Haidt & Mooney, Moral Foundations & Spiral Dynamics

This post is the third in my series about Haidt’s newest book, The Righteous Mind (here is the previous post, second in the series).

I was watching a video of Jonathan Haidt speaking about compassion in respect to the moral values of liberals and conservatives. I’ve already criticized Haidt elsewhere in the first post in the series (basically, Haidt has many seemingly unquestioned premises that bias both his research data and his theoretical interpretation). In this post, I want to shift my focus somewhat. The second post in the series focused more on the cognitive research and I’ll continue that discussion while using the issues of criticism as entry points into Haidt’s theory.

* * *

To begin my analysis, the following is an insight that came to mind (my thoughts about cognitive research, although placed in the context of Haidt’s theory, is more directly inspired by my reading Chris Mooney’s The Republican Brain). There are two pieces of data that superficially appear contradictory, but on closer inspection may represent expressions of the same fundamental thing:

  1. Research shows that liberals are more willing to challenge authority and so lack the submissive attitude of unquestioning respect toward authority which is common among conservatives. For example, more liberals than conservatives state they’d be willing to slap their own father. ‘Openness’ is the main psychological trait that correlates to liberalism. What ‘openness’ is about is cognitive complexity, capacity for cognitive dissonance, intellectual curiosity, desire to experiment and explore, etc. But ‘openness’ also relates to being less inclined to fall into motivated reasoning (confirmation bias, backfire effect, etc)… on issues related to politics, anyway. I’ll point  out the obvious fact that ‘openness’ can’t operate while submitting to authority.
  2. The other aspect is that polling data shows liberals are the only demographic (in the US) with majority support for compromise. Similarly, Democrats of the past several decades show more bipartisan support than Republicans, no matter which party controls the presidency. Also similarly, Pew data shows that “Solid Liberals” (liberal across the board) don’t state a majority positive view of Obama (while Democrats back in the 80s showed majority support of Reagan), but the corresponding category of conservatives showed a strong majority (around 70%) stating a negative view of Obama. So, conservatives are more polarized against liberals than liberals are against conservatives (which means conservatives are more prone to partisanship than liberals). Polarization, it turns out, doesn’t take two to tango… or else, to extend the metaphor, conservatives are by far leading the dance.

Maybe it is precisely because of willingness to challenge authority that liberals are also more willing to compromise, and maybe liberals willingness to challenge authority even among their own is what creates a less partisan attitude. Liberals don’t identify as much with narrowly defined groups and so don’t get stuck as much in the us versus them mentality (their group identity being larger with greater inclusivity, more loosely defined with more porous boundaries). Submitting to a specific authority might allow you to work better with all others who are part of your group, but it will also make it more difficult to work with all others who are outside of your group (a very important point to keep in mind in relation to the diverse multicultural society of a liberal democracy). It could be that liberals are resistant to authority for the very reason they sense how unquestioned authority has great potential to create divisiveness. Liberals are more sensitive to divisiveness in itself (which might relate to research Jost did about liberals being less happy because of their awareness of and sensitivity to inequality and unfairness). Plus, liberals probably dislike divisiveness for what it leads to, specifically how it can close down rational independent thought (which might relate to research about how social stress and fear can cause liberals to react with a more conservative attitude, thus at least temporarily suppressing their preferred liberal-mindedness).

So, despite liberals willingness to challenge authority, it is maybe unsurprising that liberals demonstrate the most respect to those they see as having fairly earned authority such as scientists (intellectual-minded and social-minded meritocracy rather than social Darwinism and hierarchical role-playing)… or maybe its just that liberals are attracted to authorities who are liberal-minded for such authorities aren’t the kind that promotes divisive groupthink. I’d emphasize the aspect of my argument asserting that, for liberals, fairness is closely connected to the idealization of rational independent thought (i.e., higher rates of ‘openness’ and lower rates of motivated reasoning about politics).

Jonathan Haidt, however, argues that humans aren’t primarily rational. I would agree in a general sense, but he is conveniently ignoring an important fact. Relatively speaking, liberals are more rational than conservatives when it comes to political issues (or so the research shows it to be the case in liberal democracies like the US). This is significant since the political issues that provoke the strongest motivated reasoning are always mired in moral issues, all of politics ultimately being inseparable from morality. In practical terms, this doesn’t necessarily mean liberals are more well informed for that has more to do with education and there are plenty of well educated conservatives; but what it does mean (as shown by research; read Mooney’s book for a helpful summary) is that liberals are less misinformed while conservatives are more misinformed. The odd part is that conservatives are more misinformed to the degree they are informed, what is described as the “smart idiot” effect. This also relates to how conservatives and experts (well educated conservatives fitting both categories) are most prone to the backfire effect which is when challenging info causes someone to become even stronger in their opinions.

The failure of the liberal ideal of rationality isn’t necessarily a direct failure of liberalism (either as an ideology or a predisposition), rather it could just be a failure of liberals being forced to live with conservatives and authoritarians who don’t share this ideal (in fact, often stridently oppose it and seek to undermine it). Ignoring authoritarians, conservatives do have many other wonderful strengths and conservative-mindedness has many wonderful benefits to society (such as appreciating the importance of social order, ability to remain focused and persistent, practical knowledge on how to lead and organize effectively, talent with emotionally persuasive rhetoric, etc); however, the Enlightenment ideal of objective rationality isn’t one of them, at least not in terms of being resistant to motivated reasoning about politics, most specifically not political issues that are implicated in emotionally-laden moral values (which includes almost all political debate these days, the culture wars still going strong).

Related to a limited view of rationality, an inherently conservative view, Haidt promotes a limited view of compassion that favors conservative moral values. He emphasizes parochial compassion which he considers conservative: “think locally, act locally”. What he ignores is that much of conservative politics is non-local to the extreme such as hyper-nationalist patriotic support of global military dominance (some might even say imperialism) with its concomitant military-industrial complex and international “free trade” corporatism. So, the conservative vision of parochial compassion might be more accurately stated thusly: “think locally, act globally”. On the opposite side, he also ignores how much liberals argue for localism: grassroots democracy, advocacy for community-mindedness and an environmental sense-of-place, the “buy local” movement, community gardens, etc. The evidence would seem to prove the liberal claim that thinking globally fits perfectly fine with acting locally.

Haidt’s confusion here might be that he is paying more attention to conservative rhetoric than conservative behavior, an important distinction Corey Robin clarifies in his book The Reactionary Mind (which I’ve written about previously). This connects to an aspect of Haidt’s research that I was wondering about. Is Haidt testing for which moral values people state they believe in? How does he determine someone isn’t merely stating what they think they should say? And how does he determine to what extent those statements are genuine versus hypocritical?

This is a fair consideration for social conservatism has been correlated to authoritarianism (low ‘openness’, high ‘closure, strong need for security and social order, submissive to authority, etc) and authoritarians have been measured as rating high in hypocrisy. In light of the research on motivated reasoning, it would be easy to speculate that conservatives might show more hypocrisy with political issues which means their stated values might not perfectly correspond to their actual behavior.  I personally think actual behavior is more important than stated values, and so I’d rather have a theory that accounts for actual behavior. Haidt uses his research to conclude conservatives are more balanced between all moral foundations, but obviously this may not mean conservatives are more balanced in how they act according to their stated values.

* * *

I’ll now return to my thoughts related to the video of Haidt’s talk.

Haidt mentioned one very interesting piece of data. Oxytocin is related to feeling good and feeling love. One might think that this would open one up to a larger sense of empathy and a more inclusive sense of self. However, Haidt claims the research shows that high levels of oxytocin actually reinforce the experience of an in-group and an out-group. As such, even though it increases an experience of love, this positive feeling is directed toward one’s group and not to perceived outsiders.

I don’t know the research, but I suspect that this general trend would show much disparity if it were broken down between conservatives and liberals. We already know that empathetic concern shows a massive difference (see here) and so one might suspect that oxytocin would simply exaggerate this difference. Liberals’ greater empathetic concern for strangers is unlikely to be lessened or disappear because of oxytocin, unless there is something about oxytocin that I don’t understand. Going by the research I do know about, I’d suggest liberals may be the exception to the rule of oxytocin-motivated groupthink (maybe even having the complete opposite effect). Closing the ranks on one’s love-fest might be easier, especially for conservatives. I would just add that it isn’t necessarily inevitable and probably isn’t an equally likely tendency for all people (i.e., not fundamental enough to human nature for it to be made a cornerstone of the entire moral foundations theory).

