Ladder, climber, view & transitional structures

In the IPS discussion on capitalism the question came up as to what is included in more developed economic systems from prior systems. I explored this is a past IPS thread with the above title. Below are some excerpts from that thread:

What is transcended and included and what is transcended and replaced? I discussed this in the “capitalism” thread. According to Wilber, and with which I agree, worldviews are replaced, not included. (See footnote 7 in Intro to Vol. 7, for example). So to me an integral worldview would not include bit and pieces of different views in some kind of synthesis-integration-inclusion but replace them altogether into creative novelty. Hence my dissatisfaction with the promotion of integral or conscious capitalism. And things like the latter tend toward a more conservative worldview, just dressed up in new clothing-jingo.

Wilber differentiates basic and transitional structures, the former being included while the latter are transcended. So it is a question of what is defined as each kind of strucutre. Here’s an excert from “Ladder, climber, view” by Ingersoll and Cook-Greuter:

“As the self develops (climbs the ladder and increases its altitude), each rung reveals a broader, deeper view or perspective that replaces previous views or perspectives…. In one sense, these views are permanent for the period that the self is on a given rung. In another sense, the views are transitional in that once the self moves from a given rung to the next rung on the ladder, the previous view is replaced by a new, expanded view.”

Wilber references his own article ‘ladder, climber, view’ on p. 66 of Integral Spirituality but says he won’t discuss it in the book. He says one can find it at his site but when I searched for it I could not find it. Does anyone have its specific web address?

Also see Integral Psychology (Shambhala, 2000), p. 221, footnote 7:

“Enduring structures are ones that, once they emerge, remain in existence, fully functioning, but subsumed in higher structures (cognitive structures are mostly of this type.) Transitional structures, on the other hand, tend to be replaced by their subsequent stages (e.g., ego stages and moral stages). The basic structures are mostly enduring structures; and the developmental lines consist mostly of transitional structures.”

The emphasis was in the text, so perhaps he is leaving wiggle room as to what exactly constitutes mostly. Although worldviews were not included above they were in footnote 7 to the Collected Works reference. And worldviews are the “view” in “ladder, climber, view” that are replaced at each stage, often referred to as magic, mythic, rational etc.

It also becomes a question of what is an integral worldview (IW). It seems that one way of describing it is that it no longer replaces prior worldviews because it is “second-tier” and the earlier transcend and replace was so first-tier. Hence we get some confusion because the IW is capable for the first time in human history of being aware of all previous worldviews and is not exclusionary like they were. It can take a so-called aperspectival non-view on all of them, itself not being a worldview?

Given that Wilber’s earlier work makes ample use of Gebser perhaps a closer look at the latter might shed some light on this inquiry. Ed Manhood Jr. says about G’s structures of consciousness:

“These four mutations reflect five separate eras of development that are not distinct and isolated from one another but are, instead, interconnected such that all previous stages are found in subsequent ones.”

First I wonder if what G means by stage of consciousness is more akin to W’s cognitive stages, which for the latter are indeed included with transcendence. If so G is in accord with W. But it also seems that to W G’s stages are worldviews, not cognitive structures. This will need further research. Bracketing that issue for the moment, Manhood elaborates on G’s structures:

“The manifestation of these structures occurs in a quantum-like, discontinuous leap, not in a slowly developing and changing framework as is postulated for Darwinian evolutionary theory, for example.”

So while previous structures are included in subsequent ones they are not continuous as in evolutionary theory, i.e., as W lays it out in fusion-differentiation-integration terms? This seems to be a hybrid in that there are both basic (BS) and transitional structures (TS) (in W’s terms) as work here in G’s “structures.” I could not clarify this from the rest of Manhood’s article.

Which of course brings up the fusion-differentiation-integration cycle for worldviews. It seems that even the TS like worldviews also go through this developmental cycle, not just BS. If so, and if the TS replace their predecessor, in what way is that “integrating” a previous structure?

Integral Life’s presentation of “The markers of 2nd tier” cautions that 2nd tier is in its infancy and not yet well defined, that we should be open to its ongoing development, Salzman nonethess gives us the definitive markers to date. At least from I-I’s perspective, i.e., Wilber’s. We can see that Salzman does not differentiate the basic from the transitional structures here, that they are conflated with cognitive structures of consciousness on the one hand and transitionial worldview structures on the other. And the inclusions of earlier structures seems apparent for both, since 2nd tier reactivates all earlier structures in a wider embrace, an integration that was heretofore impossible in 1st tier. It’s almost as I wondered above if in 2nd tier the transcend and replace nature of worldviews no longer applies, that it’s only a 1st tier limitation, and hence basic and transitional structures become once again “unified.”

