly insists, refuses to recognise an “order of rank” and does not want to run the risk of encouraging some qualities in some people while denying them to others.

[Alexander Nehamas]
Nietzsche: Life as Literature, p. 214-5

Prototypes act like creosote bush in the Mojave Desert - they space themselves away from each other. They not only exemplify the class, but distinguish it.

[…] the better the prototype, the less it had in common with contrasting classes.

[Daniel McNeill & Paul Freiberger]
Fuzzy Logic, p. 87

Truth has many aspects; and the limitations imposed by inheritance preclude each one of us from seeing more than a small part of it.

The most that anyone can do is to be faithful to that aspect which he himself is able to see. Each of us has his own interpretation of the truth; but our very differences may link us more closely when we recognize that the man who is capable of the deepest human relationship is the man who is most surely himself.

[Anthony Storr]
The Integrity of the Personality, p.177

Related posts:-
Everything is Connected
The Principle of Polarity 
The Colour Spiral
Project a Shadow
See No Evil
Assuming a position
Boxed Off
Life Support 
Solid Ground 
Flip Side 
Meme against Meme 
Walk a Straight Line
Pressure Valve
Full Spectrum
This, Not That 
A Difference that makes a Difference 
The Eternal Ideas
The Sacred Circle  
You ought to be more like me 
The Right Match 
The Devil is in the Details (and God is in the Generalities) 
Get Real
Its in my DNA 
Playing With Your Self

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?


A common form of empty explanation is the appeal to what I have called 'dormative principles' [...]

There is a coda [...] to Moliere's Le Malade Imaginaire, and in this coda, we see on the stage a medieval oral doctoral examination. The examiners ask the candidate why opium puts people to sleep. The candidate triumphantly answers, 'Because, learned doctors, it contains a dormitive principle.'

We can imagine the candidate spending the rest of his life fractioning opium in a biochemistry lab and succesively identifying in which fraction the so-called dormitive principle remained.

A better answer to the doctor's question would involve, not the opium alone, but a relationship between the opium and the people.

[Gregory Bateson]
Mind and Nature, P. 97-8


One reason people are suffering today to an almost intolerable degree is that their umediated suffering has no conscious connection with its archetypal ground.

Cut off from that ground they feel they are alone, and their suffering become meaningless. 

They do not realize that what they are suffering exists within creation itself, and that the gods and goddesses of religion and mythology have been there before.

The agony of their suffering is caused by hubris, which Jung describes as "the overweening pride --- of individual consciousness, which must necessarily collide with [the eternal truths] and lead to the catastrophic destruction of the individual."

[Marion Woodman]
Addiction to Perfection, p. 134


Related posts:-
The Pyramid
It's in my DNA 
A Healthy Environment 
Beggars and Choosers
Digging Deeper 
Individual v Environment 

The Devil is in the Details (and God is in the Generalities)


Left hemisphere                 -                       Right hemisphere
Separate                             -                       Connected
Centrifugal                         -                       Centripetal
Rigour                               -                         Imagination
Deflate                               -                         Inflate
Grounded                          -                          Free-floating
Solid                                  -                          Liquid
Together                            -                          Apart
Coherent                            -                         Random
Life                                    -                          Death


"The elders do not see the details, they see the overall picture. If the overall pattern is good, the hardship of the details does not matter."

Malidoma Somé, Of Water and the Spirit, p. 311


Many get annoyed at Russell Brand because he does not provide details. He talks in a general way about things, in a way that may appear wishy-washy. He paints in broad strokes, but does not seem as concerned about the finer details.

Brand is an idealist. To ask an idealist for details is like asking a long distance runner to improve his bench-press. If they are serious about their running then they would ignore such a request. This is because the two things - body-building and long-distance running - are mutually exclusive. They stand at opposite ends of a spectrum; and to head towards one means going away from the other. To build excessive muscle is detrimental to the goals of the endurance runner.

Idealism and realism are likewise mutually exclusive. We are all born somewhere between the two. None of us is entirely one or the other. We each contain a unique mix of both. Some will be more idealist than realist, some more realist than idealist. Those nearer to the middle of the scale will not readily identify themselves as either, and to them such labeling may seem unhelpful or untrue. They may say they are both, and it depends on the situation. This is because, being nearer to the middle, it is harder to discern being nearer to either pole. These people are lukewarm. Sometimes they think they're hot, sometimes cold. It depends. This is natural and normal.

It is those nearer to the extremes - realism on one side, and idealism on the other - that will find truth in these labels. They feel the difference more readily.

Here are some other words that we can associate with the opposite poles of idealism and pragmatism:-

Idealism                   <------------>             Pragmatism
Long-sighted            <------------>            Short-sighted
Imaginative              <------------>             Realistic
What can be             <------------>             What is
Generalities              <------------>             Details
Thought                    <------------>             Action
Inflation                    <------------>             Deflation

For Brand to be more pragmatic - to speak more of details, get down to the nitty gritty - would be to the detriment of his nature. His gift is in thinking in an idealistic way. This is what he brings to us. As a society we need all types; those that think idealistically, and those that think pragmatically. Without either we would be critically imbalanced.

It is unfortunate that we are in a culture that places realism above idealism, and that tends to marginalise the idealist voice to the fringes. In this environment it is unsurprising that a rampant idealist such as Brand should divide people so thoroughly. Our culture also tends to ignore the importance of multiple voices, and instead attempts to fit all shapes into the same hole. The hole that is most in favour at the minute is that of the pragmatist (pragmatism being the mindset-du-jour of capitalism). This combination of factors can lead us to believe that because someone is not pragmatic enough they are in some way defective. In believing this we have accepted the bias of the wider culture.

