Ken, II, MI and the State of My Integral Enterprise

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[Editor's Introduction Chris]: This week we are publishing two pieces on MetaIntegral, a new organization launching their online presence later this week. Part of our mission here at Beams is to be a platform for new projects and new voices to be heard. Also we seek to further the discourse of integral theory and practice, fostering dialogue, and including as many perspectives as possible. We believe that these pieces fit within that overall mission. At the same time, I hope it's clear that the views are those of the authors. We encourage folks to leave their comments below. This piece by Tim Winton explores the topic of whether there should even be 'big container' organizations within integral, and if so how to create them in an appopriate way--looking to ecosystems as a learning model. The second piece (on the Integral Planet Endowment) by Jordan Luftig and Sean Hargens is here. Also checkout the followup blog piece by Carissa Wieler on grief and love within the integral world.  


“Techniques employ four qualities that reflect the nature of our world. Depending on the circumstances, you should be: hard like a diamond, flexible as a willow, smooth-flowing like water or empty as space.”

                                                                                                  --Morihei Ushiba (1972, p. 71)

In writing this piece I’m feeling a little like the guy who asks what might be a really dumb question in an auditorium full of really smart people. Intuitively, deep in my gut, I feel like I need to start a conversation, but I’m not really confident about how it’s going to go. I can’t stop myself from putting my hand up, and, now that I’m speaking into the mic, I’m getting those cold sweats down my spine and my stomach is in a knot.

I’m not sure I’m necessarily the most qualified person to start this, and I’m not even sure it’s going to be as important to you as it is to me, but, if it is, then it’ll be worth the risk. And, I’m prepared to be flat out wrong about how to go about this. Starting this conversation is not just about the ‘Integral community’–to a large degree it’s also about my own journey in Integral and my need, at this particular time, to try and make sense of what is going on and what I’m doing within the Integral space.

The question at the heart of this conversation, for me–and this is what I’ve been struggling with for a while now–is exactly how do we find meaning in what has gone down with the ‘Integral Enterprise’ to date. What happened to all the promise, the confidence, the potential for the more evolved organisation of the larger movement itself? How did we get to this underwhelming state of affairs when we were meant to be so fricken onto it–when our whole raison d’etre is that we think we have a better way of doing this sort of thing?

Big Containers

I’m not talking about all of the great people and organisations using Integral theory in really useful and interesting ways, and I’m not talking about the many extraordinary practitioners and truly beautiful people in our community. I’m talking about the big container, or at least bigger containers, that I believe are meant to hold these initiatives and people in an integrated embrace. Why is it that at the wider ‘integrating’ level it feels so much like Integral has failed to live up to its potential, and, I might add, its considerable hype? What does this mean to each of us and to what we share through our participation in Integral?

four quadrantsDo we even need these big containers? I would argue that we do. One of the major things we agree on in Integral as a community is that interiors have exterior correlates and visa versa. So, while it is tempting to give up on the idea of Integral ‘institutions’, given what we have seen so far, I don’t think we can realize the potential of Integral consciousness to be of service in the world if we, if fact, do that. So, the ‘we’ I’m referring to is not just the Integral community at large, more specifically it’s those of us in the Integral community who see the need for more complex, more comprehensive types of organisations, but who want to see more functional, supportive and enlightened ones–those of us who still think this is a worthy, if not essential, pursuit. It is understandable if you feel a little (or a lot) outside of this big container ‘we’ at the moment. Initially, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to be a part of that ‘we’. This article is about how I did and the processes that brought me there.

There is an element of rationalisation in all this as well. I have made a commitment, a deep commitment, to participate in an attempt to create one of these bigger containers, but one that I think can actually be the kind of supportive, evolved, liberating structure that I hoped would be the norm. I think the dynamics associated with the failure to date to create these bigger structures in the ways we imagined them has caused a lot of hurt. Hurt to individuals, to reputations, to organisations, to initiatives and to the movement itself through a serious loss of confidence in our belief that anything Integral can actually make a real difference, not just in isolated instances (where I think it does), but in the wider world. How can it possibly if we can’t even get it right in our own community? If you haven’t guessed, I’m talking largely about dynamics many (myself included) feel to be have been associated with Integral Institute. To be fair, these same patterns can also been seen elsewhere in the Integral space. So, right now, being involved with these bigger projects in Integral seems tainted and risky, like their very nature might be to start with good intentions and big statements and then to degenerate into unnecessary exclusivity, unmet expectation, neglect, turf wars, power politics and empire building.

Being sure about why I should make a commitment to getting this big container thing right is difficult, and I feel more than a little vulnerable. I do, though, feel like I need to make sense of what has happened in the past, what is likely to be possible and not possible in the future, and to share this with all of you before my full capacity is going to show up.

I realised recently that I’ve been telling myself a story about all this– making it up and repeating it and shaping it into some sort of meaning. The most effective way I can think of to start this inquiry is to just tell that story as an invitation for further conversation and as a process for collectively making meaning.

MetaIntegral (MI)

tupperwareI think it’s clear that there is now a widespread, real, and deep distrust (which I partly share) of any attempt to put in place these bigger structures. Why then do I feel so strongly about participating in the development of MetaIntegral (MI), an unabashedly big container that Sean Esbjorn-Hargens is founding in an attempt to make the integral space healthier in Integral?

The answer to this is partly a Douglas Adams type sentiment. Simply, that every Tupperware set needs a few big containers. You know, the one’s you can fit lots of the other smaller containers into when you go on a picnic or a camping trip. It’s the integral idea in a nutshell, really. Put simply, I still believe in Integral (and in the more generalised ‘integral arising’), and I think we need to get this right to sustain that belief.

Partly it’s that my experience to date, with Sean and within the nascent MetaIntegral organisation–which I will speak more about later–has been to find the kind of space, the kind of services and the kind of support that I wanted from the institution building projects in Integral. I’m writing this piece in part to introduce and advocate for MetaIntegral. I like what I see so far. I think there is a need for it, and I am making a commitment to it. On that basis, I’m going to make a case for supporting it and for why I think it’s different; but, if it turns out, in my view, not to demonstrate a healthy expression of ‘the big container’, I will equally apply my efforts to working out why and to letting you know about it.

What I’ve experienced so far with regard to MI wasn’t enough though. Somehow that feeling and my trust in Sean were not going to allow me to fully surrender my resistance to this sort of project. I also had to make sense of a whole range of things that were bothering me through creating the story I mentioned above–a kind of meaning making narrative or mythos that I’ll start by telling you a bit about my own.

What I’m Going to Tell and How

In this telling I’m going to try and do a few things. I’m going to try and make sense of Ken Wilber. Not in a comprehensive way (I might be a little impulsive, but I’m not nuts), just enough to tease apart a few distinctions that helped me come to terms with my perceptions. I’ll have a go at the same for Integral Institute and its general design and function. Again, not in any sort of clinical way, but just enough to string together this story. And, I’m going to attempt to do this, in part, using bits of my own budding initiative, which is an Integral Pattern Language useful for this type of narrative building. Along the way we will do some compare and contrast between how I perceive MI vs II, some of the Patterns they share, ones they don’t, ones I think we need, and what a difference I think a shift in perspective can make.

At this point I’ll introduce PatternDynamics (PD)–my Integral application. Technically I refer to it as an Integral Sustainability Pattern Language. It forms, to switch from the Tupperware metaphor, an element within the emerging MetaIntegral ecosystem. It’s useful for shifting conversations to a ‘systems view’, or more fully perhaps to a ‘perspectival systems view’ (which is one of the ways that I tend to think of integral capacity). From there, collectively, we can gain some objectivity on dynamics we may be immersed in or are only able to sense emotionally or intuitively. This is the same subject/object move that we get through using the AQAL elements. In this case, instead of having five AQAL elements (oriented as a theoretical framework) we have 56 PD Patterns (oriented more as a semiotic process: a conversation). Like the AQAL elements, all of the Patterns are generally observable types or forms of organisation that help us make distinctions where we may not have been able to do so before.

For the more theoretically minded–you can skip this paragraph if you’re not–I view the AQAL framework as representative of a set (but by no means the set) of foundational ‘patterns of organisation’ or ‘types’ or ‘forms’. These are what I refer to as meta-types: observable general forms that seem to pop up literally everywhere. I also view the AQAL framework, from a big-picture, historical development vantage point, as an approach to the wider integral impulse with a distinctly first person orientation. For me, more than anything else, it’s been a visionary and truly profound theory cooked up in Wilber’s first person and transmitted to our first persons. I think of AQAL Integral as being associated with a distinctly first person, interior ‘understanding’ and personal development type orientation. I’m not saying that’s all it is, only that it feels very much like that’s its native orientation. All of which is fine. In fact, I think this dynamic, and this is part of the story, has been essential for having anything we refer to as Integral at all. But, at this stage, and this is a theme to which we will return, I think it is appropriate to explore just what a more second person, community development, developmental orientation might look like within our capital ‘I’ Integral. That’s why I’m interested in language as an approach to Integral; Integral as a capacity for conversation and story and meaning as well as a theory or theories. All of this is tied up with my own thinking on meta-types and the perceived need to start shifting our emphasis from a first person, theoretical, vertical, evolutionary focus to include a more second person, community emphasising, horizontal, health orientated focus. If you want to start in on that conversation then you can check out this paper, Creating Cultures of Sustainability, by clicking Winton at

My Story

Morihei UshibaOk, back to the story. This isn’t the first time I’ve been a participant in movements that have undergone the kind of dynamic I’m talking about: where theory failed, at least in the first instance, to translate into the kind of community reality that the particular theory postulated. I’ve been a practitioner and community member of both Aikido (a Japanese martial art referred to as ‘the art of peace’) and permaculture (a global sustainability design and lifestyle movement) for the last 20 years. Like Integral, both have powerful and charismatic founders, Morihei Ushiba and Bill Mollison respectively; both claim to have methods that will dramatically improve things for humankind if practiced widely. In the case of permaculture, it has two founders–the other, and equal partner, being David Holmgren – however, it was Mollison who evangelised permaculture as an ideal in sustainable global community living.