Let me explore further the issue of comparison and the differences in how it manifests. In an attempt to prove conservative morality superior in society, Haidt refers to research showing conservatives give more than liberals: give more money as donations, give more blood, etc. I’ve heard this many times before, but it doesn’t stand up to analysis. Besides problems with how liberalism and conservatism are defined, there are too many confounding factors that aren’t controlled for and too many aspects that are ignored. It seems to be more of a result of cherrypicking data according to a partisan agenda. The following are some issues and questions I’d bring up in formulating a counter-argument:

  • The younger generation is the most liberal generation alive (along with being the least religious) and they also have extremely high rates of volunteering, although obviously being young they don’t have much excess money to donate. Older people, on the other hand, are more financially secure and more conservative (including more conservative when they were younger).
  • Liberals are more supportive of public services and the taxes that pay for them. Blue states give more money in federal taxes than do red states, and this ends up supporting red states that receive more money from federal taxes than blue states. Blue states have a net loss and red states a net gain. The reason for this is that the red states have more poverty and so red states end up spending more federal money paying for their own local public services and infrastructure. The poor are better off in blue states than in red states (less poverty, less income inequality, less health problems, less high school dropout rates, less teen pregnancies, etc.) which means, no matter the amount of charity, the poor are better served by the collective decisions of liberal communities.
  • Conservatives may give more to churches, but how much of that money simply goes back to benefit the giver through paying for church costs and for proselytizing and for the promotion of political causes? Also, how is tithing fundamentally different than a club fee? Conservatives say taxes aren’t charity, but in a democracy taxation is a public decision. Conservatives say that taxation is coercion by force, but churches implicitly or explicitly threaten your soul to eternal damnation if you don’t obey God’s command about tithing.
  • Liberals quite likely choose to buy more products that donate money to non-profits, but even in paying more for such products this isn’t considered charity. Liberals probably are more likely to work for non-profits and for government agencies helping those in need. Liberals may give more in time than in money because they are more likely to choose careers related to helping people, and much of the help they give might not be recorded.
  • Some argue the data shows rich conservatives give more than rich liberals, but maybe rich conservatives are simply more interested in getting tax breaks from charity giving than liberals. Is it really charitable if part or most of your motivation is about getting a tax break? How much of this is a difference in people giving money that doesn’t get recorded such as if they aren’t interested in reporting it for a tax break? Since the Bible tells Christians to pray in secret, maybe many Christians (liberal Christians?) and those similarly inspired choose to give in secret. Are conservatives actually giving more? Or is it that conservatives are reporting they give more and/or reporting more of what they give? How accurate and representative are the public records about donations of money, time, services, blood, etc?
I could list even further criticisms and questions, but I think I made my basic point. Besides, others have already done a good job of questioning and criticizing (some of the comments at the following links are worth reading as well):

Poor methods invalidate conclusions
By branstrom

lies, damned lies, and statistics
By Richard Bennett “truthinista”

Who’s More Charitable – Liberals or Conservatives?
By Michael White

Who gives more, the right or the left? Studies of conservative and liberal giving disagree with Arthur C Brooks
By Storytellersrus

Concerns About Arthur Brooks’s “Who Really Cares.”
By Jim Lindgren

Haidt’s Righteous Mind
By cognitivedissident

Who gives
A new book appears to show that religious folks, mostly conservatives, are more charitable than secular liberal types — until you look closely at the numbers
By Christopher Shea

Ethical Conduct in the Moral Right
Are religious people really more ethical than atheists?
By Nigel Barber, Ph.D.

Are religious people more ethical in their conduct? II
Does religion make people donate more to charity?
By Nigel Barber, Ph.D.

Bowling for God
Is religion good for society? Science’s definitive answer: it depends
By Michael Shermer

The last link is particularly relevant to Haidt’s talk. And here is the relevant part:

“Is religion a necessary component of social health? The data are conflicting. On the one hand, in a 2005 study published in the Journal of Religion & Society–“Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies”–independent scholar Gregory S. Paul found an inverse correlation between religiosity (measured by belief in God, biblical literalism, and frequency of prayer and service attendance) and societal health (measured by rates of homicide, childhood mortality, life expectancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and teen abortions and pregnancies) in 18 developed democracies. “In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD [sexually transmitted disease] infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies,” Paul found. Indeed, the U.S. scores the highest in religiosity and the highest (by far) in homicides, STDs, abortions and teen pregnancies.

“On the other hand, Syracuse University professor Arthur C. Brooks argues in Who Really Cares (Basic Books, 2006) that when it comes to charitable giving and volunteering, numerous quantitative measures debunk the myth of “bleeding heart liberals” and “heartless conservatives.” Conservatives donate 30 percent more money than liberals (even when controlled for income), give more blood and log more volunteer hours. In general, religious people are more than three times more generous than secularists to all charities, 14 percent more munificent to nonreligious charities and 57 percent more likely than a secularist to help a homeless person. In terms of societal health, charitable givers are 43 percent more likely to say they are “very happy” than nongivers and 25 percent more likely than nongivers to say their health is excellent or very good.”

Even assuming it were true that conservatives give more, it’s possible this data means that conservatism both causes more problems and does more to solve the problems caused. More liberal societies tend to have fewer social problems in the first place (look at the cross-cultural data that compares various data to income inequality: here, here, and here) which might mean liberals prefer spending time and resources on effectively solving problems at the root, rather than treating symptoms. This issue of social problems in conservative communities is the point made by the guy who speaks right after Haidt’s talk, but as I recall Haidt didn’t offer any rebuttal or acknowledge in any way the merit of this data. What the guy pointed out in response to Haidt’s talk is that the greatest problems are found in red states, the precise places where conservative morality has its greatest influence and hence should demonstrate its greatest merits.

That is what I would call damning evidence. If conservative charity actually helped those in need and fundamentally solved social ills, then you would expect to see the complete opposite of what the data shows (see here, here, and here). All in all, measuring donations may not be the best way to measure moral good and social benefit — for the reason that showing what an ideological demographic collectively gives can hide the data about the real world consequences of their ideology in terms of what it takes away; in the case of conservative ideology, what is taken is this: freedom from high rates of poverty, violence, disease, etc. Even if measurements of donations is a proxy for moral intentions, it wouldn’t therefore necessarily follow that moral intentions are a proxy for ethical results… the road to hell and all that.

* * *

This is where the rubber meets the road, wherever that road may lead.

I’ve found that even when I share this data that conservatives don’t necessarily give it much credit. They are often more concerned about principles than about results, or to put it another way the results they are most interested in is that of defending their moral values (social order — i.e., authority and conformity — probably being the most central). For example, the fact that countries banning abortions end up increasing the number of abortions overall is irrelevant or less relevant to many social conservatives for abortion is a moral issue rather than a pragmatic issue (mothers harmed by illegal abortions are simply receiving their deserved punishment, sadly ignoring the potential harm to the fetus if the pregnancy continues to full term after the botched abortion and, furthermore, ignoring the increased economic health costs that will be paid by society).

This connects to my last post about Haidt which distinguished between conservative moral intuition and liberal ethical reasoning. I would further argue that the liberal tendency to compromise and the larger liberal sense of empathy relate to liberals being more focused on measurable results for society (over authority, social order, and group cohesion). This is the standard liberal defense of pragmatism. For conservatives, if their values are undermined, then any other result doesn’t matter or else is less relevant for in their minds breakdown of their conservative moral order inevitably means breakdown of all social order (imagining any other possibility is beyond the scope of their moral vision). The abortion issue isn’t really about abortions for conservatives, rather it’s about family values and a specific cultural vision of how society should be organized — meaning how such moral order by way of the power of authority can be used to enforce social order (even if that requires creating laws to limit and control human behavior, sometimes even when casualties are incurred and the majority of citizens are against it, the War on Drugs being an example).

Conservatives are less bothered by persistent social problems for they assume the world is imperfect and, in the case of conservative Christians, they assume humans are born sinners. In this worldview, life isn’t fair and that is just the way it is, always has been and always will be. It isn’t fundamentally a matter of who is more charitable, rather what purpose charity serves. For conservatives, the value of charity shouldn’t be judged according to it solving what they perceive as insolvable problems. Conservatives don’t even agree with liberals about what is a problem. For example, consider sexuality. The problem isn’t about teenage pregnancy, STDS, or whatever. The problem is unmarried people having sex in the first place, thus acting against conservative moral values which challenges and undermines conservative social order. Such things as pregnancy and STDs, if anything, are the solution to the problem for as consequences of immoral behavior they are seen as self-created punishments and theoretically they are also deterrents, although their role as punishment doesn’t necessitate they effectively accomplish deterrence.

As I’ve explained previously:

“The purpose of condemning sexuality isn’t about whether people are actually able to follow the rules perfectly. The rules are there to create conformity through guilt and punishment. And they work. They suppress the individual for the sake of social order. The moral rules are red herrings that distract away from the fundamental issue. Maybe that is part of the power of such morality. People obsess over the surface details and the underlying motivating force can work unconsciously.”

Most liberals probably don’t disagree that this moral methodology accomplishes its goals, although many would say it’s immoral to use rhetoric to hide what they perceive as the real agenda. To liberals, this may seem like dogmatism forming the groundwork for authoritarianism. But to conservatives, they would claim this is being principled and would argue that liberals don’t understand (as Haidt argues, liberals supposedly lack an intuitive understanding of morality). In the conservative worldview: right is right, wrong is wrong. Conservatives see liberals’ moral pragmatism as moral relativism, and this is why liberal values often aren’t perceived as moral. Even Haidt doesn’t acknowledge all of the primary liberal values and so of course he doesn’t include those unacknowledged values as part of his moral foundations.

In the end, it comes down to conservative order and authority (i.e., closure) versus liberal freedom and egalitarianism (i.e., openness) which at least partly translates to moral principles vs ethical results. The question is as follows: Is the success of a society determined by how that society conforms to a particular vision of moral order or by how a particular vision of moral order conforms to society? Or to put it another way: Is the goodness of a moral ideology determined by how well human behavior conforms to social values or how well social values conform to human nature? Which then leads to another question: Do we want a society based on unquestioned authority or based on questioning democracy? This is the choice we face when put into stark terms of either/or which is the terms that conservatives prefer, but liberals (and others who are more liberal-minded) are left to wonder if there might be another way. Is balance between conservatism and liberalism possible? Or else could at least cooperation be made feasible? If there is another way, how would liberals ever be able to persuade conservatives out of their black and white thinking (all or nothing, this or that, us vs them)?