For a pragmatist to get frustrated at an idealist for their lack of realism, is akin to getting frustrated at light for its lack of dark. Light may be annoying when we are trying to sleep - but it is vital when we trying to grow crops. Both have their place: it is context that defines their value.

In this sense, it is not up to Brand to talk of details. When he says that our current way of doing things is not working, it is not for him to provide a detailed analysis of why and what we can do about it (although, indeed, he may feel compelled to try). His mind is not suited to this kind of activity, and it would be detrimental to us - as a whole - to ask him to go against his nature and get bogged down in the details. Especially so when there are there are other people - those with more pragmatic minds - who excel in details, and who do not get bogged down by them.

It may be that Brand's voice is at its most effective when it is placed amongst a team of other voices. A diverse team that incorporates all manner of types, from idealists through to realists. In this context, where Brand leaves off, another would pick up. Each would play to their strength. It is an archetypal image, and can be seen in stories like Lord of the Rings, where we have a multi-disciplinary team that excels through utilising its diversity. One person cannot be expected to incorporate all approaches, especially when these approaches are mutually exclusive to one another. For a person to play to their strengths means walking in a definite direction, and forsaking another direction. We cannot, after all, walk in two opposite directions at the same time.

We must recognise that we are all different, and have diverse styles of thinking and acting that are all equally important. We must remember that context defines what is important at any given moment. Whilst it is tempting for a realist to characterise an idealist as lazy for their lack of thoroughness, it must be remembered that an idealist could as easily turn this assessment on its head and demand a more expansive and less encumbered line of thought from the realist. To get tempted into this battle is to lose sight of how each type - idealist and realist - actually needs and supports the other.

Sometimes as a collective we need a bit of wishy-washy. Somé's quote reminds us that it can be very important to see the overall picture and to not allow the details to bog us down. As any artist knows, it is helpful to first have a general vision of the work we intend to create. Often those first strokes are broad and loose. As Somé reminds us, if our strokes are good and true, then we need not always worry about the finer details. They will often sort themselves out.

Let's ask ourselves: what things does this person (in this instance, Russell Brand) do well? What gifts do they bring to our collective? Once we recognise a person's shape - that way they are made to be - then we can see the ways in which that shape is to our advantage, collectively. In understanding our nature we can understand that it is not only valid, but vital to the wider scene. If it does not appear so, then we have simply not yet found the right context.

From there, we can work to understand everyone's nature; and see how all fit into and complete a jigsaw.


"Gaddis and Kennedy bemoaned the fact that particularists are too often, in too many countries, the ones still making and analyzing foreign policy. 'These people,' the two Yale historians wrote, 'are perfectly competent at taking in parts of the picture, but they have difficulty seeing the entire thing.

They pigeonhole priorities, pursuing them separately and simultaneously, with little thought to how each might undercut the other. They proceed confidently enough from tree to tree, but seem astonished to find themselves lost in the forest.

The great strategists of the past kept forests as well as the trees in view. They were generalists, and they operated from an ecological perspective. They understood the world is a web, in which adjustments made here are bound to have effects over there - that everything is interconnected.

Where though might one find generalists today? ... The dominant trend within universities and the think tanks is toward ever-narrower specialization: a higher premium is placed on functioning deeply within a single field than broadly across several. And yet without some awareness of the whole ... there can be no strategy. And without strategy, there is only drift.'"

[Ken Wilber (quoting Thomas L. Friedman, from 'The Lexus and the Olive Tree')]
A Theory of Everything, p. 127-8 (Bold added)


'Chaotic-Conceptual' thinkers

They perform well in open, free-wheeling, and highly creative activities. Abstractions play to their strength. Their weakness is that strength pushed to excess. Do not expect them necessarily to be good with details, precise lineups, or repetitive pages. You will need other minds, with different kinds of thinking, to do those things.

[Don Edward Beck & Christopher C. Cowan]
Spiral Dynamics, p. 183


If the culture is more homogeneous and at lower levels of development, the goals must be specific, concrete (literally!) and immediate - the 'edifice complex.'

If the culture is at higher levels, then more abstract, broader, and distant goals are viable.

If it has powerful nodes both high and low, the goals must be dualistic - concrete and abstract, immediate and remote, spiritual and tangible.

[Don Edward Beck & Christopher C. Cowan]
Spiral Dynamics, p. 296


[...] rigour and imagination, the two great contraries of mental process, either of which by itself is lethal. Rigour alone is paralytic death, but imagination alone is insanity.

[Gregory Bateson]
Mind and Nature, p. 233


No, I don't think I would get on with Hegel. Hegel seems to me to be always wanting to say that things which look different are really the same. Whereas my interest is in showing that things which look the same are really different.

I was thinking of using as a motto for my book a quotation from King Lear: 'I’ll teach you differences.'

[Ludwig Wittgenstein]
Portraits of Wittgenstein: Volume II, p. 826


Related posts:-
The Colour Wheel 
Everything is Connected
Short-term vs. Long-term
Everyday Idealism
Get Real
The Earth's the Limit
The Oak and the Stream
The Game Goes On: Lessons from the Wire
Interdisciplinary Teams
Deep vs Shallow 
Making sense 
You ought to be more like me
Small Part/Large System
Small Mind/Large Mind 
Assuming a position
Mono / Poly
Top Down / Bottom Up
Separation / Connection