In both cases when it comes to the larger scale organisation of the communities of practitioners themselves, I’ve witnessed the same old kinds of ego trips, power plays, political manoeuvring, poor behaviour and community dysfunction that I’ve experience outside these disciplines. Sound familiar? In limited instances and in limited scope both can and have produced demonstrative improvements in some aspects of human affairs, but not widely enough, even within their own communities, to serve as exemplars that drive an uptake within the mainstream of society that fundamentally alters it. Were their founders actually able to demonstrate this personally and within their own communities? It doesn’t actually seem to matter. I didn’t know Morihei Ushiba since he died two years after I was born, but my feeling is that while perhaps he could be difficult and enigmatic, he was indeed the kind of figure who walked his talk and was revered for it. I do know Bill, and I do not think this is true of him. Much of the time I thought his behaviour seemed to demonstrate exactly the opposite of how you might go about building sustainable community. But that’s another story. You can read about that one here in An Integral Permaculture.

I’m a fairly practical sort of bloke, so my interest has been primarily in testing the theory of these two disciplines through embodied practice and application to ‘real life situations’. I’ve done the same with Integral Theory. What I found was that some of the grander claims, not necessarily all made by their founders–often by their closer followers–were not in fact able to be substantiated. After road testing permaculture as a complete and viable strategy for sustainable community living during a ten-year residential education centre experiment, I concluded that it was not. But, this has been one of its major claims and what sold me on the idea in the first place. (This probably speaks as much to my naivety as to shortcomings in the discipline, but there you go).

This failure along with the above mentioned all too human behaviour and what seemed like an almost pathological tendency to perpetuate this myth on other unsuspecting but well intentioned people, caused me to completely fall out of love with permaculture for a while. This was especially so because along the way I took a few hard knocks and at times felt bruised and bloodied from trying to put in place something that was promoted as a practical ideal, but that the theory could not really support. Adding Integral theory and practice to permaculture in this instance did, however, yield some real and tangible improvements to the project. It’s one of the main reasons I still have faith in the ability of integral approaches to make a real difference in the world. That story is available in From Deep Green to Second Tier: Sustainability at the Threshold.

permacultureAfter some time and some distance away from that crucible, I was able to look at the situation a little more objectively. I was able to see permaculture’s strengths and weaknesses and to take stock of what I learned and what did actually work. Practicing permaculture is where I gained the skills to work in sustainability education, ecological design, forestry and organic agriculture–vocations that I think are useful and that I truly love. Also, through Mollison and Holmgren’s focus on natural patterns and principles, it became the foundation--along with aspects of Aikido, a lot of time in nature, architectural design, complexity and systems theories--for the ‘perspectival’ systems awareness that I brought along to my Integral turn and subsequently used to develop PatternDynamics.

In comparison, road testing Aikido turned out to be relatively simple. Despite what you might read on martial arts forums and despite having trained mostly in one of the ‘softer’ styles of the art. There is a police video somewhere that illustrates that if you are inclined to neutralise an attacker then Aikido works well enough ‘in the street’. I also think it is unsurpassed as a body/mind integration discipline. It wasn’t the stitches in my lip from my street encounter that hurt when it came to Aikido. It was the disappointment of witnessing masters I revered and trusted dispute, in ways that should have been well beneath them, who had rights to what pieces of the art of peace. Sadly, I’ve encountered similar stories through conversations with aikidoka from around the world.

One of the things I’ve taken away from these experiences is that theory is one thing and practice is another–especially with regard to the wider community of practitioners. For me, there is clearly a pattern at work in all this. In the world of theory there is no requirement to demonstrate its practicality. The cut and thrust takes place behind a computer terminal or at conferences. I don’t want to downplay the kind of intersubjective violence to reputations, feelings, livelihoods and such that can go on here, but for me it’s in putting theory into practice, especially at the larger scales, that one encounters, shall we say, a fuller spectrum and deeper experience of the proverbial rough and tumble.

Sensing the Field

integral fieldMy sense of the general sentiment in the Integral ‘field’ at the moment is that there are quite a few of us who are feeling, to one degree or another, underwhelmed, distrusting, disappointed, disenchanted or, in fact, bruised and bloodied by our initial period of practice, as a community. What interests me about the Integral dynamic at this time, and what has helped me to story this in a way that makes me want to continue, is that there are archetypal patterns at work. Uncovering those stories has helped me to acknowledge how I’m feeling emotionally and also to shift my perspective so I can view things more objectively. As a collection of stories, as patterns that have been repeated many times in the past–as a set of cultural meta-types–it all starts to make a little more sense.

Looking at it this way, it’s much easier to resist some critics’ views that Ken Wilber is somehow defective, Integral is defective, its big institutions are flag waving, inherently exploitative empire building enterprises or ‘look-at-me clubs’. And, therefore by association with them, I’m defective, and that the whole thing just isn’t going to work the way we thought. Some of this criticism is undoubtedly partly valid, however the flaws in Integral are most likely not congenital. Having worked through some of this stuff now, I don’t feel like that is the case at all, and, frankly that’s a big relief. Like many of you, I’ve invested a lot of life energy and identity in being a part of Integral.

I’m going to start to tell that more archetypal story now–at least the story as I see it. Again, it’s not my intention to tell you the story. I’m putting this out there as a process that is working for me, and that can serve to start a conversation that might help to do the same thing collectively. I’m going to use both PD Patterns and AQAL Perspectives to do this. To give this method the best chance of success, we are going to have to touch on just a couple more aspects of theory. You see, even in promoting a more second person, culturally orientated approach, I’m going to have to use a little first person orientated theory. That is the first bit of theory: even thought it might be appropriate to orient around one perspective to explore or explain a given situation, we are still going to have to work multiple perspectives. The point is to be able to ‘shift’ these perspectives as necessary–focusing on the shifting as much as the perspectives themselves. The same requirement for shifting is true of the Patterns, which we will get to in a moment. Secondly, it’s all about balancing and integrating these Patterns and Perspectives in a given situation to enable ‘generative health’–what my good friend and Integral colleague, Will Vary, refers to as ‘Apithology’.


The first Pattern I’m going to introduce is one that will be familiar: the Holon. I’m doing it to help us discuss the story of Ken. When I said I was going to try and make sense of Ken Wilber, I didn’t mean so much Ken the person, I meant more Ken the figure. I don’t know him personally and our few communications have been short and mostly one way, so I won’t be focusing on that, although, I will have a few things to say based on what I have experienced. I’m doing this because I think we need to find a story for Ken, one that allows us, the community, to put him in the proper relationship to the constellation of Integral activities and its overall development. If not, we will be stuck trying to work out how we feel about Ken, and by extension Integral Institute, as a series of subjective and intersubjective judgements, and we will not be able to look at these things more objectively and therefore move on. This kind of collective ‘object making’ is the whole point of the larger story I’m trying to tell here, but I think it is most important with regard to Ken, given the magnitude of his presence with regard to Integral as a whole.


(Click here to read a fuller description of this pattern.)

The two inner ovals of the Holon Pattern above represent systems that are parts of a larger system, signified by the enveloping larger oval. Each of the three ovals also has an inside and an outside symbolising the subjective and objective aspects of any part/whole ‘system’. The inclusion of the cross is an acknowledgement that Ken came up with this holon as part/whole/subject/object insight, which I think might just prove to be the contemporary equivalent of inventing the wheel in terms of how it ultimately serves humanity. This inclusion also acknowledges that he created the quadrant symbol to help represent the holon. This last part, creating a diagram or a ‘Pattern’ to represent a foundational ‘pattern of organization’, perhaps the most foundational pattern of organization, or what I mentioned earlier I refer to as a meta-type, seems less important, in this case, than the theory of the holon itself. It is architect Christopher Alexander, founder of the concept of Pattern Languages, who relates the full power of this act when he states in his earliest book on the subject, Notes on the Synthesis of Form:

“… I found that the diagrams themselves had immense power, and that, in fact, most of the power of what I had written lay in the power of these diagrams.” (Alexander, 1964, preface)

That said, you will notice how my Holon Pattern is a softer, more shapely, more feminine, more relational and more horizontally emphasizing signifier of the nature of the holon.

So what does this have to do with Ken? Well the first part of the story is that some of the features of Ken’s behaviour, as they relate to the Integral community at large, can be characterized through a particular orientation to the holon. What I mean by this is that his actions tend to gravitate to the very agentic, ‘part’ aspect of the holon, and also to the interior side of things. We don’t need to get stuck on this. I certainly don’t think Ken does, but it does look like it’s been his basic orientation to the holon as it relates to his work in Integral. This is precisely the very powerful and agentic first person approach I alluded to earlier that enabled Ken in creating Integral theory, in passing it on to us, and then in launching it as a potentially historically important cultural force. I don’t think this sort of thing happens very successfully by committee, or by folks with less robust interior capacity, so it’s just as well. This is Ken as Master–capital ‘M’. The Master we sought out in the beginning, the Master we revered for the awesomeness of this capacity, and the Master, truth be known, we projected our bright shadows onto and fell in love with, turbo charging the launch of Integral in direct proportion to the magnitude of his offering, which was, in both cases, really very large.