Jonathan Haidt seems liberal-minded in attitude and idealism, whether or not he identifies as a liberal. He is arguing for the liberal position in advocating for his own sense of liberal-mindedness (not that he necessarily describes it that way), but oddly he tends to emphasize the conservative perspective (or rather what he perceives as the conservative perspective) in his theorizing about compassion and moral foundations. I’m not sure what to make of this. Is he overcompensating for a sense of guilt about his former liberal bias that he has spoken about? Or is being contrarian in order to goad his mostly liberal audience toward questioning their own assumptions?

* * *

In reading Jonathan Haidt’s views, I feel frustrated. He continually uses liberal values and viewpoints to criticize liberalism. He offers some important insights and yet simultaneously increases confusion. It’s unclear if there is a net gain in what he offers. This is shown in the annotation added by Bruce Gibb to an article written by Haidt. Gibb’s annotations are helpful because he is bringing in the developmental framework of Spiral Dynamics which points out the greatest weakness of Haidt’s theory.

From his description of himself, Haidt sounds like he began as a young man with a sense of morality centered in a more individualistic/liberty orientation, what Spiral Dynamics calls the orange value-meme (vmeme for short); and so he naturally felt in conflict with the hierarchical/law-and-order blue vmeme that seeks to suppress individuality and fights against increasing individual liberty. In striving to live up to the liberal ideals he found in anthropology, he used his strong liberal sense of empathy to develop a social-oriented green vmeme worldview where it became possible for him to understand the social-oriented blue vmeme worldview. From the green vmeme, he no longer took personal offense at blue vmeme’s criticism of orange vmeme; in fact, green vmeme also is critical of orange vmeme, although from the opposite side; but his lack of understanding of Spiral Dynamics caused him to conflate blue vmeme’s criticisms of individualism with green vmeme’s criticisms of individualism.

This causes Haidt to criticize modern liberalism (Enlightenment ideals, often labeled as classical liberalism) from a post-modern liberal perspective. The confusion this creates is that he seems to think that by criticizing liberals he will help build a bridge of understanding for blue vmeme conservatives, but this sadly shows a lack of insight. Lower vmemes by their nature can’t understand higher vmemes in the way that a child has to first develop language skills before they can attempt to understand science. Development builds in stages where each state is built on previous stages. This is why Haidt can understand blue vmeme from his greater stage of personal development, but green vmeme by itself doesn’t allow him to understand why blue vmeme can’t understand his own viewpoint. It would require he develop even further to understand the limits of green vmeme in the way he understands the limits of orange vmeme. Green vmeme wants to bring people together in mutual understanding, but that isn’t what blue vmeme wants.

If Haidt understood Spiral Dynamics, he would understand that lower vmemes are inevitably in conflict with higher vmemes but not necessarily the other way around. Modern society can’t solve its problems by returning to a pre-modern worldview. Such social problems can only be solved by transcending and including through further development. Blue vmeme is the thesis, orange vmeme is the antithesis, and green vmeme is the synthesis. However, if we start with orange vmeme as the thesis, then green vmeme is the antithesis; but blue vmeme can’t offer any insight about the relationship between orange and green, instead synthesis must be sought in yellow vmeme which is the next stage of development.

Transcend and include is the key. It was because Haidt transcended the conflict of blue vs orange that he was able to include blue vmeme into his more comprehensive worldview. However, because orange vmeme is prior to green vmeme, the former is as resistant to green vmeme as to blue vmeme and so this antagonism disallows green vmeme to as easily include orange vmeme. It’s because blue vmeme has been so severely weakened by modernity that it can feel less threatening to someone centered in green vmeme or higher. Afterall, most people these days don’t have to worry about suppression of free speech and the burning of heretics, factors that were quite common during the heyday of blue vmeme dominance.

Another confusion is that Haidt isn’t able to see how much society has changed in recent centuries. He still sees the liberal movement as centered in individual-oriented orange vmeme whereas like Haidt the liberal movement has actually shifted its center to green vmeme. Along with this shift of liberalism, the conservative movement has shifted its center increasingly out of blue vmeme and into orange vmeme. This is why liberals defended free market capitalism and libertarian values in centuries past and yet no longer as strongly defend them, often criticizing them instead. It is rather conservatives who have taken up the former position of liberals, although blue vmeme religion has slowed down this shift and created a cultural divide within the conservative movement. The modern conservative movement of blue vmeme meeting orange vmeme is what has created fundamentalism (orange vmeme literal-mindedness serving blue vmeme religion) and reactionary conservatism (blue-vmeme nostalgia serving as rhetoric for orange vmeme individual liberty).

The vmemes should be differentiated from specific ideological groups and movements. When modern politics began, conservatism was centered in blue vmeme and ever since the rhetoric of the conservative movement has held closely to this sense of their own collective past. However, as liberalism shifted out of orange into green, it created an opportunity (a necessity even) for conservatives to use orange vmeme to attack the green vmeme of liberals. The differentiation that must be made in terms of conservatism (specifically reactionary conservatism) is the differentiation between the blue vmeme rhetoric of the culture wars and the orange vmeme choices that dominate Republican policies. It’s not enough to define conservatives (or liberals) according to their own rhetoric.

Let me explain the value of Spiral Dynamics. It doesn’t limit the ideological movements to where they began centuries ago. It explains how and why the main ideological movements have changed so much, within the movements themselves and in the relationship between them. Therefore, it allows us to consider the value memes on their own merits. It is true that blue values of strong social order are important, but we don’t need to return society to a center in the blue vmeme in order to include those values. We should be careful to not limit conservatism to just blue vmeme. Like development in individuals, development in movements is diverse and complex. As a society develops, the population of that society needs to develop as well.

* * *

I’ll end with a defense of the liberal values of intellectuality: logical debate, higher education, academic scholarship, scientific method, etc. In doing so, I want to build my own bridge toward conservatism and the bridge I’ll build is through the Enlightenment ideal of the “rational actor”.

This ideal represents the historical beginning point of liberalism and often a helpful meeting point between liberals and libertarians (along with libertarian-minded conservatives), but this ideal has most recently been taken up by conservatives as they explore ways to adapt conservative values to modern society. Traditional Christianity saw people as irrational, specifically in terms of Original Sin and how the fallen nature of mankind disallows people to act in their own best interest, hence the necessity of the church to act as guide and authority and hence the necessity of individuals to place their blind faith in God. Modern Christians, however, have been transformed by modern values of individualism. Conservative Christians will now more often use the belief in the “rational actor” as a way to impose a moral order that once would have been imposed by church authority and divine fear. They’ll argue that we must allow people to suffer the consequences of their own choices which implies that people are potentially capable of making good choices, an assumption that the early Christian church did not share. The pre-modern theology of Original Sin has been translated into the modern idea of selfishness, the perceived sin of individualism. Conservatives feel this pull between blue vmeme traditionalism and orange vmeme modernity, and these two vmemes are simply in too much conflict at this point in our societal development.

Liberals, on the other hand, see the idea of a “rational actor” in more secular terms. To the degree they believe in it, they would see its strongest manifestation in the science and in academia, the two main pillars of knowledge and learning. It is through liberal faith in Enlightenement ideals that liberals can reach out to libertarians and other more rational-minded people on the right. However, this liberal faith in the intellect has been shaken for politics and science have shown how shaky is the ground upon which stands the ideal of the “rational actor”. This is the main theme of Mooney’s recent book about the research on motivated reasoning. Nonetheless, liberals don’t want to give up on this ideal for no better ideal has yet been found to replace it. Even in its imperfection, it is our best hope for maintaining what democratic advancements we have gained as a society. The conservative attack on Enlightenment ideals has shaken the confidence of liberals and caused the more moderate and intellectual conservatives to flee the conservative movement or at least to grow weary of the divisiveness of the culture wars. In recent decades, conservatives took hold of the reigns of power and having created a new order through reactionary conservatism they aren’t sure they like what has resulted. In response to the loss of power, liberals in recent decades have been doing some serious soul-searching.

As a liberal-minded critic of orange vmeme hyper-individualism, I appreciate the importance of the blue vmeme fear about breakdown of social order. Conservatives and liberals alike have good reason to fear the collapse or degeneration of our society. However, there is one thing that liberals understand that conservatives have yet to fully comprehend: Social order in a liberal democracy such as America is dependent on the Enlightenment ideals so fiercely defended by liberals. Fortunately, a growing number of conservatives are beginning to figure this out and they are becoming less tolerant of the anti-intellectualism promoted by the radicalized religious right. The insight that liberals have is that the creation of “rational actors” in a democracy doesn’t happen by itself. It is very difficult and costly to create a population of educated and informed citizens who are able to act responsibly and choose rationally, but the destruction of this democratic process of citizen-making can be quite easy as it typically is easier to destroy than to build.

What liberals like Mooney point out is how conservatives are unaware of their own lack of rationality about politics. This is a dangerous situation, both for the lack of rationality and the lack of awareness. How do we collectively solve a problem that much of the population doesn’t understand when part of the problem is that very same lack of understanding? A democracy is a difficult way to run a society. Freedom doesn’t come cheap. If you don’t care about freedom, it can be simple for a dictator  or an elite to enforce order through military might and social oppression. Social order isn’t necessarily difficult to attain, but social order without freedom can only be maintained by keeping the population submissive through fear.

