Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Current Culture War and the Way Toward Reform: Integral Consciousness

Following are two excerpts from Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution (2007) by Steve McIntosh.

There is in the developed world an increasingly bitter clash of worldviews wherein these stages are battling for control of the laws and mores of their societies. This cultural struggle is found not simply between liberals and conservatives; in the developed world, we actually face a three-way conflict between the values of traditionalism, modernism, and postmodernism. Or perhaps more accurately, we are faced with a tug of war between traditionalism and postmodernism for the soul of the modernist majority. But however we characterize the culture war, we can see that the stakes are high. Because progressive development is sorely needed, and because the cost of the culture war is developmental stagnation, we need to find the peace of greater agreement in order to make meaningful progress. With integral consciousness we can see how the values of each worldview stage are both part of the solution and part of the problem—each stage embodies both dignities and disasters. Traditional consciousness identifies the need to reduce lawless violence and evil in the world, yet it creates oppression. Modernist consciousness identifies opportunities for development and discovery, yet it creates gross inequalities. And postmodern consciousness identifies the need to honor and include everyone, yet it also creates blindness to comparative excellence. Because each of these worldviews is very much alive and well within the developed world today, not only are they each continuing to produce their particular kind of progress, each of them is also continuing to act out their particular kind of pathology. And this is where the cultural battle is joined.

– pp. 74-75

When it comes to practicing the integral worldview, we have to remember that we are called to actually create this new level of consciousness ourselves. Those of us who can discern the emergence of this new stage of civilization here at its beginnings have the privilege of receiving the creative impulse of the first wave of integral values.

The truths of integral philosophy can be used to produce cultural evolution on many fronts. Wherever we find the culture war—in the workplace, in our schools, and even in our own families—we can skillfully work to raise consciousness by showing how different values apply to different life conditions. As we begin to see how just about every human problem is a problem of consciousness, we can then see how best to raise consciousness by distinguishing between the healthy and pathological values of a given stage, and by translating the values of one stage into terms that can be better appreciated by other stages. Think about all the ways that we can help keep well-meaning postmodern consciousness from literally dissolving the crucial structures of traditional and modernist values upon which our further evolution depends. And conversely, think about all the ways we can communicate the evolutionary necessity of postmodern values to traditionalists and modernists by showing how our civilization’s actual survival largely depends on the success of postmodernism.

– pp. 90-91


  1. I suspect the future of our species depends more upon regaining a balance between left and right brain, male and female, than anything to do with postmodernism.

  2. Hi, John. I take McIntosh to be saying that the values of each of those stages of cultural consciousness must be integrated in a new stage of consciousness. "Transcend and include" is the concept. The postmodern values he identifies that may be necessary for survival are "worldcentric morality, compassion and inclusion, increased responsibility for the planet", etc. You may be thinking of what he calls the "pathologies" of postmodernism that we have to transcend. Of course your balancing of dualities could be included in integralism also. I think we are trying to envision a way beyond the current battle. You have been doing that too. Might as well collaborate?