So far, so good: Ken as Master looks like a good fit–a pattern and a perspective balanced and integrated to serve the process at hand. I don’t think this is as true for the next part of the story. Once Ken had formed his theory suitably and given it that all mighty push into the world with the help of initial supporters, I sensed that things subtly started to change. This is especially true of the development of the initiatives of Integral Institute, Ken’s main institutional vehicle and Integral’s first and most central ‘big container’.

Integral Institute

The next Pattern I’m going to introduce is Hierarchy. The composition of the diagram itself illustrates the meta-type it represents: a wide base at the bottom, concentrated power at the top, all held in a very stable and somewhat rigid configuration.


(Click here for a fuller description of this pattern.)

I still remember the excitement I felt around some of the earlier initiatives announced by the newly formed Integral Institute (II): the Multiplex, the emergence of Integral Naked and the Seminars run by various centres within II, to name just a few of what seemed like a steady fount of big ideas and bigger projects. By the time I attended the first Integral Ecology and Sustainability Seminar hosted by II at the Westin Hotel near Boulder in 2004, it was clear that many folks had gathered and were continuing to gather to work with Ken and II. Some of them had clearly uprooted their lives and moved to do just that. The promise of Integral at that stage was big enough that part of me wanted to do the same thing. It’s exactly what I did when I went to train with Bill Mollison early in my permaculture days, but this time I had learned enough to see the wisdom in a little more distance.

Even having invested in travelling all the way from Australia to attend the seminar, I was prepared to be somewhat underwhelmed. I was not; the folks who organized this event and the folks who turned up, people like Barrett Brown, Gail Hochachka, Cynthia McEwan, John Schmidt, David Johnston, Sean Esbjön-Hargens, and many others gave me an experience of Integral and of that community that made me feel like I’d finally found my people. Ken spoke to us twice. It was clear enough to me then that while he was a Master worth seeking out, there was not going to be a whole lot of Grandma Zen going around when you were close to him, if you know what I mean. That is fine with me. I’d worked out through my previous experiences that the idea I had in my head about how it would be to work with these sorts of Masters, was not necessarily how Masters worked. Ken, in my view, clearly has a genuinely and profoundly Big Heart, but it was also clear that his very powerful presence and agency would have the biggest influence on the form of II as an organization. Integral Institute always felt like a kingdom to me and that’s why I introduced the Hierarchy Pattern–Ken as Master in the concentrated seat of power and influence at the top of the unyielding Kingdom of II.

As I add Patterns to this story (like the nice looking ones above that I prepared earlier: Holon and Hierarchy) I’m also going to add them together in mono-colour hand drawn composites that represent the story as a whole. This is to illustrate how the Patterns can be used in this type of conversation (without having to be an expert at Adobe Illustrator) and to encourage some of you to look through the Patterns and Charts on to use them to engage in the conversation as you see it. It’s also to demonstrate that the Patterns themselves are more like elements of an alphabet and that it’s the way they are compiled into larger units of meaning that makes them a language.

master of the kingdom

Master and Apprentice

By the time I attended my second seminar in 2006 at the now familiar Westin Hotel, I sensed a real shift in the Integral communities’ relationship to Ken. Boomeritis, Ken's tongue in cheek critique of extreme postmodernism by way of a novel, had been published since 2002. In the meantime there had been building what can only be described as an online war with some of his critics. Not all of the conflict was around Ken’s views on the pathologies of what he thought of as a deep narcissism infecting parts of the postmodern baby boomer generation, but this general critique of it did seem to be the fuel that fed the fire. Things at Integral Institute also appeared to be in disarray. At the time of the seminar the previous CEO of II had just departed in less than convivial circumstances, some of the other folk involved in II appeared to be in fire fighting mode and others were clearly dismayed and rethinking their involvement. I’ve always interpreted these goings on, both online and off, as the result of Ken trying to make distinctions between what was Integral and what was a lesser interpretation of Integral that threatened the integrity of the system. (Editor's Note: Just last week Integral Life, the successor to Integral Naked relaunched with a new mission statement--please check that out for their most current incarnation.)

If you are interested in Integral Theory in any way, this is just something you have to come to terms with. It’s a lot easier for many of us to turn a blind eye to this difficult and somewhat awkward reality and to remain in the warmer, fuzzier world of pluralistic, egalitarian beliefs and values. Grandma Zen might allow you to stay there, but not Ken Zen. Masters are not in the business of making you comfortable. They are in the business of shifting your awareness.

Some of you may find this part of my story somewhat controversial, but I think what Ken did here was necessary; and, now that the hard work in making this bigger distinction has been done, it is something that needs to be maintained in a myriad of smaller ways within our community. This has always been a real Jesus-chasing-the-money-changers-from-the-temple kind of effort for me. And–we crucified him for it.

I think this period in the history of Integral illustrates one of the main dynamics in our relationship to Ken. Ken, perhaps harshly or unskilfully or heroically, depending on your perspective, making repeated efforts to cut out those who would seek to debase the system–at least as he saw it; and then a larger and larger group of us being uneasy, then dismayed then horrified at the consequences. Clearly he has his supporters, and there are enough of them acting in good faith that they cannot be discounted, nor can the truth, however partial, associated with these actions be denied.

Now we need to tease apart Ken’s actions as Integral Big Heart from Ken as a human being–a human being, like the rest of us, with flaws. This story is not about white washing flaws in Ken’s behaviour. Far from it: clearly there have been some and they can look mighty big, but that is the whole point, and it brings us to the crux and core of our story. Are we Integral critics, the authentic ones, going to have the courage and humility to stand up, to do our best in carrying on the lineage, and to know that it is inevitable that we will make mistakes, and that our flaws will also be magnified and that, in this, other people will hang their dark shadows onto us in the same way we have hung them on Ken? Will we be grounded enough, also, to resist the temptation to exploit the energy of the bright shadow?

The real story here is the archetypal story of the Master and the apprentice: first we revere her and seek her out, then we learn from her, then we see her flaws and limitations. Given that an immediate cure for the human condition seems unlikely, and given that progress has only ever been made through learning from mistakes, are we, then, ready to emerge from the Master’s shadow–or, rather, our own shadow, the shadow we have hung on the Master–and face this inevitability? Is there not some truth in this in relation to how we collectively feel about Ken and II? Are we not to some degree projecting onto the Master what it means to step into our own mastery? Am I not? Are we ready to own this? If we are, then the story goes something like this: Ken is a Master with a big Big Heart and also a human being with flaws, who being aware of these two realities, the inevitability of mistakes, and the inevitability of the projections he would face, subjected himself knowingly to the slings and arrows for the good of the greater whole, as he saw it. Now each of us can evaluate the need for these actions and the elegance, or lack thereof, by which they were executed, but, if we are honest with ourselves, it is now a lot harder to think that Ken was not acting in good faith, with authenticity and, indeed, with a very Big Heart. You might think it is a flawed Big Heart, but keep in mind, they all are. The alternative story, that Ken’s personality is somehow defective and that he is profoundly unaware of what he was doing, just does not make enough sense–by itself.

Transcend and Include


(Click here for a fuller description of this pattern.)

This is all a part of Emergence, the next Pattern I would like to introduce. Collectively we are called into the advanced stages of emerging as Masters in our own right–it’s that time. As the Pattern above signifies, this emergence takes elements of previous systems (the little squares) and ‘pops’ them to a new level (indicated by the arrows), creating a new form (the oval). This story illustrates the classic developmental sequence. First we identify with a given level–the level we are trying to master–then we have to dis-identify with that level as the necessary start to transcending it. Then if all goes well, we swing back around and include what we dis-identified with and then emerge as a healthy integrated, much different and hopefully more complex whole. If we don’t, well, then we have a shadow. And, really, do we want the figure of Ken lurking around in our collective basement? That would be way worse than underwhelming–way, way worse! Developing the awareness to find a story for Ken that contains enough truth to allow us to embrace him as we transcend him is a much better option. I’m not interested so much in whether this is the story of Ken, as finding out what is, through the sum of our perspectives. I might be wrong about the amount of truth in this story, but what I do know is that however we collectively story Ken as a figure in Integral, we do in fact need a story, and we need to agree on its truth. So, if you think I am off base, please treat this as an invitation to discover your truth and to tell that story.

emerging from the master

So, the answer to my initial question is that we arrived here because to one degree or another it’s where you arrive in the development of a movement when the community as a whole begins to transcend the original Master. Yes, I still think it’s accurate to describe Integral as a movement, and, yes, things might have gone better, but they could also have been a lot worse. Our ‘we’ actually exists, and that is no small feat. And, yes, the big container thing has not met our expectations with regard to all the hype around what Integral was going to achieve. It might also be interesting at this point to ask why, if we felt the big container wasn’t working out, didn’t we do something about it? Why did we just default to the idea that Ken was the only one who could do this sort of thing?