Despite conservative doubt about modern society, I’m fairly sure most conservatives don’t genuinely want to return to a pre-modern society ruled by a blue vmeme regimented hierarchy. Either conservatives will learn to appreciate Enlightenment ideals or our society will fail. In order to convince conservatives of this dilemma, liberals need to realize that conservatives by nature are less prone to the type of thinking promoted by Enlightenment ideals. The value of science and higher education, the worthiness of intellectual fairness and curiosity, all of this needs to be translated into conservative terms and thus made to mesh with the conservative predisposition. What conservatives are great at is defending the status quo of a society, and so what liberals need to do is assist in making the standards of rational thinking the new status quo of our society. The liberal-minded need to convince the conservative-minded that the intellectual traditions and institutions are indispensable in maintaining social order.

Haidt, in pointing out the weakness of rationality, isn’t helping. We liberals already know the weaknesses of rationality and that is precisely the reason we defend rationality. It’s in fact liberals, more than conservatives, who deeply and profoundly understand the problems that ensue from anti-intellectualism and motivated reasoning. Humans are capable of rationality as long as society and its institutions put great value on rationality and put great effort into defending it. Mooney shows very clearly the misinformation that is created when a large portion of our society cynically embraces an anti-intellectual worldview. Haidt is completely wrong in arguing that liberals should be more like conservatives in embracing a more ‘intuitive’ understanding. If Haidt were to read Mooney’s book and took the data seriously, he couldn’t make such a dangerously naive argument.

* * *

I have a hard time determining what all of this might mean for the moral foundations theory promoted by Haidt. It might be true that there is a basic set of moral foundations. However, it also might be true that as Spiral Dynamics theorizes such foundations might themselves be built on other foundations which in turn are built on even earlier foundations.

Haidt is arguing for blue vmeme as the ultimate foundation of human nature and society, but according to Spiral Dynamics there are multiple vmemes prior to that stage of development. Why does Haidt pick the blue vmeme as his choice for where society should center itself? If the most fundamental is assumed to be the best, why not instead pick as the center one of the earlier vmemes such as red, purple, or beige? On the other hand, if “transcend and include” is a truth of development, shouldn’t we instead seek a collective centering in the higher vmemes where a more integral social order would become possible?

Integral, the Paleolithic, and the Liminal

Integral, the Paleolithic, and the Liminal

Posted on Jul 1st, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
This is an extension to my previous blog post about Fictional Worlds and Fictional Drugs and a partial response to Balder’s blog The Wilber-Combs Lattice and the Pre/Trans Fallacy.

In my previous blog post, I mentioned Paul Shepard.  His theories are ones that I come back to every now and again even though its been quite a number of years since I’ve read one of his books.  It conflicts with the more optimistic vision of most Integralists.  However, I see potential truth in both of them.  Shepard sees that a misdevelopment occurred in humanity’s early development.  Wilber doesn’t see this early misdevelopment, but rather places the blame of misdevelopment on later stages such as his theory of Mean Green Meme.

I’ve heard of one theory that could bring the two together.  It was brought up in a discussion on Wilber’s site.  The person was speculating that maybe Spiral Dynamics should be seen as descriptive instead of prescriptive.  It is an accurate model describing how social development has occurred so far (in Western societies and non-Western societies influenced by Western culture).  But this doesn’t mean that development couldn’t have happened differently nor does it mean that Spiral Dynamics represents the best possible outcome of development.  These are the types of thoughts that came to me when I first studied Wilber.  It seems an obvious possibility, but it rarely comes up in discussion and I haven’t yet seen it in a book about Integralism.

This seems to bungle up the workings of Wilber’s aesthetically elegant model.  If we can’t be sure that the development model we have is optimal, then it undercuts other theories such as the pre/trans fallacy.  How can we be sure that we have it right?  From one perspective, the model is prescriptive, but maybe from another perspective it could be proscriptive.  So, is their a larger context in which to place this all?  Is their a perspective of perspectives that transcends and includes both idealism and pessimism? 

I must admit that I’ve been more interested in the potential of a Theory For Anything (TFA) and less interested in a Theory Of Everything (TOE).  But I don’t know what a TFA would look like.  I reference back to Jung’s archetypes and personality types because it seems to give something closer to a morally neutral perspective and less hierarchical.  I especially find personality types insightful because it clearly shows how often differences are just differences.  This fits in with my criticism of Wilber’s model and those attracted to it being more Apollonian (MBTI NT?).

All of this interesting enough, but my mind has been focused on another set of ideas.  I’ve just started the book The Trickster and the Paranormal by George P. Hansen (here is the author’s blog and here is an article by the author about skepticism).  This book brings some important questions to rationality.  I can’t summarize this authors views at the moment, but let me pull out some quotes and ideas to give a sense of where he is coming from.

Okay… many philosophers have considered the mind to be binary and this goes back to the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Anaximander.  From this tradition, we get Aristotelian logic with its binary opposition (a or not a) and its “the law of the excluded middle”.  And one end of the binary opposition is usually privileged.  We enter a different perspective with the liminal (introduced by Van Gennep and further elucidated by Victor Turner). “When a structure is subverted or deconstructed, there is a reversal of the positions of privilege or a blurring or collapse of the line dividing the pair.” (p. 62)  This liminal between is the space that post-modernists see as empty, but which earlier anthropologists saw as being where the paranormal and supernatural can be properly placed. 

“Deconstruction calls attention to ambiguity and uncertainty, and at its core, it is about the problem of representationin all forms.” (p. 76)  

“Like magic, the problem of meaning is banished from the consciusness of science.  Deconstructionism raises the issue overtly.  It points out that meaning is neither neutral nor transparent.  It asserts that language precedes science and thus has primacy over it.” (p. 377) 

“The Issue of power again leads back to Max Weber.  Weber’s discussion of authority was about power and domination.  He identified three types of authorrity: charismatic, traditional, and bureaucratic.  Pure charisma, the most fundamental, involves supernatural power.  The other types are rationalized forms of it.  One need only recall Weber’s insight that the process of rationaliziaion calls for the elimination of magic form the world (in actuality, elimination of the conscious awareness  of magic by cultural elites).  With the process of disenchantment virtually complete in the academy, deconstructionists (and everyone else) display an almost complete amnesia as to the primitive foundations of their school of thought.  Neary all have forgotten the taboo areas, the liminal regions, those betwixt and between categories, the anomalous, the supernatural.” (pp 377-378)

In this, we can see the questioning of dualistic models.  This is where the questioning can also be turned to Wilber’s pre/trans fallacy.  I don’t fully understand the implications as of yet, but it opens up some space for further discussion about experiences that may not be dualistic nor either pre or trans.  If all it does is bring up more unanswered questions, then that is fine by me.  I’m looking more for a model of questions than a model of answers.

What I’m trying to figure out is how can we step outside of Wilber’s models to see them objectively.  To the extent that we commit ourselves to a model, we can’t see it clearly.  This is a problem because we can’t understand a model either if we look at it entirely detached.  Does the liminal provide a space where we don’t get stuck too far in either direction?

Access_public Access: Public 26 Comments Print Post this!views (507)  

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 11 hours later

Marmalade said

Prerational and Transrational Spirituality: The Difference Is?

That old discussion on the Integral Pod hit upon something that is on my mind.  I think that its easy for the rational to be confused with the transrational when someone is trying to differentiate their experience from the prerational.  This reminds me of the analysis of the theory of the Mean Green Meme.  Here is what I said in the Integral Ideology thread in the God Pod:

“Jim linked to an article about the Mean Green Meme.  In that article, Todorovic looked to the statistics to see if it supported this hypoethesis.  According to this view, the criticisms of Green Meme are more likely to come from Blue and Orange than from Second Tier Yellow.  She explains that the supposed Second Tier criticism is actually First Tier criticism masking as Yellow which she calls Yellow False Positive.”

Many people are attracted to Integralism because its a very rational model.  It does give room for the non-rational, but still its primarily rational.  I don’t know if a transrational model is possible.  So, if we become too identified with the model, we by necessity become stuck in the rational.  Where does this leave the transrational?  Can the the term ‘transrational’ within a rational model be anything more than a placeholder for the unknown, a finger pointing at the moon?

The nonrational is another category I’m interested in.  There may be some states that are neither specifically prerational nor transrational.  How does Integralism deal with this possibility?  So far in my research, I’d say it doesn’t to any great extent.  I’ve done some web searches about Integralism and Wilber using terms such as ‘paranormal’, ‘supernatural’, and ‘liminal’… but not much came up in the results.

My sense is that Wilberian Integralism hasn’t yet fully come to terms with the nonrational.  Even the category of the transrational feels somehow inadequate.  I think part of the problem is the medium.  Rational language and linear modelling are inherently limited.  I suppose poetry and art more capable of expressing the transrational and nonrational than any Integral theory ever will be able to do.  This is why I’ve been thinking about how can the imaginative and playful be emphasized more within Integral theory.  And in general I’ve been wondering how the rational and nonrational can be experienced without conflict, without either trying to supplant the other.

