Sunday, 18 October 2009

Centralisation vs Decentralisation

It is now many years since Andrew Smith proposed his one-scale model of holarchy as an alternative to Ken Wilber's quadrant model, yet still few people in the integral movement seem to appreciate the benefits that the former has over the latter. In an attempt to redress this imbalance I have, in a series of articles available on the Integral World website (http://www.integralworld.net) and on this blog, attempted to draw out the implications of Smith's model for our understanding of both individual and collective development, and to show how it is able to account for the major features of all other existing models.

In my view, one of the most simple yet important insights offered by Smith's model is the distinction between intermediate and autonomous holons. To put it simply, intermediate holons have an entirely holarchical structure, in which each stage is subsumed within a strict hierarchy of development, while autonomous holons have a "mixed" structure in which all stages from a particular level exist in both free and embedded forms.

One of the implications of this distinction that I believe Smith would agree with is that the most healthy society possible (often referred to as the "integral" society) would have such an autonomous form. It therefore becomes critical to consider how the concept of the autonomous holon applies to the social level and to discuss what types of social organisation it implies.

In my most recent article on Integral World I argue that this "ideal society" would be decentralised in nature and that viewing it thus we end up with a schema of development that is more coherent than Ken Wilber's entirely centralised approach. However, after further consideration of the matter, I would like to partially recant this heresy. It seems rather obvious to me now that when applied to collective development the mixed holarchical structure of the autonomous holon clearly implies that we endeavour to find a "middle-way" between centralisation and decentralisation.

So reconsidering my previous articles, it now seems to me that I had half the truth. As an antidote to Wilber's paradigm of centralisation, my argument that decentralisation was the preferred approach was much needed. However, I now believe that further thought and research will show that that ideal course of development actually lies somewhere between the two. There are, of course, obvious benefits to centralisation that no sensible person would deny. The ability to co-ordinate necessary action across the entire social sphere being the main one. Yet decentralisation is also needed in order to allow individuals to have power over their own lives and to attain authentic centauric awareness.


Applying this principle to the structure of spiritual communities and to the issue of spiritual development in general, I believe that the same conclusion also applies. As spiritual aspirants, it suggests that we should therefore endeavour to tread a middle-way between guru worship (centralisation of authority) on the one hand and total self-reliance on the other. In other words, we should attempt to balance the virtues of respecting our teachers and practicing according to their instructions on one hand with those of attempting to find our own path and to express our own individuality on the other. In our current age it is apparent that much of the guru system tends toward one extreme, while much of the new age and conspiracy scene tends toward the other. However, if my conclusion is correct, then optimum spiritual development is achieved by treading a middle-path between the two. How exactly this is to be done is a debate that I believe should be initiated.

Of course, all of the above may sound like nothing more than common sense, and I guess it may be. Yet by applying Smith's one-scale model to these issues we have a theoretical foundation on which to base our analysis of them, which is much to be desired, even if we should end up with nothing more than common-sense conclusions.


And as a final point, anyone reading this from a global-conspiracy angle may be wondering: what does this analysis of the ideal society mean for the issue of a world government? Well, while I have no fixed opinion on this matter, I would tentatively suggest the following: a world government that is married with appropriate decentralisation, that therefore does not have excessive power, which is in the hands of spiritually-developed, compassionate leaders and which is intent on allowing all of its subjects to attain authentic centauric awareness, may not necessarily be a bad thing. The problem we have is that the world government we are faced with has anything but these merits. The world government being manipulated into existence today is both authoritarian and, as demonstrated by David Icke, driven by a strain of consciousness that has anything but human well-being at its heart. Such a world government would obviously be undesirable. But in my opinion, a world government that has the various virtues mentioned, could actually be a force for good.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Ken Wilber and the New World Order

Ken Wilber is a writer probably best described as being situated at the intellectual end of the new spirituality field - a self-proclaimed "pandit" and "defender of the dharma" - although not rigorous enough in his argumentation to be considered a serious philosopher. Over the course of several decades he has developed a big-picture "theory of everything" that attempts to integrate all existing fields of human knowledge into a grand unified system.

To put it simply, Wilber's thesis is that humanity is following a path of evolution upwards through a series of "structures of consciousness", beginning with primitive mental states, then progressing through more complex psychological structures, before eventually venturing into the "transpersonal", the higher states of consciousness previously experienced only by sages and mystics. Each of these stages of internal awareness, according to Wilber, correlates with the type of social organisation that the individual lives within. Wilber argues that as a society evolves through various stages, the consciousness of its members evolves with it, giving us a schema of development as follows:

SocietyStructure of Consciousness
hunter-gathererarchaic
tribalmagic
early nation-statemythic
nation-staterational
world governmentintegral
?illumined mind
?intuitive mind
?overmind
?supermind

While it is not my intention here to critique this model, it is immediately obvious that one problem with it is that Wilber has never attempted to describe the types of social organisation that correlate with each of the transpersonal stages. Indeed, it would appear that after the emergence of a world government, no further development is possible.

However, a more serious issue, in my opinion, is that Wilber takes it as given that collective development proceeds through the progressive centralisation of power. Yet to me this is far from obvious. In a series of essays available in the Reading Room of Integral World (http://www.integralworld.net/readingroom.html#JO) I argue that healthy social development actually proceeds through the progressive decentralisation of power, although I should say that my current thinking is that a middle way between centralisation and decenentralistion is the desired course. In my papers I have attempted to show that when we base our schema of development on such a premise, we end up with a model that is more coherent than is Wilber's, and which avoids many of the problems inherent in his approach.

A more seriously problem, in my opinion, is that to anyone who accepts the existence of a global conspiracy - the agenda to impose an authoritarian one-world government on the planet - Wilber's model could be seen as dangerously rationalising such a state of affairs. In fact one implication of Wilber's schema is that the emergence of a world government would positively further our collective evolution. Wilber could therefore be quite unintentionally leading his readers into the "new world order" that is the goal of the global conspiracy. Indeed, some of Wilber's followers are already openly calling for world government.

It should therefore come as no suprise to followers of global-conspiracy research that individuals such as Bill Clinton and Al Gore have lauded Wilber's work (http://www.kenwilber.com/blog/show/543). According to David Icke, Clinton and Gore are both front-men for the global conspiracy, and have been promoting the new world order agenda since they were in office.

Wilber clearly believes that his work is at the forefront of human evolution and has recently started a movement to promote his views (https://www.integrallife.com/), yet as the hundreds of critical essays available at Integral World demonstrate, his work is not as watertight as he would like us to believe.

While there is much to be said for any big picture model of reality that includes a spiritual dimension, I believe that in the age of the global conspiracy we need to be very wary of any paradigm that views a world government as representing a positive evolutionary advance.