Hype and the Energy of the Bright Shadow

My biggest criticism of the behaviour of Ken and II is all the hype. It’s really just borrowing from future successes and therefore borrowing from the community. In this case, it also amplified a very powerful dynamic–what I’m going to call the ‘energy of the bright shadow’. This is when we give our energy, resources and attention by projecting our higher potentials onto a figure, or figures, that we think represent the realization of those potentials. Working with this energy is always risky, potentially dangerous, and susceptible to abuse. It requires a strong duty of care. The projectees, it must be said, must also take responsibility for their half of this dynamic. Sometimes it’s worth borrowing to boost an enterprise along–that is what good credit systems should really be all about. The energy of the bright shadow may also be able to be used skilfully, if balanced and integrated to serve the enduring health of both the individuals involved and of the system as a whole. So, I don’t so much have a problem with how Ken and II generated the hyperbole around the initial launch of Integral. I was willing to entertain the idea that tipping this balance to such an extreme was timely and in service of an extremely good idea. But, I think this somehow became a general modus operandi and that there have been a few too many folks in and around II (and in fact more generally in the Integral scene) dipping into the same community credit, but without the same sort of justification or capacity to pay back. What seems like a much larger associated problem (again, I carry this perspective because of some of my previous experiences–particularly Mollison’s hyping of permaculture and the sycophants that he attracted) was the lack of discrimination about the acceptance and use of the energy of the bright shadow. This too seems to have become a general MO within parts of the Integral community, some tapping this flow through an association with Ken, and some by emulating him as proclaimed master of a particular sub-kingdom of Integral. This is, of course, not true of everyone involved in II or with Ken or in Integral at large. It’s just one of those orienting generalizations that helps us along the way.

If Ken was going to go booting people out of the temple, then perhaps it would have been better if he located folks engaged in these other, more insidious, forms of debasement–or empowered people who could. Because this did not happen, we lost our innocence and Integral Institute lost a big chunk of its credibility.

This, I think, is closer to the real source of our distrust of the big container.

If it is true that the bigger the emotional charge for, or against, something, the greater it is as an indicator of the amount of shadow at play, then we really have to examine the energy around how the Integral community feels about Ken and II at the moment, particularly in relation to both the period where we projected the bright shadow and the period where we have hung the darker one.

I think, also, it is precisely because Integral has had a first person focus on theory rather than a second person focus on conversation, meaning, values and culture that how power should be used in our community has gone undiscussed–at least in the more ‘official’ forums–and has often not been handled well. A discussion on power, whom should have it, how it is allocated, validated and substantiated, and how it gets used is another story and another conversation the Integral community needs to have sometime soon. I like to work on the basis that most people operate in good faith and that bad outcomes are generally the result of mistakes. If, though, we agree that something is a mistake, then any continued use of the sort of approach would constitute, in my books, an abuse of power.

Strong words, I know, but it is hard to see how we are going to get anywhere by apologising for the ongoing practice of that sort of thing. What I hope comes through here is that I’m attempting to offer authentic criticism. Part of doing that is pointing out it is actually ok to make mistakes (it’s inevitable) that mistakes were in fact made, and that, for criticism to be of service, these mistakes should examined. Partly, it is willing to be wrong, which I may be. And partly it is about being able to put things within a larger perspective. What we are hoping Integral can do is to make a real difference to how human beings relate to each other en mass. This has been the goal of every purportedly beneficent cultural movement since the dawn of time. Progress has been slow. If we make even a minor contribution, it will all be worth it. Deep down, though, many of us believe we have something that can do better than that. If so, this, in part at least, explains the very powerful energy we are working with, and, no doubt, a fair chunk of the energy behind our collective shadow dynamics related to Ken and II.

Community as Master

What I’ve come to now is that from a more dispassionate, more objective perspective what has gone down in the Integral world to date fits with patterns we have seen before and will most likely see again. Therefore, without denying the reality of the situation, we shouldn’t be overly harsh on Ken or ourselves or anyone else–unless of course the aforementioned negativities are perpetuated. The real question is, can we step up as a community and make real improvements going forward? And if so, just how do we do that?

My feeling is that it’s the Integral community at large that is emerging into mastery–Community as Master. Like I said, there are many, many good examples of Integral Theory being applied by individual practitioners and by groups on small and even medium scales. Here, it is doing pretty much what we thought it would do. There are also multiple examples of people who are taking Integral Theory further and making Integral Application better than anything we saw in the beginning. For instance Integral Coaching Canada has been a standout in both furthering Integral Theory and its application. Integral Without Borders is also doing great work. This is to name just a few examples. Now it’s time to scale this activity up into bigger institutions, and through that success demonstrate we really do have the capacity to make a substantial and lasting contribution to human affairs. I think this will require that shift from a first person ‘theoretical’ orientation to a more ‘cultural’ second person orientation in the general design of the Integral enterprise.


(Click here for a fuller description of this pattern.)

This leads to the Holarchy Pattern. The nested series of holons illustrated in this diagram signify a much more ecological pattern–systems within systems within systems. Hierarchy is implied here–some ovals encompass others–but it’s subordinate to the idea of ecology. An ecology is a system where there are many different niches at many different scales. It’s an organising principle with more of a dynamic, co-creative, participatory structure. Ecologies are also necessarily a blooming buzzing network of signalling and multi-directional communications. The hierarchical nature of II is a direct contrast to the principle Pattern that I see at work in MI, which is the more ecologically orientated Holarchy Pattern. Keep in mind that the Holarchy Pattern prescribes the framework of the greater system. You will find the same thing with MetaIntegral. It is embedded in a conscious field that supports a particular kind of ecosystem with a particular purpose. To find a niche there you will need to identify with the consciousness of that purpose. MetaIntegral does not intend to be the big container only a big container, one that might serve as a template for others. If MI turns out to be a redwood forest and you are looking for more of a coastal wetland, then you have a template for growing that type of holarchy. The more good ones the better, I reckon.

transcendent holarchy

The composite Pattern above signifies the meta-type (pattern of organisation or principle of design) that results from the balancing of Hierarchy with Holarchy. Hierarchy is not eliminated, but integrated (transcended and included) within a more complex whole. And, Hierarchy is in no way bad here, it just needs to be balanced with Holoarchy to serve the situation we find ourselves in now, which is not the launch of a movement, but its growth and maturity.

In a way, I’m speaking to you as a kind of MetaIntegral guinea pig. Recently, Sean Esbjörn-Hargens coached me as a certified coach of Integral Coaching Canada (one of the aforementioned organizations working very effectively at the medium scale in Integral). He has also mentored me, through the publishing process. In this coaching, mentoring, and our further work together he encouraged and assisted me, along with my long time collaborator Kamya O’keeffe, in developing PatternDynamics as an Integral application. Sean also helped to deepen what I would call my integral embodiment–my lived experience as an Integral practitioner. This was during the time that Sean was developing the concept of MetaIntegral. My input was welcomed and, in part, incorporated. It’s the two-way nature of my engagement with Sean and with the development of MI, more than anything else, which gives me the confidence to participate and to make such a deep commitment.

Dynamic Balance of the Feminine and the Masculine

MI is a space orientated to embodiment and application, to living integrally as a practitioner and to creating effective applications of that embodiment. It is not a space for commentary, but it is a space for conversations, conversations like this one that serve, through a shift to a more second person orientation, to build the meaning, values and the culture that support effective embodiment and application. In that way I feel like MI brings a more grounded, more functional, more supportive, more feminine balance to the design of our institutions. This relates to the descending arrow in the Masculine/Feminine Pattern below. The ascending arrow signifies the more agentic, more hierarchically driven, in many ways more exciting, but riskier dynamics that have dominated Integral to date. The masculine arrow is like the vertical branches of an olive tree: they shoot for the light and provide the energy for the tree, but they bear no fruit. The feminine arrow represents the lower more horizontal branches that carry less energy producing leaves but almost all of the fruit.

masculine and feminine

(Click here for a fuller description of this pattern.)

It’s not the use of a more masculine or a more feminine principle that matters so much as the capacity to balance and integrate these polarities as a method of ‘shifting’ that enables generative health for a particular, and of course constantly shifting, context.  Everybody and everything needs a dynamic balance between generating energy and using it creatively, agency and communion, Hierarchy and Holorchy. I think MI as a proposition within Integral needs to, and does, enable a shift to a more feminine orientation at this time, and I think it’s what we need. But, I also think MI embodies the capacity to shift between these perspectives as needed, which is signified by the intertwining of the masculine and feminine arrows in the Pattern diagram itself.

holarchy and masculine feminine

Meta-type: Balancing Polarity through Holarchy

The composite Pattern above represents a meta-type that I’ve called Balancing Polarity through Holarchy. The addition of the descending and ascending Masculine/Feminine Pattern arrows around the Holoarchy Pattern serves as a symbol for one of the central design principles informing MetaIntegral as an Institution–the capacity to balance and integrate masculine and feminie principles through the embodiment of a transcendent holarchy.


The last Pattern I want to include is Source.


(Click here for a fuller description of this pattern.)

Source signifies the consciousness awareness that holds the origin and evolution of a system’s identity and purpose . You can see the Source Pattern in the composite above. It is the most central and foundational of all the Patterns. It is the same core symbol as the Holon Pattern, and it shares the part/whole/inside/outside meaning as an aspect of its own. The focus, though, is on the consciousness that brings awareness to the unique nature of a particular holon or system. Without an awareness of a system’s original identity and purpose; and, without an ability to balance changes to that identity and purpose in a way that transcends but includes that origin, it will be compromised at its core. Source, in this instance, represents the consciousness required to integrate Ken, II and the history of Integral to date, into the evolution of the collective meaning making of our communtiy. If we can do this in a balanced way, it will enable the self-organising awareness of the individuals in the community around that identity and purpose. If not, we will have related shadows and blockages.