Balder : Kosmonaut

about 19 hours later

Balder said

Hi, Marmalade,
An interesting post!  Thanks for your reflections here – they resonate with a number of my own interests and concerns.
Was the person who was suggesting that Spiral Dynamics might be better understood as descriptive than prescriptive possibly me?  I don’t expect I’m the only person to have thought of this or discussed it, but this is something I explored on the Integral Multiplex (and possibly also the I-I pod) a number of months ago.  My suggestion was that typical descriptions of Orange, for example, often appear to presuppose elements that might be better regarded as historical accidents rather than developmental necessities, and that there may be a wide number of “ways forward” as Amber societies mature – that, while there are social and cultural constraints that might work to encourage development in a particular direction, there still may be a wide degree of freedom in how a post-Amber society takes form (wider than conventional descriptions of Orange appear to allow for).  I was using these two particular levels just as an example; the suggestion would apply across the board.  Though conceivably, the lower levels are likely harder to shift, just because they have greater historical force behind them.
I agree with you that possibilities such as this do have the potential to “bungle up” the pre/trans fallacy – or, rather, the application of the pre/trans fallacy.  But I do think that it would still be a valid tool.  Because even if a particular trajectory isn’t the only available one, it would still be possible to distinguish – and also to potentially confuse – earlier and later stages of that trajectory.
You wrote:  I must admit that I’ve been more interested in the potential of a Theory For Anything (TFA) and less interested in a Theory Of Everything (TOE).  But I don’t know what a TFA would look like.
This is an interesting idea and I’d like to hear more about what you mean here.  I relate it to another “vision” with which I’m involved – the Time-Space-Knowledge vision, which I have practiced for a number of years and which I’ve also explored in relation to Integral Theory.  Where it differs primarily from Integral is that is more a visionary mode of inquiry and “engagement” with experience than a “map” of the world.  With Integral Methodological Pluralism, we get more into the territory of active exploration and engagement (and begin moving away from strictly “mapping” the world or various worldviews).  This is why I became interested in exploring Integral in relation to TSK, because TSK already has this open-ended, inquiry-centered orientation.  Starting with basic “elements” of reality (time, space, and knowledge), without taking any of them for granted or at face value, it opens various ways to explore the nature and dynamics of our world, ultimately with an interest in the potential of transformative vision.  It is a “way” that invites intimate engagement with reality through radical questioning and inquiry, and so in that sense serves (for me) more as a theory for everything rather than a static representation of everything.
Concerning your discussion of George P. Hansen’s perspectives on models and rationality, I am also interested in these questions.  If you’re interested, I have a paper online which looks at some of them from the points of view of Integral and TSK.  Here is a link to the relevant section of the paper:
TSK and Instrumental Knowledge.
Best wishes,

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 19 hours later

Nicole said

Bruce and Ben, thanks, I tend to side more and more with Ben in these discussions. I guess it’s because he is so darned persuasive! Or something.

I’d really like to hear your take on TSK, Ben, as I have been meaning to dig into it, but this week will not be my chance…

Ben, does this discussion here help? http://multiplex.integralinstitute.org/Public/cs/forums/50052/ShowThread.aspx

or what about this application here? http://www.quantumintegralcenter.com/articles.cfm?mode=display&article=4

this looks like a good article: http://www.integralworld.net/chamberlain3.html

Balder : Kosmonaut

about 22 hours later

Balder said

Bruce and Ben, thanks, I tend to side more and more with Ben in these discussions.

Gee, thanks, Nicole!

Seriously, I assume you mean side with Ben against any number of others, since I’ve only had a couple conversations with him so far…

And for the record, I appreciate his perspective as well.

Best wishes,


Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 23 hours later

Marmalade said

Balder, so far we seem to agree on some things.  Its hard for me to say what I agree or disagree with at the moment.  I’m presently in exploratory mode and it will take me a while to get my bearings… if ever.  😉  There is so much out there about Integralism that I can feel lost and confused sometimes.

“Was the person who was suggesting that Spiral Dynamics might be better understood as descriptive than prescriptive possibly me?”

It might’ve been.  I can’t remember when it was that I noticed those ideas.  Would you mind linking to your comments from there?

I’ll be getting back to this blog soon… maybe this evening.  For right now, I’ve been reading through and formulate a response to Julian’s blog post about Christianity. 

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

1 day later

Marmalade said

I can’t speak for Nicole, but my guess is that her agreement is partly with my view of personality types.  It seems to me that certain types have more of a preference for certain kinds of thinking such as NTs preference for rationality.  From this, I conclude that some differences are just differences.  Nicole and I have been discussing typology quite a bit lately and she seems to find it helpful.

BTW there is a particular theorist within the typology field who interests me the most.  Her name is Lenore Thomson.  She wrote the book Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual, and there is a wiki about her work.  Her view of typology touches upon my own thoughts about a TFA.  Basically, a TFA to me is a perspective of perspectives.  Some relevant pages from the wiki:

Rhetorical Stances

Beyond Personality

Philosophical Exegesis

Marmalade : Gaia Child

1 day later

Marmalade said

Here is the first thread I started at Open Source Integral.

TFA and Perspective of Perspectives

Discussion didn’t really get going in the thread and I never came to any conclusions.  I was just throwing around ideas and possibilities.  And that is still what I’m doing.  I gave up on the idea of a TFA, but I’m glad its come up again in this discussion.  It seems some kind of TFA should be possible.  I probably should first figure out what purpose a TFA should serve.

Balder, I looked at your paper.  I’m curious about it, but it will take me a while to process it.  Its a nice addition to Wilber’s models.  Time and space also come up in explanations of typological function-attitudes, but typology is less abstract in how it speaks about them.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

1 day later

Nicole said

Yes, Ben, your ideas on typology but so many more, actually. Funny since in many ways we are so different, but I had a long chat with Centria (Kathy) last night on the phone, and of course you were one of the people who came up, since we both think you’re so interesting and intelligent. I was saying that to me you have felt like a soul brother, and she said she saw that energy in some of our blog discussions, like the Rilke ones…

And yes, Bruce, I can see you appreciate Ben as well. Good! I appreciate you too, very much, I hope you know. For example what you offered in balance in that very immoderate Mod Pod discussion lol.

Ben, I will wait to hear more about your thoughts on TSK, it does seem very intriguing for you.

Perspective of perspectives eh? :):) Yes, that’s my Ben… 

Balder : Kosmonaut

1 day later

Balder said

Hi, Ben,

Thanks for introducing me to Lenore Thompson.  Her work seems very promising and interesting to me.  The typological system I’ve studied the most is the Enneagram.  A thought that has occurred to me from time to time is that Integral needs to better integrate typology.  It does explicitly include it – AQAL (or AQALALASAT) stands for all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, all types – but I have noticed that, in typical discussions in Integral circles, the only types that get much mention are masculine / feminine.  I have also found that frequently, when people are “assessing” or categorizing each other, they will go very quickly to labels which describe level or altitude, apparently not considering that there may be different typological expressions of the same level.  In my case, I have looked at this through the Enneagram, talking about how certain features of a 9 or a 3, for instance, might give the impression of a level, but that actually it’s just more of an overall mode of interaction that can be expressed at any number of levels.

If you haven’t already, and if you’re interested, I think you should write something on Lenore’s work to introduce it to the Integral community.

Personally, I have doubts that a type model is sufficient in itself, and would not expect it to work well as a theory for anything.  I don’t think everything can be reduced to or explained in terms of horizontal types.  But I do think that it is a very valuable lens you can adopt – one of several different perspectives on perspectives that AQAL incorporates.

Best wishes,


Marmalade : Gaia Child

1 day later

Marmalade said

I find it difficult to speak about any particular thing using only one model.  It often leads to making exaggerated claims.  We need multiple models in order to fine-tune our ability to discern differences and to discern their potential meanings.

I was feeling challenged to speak clearly in one of Julian’s blogs.  Rational can mean so many things to so many people even within the Integral community.  There is this idea that if someone is being rational they must either be orange or second tier, but nobody at green could be rational.   

Why do some people seem to think that second tier is just a more complex version of orange with green being a temporary irrational blip in development?  And why do so many equate rationality with a materialistic worldview?  Why do people who idealize rationality feel such a strong need to deny anything spooky?  How would someone act if they were well-developed in orange and yet had come to be centered in green?  Or, considering someone who is a more intellectual type (ie NT), how would they think rationally if they were strongly green? 

I’ve noticed too that the only type that gets much Integral discussion is gender.  Here is something I said about it in another thread at OSI:

There is the matter of whether a type is used consciously or not and this relates to development, and there is a specific order that each type will likely develop each function. This is highly theoretical and I don’t know what research has been done on it. Another theory presents how each function itself develops which is equivalent to saying that each function represents a separate line of development. There is some correlation of MBTI with models of psychological development.

For instance, how the Judging functions(Thinking and Feeling) have much similarity with Gilligan’s work on gender differences and the hierarchy of development that either gender will tend to follow. Typology brings a slightly different slant to this. Statistics have shown that their is a slight preference of males for Thnking and females for Feeling. Also, Thinking males tend to have stronger Thinking preferences than Thinking females, and Feeling females tend to have stronger preference for Feeling than Feeling males.

However, this gender preference is only around 60-70%, and that leaves a good portion that doesn’t fit the social expectations. David Deidda recognizes that gender patterns are only general. He says that his advice for men doesn’t apply to less masculine men and does apply to more masculine women. As a Feeling guy, I don’t entirely resonate with his advice.


Here is something Wilber said about gender in

“Based mostly on work by Carol Gilligan and Deborah Tannen, the idea is that the typical male orientation tends to be more agentic, autonomous, abstract, and independent, based on rights and justice; whereas the female orientation tends to be more permeable, relational, and feelingful, based on care and responsibility.”

That makes me wonder.  A tendency towards the abstract is considered more masculine and I’ve heard people make this observation before.  But the MBTI research has shown no correlation between abstract cognition and gender.  My theory on this is that there are different types of abstraction.  An NF appears less abstract because their way of abstracting is less structured as they aren’t Thinking types.  So, the definition of abstract used in gender studies is probably NT biased… maybe because most scientific researchers are NTs (?).