Salzman brings up the theme of unification at 2nd tier, as if in our inclusion-integration of all previous structures-worldviews we go back to the original unification of “beige” or the archaic. (Also a theme of Gebser’s, btw.) But of course what was un- or subconscious at beige, was undifferentiated, now at 2nd tier is conscious and integrated, as with all the other 1st tier levels. And yes, Salzman says it, the evolutionary process or God impulse become conscious. We are the aware participants in the teleos of the universe, are active participants with God as God via evolution. And it is this that is the key marker of 2nd tier. 1st tier rules no longer apply to Gods and his emissaries.

Gidley (cited below) contradicts Manhood in that the changes between stages are gradual and continuous, yet agrees that the integral-aperspectival (IA) level integrates former structures:

“Gebser used the term integral-aperspectival to refer to the gradual transformation through awareness, concretion and integration of all previous structures” (106).

She also explores key features of integral, aka 2nd tier:

“Reintegration of the whole person—originary spiritual presence, magic vitality, mythopoetic imagination, mental directedness—embodied/enacted through integral

“Integration of dualisms, such as spirituality and science, imagination and logic, heart and mind, female and male;

“Transcending of egotism;

“Transcending linear, mechanical, clock-time through concretion of time-awareness (See Appendix A);

“Planetization of culture and consciousness (See Appendix B);

“Linguistic self-reflection and the re-enlivening of the word” (110).

Concerning the first item:

“For Gebser, integral-aperspectival consciousness is not experienced through expanded consciousness, more systematic conceptualizations, or greater quantities of perspectives. In his view, such approaches largely represent over-extended, rational characteristics. Rather, it involves an actual re-experiencing, re-embodying, and conscious re-integration of the living vitality of magic-interweaving, the imagination at the heart of mythic-feeling and the purposefulness of mental conceptual thinking, their presence raised to a higher resonance, in order for the integral transparency to shine through” (111).

Again this doesn’t appear to discern basic from transitional structures; it seems an assumption that there is only one kind of structure. And perhaps so, just noting. But the idea is that IA is not a new “level” in the sense that other levels operated, i.e., through a greater or expanded consciousness that transcends and includes. IA’s key feature seems to be the nature of the word, integration; not expansion or transcendence. This seems to agree with the Wilber-Salzman notion that all previous structures are included, re-vitalized and re-integrated but apparently not in the way that Wilber describes.

This also seems to lend credence to the notion, at least via Gebser, that there is a shift at IA that is unique in that it no longer follows a trajectory of exclusion or replacement or prior views but rather now this “leap to 2nd tier” allows heretofore unattainable conscious integration.

Gidley, J. “The evolution of consciousness as a planetary imperative, Integral Review 5, December 2007, 4 – 226.

Even though Wilber doesn’t discuss the transitional nature of worldviews in IS he does spend a lot of time explaining his postmetaphysical worldview, which replaces the metaphysical. For example, his entire critique of the myth of the given is about this replacement. See for example Chapter 8, “Monological Imperialism and the myth of the given.” Postmetaphysics doesn’t include or integrate metaphysics; it is diametrically opposed to and replaces it. Some might argue that setting up such an irreconcilable opposition is an expression of the deficient rational level, an either/or logic that must be transcended in postformal operations. But you see this exact argument proves my point, since this so-called postformal view replaces a formal view.

This also returns us to hierarchical complexity, since the MHC, for example, presumes that either/or formal operations are a necessary prerequisite ingredient included but transcended in postformal operations. Which might be the case if we’re dealing with basic cognitive structures or empirically measured “performances.” But we’re dealing with the worldviews associated with these structures and once again there might be some conflation between the different types of structures involved.

I found an article by Commons and Ross called “the HC view of evolution and history” where they discuss societal worldviews. They maintain that “at each stage of social development, society progresses not by discarding what came before, but by integrating it within a more hierarchically complex level of organization” (104). Nonetheless they also note in the same paragraph that

“As primitive societies evolve, the causes and explanations of behavior shift from a spirit or spirits within the self to processes occurring both within and beyond the self. This shift ultimately results in the abandonment of mentalistic explanations of reality in favor of materialistic explanations, of which modern behavior analysis constitutes an example. Primitive societies embrace the animistic worldview, seeing themselves and objects constituting the external environment as inhabited by souls, each endowed with different forms of will. Such explanations aim to account for the phenomenological experience of the self, me or I, or spirits, humors, demons, devils, bloods (e.g., bad blood, evil blood), and other entities in the world. More advanced societies move away from the self as god, embracing instead polytheistic or monotheistic religions that represent man as distinct from the divine, rather than being coextensive with the divine. Man becomes God’s child, moving away from just the self. But the earth becomes God’s world, the center of the universe. As the process of decentering progresses, the earth is displaced from the center and is now perceived to revolve around the sun. As the physical laws that order the universe are discovered, God retreats from the universe, becoming at the most a creator whose intervention in the world of his creation is hardly missed…. At the highest stages, the concept of a divine being, spirit, or god can be recognized as psychological projections of humans’ own construction, used to explain aspects of the world that were not understandable without the concept at earlier stages.”