Ken will remain the origin of the Integral community’s identity, but he is no longer the main force in its evolution. That is up to us. Inevitably there will be a grieving process associated with the loss of Ken as the main source of our identity and the place where we hang our hopes, dreams, higher and lower selves. This grief must also carry the resultant loss of our innocence as a community. I think this is a big part of the feeling I’m describing in the field at the moment–to transcend is, in part, to separate–to experience a loss. This needs to be acknowledged and we must work through this grief without haste and in a way that allows the fullness of the process to demonstrate itself. A key to this will be to raise the consciousness required to acknowledge our origin so our relationship to it may be balanced, integrated and included in the evolving identity and purpose that ultimately makes Integral meaningful to us. This is the Source that serves us all. In this way, may we find generative health in the emergence of Community as Master.



Alexander. C, (1964). Notes on the Synthesis of Form. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Ueshiba, M, (1992). The Art of Peace. Boston, MA: Shambala

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  • Comment Link Kathryn Ehnebuske Monday, 04 June 2012 18:24 posted by Kathryn Ehnebuske

    Ken Wilbur's ideas appeared in my life twenty years ago and articulated with clarity, depth, and power the emerging shift in consciousness that I was experiencing and had not been able to fully comprehend. His ideas and the amazing breadth and exposure his work offered is a contribution I honor to this day. As with any deep teaching, I feel the point is to focus on the reality the teaching is pointing to, to use the skills of the master to more skillfully navigate the reality. Truly serving the living, breathing, ever shifting manifestation of life that he pointed to is what beckons. Each of Ken’s concepts that have supported my own expansion of consciousness, as well as the contributions of the myriad other brilliant minds his work led me to, only matter if I integrate them and apply them to the moving wonder of my own life. It reminds me of how appalling my parent’s faults appeared when I came to the stage in my growth where it was time to launch out into the territory that they hadn’t yet been able to broach. Now, I look back and feel nothing but gratitude. At the time I could sense only frustration, the edgy way growing feels.

    I love Tim’s patterns, they feel consistent with the fluid way integral theory is manifesting in my life. I’m still a bit skeptical of meta structures. Life will form into larger patterns, but the good ones will grow, called into form by the living questions we are struggling to respond to.

  • Comment Link John Wagnon Monday, 04 June 2012 19:05 posted by John Wagnon


    This is a fascinating essay to me because it parallels an essay I've been working on for awhile attempting to describe some of the same dynamics. In short, I agree with you on the need for community structure. I think that the structure that we currently have (or lack) will only support certain kinds of social behavior and reactions and these don't live up to our ambition. We need a LR social body (or many LR bodies) to hang our LL on. Its interesting that MI has the ambition to become some kind of big container for the LR body.

    Is there someplace I could send you a draft? I'd like to get your feedback.

  • Comment Link Campbell Wilson Tuesday, 05 June 2012 02:16 posted by Campbell Wilson

    Hi Tim

    I want to honour the courage it took to write an article like this. I've always respected your ability to put your own neck on the line to forward the health of the whole, in particular promoting what I believe are healthy ways of transcending and including the pioneering stages in a couple of movements you've been involved in now.

    On that note, the third hand drawn image particularly resonated with me. Seeing multiple holons side by side with the Ken holon, nested within the greater holarchy gave me a similar feeling of "Shit yeah, that would be healthy!" that I felt when I saw Sean present the outline of MetaIntegral.

    I'd also like to point out the value of this applied example of PatternDynamics in furthering our understanding of the usefulness it offers in the real world. Some more rubber meeting the road examples will be highly appreciated by the doers out there.

    All the best, Cam

  • Comment Link Tim Winton Tuesday, 05 June 2012 02:26 posted by Tim Winton

    Hi Kathryn,

    I really resonate with part of your last sentence above: that 'the good ones will grow'. I think that's what is so fascinating about where we are now with Integral in general. Feels like at this particular moment there is a ripe space for the emergence of approaches quite different to what we have seen to date. For me this is the most interesting bit–like watching the evolution of new types of ecosystems before our very eyes. Then comes the more difficult, but perhaps more satisfying stage, where we support them as they grow.

    I'm interested in hearing more about how patterns feature in the 'fluid way integral theory is manifesting in [your] life'.

  • Comment Link Tim Winton Tuesday, 05 June 2012 02:33 posted by Tim Winton

    Hi John,

    Thanks for your comments. I agree that it's valuable to continue the discussion about the designs of our Lower Right 'institutional' spaces. What kinds of beasts are these, and what actually makes them function as Integral and integral systems?

    Love to read a draft of your essay. You can send it to


  • Comment Link David MacLeod Tuesday, 05 June 2012 02:59 posted by David MacLeod

    Hi Tim,

    This is a very important essay that I hope will receive wide attention. It is also a great example for how to apply PatternDynamics.

    Having never been anywhere near any inner circles of Integral, I have very little context to go on for much of the content here, but I do have a strong sense from some of the online communities like this one that there is deep desire among many integralites to move beyond hype and commercial concerns, and to deepen skills to better embody the "We Space" and the possibilities of collective intelligence.

    I do think that PatternDynamics(TM) is a significant advance as an Integral application and sustainability approach, and I strongly encourage readers to set aside some time to dive in and follow the links you embedded in the essay. And also to begin following your new blog at

    In regards to Permaculture, it is really interesting to examine the differences between its two founders. At the time when Permaculture was born in the late '70s, Holmgren was the student, and Mollison was his mentor. But it was Holmgren who wrote "Permaculture One" (published 1978), with Mollison offering edits and advice.

    After its publication, Holmgren retreated to begin testing applications, while Mollison became the evangelist with the magnetic personality. Without Mollison playing this role, Permaculture may never have gained much of a following. After years of time tested practical application, Holmgren in recent years has re-emerged as a leader (not the leader) in the movement.

    Some comments Holmgren has made:
    "…While pleased with the public reaction to the book and the concept, I had plenty of doubts. Some of those were about my own lack of practical experience to backup the conceptual nature of permaculture. Some were about Bill’s tendency to talk up our achievements and those of others as evidence supporting permaculture…

    …I also saw acolytes willing to believe anything Bill said and at his behest launching themselves hopelessly unprepared on the real world as design consultants and activists trying to create the permaculture world. I found my own ideas being turned into ideology that I attempted to correct privately or publically. My habit of kicking the sacred cows of middle class Australian society, the design professions and the environmental movement reflected my upbringing as a sceptic. It was very ironical at the age of 25, I was adding permaculture sacred cows to the list to kick.
    …I saw the seeds of dogma and rigid ideology developing in the permaculture movement from the early days…

    In 1984...My anarchist idealism about a leaderless world of self-realized individuals was set to one side as one that required a lot more work."
    - Permaculture: A Personal Story

    And "My greatest fears about the movement are the development of dogma and sacred cows. Some might say I am obsessed by attacking sacred cows (no offence to my Hare friends) especially those born of my own work.
    We walk on a knife edge between the seduction of a defunct cultural heritage and the stifling bonds of dogma and even fascism. Constant self-critical appraisal and the grounding of working with nature are the only ways I know to maintain the internal balance.”
    - Permaculture Movement and Education

    Sorry for the extended quotes, but I do believe them to be relevant to this conversation. I also still believe the Permaculture principles outlined by Holmgren can be an excellent complement to Integral Theory. Permaculture has strength in the LR quadrant, but has weak points in the UL and LL. Integral has strength in the UL, but is weak in the LR. Put together, in forms like PatternDynamics and the Transition movement (and hopefully MI), there is much potential.

  • Comment Link Tim Winton Tuesday, 05 June 2012 03:04 posted by Tim Winton

    Hi Cam,

    Like most permaculture types, I love pioneers. And, I love mulching then down onto those nice new garden beds when they have done their job. Somehow we have to come up with ways of celebrating the same thing in social systems.

    Many more 'rubber meeting road' examples to come on both the PatternDynamics site and at thepatternguy blog

    I'm really looking forward to working with you again mate, especially as we start playing with integral approaches to permaculture.