Anyways, you’re probably right that a type model couldn’t be a TFA.  But it could be a decent model of a Theory Of Theorizing (TOT).  Typology gets at the intricacies of our cognitive and perceptual biases.  For instance, personality research has shown that certain types and traits are most prevalent in certain professional fields.  That is partly the basis of my suspicion that Integralism has a personality bias.  Different types of personalities will tend to be attracted to different types of theories, and some types of personalities won’t like abstract theorizing whatsoever.  And none of it necessarily has anything to do with what developmental stage they’re at.

I’ll start a thread about Lenore Thomson soon, but not today.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

2 days later

Marmalade said

Hey Balder, I noticed you started a thread about AQAL and TSK at the II Multiplex.
And another thread of yours about TSK.
I noticed you’ve blogged about TSK.
And so has Davidu.
Ronpurser has some videos about TSK on youtube.

Also, is this the thread you were referring to earlier about Spiral Dynamics?

Nicole : wakingdreamer

2 days later

Nicole said

Ben, when you put it like this, it does seem very odd! supposedly so advanced and not really dealing with personality types, and generalising in such limited ways about men and women…

Balder : Kosmonaut

2 days later

Balder said

Hi, Ben,

Thanks for collecting all of those links together.  Yes, I’ve talked about TSK (by itself and in relation to Integral) on a number of forums online.  I also have a TSK pod here on Gaia.  I am also friends with both Davidu and Ron Purser.  A small world!

And yes, that thread on Spiral Dynamics is exactly the one I was thinking of.

Best wishes,


Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

2 days later

Marmalade said


Integral has such a focus on development that types can get short shrift.  I think Wilber was trying to remedy that with his further developments of the quadrant model, but I’m still uncertain what I think of the quadrants.  The quadrants are useful, and the same probably goes for other similar models.  In some ways, quadrants seems more of a convenient way to categorize things than necessarily an accurate representation of fundamental structures.

It might be helpful to compare certain aspects of integralism and typology.  Wilber uses internal and external as categories, but in some ways it feels like a crude division.  OTOH Introversion and Extraversion are attempts to explain how the human brain actually processes information.  And yet there seems a basic conception that both systems are getting at.  Introversion/Extraversion is likely the most accepted and understood traits in all of personality research.  It touches upon something fundamental to human experience.  I get the sense that Wilber is trying to get at this same human experience but coming at it from a standpoint that emphasizes objectivity (ie categorization).

I don’t know if that makes sense.  Its just something that has been on my mind for a long time.

For whatever reason, I have a bit more interest in types than in developmental lines and stages.  Types can speak more to our immediate experience… whereas development speaks more to potential future experience.  As long as someone is moderately intelligent and aware, they can grasp the fundamentals of a system such as MBTI.  But a system such as Spiral Dynamics is only meaningful to someone who is already fairly developed.  I think Spiral Dynamics requires more abstract thinking to understand it than does MBTI.  MBTI has its complex abstract theorizing, but it has been honed for the purposes of therapeutic insight and so has been designed in a very user-friendly fashion. 

So…  MBTI is a system that can be understood by all of the types it describes.  Spiral Dynamics can’t be understood by all of the vmemes that it describes.  That isn’t a weakness of Spiral Dynamics, just a challenge of any developmental model.  MBTI is also a developmental model, but in its most basic form the developmental aspects aren’t directly emphasized.

I’d love to see someone attempt to create an integral theory of types similar to how Wilber has created an integral theory of development.


Your welcome.  I like collecting links.  Its a hobby of mine.  🙂

BTW I don’t think it was your Spiral Dynamics thread where I saw these criticisms/questions being brought up.  If I remember correctly, it was an older thread.  Anyways, I was happy to read your comments about this.  I haven’t yet read through the whole thread, but I plan on doing so.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

2 days later

Nicole said

Yes, yes, Ben, I agree totally.

While I was looking for more useful links I found this about Haridas_Chaudhuri

Are you and Bruce familiar with him?

Balder : Kosmonaut

2 days later

Balder said

Yes, I’m familiar with him.  His integralism is rooted more in Aurobindo’s model, which was initially one of Wilber’s big influences as well.  Wilber ended up going in other directions, though recently he has returned to Aurobindo, using a number of Aurobindo’s stages of consciousness as the highest levels of his model of development. 

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

2 days later

Marmalade said

Nope, never heard of him.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

3 days later

Marmalade said

I just commented on Julian’s blog The Transformative Power of Development: A Three-Part Distinction:

Balder, I appreciated what you said here:
“If rationality begins with 3p, and transratonality begins at 5p (or expanded 4p), then it just isn’t correct to call a temporary state experience at a rational level (3p) transrational.  Because transrational is a structural designation, not a state designation.”

I’m starting to understand the importance of separating states and stages.  So, if transrational is a structural designation, then does that mean the pre/trans fallacy doesn’t apply to stage designations?  If transrational isn’t the correct label for a temporary stte, then what is?

Even though I didn’t mention it in my comment, I was thinking about the category of the nonrational.  I was considering that it might be appropriate to speak of rational and nonrational in terms of states.  But if states are differentiated from stages, then pre/trans doesn’t apply.  This makes sense to me. 

My understanding of the nonrational is that it isn’t specifically developmental in Wilber’s sense, but it does relate to the process of development as the liminal is inherent to initiation rituals.  States aren’t static even if they aren’t dynamic in terms of linear development.  Maybe states follow more of a cyclical pattern.  This could help to show the connection between the theories of Grof and Wilber.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

interesting! but i am being called away … back later or tomorrow

Marmalade : Gaia Child

3 days later

Marmalade said

Leaving?  You just got here!  Called away… sounds mysterious.

Oh well… I hope the rest of your day goes well.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

ah, just family. i urgently was required to watch a Nicholas Cage movie, light and funny. not much punishment there lol. and then to bed.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

3 days later

Marmalade said

I see.  Just spending some quality time with family and Nicholas Cage.
What movie was it?
I’m watching some Outer Limits episodes right now.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

cool! It was um… hang on… LOL! I remember the second part of the title – Book of Secrets – anyway you will find the whole title somewhere else – i know i mentioned it earlier to you. you see the depredations of old age, Ben. 🙂

Marmalade : Gaia Child

3 days later

Marmalade said

You have depredations?
Sounds horrible.
Is that a medical condition?
You probably should see a doctor about that.
I hope they find a cure for it before I get old.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said


Myth, Religion, and Social Development: Part II

Myth, Religion, and Social Development: Part II

Posted on Apr 8th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
(This is also posted in the God Pod.)

I want to bring together the evolutionary causes at work behind myth and religion.  I mentioned these earlier: Campbell’s view on the transition from hunter to planter societies, Philippe’s ideas about the paganism incorporated into Christianity, Spiral Dynamics, and the Axial Age.

To this I want to add Paul Shepard’s theory about Pleistocene man.  Shepard believes that the transition between hunters and planters was the most important shift in social development… or disruption rather.  This shift was world-wide and is comparable to the Axial Age.

Add this all up, and it gives us 2 major shifts connecting 3 major eras.  Its Spiral Dynamics that allows us to map this out.  (It goes without saying that this is all tentative.)

First Era: Prior to the post-Pleistocene shift, we have the vmemes of beige and purple.  It seems that Campbell and Shepard are treating these two inseparably.  As we know very little about the myths of beige, we don’t need to worry about it.  Still, its beige that Shepard is somewhat romanticizing.  In addition, I think the individualistic focus of red vmeme gets mixed in because the myths were written down during the development of the blue vmeme, and red came to represent all of the past.  There is the theory that the vmemes switch between a focus on the individual and a focus on the collective, and it makes sense to me.  So, beige and red would be individualistic which isn’t to say the individual has yet fully developed.

Anyways, to simplify, this first era is the Age of the Shaman… Campbell’s Shamanistic Titan seeking personal power through personal sacrifice.  But the Shaman isn’t a monk… the Shaman is also the Warrior and the Hunter.  Visions have power.

Also, this was the time when the divine man-animal was worshipped, the prototype of all later dying/ressurection gods.  Here is a quote from a review of a book by Paul Shepard(along with Barry Sanders) titled The Sacred Paw:

They give a really good argument for the shifting of the emphasis of the myths from the Bear Mother to the adventures of her sons, who eventually become purely human heroes. The Underworld and Rebirth themes of the Bear Mother are slowly stripped form her until she is nothing but a memory.

Post-Pleistocene(or rather post-hunter/gatherer) shift: The cause of this is explained variously.  Did the Ice Age traumatize the collective psyche of the human species?  Or, according to Shepard, did the shift occur from within… for some unknown reason man falling out of alignment with his environment?  Or was it some kind of Telos(God?) that propelled social evolution?  And was this shift a good thing(an evolugionary advantage) or a bad thing(Shepard’s collective madness)?  For our purposes, answering these questions isn’t necessary.  All we need to know is that a major shift happened.

As for Spiral Dynamics, my guess is that this shift was red vmeme and also red shifting into blue.  This shift probably occurred over a very long period of time.

Second Era: This is the beginnings of civilization proper: agriculture and city-states, and the great Matriarchies… this is very early blue vmeme which isn’t blue as we know it now.  This era was blue in a more pure form, not adulterated by orange and green as found in the Third Era.