Each level might have a basic structure, in this case measured by the decentering of the self, that is included hierarchically but the social explanations themselves “shift” and are “abandoned.” I don’t see that the MHC addresses this difference either, instead subsuming worldviews under hierarchy because associated aspects (basic structures) of them follow this trajectory.

The following excerpt is about Eric Weiss, “Jean Gebser: the mutation of structures of consciousness” presented at Esalen’s CTR first annual invitational conference on evolutionary metaphysics, December 2006. To be fair, this doesn’t take into account Wilber’s differentiation of cogntive structures with worldviews. It does highlight though the discontinuous nature of said views.

“To read Gebser in a Hegelian manner, as Ken Wilber does with his popular slogan ‘transcend and include,’ is, in a sense, to grasp the letter of Gebser while missing the living spirit of his work. Gebser himself discussed the limits of the famous Hegelian dialectic. He said that because mental thought tends to be dichotomizing, it necessitates the generation of a third term to move toward reconciliation. But even this third term (the Hegelian ‘synthesis’) is in turn split again as the overall process marches onward. Gebser saw this dialectic as an unsatisfying expression of the deficient phase of the mental structure of consciousness (which will be described below). Overall, Weiss wanted to be clear that Gebser’s thought should not be mistaken for a new version of Hegelianism, nor should it be reduced to it, and in his own life Gebser tried to distance himself from Hegel’s work.

“Weiss said that Gebser was clear that his work did not describe a linear evolution, development, or progress of consciousness. Instead, he claimed that the process described in book The Ever-Present Origin was more complex and nuanced. Gebser used the term ‘mutation’to describe the process of moving from one consciousness structure to another, but this was not intended to reduce the development of consciousness to a biological metaphor. Rather, he used this term to emphasize the discontinuous nature of the various structures of consciousness. The word ‘mutation’ connotes the sense of a leap that is more sudden in comparison to the gradualism of Darwin’s biological evolution. Gebser viewed each structure of consciousness as a latent possibility or inherent disposition within Origin – i.e., within the ultimate origin of all that is. He saw humanity as naturally predisposed to the discontinuous transformations that have taken place during the course of history and pre-history. But crucially for Gebser, the later mutations do not ‘transcend and include,’ as in Wilber’s model of evolution. Instead, they are discontinuous and autonomous modes of awareness, each of which has its own intrinsic validity, and for which the perception and appearance of time and space are radically different.”

Wilber’s online essay “To see a world” might be one source for how he defines worldviews (WV). For example:

“We do not live in a pregiven world. One of the more remarkable tenets of the postmodern revolution in philosophy, psychology, and sociology is that different worldviews exist — different ways of categorizing, presenting, representing, and organizing our experiences. There is not a single, monolithic world with a single, privileged representation, but rather multiple worlds with pluralistic interpretations.”

Here we have the pomo WV of WVs, that they are not given, i.e., a postmetaphysical WV. It took this WV to recognize the existence of WVs in the first place, and how they shape our actual experience of the world.

But then Wilber notes this:

“So, even though certain epochs were especially marked by a particular worldview — foraging, by magic; agrarian, by mythic; and industrial, by mentalrational, for example — nonetheless, all of these major modes of interpreting our experience seem to be potentials of the human organism, and any of them can be brought forth in any individual under the right circumstances.”

This is a notion from a prior, metaphysical WV, one that assumes we have inherent, fully-formed potentials like this always already lying dormant, like an archetype that just needs the “right circumstances” to manifest. It’s a version of involutionary givens. Granted this article might pre-date W’s later writings on involutionary givens as merely amorphous potentials that are then shaped by circumstances or “life conditions” as SD calls them. Nonetheless, the more postmetaphysical, pragmatic and pomo worldview and (not “integral”) SD might argue that life conditions are more likely the evolutionary co-creators of stages of consciousness and worldview formation, not metaphysical involutionary givens, even as amorphous potentials.

