Ken Wilber is an American writer who focuses on transpersonal psychology and integral theory. Transpersonal psychology is a particular school of psychological thought which focuses on attempting to bring the whole of human transcendental and spiritual experience into the operative frame of modern, Western psychology. Integral theory is a concept of Wilber’s own devising: it is his attempt at a “theory of everything,” one which synthesizes a wide variety of different thinkers and ideas into a single, unified framework. The theory operates on a quadrant model, attempting to categorize human thought under four distinct headings: Intentional (with thinkers such as Freud); Behavioral (including thinkers like Skinner); Cultural (utilizing thinkings like Gadamer); and Social (looking to the work of thinkers such as Marx).
Wilber has written a number of books. Highlights include The Spectrum of Consciousness; The Holographic Paradigm and Other Paradoxes; Sex, Ecology, Spirituality; and A Theory of Everything.
In this short ebook, Wilber approaches the incredibly divisive topic of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election. According to Wilber, much of the discussion on both sides of the debate has been incendiary and one-sided. Trump supporters are incredibly vocal about their win; and, at the same time, anti-Trump detractors are just as vocal about their derision towards both Trump and his supporters.
In Trump and a Post-Truth World, Wilber attempts to go beyond this basic divide and dig into something deeper. According to Wilber, both sides are locked into incredibly narrow views of experience, which limit their ability to see the larger forces at work in American politics and culture. He argues that postmodernism has led us into a quagmire wherein nothing can be entirely true or untrue, and that this has primed us for a “post-truth,” Trump world. This book will give readers a new perspective on our current situation, as well as ideas for a more “integral” way forward.
On balance, the response to the recent election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States has been extreme, visceral, and loudly vocal, on both sides. The supporters of Trump have often been nasty and mean in their triumphal attitude, voicing “I told you so!” and “This finally serves you right!,” gloating over their unexpected but, they feel, totally righteous and justified win. The anti-Trump side has been, if possible, even more vocal, with people tearfully telling of how they threw up, screamed, spent endlessly sleepless nights, all but gave up on democracy and any sort of idealism at all (many of whom had promised to leave the country should Trump win), finding his election to be a victory of hatred, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and all-round bad taste—and then, usually, vowing to continue “the fight” and urging their fellow Americans to fight with them, never give up.
Both sides, in my opinion, are caught in too narrow a view. There is a bigger picture operating here, and I’d like to outline what that might possibly be. I’ve never heard this particular view I’m about to describe be expressed by anybody, but I believe it represents a larger, more integral view, and as such can be quite illuminating—and liberating. The pain and suffering that both sides feel is, I believe, the result of identifying with a much too narrow view, and a more expansive stance offers genuine release —while still allowing one to work on whatever side one wishes.
Every now and then, evolution itself has to adjust course, in light of new information on how its path is unfolding, and it starts (apparently spontaneously but with this deeper morphic field actually operating) by making various moves that are, in effect, self-correcting evolutionary realignments. The leading-edge of cultural evolution is today—and has been for four or five decades—the green wave (“green” meaning the basic stage of human development known to various developmental models as pluralistic, postmodern, relativistic, individualistic, beginning self- actualization, human-bond, multicultural, etc.—and generically referred to as “postmodern”). The primary purpose of the leading-edge of evolution is to be just that: a LEADING edge of evolutionary unfolding, what Maslow called a “growing tip”—it seeks out (that is, part of its selection context rewards the discovery of) areas that are the most appropriate, most complex, most inclusive, and most conscious forms that are possible at that particular time and point of evolution (in Integral terms, the form that best fits the ongoing unfolding of the AQAL matrix in all its elements).
Beginning in the 1960s, green began to emerge as a major cultural force and soon bypassed orange (which was the previous leading-edge stage, known in various models as modern, rational, reason, formal operational, achievement, accomplishment, merit, profit, progress, conscientious) as the dominant leading-edge. It started with a series of by-and-large healthy and very appropriate (and evolutionarily positive) forms—the massive civil rights movement, the worldwide environmental movement, the rise of personal and professional feminism, anti-hate crime, a heightened sensitivity to any and all forms of social oppression of virtually any minority, and—centrally—the understanding of the crucial role of “context” in any knowledge claims and the desire to be as “inclusive” as possible. The entire revolution of the sixties was driven primarily by this stage of development (in 1959, 3 percent of the population was at green; in 1979, close to 20 percent of the population was)—and these events truly changed the world irrevocably. The Beatles (otherwise sacrosanct in my view) summarized the whole move (and movement) with one of their songs: “All you need is love” (total inclusion rules!).
But as the decades unfolded, green increasingly began veering into extreme, maladroit, dysfunctional, even clearly unhealthy, forms. Its broad-minded pluralism slipped into a rampant and runaway relativism (collapsing into nihilism), and the notion that all truth is contextualized (or gains meaning from its cultural context) slid into the notion that there is no real universal truth at all, there are only shifting cultural interpretations (which eventually slid into a widespread narcissism). Central notions (which began as important “true but partial” concepts, but collapsed into extreme and deeply self-contradictory views) included the ideas that all knowledge is, in part, a cultural construction; all knowledge is context-bound; there are no privileged perspectives; what passes for “truth” is a cultural fashion, and is almost always advanced by one oppressive force or another (racism, sexism, eurocentrism, patriarchy, capitalism, consumerism, greed, environmental exploitation); the utter, absolutely unique, and absolutely equal value of each and every human being, often including animals (egalitarianism). If there was one line that summarized the gist of virtually all postmodern writers (Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, Bourdieu, Lacan, de Man, Fish, etc.) is that “there is no truth.” Truth, rather, was a cultural construction, and what anybody actually called “truth” was simply what some culture somewhere had managed to convince its members was truth—but there is no actually existing, given, real thing called “truth” that is simply sitting around and awaiting discovery, any more than there is a single universally correct hem length which it is clothes designers’ job to discover.
So it ended up that for postmodernists, all knowledge is culturally bound; there is no universally valid perspective; therefore all knowledge is based on a mere interpretation announced from a privileged (therefore oppressive) perspective; knowledge is not given but is constructed (created, built, fabricated); there is nothing but history, and therefore what any culture takes as “true” today will dramatically shift tomorrow; there is no universal moral framework—what’s true for you is true for you, and what’s true for me is true for me—and neither of those claims can be challenged on any grounds that do not amount to oppression; the same is true for value: no value is superior to another (another version of egalitarianism); and if any truth or value is claimed to be universal, or claimed to be true and valuable for all, the claim is actually nothing but disguised power, attempting to force all people everywhere to adopt the same truth and values of the promoter (with the ultimate aim of enslavement and oppression); it is therefore the job of every individual today to fight all of the authoritarian truths handed to them from yesterday and to be totally, radically autonomous (as well as not entertain any truths themselves that could or should be forced on anybody else, allowing everybody their own radical autonomy as well—in short, to not entertain anything called “truth” at all, which now was seen as always being a power-grab). You simply deconstruct every single truth and value you find (which, again, usually slid into nihilism and its tag-team member from postmodern hell, narcissism). In short, the aperspectival madness of “there is no truth” left nothing but nihilism and narcissism as motivating forces.
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Sean Fargo is the Founder of Mindfulness Exercises, a former Buddhist monk of 2 years, a trainer for the mindfulness program born at Google, an Integral Coach from New Ventures West, and an international mindfulness teacher trainer. He can be reached at [email protected]
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