At this time, society became hierarchical and the caste system came about… and with it the division of labor.  Life was extremely organized including religion… the visions of the shaman became the oracles that served the priesthood, and the myths became complex rituals.  Life revolved around the seasons and the seasonal celebrations.  This was where we got our celebrations of the Equinxes and Solstices as Solar symbolism was the focus.

(A shift within the Second Era)  In the later part of this era, the Matriarchies lost power and written history began.  But the Patriarchies were also blue and they retained the hierarchical structure even if a different gender was on top.  The primary difference was that orange was beginning to develop with a reemergence of individualism, meaning the hierarchy was not quite as strict as previously.  The shift between Matriarchy and Patriarchy is significant, but it isn’t my focus for the moment.  The development of Patriarchy was a disatisfaction with the old ways.  One explanation(that Jeremy Taylor brings up) is that the precession of the equinoxes altered the timing by which the Matriarchies had planted and harvested.  This led to priesthood no longer being able to predict the seasons and so social unrest followed.  This disatisfaction with the prior Goddess worship can be felt in the myth of Gilgamesh.

Axial Age: (Karl Jaspers first wrote about this, and Karen Armstrong wrote a whole book about it.)  This is when first arose all of the world religions that we know today.  Or, in the case of Hinduism and Judaism, when previous religions were revisioned.  The Old Testament was written down for the first time during this time.  Christianity and Islam were later manifestations of this Age.

Blue is still in power, but orange has developed enough to allow some incisive questioning of tradition.  Also, green is first showing itself to any significant degree.  So we have the development of rationality and self-inquiry along with a sense of social equality and justice.  Liberation was the spiritual response and democracy was the political response.

Mythologically, we have the development of the savior stories as we know them today.  Jesus doesn’t change the world by conquering nations.  He changes the world by confronting himself, challenging the human condition.  The prophets of this age tended to turn inward.

The agricultural city-states were being forced to develop new modes of politics.  The Greeks developed democracy and philosophy.  The great myths were being written down and questioned which meant man was no longer controlled by the gods, but could choose their own destiny.  The heroes of this time often challenged the gods.  Man could save himself, man was coming of age.

Third Era: The age of empires… symbolized in the West by the Romans and the later Catholic Church.  Blue is still very much the dominating paradigm, but orange has become established.  However, the green that showed itself in the Axial Age is squelched back out of existence not to be seen again until the Rennaisance.

Religion becomes more ritualized and homogenized than it had ever before.  Using the Roman Empire as its structure, the Catholic Church destroys and/or incorporates every religion it comes into contact with.  And this is why we have such a strange mix of mythologies in Christianity today.  But also this paved the way for us moderns to see the universal truths behind all myths.  (Buddhism did something similar for the East.)

During this time, Jesus the prophet and savior becomes the Ruler of the World.

To be continued…

Access_public Access: Public 3 Comments Print Post this!views (190)  

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 1 hour later

Nicole said

i’m really enjoying this series… thanks so much for cross posting!

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 9 hours later

Marmalade said

I’m glad you’re enjoying it, but I do hope some others will respond.  I really don’t know to what degree this all makes sense.  My knowledge of Spiral Dynamics is pretty basic, but its not the most important part of my thinking here even though I’m using it as a central context.

I don’t have any perfectly clear ideas at the moment.  I’m just pondering the possibilities of patterns.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

1 day later

Nicole said

excellent! yes, we are in a bit of a lull at the moment on the God Pod… just catching our breath before the next waves of activity i’m sure! 🙂

Myth, Religion, and Social Development

Myth, Religion, and Social Development

Posted on Apr 7th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
I’ve been reading several authors recently that are related.

I just finished The Gospel & the Zodiac by Bill Darlison.  I’m now reading Christianity: the Origins of a Pagan Religion by Philippe Walter.  I’ve also been perusing two of Joseph Campbell’s works: Thou Art That and The Flight of the Wild Gander, and Alexander Eliot’s The Universal Myths.

They all are related(in my mind).  First, they’re all about mythology.  Second, they all speak about Christianity.

There are 5 mythic/archetyapl characters that fit closely together.  There is the Trickster, the Primal Man, the Titan/Giant, the Hero, and the Savior.  The Hero and the Savior are obviously related as Jesus fits fairly well into the Hero’s Journey.  The Primal Man is known as Adam in Christianity and Jesus is known as the Second Adam, one causes death and the other conquers it.  The cause of death is normally an element of the Trickster which is closely related to the Primal Man.  Loki connects the Titan/Giant with the Trickster, and Prometheus fairly well brings together the different categories.

In Walter’s book, he theorizes about a European pagan mythology that was incorporated into Christianity of the Middle Ages.  He sees at the center of this was a Giant and also related was the class of Birdwomen.  Birds have been related to shaman’s and their visions for as long as man has been thinking about such things.  He mentions the difference between myth and ritual, and how rituals are more reliable evidence of ancient religions because rituals are more stable and unchanging even as the explanations(stories) surrounding them change.

Campbell writes about the differences betweem visions and rituals in reference to what he calls the ‘Titan-shaman’.  He also details how this can be understood through looking at the differences of hunter societies and planting societies.  This relates to paganism and Christianity and the development of religion in general, and Campbell also mentions the differences of religions that emphasize the individual vs the collective.  All of this fits into the insights from Spiral Dynamics.  I also thinks this relates to Jasper’s notion of the Axial Age.

Furthermore, I’ve been thinking about the distinction between symbol and sign, connotation and denotation.  And also what Campbell was saying about tender-minded vs tough-minded.

I plan to go into more detail, but I wanted to do an intro blog to set out the ideas I’ve been pondering.

Access_public Access: Public 4 Comments Print Post this!views (604)  
Nicole : wakingdreamer
about 3 hours later

Nicole said

this would be a great series for the God Pod. what do you think?



Marmalade : Gaia Child
about 7 hours later

Marmalade said

Yeah… most definitely.  I was actually thinking of posting it in one of the pods, and it probably fits well into the theme of the God pod.  Feel free to add it, or if you’d prefer I could start a thread.  My next entry should give more detail to my thoughts, and I’ll try to get to it tomorrow.

While I’m here in the comments, let me add two other related archetypes.  I was reading the chapter about the Trickster in Jeremy Taylor’s book The Living Labyrinth.  He mentions how the Divine Child and the Shadow are polar opposite faces of the Trickster.  As an example, the child who points out the king is wearing no clothes is simultaneously playing both roles.  Also, two well known examples of the Divine Child Trickster are Hermes and Krishna.  As for the Shadow, I’d think the Trickster archetype would be inseparable from it.

Marmalade : Gaia Child
about 20 hours later

Marmalade said

Here is the link to the thread where I posted this blog entry in the God Pod.

Nicole : wakingdreamer
1 day later

Nicole said

I’m really intrigued by your comment about the Divine Child, Shadow and Trickster… If you’re willing to take the discussion into archetypes and these kinds of interactions, it could really help get things rolling by sharing that in the thread on the God Pod. Many are not sure how to comment on something as intellectually challenging as your posts there, but these archetypal aspects are more accessible and intriguing to more people… what do you think?

 – – –

Here are comments from the forum threads:

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer  

Re: Myth, Religion, and Social Development: A series by Marmalade

Marmalade said Apr 8, 2008, 5:36 PM:

  By the way, if anyone has any info to add, I’d be glad to hear it.  Specifically, I’m interested in anything about the relationship between comparative mythology and Spiral Dynamics.  I know of various theories about the development of myth, but I’ve never come across a Spiral Dynamics analysis.

I’ve always wondered why comparative mythology doesn’t get much inclusion in integral discussions.  I know Julian has blogged about comparative mythology and has blogged about Spiral Dynamics, but I don’t know that he has blogged about their possible connections.

I’ve done thorough searches about this on the web, and have yet to come up with that many leads.  There is only one that comes to mind is James Whitlark who wrote about Jungian archetypes of individuation in the context of Spiral Dynamics.  However, Whitlark wasn’t looking at myth in terms of social development.

 – – –
Marmalade : Gaia Explorer  

Integral Comparative Mythology?

Marmalade said Apr 9, 2008, 2:44 AM:

  I’ve been recently thinking about comparative mythology.  I’ve been reading some books on the subject including Campbell of course, and the developmental perspective often comes up.  I thought Spiral Dynamics would be a good model to analyze theories such as Campbell’s, but I was wondering if there were any in-depth integral interpretations of comparative mythology.

In doing a web search, I see that Wilber speaks about Campbell in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality.  Its been a long while since I’ve read that book and I don’t have a copy of it on hand.  I also came across this old discussion of Wilber on the Joseph Campbell Foundation discussion board, but I haven’t had a chance to look through it thoroughly.

Does anyone know of any other info out there… websites, articles, books?
Does anyone know Wilber’s most recent thinking on mythology and mythologists?
Does anyone have any personal opinions or theories on this subject?

My thoughts at the moment are primarily focused on a particular set of archetypal characters that are often closely related in mythology.  Included in this are the Savior, God-Man, Man-Beast, Primal Man, Titan, Trickster, and Divine Child.  But I’m always interested in all aspects of mythology.

  Balder : Kosmonaut  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Balder said Apr 10, 2008, 9:57 AM:

  Hi, Marmalade, I’m just checking in to let you know I’m not ignoring your question – just waiting for an opportune time to write.  And to research something.  I have some books at home that discuss the works of some folks who might be of interest to you, but I haven’t had a chance to look them up yet.  I’ll try to get back to you this evening or tomorrow morning.