In a more recent Wilber blog (5/26/08) “Integral third way politics” it says this about 2nd tier values:

“Teal (worldcentric to “kosmocentric,” integral): The Teal Altitude marks the beginning of an integral worldview, where pluralism and relativism are transcended and included into a more systematic whole. The transition from green to teal is also known as the transition from “1st-tier” values to “2nd-tier” values, the most immediate difference being the fact that each “1st-tier” value thinks it is the only truly correct value, while “2nd-tier” values recognize the importance of all preceding stages of development. Thus, the teal worldview honors the insights of the green worldview, but places it into a larger context that allows for healthy hierarchies, and healthy value distinctions.

“Perhaps most important, a teal worldview begins to see the process of development itself, acknowledging that each one of the previous stages (magenta through green) has an important role to play in the human experience. Teal consciousness sees that each of the previous stages reveals an important truth, and pulls them all together and integrates them without trying to change them to “be more like me,” and without resorting to extreme cultural relativism (“all are equal”). Teal worldviews do more than just see all points of view (that’s a green worldview)—it can see and honor them, but also critically evaluate them.

“Turquoise (“kosmocentric,” integral): Turquoise is a mature integral view, one that sees not only healthy hierarchy but also the various quadrants of human knowledge, expression, and inquiry (at the minimum: I, we, and it). While teal worldviews tend to be secular, turquoise is the first to begin to integrate Spirit as a living force in the world (manifested through any or all of the 3 Faces of God: “I”—the “No self” or “witness” of Buddhism; “we/thou”—the “great other” of Christianity, Judaism, Hindusm, Islam, etc.; or “it”—the “Web of Life” seen in Taoism, Pantheism, etc.).”

First of all, we have a teal WV transcending and including prior WVs. But I thought WVs were transcended and replaced? Note though the usual argument that 1st tier is the one that replaces all other WVs because it assumes it is the only correct one. At 2nd tier we magically now include all previous WVs in the teal WV? Or do we recognize like our first quote that multiple WVs exist and should be contextualized and critically evaluated, while also recognizing that the 2nd tier WV is itself a WV that replaces those in 1st tier?

As for turquoise, it reinjects “Spirit” back into the equation. And therein lies the question for an IPS, how to have a nondual spirituality that doesn’t separate spirituality from the mundane, that doesn’t “include” the metaphysical interpretations from prior WVs. It might even be an expression of a metaphysical WV holdover to call something “spirituality,” since the very term indicates the metaphysical notion of an absolute world apart from a relative WV. Granted we can re-define it any way we like but nevertheless its etymology is one of a split, dualistic origin. Another term that can be more easily separated from its metaphysical baggage is “nondual.” Integral Postmetaphysical nonduality? I’ve already made a strong case that the intersection of American Pragmatism with second generation cognitive science is precisely this WV based on postformal cognitive functioning. And AQAL to boot, though they don’t use those terms.

Gidley talks about the difference between research that identifies postformal operations (PFO) from examples of those that enact PFO. And that much of the research identifying PFO has itself “been framed and presented from a formal, mental-rational mode” (109). Plus those enacting PFO don’t “necessarilty conceptualize it as such” (104), meaning the way those that identify it do, i.e., from a formal operational (FO) mode. Which is of course one of my key inquiries: Is the way PFO is identified through FO really just a FO worldview interpretation of what PFO might be? Especially since those enacting PFO disagree with the very premises of the FO worldview and its “formally” dressed PFO?

I found this by Corey deVos on “ladder, climber, view” at Integral Life:

“Transitional structures, on the other hand, are aspects of development which, once we develop beyond them, disappear forever and remain inaccessible to the self-system. A great example is the development of worldviews: magic -> mythic -> rational -> pluralistic -> integral. Once you have grown out of Mythic and into the Rational worldview, the mythic view is forever lost (except in the case of shadows and subpersonalities, which complexifies things a little bit.) Another great example is Kohlberg’s scheme of moral development–once you grow from Moral Stage 2 to Moral Stage 3, you will never ever go back to the first two stages. Once their gone, they are lost forever (barring severe brain damage, anyway.)”

He then quotes Wilber from Ken Wilber in Dialogue:

“The important difference between the enduring structures and the transitional structures can easily be seen in a comparison of, say, Piaget and Kohlberg. With cognitive development in general, each stage is incorporated into subsequent stages, so that the junior is a crucial component of the senior. Once images emerge, for example, the individual has full and constant access to the capacity to form images. And images themselves will be an indispensable ingredient in the higher symbolic, conceptual, and formal thought. But with moral development, the process is quite different: higher structures do not so much incorporate as replace previous ones. Thus, a person at moral stage 4 does not have open access to moral stage 1, for those stages are mutually incompatible (a conformist does not simultaneously act as an egocentric rebel). In fact, a moral stage 4 person cannot even think in the terms of moral stage 1; those earlier structures have long ago dissolved and been replaced (barring fixation, repression, etc.)”