  • Comment Link brent sheridan Tuesday, 05 June 2012 07:23 posted by brent sheridan

    a great read Tim - i really appreciate how careful and inclusive you were in how you wrote this, letting me know your intentions and your emotions/ thoughts/ conflicts throughout the piece. the impact on me is that i found myself assuming what direction you were going to head in, being surprised when you did not, and understanding more about me and you in the process... thanks for that!

    also wanted to reflect on how masterfully you have (sought to) recast the power and political systems in the Integral movement. you are walking your talk about moving beyond our own limiting UL patterns of projection (positive and negative) and encouraging yourself and all of us to grow up and take responsibility for our actions/ inactions/ judgements/ fantasies/ ... any such movement in a political system depends on communication - nasty politics rely on nasty comms, good on good; you have set us a fine example to get the ball rolling.

    and like others have said here, such an in-depth, worked example of the power of PatternDynamics is truely impressive. as i come to understand it more, i continue to be impressed at the power, breadth, depth and subtlety of the lens/ language/ technology you are creating! so very happy to have discovered this and be working with you in it.

    another reflection: i found myself thinking about how we do our (often) integral work with our clients and the structure we have to support groups evolve. we have always predicated any organisational transformation with the requirement that all involved have to start the work on themselves - they need to spend some significant time in UL/ Q1 to understand and experiment with their individual blocks/ how they scare/ stop themselves... perhaps this is also reflected in some great(er) unconscious wisdom in the integral movement. if it is true that Ken was/ is oriented primarily in that UL space, and if the movement has oriented in it with him for some time, then perhaps this was requrired prior to any collective meaning-making being possible. this germ of a hypothesis leads me also to reflect that your invitation for an emergent and transcending rise of us all to create the next batch of meaning, not relying on Ken or other Guru figures to supply it, seems a stage-appropriate growing up/ next level of maturation of our social system.

    again, a great piece and i certainly hope it is the beginning of a next conversation in the Integral movement, a 'talking-into-being' exercise perhaps, our individual and collective transformation into some other kind of social system/ organisational pattern

  • Comment Link Tim Winton Wednesday, 06 June 2012 03:18 posted by Tim Winton

    Hi David,

    Thanks for your support. The intersection of permaculture and Integral is an interesting one. There's a lot of parallel dynamics re their founders and general developmental dynamics. As compliments, they have a lot to offer each other. Some of the folks who trained with me at Permaforest Trust when we ran the Accredited Permaculture Training program there have continued to develop both permaculture and integral competencies. Cam Wilson, who is doing fantastic work at Mullon Creek Natural Farms (, is a great example of an Integrally informed permaculturist who is really kicking goals.

    Over time I have come to appreciate David Holmgren's approach to permaculture more and more. He is a very deep thinker and he has the rare ability to combine that with thorough and patient practical application. He is a real roll model for me with the development of PatternDynamics. We intend to prove the concept and its usefulness in specific situations as we go.

    In my view David has also come to integral conclusions on his own outside of the Integral community. I spoke with David about Integral Theory at least a decade ago at a Permaculture convergence in Nimbin, NSW, Australia, but as far as I know he has not used it explicitly in any of his work. If you read his book 2002 book Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability ( there are a whole range of integral insights, from the importance of I space and the incorporation of aspects of spirituality to perspectives on post modern environmentalism, rather than just perspectives from it that demonstrate an integral type awareness. Interestingly this is from his own insights and experience as a systems thinker working deeply within post modern environmental communities. The quotes were great. There are a few there that I have not come across before.

    I'll also be interested to see if PatternDynamics gets picked up within Transition circles. Founder of the Transition movement, Rob Hopkins, has created a Transition Pattern Language (, modelled more closely on Christopher Alexander's work than PD is, but it does not seem to have gotten real traction amongst Transition folk.

    Do you know much about how the Transition movement is using his pattern language, David?


  • Comment Link karen Wednesday, 06 June 2012 03:26 posted by karen

    One of the principles of IT is non-exclusion, but just because we don't include something does not mean that we are excluding it. As Sean Esborn-Hargens would say, autopoietic social systems are "the soup WITHIN which we swim." Try to spoon your way out of that one, will you?
    But, Wilber might set his own stage, which is just to say I have never actually seen him referencing himself as per any assessment accepted in the community. Maybe he has... I don't know. I heard him say something of this ilk - that he was "turquoise" at 25 years of age or so. Of course, how would he have known this then? Given the developmental models of the day, and the guy's like 60, right? So, one of Wilber's weaknesses as I see it in his text is this: Wilber doesn't see ontological pluralism. For example, he says stuff like Santa Claus is a Magic construct when Santa Claus is so obviously a Modern construct designed to appeal to Magic. Sean E-H sees ontological pluralism and that in and of itself I suggest will move MI into a more humane and compassionate direction. (Not to suggest yet another Master.)
    Another principle of IT is True and Partial. "...however we collectively story Ken as a figure in Integral, we do in fact need a story, and we need to agree on its truth." We so do NOT have to agree on any truth of any story. I agree that we are always storying though. Intersubjectivity is a range of play and not a "point" of connection or consensus as I hear Wilber describe it in Excerpt C. Any point would be in a constant state of flux anyway as is communication itself, which includes phenomenology. "Generative" is what we are as in it is never not the case - we're always chasing our own tail and tale. "Generative Health" is qualified and quantified and this is what I sort of see you doing here. As in, a first-person tone with no actual first-person experience save maybe a veil of shadow recognition. So, this is more of an inside jobber, right? As in those who were present at the time would know what you are alluding to? Is that the gest?
    Margin notes: Integral is a stage of development as per some researchers, which means for me it's pretty much how the world arises within and others can parse out particular patterns and preferences. Integral is also a diverse community, which as per some of its accepted metrics includes a range of integral thinkers at various levels. Researchers like Terri O'Fallon are grappling with stages and states and seeing that horizontal and vertical is not so clean cut.
    The archetype of Master and apprentice I'm not seeing so much because it's more of a book relationship, right? You say you've never actually engaged Wilber, the person, save as in a kind of "passing in the hallway" kind of gig? I place myself here too and don't feel the Master apprentice relationship - too third persony maybe. I think this was a great article. Thanks. -K

  • Comment Link Tim Winton Wednesday, 06 June 2012 03:55 posted by Tim Winton

    Hi Brent,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Power and politics has not featured as a focus of attention within the Integral community to date. Not like theory has, but as you say, some stages are going to have to come before others, and I agree with you that Wilber's first person approach was the necessary stage for launching Integral. I know you do a lot in your work at Accelerated Evolution ( re power and politics, and how your clients can overcome dysfunctional approaches and develop more functional ones. I'm interested in hearing about resources or methods that you think are helpful in this space and how you think we might start conversations on power and politics within the Integral community.

  • Comment Link David MacLeod Wednesday, 06 June 2012 04:37 posted by David MacLeod


    You noticed the same things I did when reading Holmgren's "Permaculture: Principles and Pathways..." book - that there were numerous integral compatible insights that seemed to develop from his own systems thinking and open mind. He has a great ability to take perspectives. When he teaches a concept, he's always quick to point out the polarities, counterflows, and exceptions.

    There's one thing he wrote that indicates a reason he might not be drawn to Wilber's brand of Integral: "I recognize there are dangers in attempts to develop 'a theory of everything' and in being a 'jack of all trades and a master of none' and in 're-inventing the wheel.'"

    However, the context for the above quote was in regards to his own system of Permaculture - a counterflowing, balancing thought.

    Permaculture convergence in Ninbin: Was Permaculture pioneer Robyn Francis hosting this event? She was touring the U.S. when I was taking my P. Design Course, and she taught a couple of sessions. Not sure how much Integral theory she uses, but she shared her "Eco-Social Matrix" which is based on Integral's 4 Quadrants.

    In the Transition movement, one of the principle trainers, and "Inner Transition" expert, Sophy Banks, uses the Integral framework. She has an interesting document on Ways of Knowing, found here:

    Regarding Rob Hopkins use of Pattern Language, he was using that to re-cast what was previously called "The 12 Steps of Transition," and as a framework for the 2nd book, The Transition Companion. As he was in the process of writing the book, he attempted to articulate the patterns in a series of blog posts. It was actually one of my colleagues who wrote to him and confessed she just wasn't getting it. Eventually Hopkins switched the metaphor from patterns to ingredients (as in a cookbook) - a bit easier to grok, but perhaps ultimately not as accurate. But the essence is still there.

  • Comment Link Tim Winton Wednesday, 06 June 2012 06:42 posted by Tim Winton

    Hi karen,

    Thanks for the comments and insights and for taking the time to engage with me on the topic. I think we do need to agree on the truth of a story, in culture generally, and in this case, with regard to Ken and the Integral community. At this point, I could try and convince you that I am correct and then you could retort with the same and we could repeat until we have hammered out some sort of meaning, even if that meaning lays fractured in different interpretations by different individuals and groups. This seems to be a well used method of meaning making, even in the Integral community.

    I'd like to take this opportunity to do something different from that. I'd like to try and integrate our perspectives. I think there is truth in both of our assertions: yours, that "Intersubjectivity is a range of play and not a 'point' of connection or consensus," and mine that we need a story that serves as a consolidated 'point' of meaning.

    My interpretation of what we are exploring here is the interplay of the on going 'process' of storying (becoming) and the formation of 'a' story (being). In PatternDynamics, this Polarity ( is illustrated by the Flows and Stores Pattern ( Flows and Stores signify the dynamic interplay of flows of process vs stores of 'things'. In natural systems we see this everywhere. For instance in the flow of water in a river and its store in water bodies like lakes or ponds. Both the flows and the stores of water have different functions within an ecosystem and both are really just two aspects of one thing. What kind of balance and interplay between the polarities engenders health in the system will depend on the context: is it a wet period or a dry one? Is the climate changing ect. With my post I'm pointing out that in the particular circumstance we find ourselves in now, as a greater Integral collective, I think we require a 'store' of story rather than just more ongoing flow. We need a story, because I think it is one of those times when it is healthy to slow the flow and take 'stock' of where we are and what that means.

