This past weekend Core Integral founder Clint Fuhs and I worked with a group of 30 people in Washington DC. The group was made up of some people who were primarily aligned with the Integral Perspective and others with the perspective of Evolutionary Enlightenment and EnlightenNext. Together we all entered into a candid inquiry into the strengths, weakness and trans-lineage possibilities of these two powerful cultural forces. As my train rolls out of Penn Station for the last leg of my journey home I am contemplating what went down during a series of events that left me feeling like a cross between a spiritual luminary, a visiting scholar, a cultural dignitary, and an inter-faith mediator.
This event was really an extension of a conversation that Clint and I have been having over the past year. That conversation revolves around that fact that both he and I feel deeply responsible for the legacy of our respective traditions. Many people today have a negative association toward the idea of being part of a lineage. The whole notion sounds antiquated to our post modern ear and it seems to be generally believed that eventually the only way to keep growing is to leave any lineage behind. As close students and collaborators with our teachers (me with Andrew Cohen and Clint with Ken Wilber) Clint and I have talked about the power and potential of developing, maturing and teaching in our own right while maintaining a relationship with the original sources of our inspiration. In addition we have explored what it means to embrace the responsibility of carrying our lineages forward – and perhaps more significantly, to explore what a trans-lineage legacy between these two perspectives might be.
By the time we began the weekend Clint and I wanted to be sure that everyone who came understood that at least as far as we were concerned they were part of this “second generation” as well. We set context for the weekend by expressing our shared conviction that anyone and everyone who has been inspired by either the perspective of Integral Theory or the teaching of Evolutionary Enlightenment is already a part of the legacy of those traditions. We are the second generation simply by virtue of the fact that what we do with our inspiration will inevitably define how these lineages unfold into future. Andrew Cohen and Ken Wilber cannot determine how we will interact to manifest trans-lineage possibilities. Only we can do that.
It was clear from the first moment that there was explosive excitement around the idea of trans-lineage work. At the same time a deep cynicism also surfaced about the realistic possibility of any real cooperation ever immerging. There was plenty of work to be done.
The idea for a weekend like this was initially born out of another momentous weekend event that occurred exactly one year ago. At that time I had been invited to participate in a series of discussions with some of the closest associates and students of Integral Philosopher, Ken Wilber. The weekend was held in Ken Wilber’s beautiful loft apartment in Denver Colorado and the 9 or so participants spent three full days perpetually together, sharing presentations, engaged in dialogue and inevitably sleeping (very little) scattered on the floors of spare rooms around the loft. We generated a super-charged creative and intimate environment discussing Ken Wilber’s most recent thinking and adding a few thoughts and ideas of our own. I had the chance to speak in depth about the work that I have done as a prominent member of EnlightenNext and led a dialog practice with the group. The most unexpected surprised for all of us was that Ken Wilber himself participated in the whole weekend.
Ever since that weekend Clint Fuhs and I have maintained an ongoing discussion about the gifts and liabilities of both Integral Theory and Evolutionary Enlightenment. So when the leaders of the EnlightenNext and Integral communities of Washington DC asked us to open up this conversation in a public forum we didn’t think twice. Our vision for this weekend was to initiate an inquiry that would reveal the achievements, contributions, untapped potentials, prejudices, misconceptions and arrogances on both sides of the fence. In so doing we felt that we would be beginning on a road toward more meaningful collaboration between these two organizations. We wanted to open up trans-lineage synergies and opportunities that could help shape the future of our shared desire to usher in a new era of human development.
From the start the weekend took on a life of its own. It was obvious that others were already engaged in the same inquiry that Clint and I were having. What we were doing now was giving everyone permission to take the conversation out of the corridors of conference centers and the privacy of phone calls, and have it together, face to face.
During a full day working session we broke up into groups mixed between EnlightenNext affiliates and those of Integral. Together we dove into what might best be described as trans-lineage shadow work. In small group discussion we identified both the gifts that these tremendously powerful perspectives have to offer and also the shadows and liabilities that are apparent in the communities that have emerged around them. Once we got the ball rolling there was no stopping it. The work was challenging and at times we all felt that we were heading into territory where angels would fear to tread – but the atmosphere was mutually respectful, positive and bursting with shared intention, good will and hope.
The gifts and shadows that came out were not surprising. The Integral community is intellectually rigorous, philosophically inclusive and provides a map of reality that is second to none. At the same time the people associated with it are seen as overly intellectual, arrogant and unwilling to work together. The EnlightenNext community has created an exemplary cultural coherence with shared moral agreements and clear practices that bring people together beyond the limitations of self-centeredness. At the same time its members often appear to be elitist, excessively exclusionary and cultish.
After these sessions Clint and I each spoke about our respective traditions. What we wanted to do was tell the story of how each had come into being. We spoke with honesty and frankness and as we did something became clear to everyone. Integral Theory and Evolutionary Enlightenment are not just a collection of ideas and practices – they are living traditions that emerged out of the vision of a powerful central figure and were shaped by the efforts of all of the people that were inspired by those leaders. The shadow sides of each community were not born out of bad intention – they were born out of the passionate single minded pursuit of the gifts that each community has to share. And in seeing them in historical context we could see that they were the almost inevitable outcome of the messy process of trial and error that both communities were born out of.
As we worked together something profound and unexpected began to emerge. The shadow elements that we had unearthed in our morning sessions could not be the real shadows of either community. The liabilities that we listed – and there were more than I have the space to mention here – were not really surprising to any of us. They were all things we already knew about, even if we had never dared to share them in public before. By definition they could not be the real shadows of our communities because shadows are underlying fears and attitudes that we don’t see. The real shadows must be whatever deeper issues are keeping all of us from resolving the weaknesses and liabilities that we already know about. This initiated a discussion about what the true shadows of the Integral and EnlightenNext communities might be. The fear of discovering that you might be wrong and the fear of the responsibility of finding out that you might be right – were two things that came up as we spoke together.
By this time the room was electrified and the sense of being two separate groups with apposing loyalties was dissolving into a shared intention to work together. Clint and I were holding a possibility for deep collaboration alive and together with our intrepid shadow workers we built a strong shared desire to understand our differences and reconcile them. There was no way this work could have been finished in a single day – but we all left feeling that the work we started had to be continued.
As the day came to a close we concretized our collective and individual intention by writing down specific commitments for how we would continue this work. Members of the EnlightenNext community committed to studying Integral Theory and members of the Integral community stated there intention to explore the practices of EnlightenNext. Both communities in the DC area wanted to work together in shared meetings and conference calls over the up coming months and gather again with Clint and me to continue this trans-lineage project. Some of the leaders of the Integral and EnlightenNext communities in New York City were in attendance and they committed to create a similar weekend there.
One of the leaders of DC Integral shared with me her appreciation for the fact that Clint and I were able to create such a powerful container for this challenging conversation to take place in. She was overjoyed that the work had been not only constructive and positive but also deeply spiritually inspiring as well. It was the spirit of open and honest cooperation that left me most inspired as well. That spirit was a tribute both to the sincerity of everyone involved and the example set for us by the friendship and camaraderie that has existed between Andrew Cohen and Ken Wilber for many years. It is perhaps perfectly fitting that while we were all working together in DC I heard that Andrew and Ken were on the phone together doing their part to create even more room for trans-lineage cooperation.