Now I’m going to question myself a bit. It seems much of the above presumes that a particular worldview is a stable, coherent, consistent monolith, at least until it changes into another one. But of course there is no worldview in itself but it is rather in context with ladder and climber. And the self-climber is itelf also not a stable monolith. Aside from the shadows and sub-personalities mentioned above, which seem rather the norm than the exception, I also noted in the “real and false reason” thread that Fischer, while assured of hierarchical complexity, notes that a “level” will go both up, down and sideways in different lines depending on different contexts. There might be a semi-stable center of gravity that itself fluctuates within a narrower range, but most of us are all over the place most of the time. And our worldviews are as well, also dependent on a variety of factors and life conditions.

Also in the “reason” thread one of the links to Lakoff discusses neural mutual inhibition, where “two opposing moral systems can live in brain circuits that inhibit each other and are active in different contexts.”

The following excerpt is from Lakoff in The Political Mind (Penguin, 2008 ):


“Terms like conservative, liberal and progressive cannot do justice to complex reality of our politics and our experience as humans. There are indeed two worldviews in use, general progressivism and general conservatism…but they do not exist is separate spheres. Though many self-identified conservatives use the general conservative worldview in areas that matter for them, they may use the general progressive worldview in other areas. The same is true for self-identified liberals and progressives.

“The brain mechanism of biconceptualism is mutual inhibition, where both worldviews exist in the same brain but are linked to nonoverlapping areas of life. The activation of one worldview mutually inhibits the other…. Each is a coherent system of concepts in itself and they coexist happily if they can be kept apart.

“But wait a minute! Isn’t the guy…a hypocrite?… A hypocrite is defined as relative to what we call a value-consistency frame, in which values are supposed to be consistent and all-encompassing, the same ones used in all cases…. Pure progressives and pure conservatives often consider biconceptual political leaders hypocrites when they apply different worldviews to different issues. But biconceptualism is simply a fact about brains…. The true biconceptual doesn’t see himself as a hypocrite at all, since the switch is automatic and unconscious” (69-71).

A quick comment on where Lakoff meets Fischer and Wilber. Lakoff agrees with Wilber in that worldviews are indeed mutually exclusive, since they “mutually inhibit” the other and cannot exist in the same context at the same time. But L diverges from W in that one can shift between them in different contexts, where agreement is found with Fischer. However with Fischer, like many developmentalists, there is an assumption that one is fully (or nearly so) conscious of their cognitive processes, whereas L finds it is mostly unconscious. And finally you can see that with L there are “pure” types who stick to a consistent, all-encompassing frame in all cases. Yet he doesn’t seem to understand like W or F that this might arise from a specific level, one that assumes a formal operational view. On the other hand, L does see this but frames it as false reason.

Part of the problem is the notion that we can just give a monolithic label (or kosmic address) to anyone or any phenomenon, that it is purely green or turquoise, 1st or 2nd tier, formal or postformal. That notion is itself part of an formal-rational WV that presupposes “a consistent, all-encompassing frame in all cases.” Or perhaps the deficient rational from a Gebser perspective, or false reason from Lakoff’s. Hence we get Wilber being rather “formal” in certain lines and contexts, like capitalism economically and educationally, and dogmtic when it come to WVs being all or none consistently in all cases (with exceptions for shadows and sub-personalities).

A more postformal, postmetaphysical WV of WVs is more like Fischer and Lakoff in that we are up and down and sideways depending on contexts and issues. But this WV is not merely or strictly relativistic, not the MGM as Wilber attests without universals or qualitiative distinctions. For Lakoff there are indeed universals but grounded in embodiment, not transcendental metaphysics. Such embodied universals are both postmetaphysical and nondual. And even this WV is a best case sceniaro, an exemplar or goal to be envisioned, but one even its proponents fall far short of in many situations, lines and conditions.

This is also part of the problem with a strictly mathematical model of hierarchical complexity based on set theory. Phenomenon, including human cognitive structures, do not fit nicely into one “set” or category so that they can be completely included and subsumed into the next higher set or category. At best each phenomenon interacts with another more like a venn diagram, overlapping with some area in common, but other areas that are not included and subsumed in a higher synthesis. Which is why I wonder whether the formal study of postformal enactments in methods like the MHC is itself a formal or PF enactment. Or some venn combination between, sharing partial sets from both?


About theurj

Also known as theurj. I've contributed some essays to Integral World and co-founded Open Integral blog, now defunct. I continue to participate in Integral Postmetaphysical Spirituality forum.
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