    Part of what using meta-types (like AQAL ones or PatternDynamics ones) is all about is that it give us a set of principles by which we can test our assertions. You reference Appendix C by Wilber. I'm curious about the basis for the assertion there. I'm referencing hundreds of millions of years of evolution where, as far as I know, there has never been a biological system without flows and stores, without being and becoming. Cultural, psychological and social systems of all kinds, without exception, also display this meta-type. The great mythic stories from Gilgamesh to Godzilla illustrate the importance of a 'point' of meaning that is consolidated and sticks around for a while as a storehouse of meaning.

    So, your post has given me the opportunity to express that although I'm advocating for a story, I'm not excluding the process of storying–I think they are the same process in fact and that it is really just a matter of where one places the emphasis. I think we need both storying and stories in an intelligently designed interplay that serves the health of the Integral movement in general.

    I'm interested in hearing more about your objection to a story and why we definitely don't need one, in your view. You may be articulating something important here, and of course I could be wrong, but I need to know more about how you are thinking to know more about those two possibilities.

    Also, you are correct, my post is only going to be relevant to people with an experience similar to mine within Integral. I don't think of it as an 'insider jobber'–I'm hoping it has wider meaning than that. As I stated in the beginning, I'm not totally sure of this, but early feedback supports my case. Time will tell on that account. I'm glad you found it interesting.


  • Comment Link Tim Winton Wednesday, 06 June 2012 06:58 posted by Tim Winton

    Hi David,

    The convergence was in Nimbin and it was hosted by Robyn Francis at Djanbung Gardens. I gave a 1 hour presentation on Integral Theory at that event and both David Holmgren and Robyn Francis were in attendance. I recommended to David that he check out Sex Ecology and Spirituality by Wilber and showed him a copy of the book. David and his partner Sue Dennet also attended a PatternDynamics presentation I gave in Melbourne a few years ago, so he is aware of PD and its basis in both permaculture and Integral Theory.

    He came out to Permaforest Farm the next day and we had a walk around. The way he saw things and what he saw as a systems thinker and his understanding of the way nature works, even far from his home territory, made a big impression on me.

    I can see why Rob shifted to ingredients rather than patterns. I've found it very challenging to come up with a way of introducing Patterns in a way that is meaningful for folks who are not what I call 'natural systems thinkers'. For the ones who are, all I have to do is pull out the PatternDynamics Matrix Chart and there is instant interest and usually a good hour or two of conversation before we are done.

    Making the Patterns meaningful is still something I'm working on, so any feedback is much appreciated.

  • Comment Link Brett Bourne Wednesday, 06 June 2012 13:52 posted by Brett Bourne

    Hi Tim,

    I am grateful to you for this article and the carefully and patiently crafted commenting. As a long-time student/reader of Ken's work and new attendee (ILiA 2012) of any integral event, I find this fascinating and illuminating. I am also grateful to have discovered your work with pattern dynamics and that we share influences.

    I tend to try to cut through, and while presuming I am missing nuances and sublteties, can't help thinking most of the discord and dysfunctioning in the various "soups" might be attributed to the thrashings of a community gathered around a pandit, yet wishing for a guru.

    I find no such discord nor dysfunction in what I read and hear (via audio and video recordings) directly from Ken - not that I see perfection at all, just that I find the maps exquisitely well-made, provided I hold the territory (my territory) in sufficiently loose juxtaposition.

    To presume further, the realization of the perfection of this moment and the achingly deep and wondrous promise of each next "this moment" seems to be what Ken is seeking to share, master-full as he is. It seems to me he is neither making soup, nor telling us how to or that we should make soup; perhaps in this we agree, the soup is ours, not Ken's.

    While I particularly appreciate Karen's comments, and hope to hear more from her, allow me this caveat on ontological pluralism; as with the cogent observation with respect to "because we don't include . . . does not mean we are excluding" perhaps lapses in language need not indicate lapses in thought/vision, rather lapses in editing?


  • Comment Link David MacLeod Wednesday, 06 June 2012 14:44 posted by David MacLeod

    "I find the maps exquisitely well-made, provided I hold the territory (my territory) in sufficiently loose juxtaposition."

    Thank you for making the extremely important point above! And Ken often makes the same point.

  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Wednesday, 06 June 2012 16:12 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    I pray that one day we will be able to voice our own success stories without referencing Wilber's failures.

  • Comment Link karen Wednesday, 06 June 2012 22:57 posted by karen

    Wow! Tim,
    Convincing, retorts, hammers and fractures was a "well used method of meaning making" you experienced in the Integral community? See, at my level of development we call that "verbal abuse." My experience is the stories rooted in these "incidents" are often reactionary and fragmented and lock us into patterns of habituation and expectation. Guilty as charged!
    Appendix C felt a bit off to me, but not in general of course. Some cognitive/emotional dissonance around the notion that two or more individuals ever connect at a point. But, I have had those experiences during which the world becomes all crystalline and:"Oh my God! I'm being spoken... this person is speaking me!" Doesn't feel like a point though. And, say, we can reduce any group to the highest level of development of any individual... little tweeks and twists like that.
    Okay, I appreciate that you give me references to your work, which I am going to read so that I might see you better. Later Crocogator. -K

  • Comment Link Tim Winton Thursday, 07 June 2012 01:38 posted by Tim Winton

    Hi Brett,

    I think you raise are a really important point re Ken's explicit declaration that he is a pandit and not a guru, and how that plays out within the Integral community. Perhaps the shadow dynamics I'm exploring, in part, relate to Ken's understanding about how those dynamics might play out, and how he thought he might best deal with them. I'm only guessing and that is all we can do until Ken himself tells this story from his perspective. Memoirs perhaps? Given the clarity of Ken's self expression in his writings, his choice not to be a guru, and, as you point out, the "maps exquisitely well-made", it doesn't make sense to me that he was not aware and proactive in working with this energy. Personally I'd like to know. It would help me interpret what has 'gone down' with the organisational form of the wider Integral project and how better to serve the ongoing process of its development.

    As I stated, I'm really looking to start a conversation that can lead to meaning made out of the sum of our perspectives. Ken's is, obviously a really important perspective here, so whatever meaning comes of this conversation before Ken comments, if indeed he ever does, will have to be held with that in mind.

    Karen has made an important point with regard to my statement above that I'd like to acknowledge: that every story is really jut storying. We can try and slow things down and take a snapshot (and I think this can be useful), but it is an illusion to think the storying stands still just because you have done that. Alternatively, from my perspective, every flow is also a store–stand back far enough and even mighty rivers are 'bodies of water'.

    I also valued the clarity with which Ken's writings introduced me to "the realization of the perfection of this moment and the achingly deep and wondrous promise of each next 'this moment'"–the ever present present moment of being and becoming. Ultimately, that's how I hold all this. As just that. But, then we have the more relative world to deal with, not as something separate, but as something we can get more right or less right, and for me that's important.

    Thanks Brett, I really appreciate the clarity in your comments and the points you contributed.


  • Comment Link Robb Smith Sunday, 10 June 2012 02:38 posted by Robb Smith

    Tim, I hesitate to comment on your article because I have so much perspective that derives from an intimate and inside view of the last several years of Integral Institute. I have no interest in countering the various views that exist as people find their way through the necessary developmental dialectic of their own deeply-held relationship to this thing called integral. What I would offer, in service, is that there is a time and view that comes when these questions become less important. When that happens I believe people can do their finest truly integrative work. Incidentally, it may be telling that for the most part the ones who have done so do not count themselves as part of the integral community. They have fully integrated their previous projections. Warmly, Robb

  • Comment Link Tim Winton Tuesday, 12 June 2012 14:52 posted by Tim Winton

    Hi Robb,

    I appreciate your taking the time to read the article and to respond. I can also appreciate that, in light of what I have written, your intimacy with II might make you hesitant to comment more fully. I agree that countering my views, or others, mightn't be that useful, but I think adding your perspective from the inside, as it were, would be. Part of what I'm trying to do with my article is to bring more awareness to how we practice power and politics inside our community and, indeed, outside of it, and how we might make this better. Given your experience, I reckon you have a lot to offer here. With respect, I'm not sure this is ever going to become less important unless we work it out. In that spirit, I'd like to invite you to give us the benefit of your perspective. Now or in the future, Robb, I think this could be of great service.



  • Comment Link Paul England Thursday, 14 June 2012 23:50 posted by Paul England


    First, I would like to acknowledge your courage in beginning a conversation that I believe will be, and has in fact the minds and hearts of all true "integralists".

    And by "true", I mean those for whom this self-evident process of growth, development, and the "creative advance into novelty" was begun long before "Integral" hit the front pages....

    I resonate deeply with the "tone" of your piece and in a very feeling sense, have had a very similar journey through the integral landscape from 2005 to the present; even though I did not participate in any of the "inner circles" of II or any of it's associated organizations.

    It seems at the beginning of the integral enterprise that our enthusiasm and excitement out-stripped the level(s) of our actual individual and collective development. It became obvious, after a sufficient period of time had passed that the integral lens though which we were viewing "things" was giving one an exaggerated sense of power....almost like looking through a high-powered rifle scope at a "target" virtually out of range of the caliber we had employed...And if you have ever looked though such a scope you will immediately see the "four quadrants" appear....

    While my "marksman" analogy may seem crude and possibly even offensive to those of a more sensitive nature, I believe it nonetheless points to the precision "machine" model (remember Ken's "Borg" avatar)that some were possibly even unconsciously employing; rather than an ecological plant based model that is obviously based on a cooperative symbiosis.

    Regardless, I feel that it is time for us all to remove as many impediments as we can identify, that impinge on the growth, development, and sustenance of the space we call "WE" - since we are, ALL in THIS (whatever THIS is)together.

    This does not imply a looking away from our individual and collective shadow(s)....rather it "asks" us to look at the self-evident truth of both our being and becoming, and that which we seek to enact and create in "this" world.

    As for "me", I support "Integral" on all fronts....regardless of it's "wrinkles". Let's continue the conversation, support one another's efforts, and recognize that we are all contributors and unique faces in this movement that is so desperately needed in this world.

    Yes, it not esoteric theory or high rhetoric that will bring the masses to an understanding that there is a more inclusive way. Rather, it will be through an actual living demonstration that the "word will be made flesh"...

    If not "US" then who?

    My BEST to you and I look forward to MI's birth,


  • Comment Link Tim Winton Thursday, 14 June 2012 23:53 posted by Tim Winton

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for contributing your voice to this conversation. How it is that we create the norms and 'normative commitments' amongst any community of people it a subtle and somewhat curious process for me. I remember first seeing the 'Borg' imagery, that you mentioned, and wondering how it would be interpreted, and how it was that I was interpreting it. Part of me felt like it was new and evolutionary and part of me didn't really resonate at all. Then it just sort of slipped into whatever it is that starts to shape what is normal and acceptable.

    Even our conversation here, however subtly, contributes to the shaping of the 'we'–to our story, and with it goes a certain responsibility to be sensitive to what sort of grooves we are laying down. I'm with you on the need to sharpen our awareness around removing impediments. My interpretation on how to facilitate that process, at least in part, is to make a significant shift in what is normal and acceptable in our community. I feel like that shift has a lot to do with a more horizontal approach, where we focus on the 'health of the whole' as a compliment to the focus we have had up to now, which I think has been more oriented around that targeting of a more vertical evolutionary depth. Your crosshairs metaphor is a powerful one. It really brings home the gravity of looking so intently through that lens.

    Like you, I'm much more at home with the ecological metaphor and its association with a more cooperative and symbiotic approach. I think it also speaks to the integrative capacity we see in natural systems. Somehow there is a seamless, adaptive health and evolution in nature that us humans so far have failed to emulate with our freedom to choose other than instinctive pathways. I suppose this is our great challenge: to find ways to shape an 'integrative' we-space such that by demonstration we unequivocally start to regain that seamless enduring health of natural systems at our new, more open and more experimental stage of being. I think we are as well placed to do this as any group I know of. If not us, then indeed, who?

    My best to you, Paul.


  • Comment Link Kathryn Ehnebuske Friday, 15 June 2012 03:02 posted by Kathryn Ehnebuske

    Sorry I took so long to respond to your “interest in hearing more about how patterns feature in the fluid way integral theory is manifesting in my life.” The words were an instinctive response and I felt like I needed to spend some time looking at your patterns, thinking about my own experience and trying to see if I could articulate what I meant. I love the wonderful dialog, it’s nice being encouraged to think! Reading your blog about your experience with permaculture as a “movement” resonates with the experience I had in the food co-op movement in the 1970’s; ideology too often trumping realistic and humane interactions. Integral theory appealed to me because it spoke to experiences I was having. The framework made it easier to perceive more vividly the depth and power possible in integrating all aspects of my reality, especially the aspects I may not have focused on. The precise lines of the theory tend to “compost” and dissolve into my way of seeing the world and reemerge as very authentic and useful responses to living questions. Theories should support how we respond and create our world; we shouldn’t attempt to create a world that conforms to theories. I loved that spirit in Christopher Alexander’s Pattern Book and it seems to be the spirit reflected in your patterns, a way to bring our shared attention to the living patterns emerging so that collectively we can navigate them more consciously

  • Comment Link Paul England Saturday, 16 June 2012 05:51 posted by Paul England


    Thanks for your reply. I would like to continue this conversation by simply following your "lead" through each of your paragraphs and "points"....

    Could you elaborate a bit more on your meaning for "Norms".

    As far as the Borg imagery goes I also related to the image in a number of complex ways: Man/Machine as integrative intentional symbiosis - a "superior" evolutionary advance of information processing capacity; multiple perspectives.

    Then there was the "tongue in cheek" look at Ken, who was painted by some critics, as essentially having been "assimilated" absorbed by the power of intellect, theory creation, and congitive capacites of higher mind.... but bereft of heart.

    I feel this was simply put; a "mistake". Only causual onlookers of what we know of his life would not see the very real suffering of the human Ken....

    But, gathering meaningful perspectives, as we can; we can also see what an integrating of Human Beings with the processing capacity of machines, combined with the connection to nature in it's preternatual beauty might mean to us....the capacity to emulate plant based models, remember, it's transcend and "include"....It seems we may have forgotten that what we call the "ecosystem" is a beautiful living dance of an acutual living organism.

    Also, I would like to start a thread concerning the "Generational Perspectives of Integral"....I have been considering how Integral and Ken Wilber "look" to a 20 something versus a 50 something (given a set of experiential similarities), especially if your own experience was in fact "similiar" and you viewed Ken as more of a highly intelligent complex friend on this apparent developmental journey, versus the "einstein of consciousness".

    Life to you Tim....


  • Comment Link Tim Winton Tuesday, 19 June 2012 05:09 posted by Tim Winton

    Hi Kathryn,

    When you stated that you felt like PatternDynamics was "a way to bring our shared attention to the living patterns emerging so that collectively we can navigate them more consciously," it made me smile a big smile. That is one of the most beautiful and clear expressions of how I think of PD myself. Thank you. It feels so nice to know you see a bit of what I see in the 'patterns of Nature'.



  • Comment Link Tim Winton Tuesday, 19 June 2012 05:24 posted by Tim Winton

    Hi Paul,

    I was using the term 'norms' as a pattern of social behaviour–especially in relation to how acceptable or unacceptable these patterns are in various contexts.

    To take up your thoughts on the machine/human symbiosis as an evolutionary process, I wonder how this will play out as something acceptable or unacceptable as a general premiss–especially among different groups and demographics.

    I'd like to participate in a discussion of how different generations view integral. I think it will be quite interesting to flesh out some of the youngest generation's views on integral and the human machine interface. They seem to be diving in without hesitation. I'm not sure this has been tackled by anyone before. Love to hear if someone has. Perhaps you could submit something to the editors of this site?



  • Comment Link Paul England Tuesday, 26 June 2012 17:30 posted by Paul England


    Again, thanks for your response. I am on the busy side of the street right now with full spectrum (a.k.a. all "4 quadrants")demands and changes in progress..... :-)

    But in the next month or so I will submit a piece to the site editors, as discussed.

    Best Regards,


  • Comment Link Tim Winton Thursday, 28 June 2012 01:08 posted by Tim Winton

    Hi Paul. I look forward to reading your piece. Happy to help with review/editing or just working through ideas in conversation, via email or Skype. Tim

  • Comment Link Paul England Sunday, 01 July 2012 17:00 posted by Paul England


    I will take you up on your offer as soon as I am settled (moving,etc.) again, which looks like mid-August,

    I am working on this in my "spare" time, so I do expect to have some ideas regarding our "integral trajectory" and generational perspectives incorporated into the piece and ready for discussion/revision.

    I really appreciate your receptivity and participation. Please contact me though B&S with your contact information...

    Be Well,


  • Comment Link Mats Larsson Thursday, 06 September 2012 17:27 posted by Mats Larsson


    I just had to make a comment in regard to this, which I think is very, very disturbing indeed!

    You write: is precisely because Integral has had a first person focus on theory rather than a second person focus on conversation, meaning, values and culture that how power should be used in our community has gone undiscussed - at least in the more ‘official’ forums - and has often not been handled well. A discussion on power, whom should have it, how it is allocated, validated and substantiated, and how it gets used is another story and another conversation the Integral community needs to have sometime soon. I like to work on the basis that most people operate in good faith and that bad outcomes are generally the result of mistakes. If, though, we agree that something is a mistake, then any continued use of the sort of approach would constitute, in my books, an abuse of power.

    Here is my comment:

    Thank God that Ken gave himself the power to "cleaned out" people that according him didn’t understand his AQAL framework (even though they thought that they did). Thank God that Ken gave himself the MANDATE to protect the integrity of his life's work. Ask yourself, what would you do if someone started to claim that they understand the implications of your own work - PatternDynamics - when they clearly did not. What would you do? If they claimed that they read your work when it is obvious that they did not? Would you then hand over the power to decide what YOU mean by “Intergral” to some type of community? I don’t think so!

    So when you write that the continuation of such approach would constitute some type of "abuse of power" in your book", it’s just ridiculous!

    The bottom line is: If Ken starts II, then he also have the right to decide what he/II wants and mean, and what he wants to put his name on.

    If the Integral community (who the fu...IS that anyway), wants to "vote" on what Ken means, or what he should put his name on, or who II should support or not, then I think the Integral community is in very deep shit indeed (at least as long as, II = “Good practices according to Ken Wilber’s Integral Model”). Because this would give second person approaches way, way too much power (i.e. marginalize the virtues of freedom executed by first person approaches). So let’s be clear about this: the right to decide what an individual wants to support needs to belong to the individual himself. That is simply the best way to protect the individual’s OWN vision from being distorted. It is a BAD idea to use second person approaches to “change” an individual’s interpretation of their own work.

    Dont you agree?

    - Mats Larsson

    Ps. Please send me an email to, if you have any comments...

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