Best wishes,

B. // <![CDATA[
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
}, {button:true} );
// ]]>//

  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Marmalade said Apr 10, 2008, 1:16 PM:

  Balder, I’d appreciate anything you had to offer. 
  theurj : dancer  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

theurj said Apr 10, 2008, 2:18 PM:

  I received my indoctrination into mythology via iniitiation into a hermetic and qabalastic Order. Tarot study was one of the vehicles into the meanings of myths. One of the early pioneers of tarot study is A. E. Waite, also a member of said Order. He (and his artist) published one of the most widely-used tarot decks today. His free e-book, The Pictorial Key to Tarot, can be found at this link. Enjoy.

  theurj : dancer  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

theurj said Apr 10, 2008, 2:37 PM:

  Jung was also fascinated with tarot and it is claimed that he got his four basic personality types from the tarot court cards. Sallie Nichols wrote an interesting book on Jung’s study of it: Jung and Tarot: An Archetypal Journey.
  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Marmalade said Apr 10, 2008, 4:25 PM:

  I’ve studied Tarot a bit.  I became interested in myth through Jung, but it was through Tarot that I became interested in Jungian typology.  I’m not familiar with what Jung knew about Tarot, but he was knowledgeable of Temperaments in its pre-Kiersey form.

And it’s good that you posted that image of the Fool.  That is definitely another archetype closely related to the Trickster and Divine Child. // <![CDATA[
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
}, {button:true} );
// ]]>//

  theurj : dancer  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

theurj said Apr 10, 2008, 6:58 PM:

  It is ironic that part of the curriculum of the Order was assumption of God forms through ceremonial ritual. Comparisons have been made with Tibetan deity yoga. We also used Tarot for pathworking, i.e., stepping inside the tarot card and interacting with the characters and symbols via imagination. Of couse we were first inculcated over years in the symbolical meanings of the images and other hermetical, alchemical, astrological etc. lore so that our “astral” travels were fairly pre-ordained by “right view.” On the other hand I did have some rather unique and idiosyncratic journeys with the cards, often revealing my personal and familial psychodynamic material. // <![CDATA[
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
}, {button:true} );
// ]]>//
  Bill : practicioner & free  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Bill said Apr 11, 2008, 1:47 AM:

  I did have some rather unique and idiosyncratic journeys with the cards, often revealing my personal and familial psychodynamic material.

Me too. Fun times. // <![CDATA[
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
}, {button:true} );
// ]]>//
  Balder : Kosmonaut  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Balder said Apr 11, 2008, 10:01 AM:

  Hi, Marmalade,

One of the authors I was thinking of is Lawrence Hatab – and in particular, his book, Myth and Philosophy.

I just looked on the web and found the following brief summary of (and editorial response to) this book:

Myths make sense in (and of) a cultural context. When the context changes, the old myths stop making sense. That’s what happened to the Greek myths over twenty-five hundred years ago, when philosophers like Xenophanes began to question the reality of the traditional gods and goddesses. In a similar spirit, our own philosophers have been chipping away at the Judeo-Christian mythos for the past couple of centuries, attempting to replace it with a secular substitute.
In Myth and Philosophy: A Contest of Truths, philosopher Lawrence J. Hatab of Dominion University has argued that myth cannot and should not be reduced to other modes of expression (such as rational explanation in philosophy, mathematics, or science), and that in its own way myth offers truths as real and important as those of rational discourse. Moreover, according to Hatab, when philosophy tries to break completely with myth, it loses its way; and it is this attempt on the part of modern science and philosophy to demythologize human consciousness that has weakened our ties with the deepest truths of our cultural heritage.

The materialist philosophers that Hatab opposes say that we should get rid of myths altogether, become more rational, and wean ourselves from superstition. Myth, they say, should retire in favor of science. But science, though it is formulated in a way quite different from traditional myths, still serves a mythic function: It tells us how the Universe began, where the first people came from, and how the world came to be the way it is. This suggestion that we do away with mythology is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of myth and of the human psyche. Myth in some form is inevitable and necessary. Our knowledge is always finite, and is always overlapped by our need for meaning. Our thoughts and aspirations seek some symbolic language through which we can talk about, and participate in, what we otherwise cannot see, touch, or taste. What is our goal, our meaning, our purpose as human beings? These are the questions a myth can answer.

Virtually every thinking person sees the need for dramatic global renewal if our world is to survive; and, as the greatest politicians, artists, spiritual leaders, and even scientists know in their bones, only a new myth can inspire creative cultural change. But where will this bolt of inspiration come from?

Ironically, while many scientists have sought to undo myth altogether, it is science itself that seems to me to be serving as a primary source for a new myth. Science’s great strengths are its continual checking of theory with experience and its ability to generate new theories in response to new discoveries. While it is still a very young enterprise, and capable of generating its own irrational dogmas, science is in principle malleable and self-correcting. Currently, it appears that elements of a new myth are emerging through quantum and relativity physics, though more directly and powerfully through the findings of anthropology (which is “discovering” the wisdom of native peoples), psychology (which is only beginning to develop a comprehensive understanding of human consciousness), sociology (which offers a comparative view of human economies and lifestyles), and ecology – as well as through the profound, nearly universal human response to the view of planet Earth from space, an image that owes more to technology than to theoretical science.

Each of these sources is, I believe, contributing to the formulation of a myth whose general features are becoming clear enough that it can be articulated in simple story form. We could call it the myth of healing and humility. It starts out somewhat like the old myth, but diverges rather quickly.”
// <![CDATA[
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
}, {button:true} );
// ]]>//

  Lionza : Sweetfire  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Lionza said Apr 14, 2008, 3:50 PM:

  Quoting from Balder´s post :

´´Currently, it appears that elements of a new myth are emerging through quantum and relativity physics, though more directly and powerfully through the findings of anthropology (which is “discovering” the wisdom of native peoples), psychology (which is only beginning to develop a comprehensive understanding of human consciousness), sociology (which offers a comparative view of human economies and lifestyles), and ecology – as well as through the profound, nearly universal human response to the view of planet Earth from space, an image that owes more to technology than to theoretical science. ´´

It is all too apparent that Science Fiction, particularly in the last 40 years, has combined all of these fields;  physics (warp speed…), anthropology (…and new civilizations, to boldly go…), psychology ( I did not kill your father:  I am your father…) sociology (… we cannot interfere with…), ecology (… this is project Genesis…) and much more – and has unoficially become a steady source of modern mythological reference.  Not many Western kids can refer to Hanuman but they probably know Chewbacca.   And as these things go, Science fiction was/is heavily inspired from Ancient mythologies the world over. 

It seems that now movies such as the ´Lord of the Rings´ Trilogy, has joined this esteemed loop of neo-mythology.  Wasn´t the horned demon  Balrog a superb mix between Satan and the Minotaurof Crete? 

Yes, our new Mythology is here already and the great thing is that we don´t have to be conned into any crazy belief systems or worship rituals to call it ours – maybe we can re-organize it a bit…

L. // <![CDATA[
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
}, {button:true} );
// ]]>//

  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Marmalade said Apr 16, 2008, 3:12 AM:

  I’m looking at several books I own right now that are about the connection between mythology, religion, and culture including pop culture.

The Secret Life of Puppets by Victoria Nelson

The Melancholy Android by Eric G. Wilson

The Gospel According to Science Fiction by Gabriel McKee

I read The Secret Life of Puppets several years ago, and its a great book.  The other two I haven’t read all of the way through, but I have read another book by Gabriel McKee which he wrote about Philip K. Dick. // <![CDATA[
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
}, {button:true} );
// ]]>//

  Marmalade : Gaia Explorer  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Marmalade said Apr 11, 2008, 10:29 PM:

  Balder – Thanks!  That is the kind of book that interests me.  I have some books about Jung and philosophy.  Jung certainly felt mythology and philosophy were related. // <![CDATA[
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
}, {button:true} );
// ]]>//

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Zakariyya [no longer around] said Apr 16, 2008, 2:08 PM:

  I really think that modernism and post-modernism doesn’t understand spiritual mythology, Including Ken Wilber.

Mythology is only the outer face of spiritual cosmologies that explain very intimately the workings of the inner [human soul] and outer universe


The wisest humans in history have left great pearls of knowledge in these myths. A group of secular philosophers want to label them as obsolete, though these philosophers, not a single one of them can come up with knowledge that can replace any of the real meaning of the ancient myths // <![CDATA[
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
}, {button:true} );
// ]]>//

  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Marmalade said Apr 16, 2008, 3:23 PM:

  I hear what you’re saying about modernists and post-modenists… and Wilber too.  I do feel that most people don’t have much understanding of mythology.  This isn’t surprising as its not a subject widely taught in schools.

I don’t know to what degree that someone like Wilber does or doesn’t understand mythology, but it does seem that he doesn’t see much value in studying it as he doesn’t talk about it much.  Is this just a personal bias in that it doesn’t interest him?  Or does he see mythology as being limited to a specific quadrant at a specific level of development?

So, what would second-tier mythology look like?
What is a genuine trans-rational perspective that integrates both the rational and non-rational?


Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Zakariyya [no longer around] said Apr 17, 2008, 4:14 PM:

  Wilber looks at mythology as “ myth of the given” metaphysics. In other words the great thinkers don’t need it anymore because the myths are obsolete.

There is nothing further from the truth!


People are impressed by the highly intellectual scientific mystics like Wilber because of their appearance of knowledge.

In my opinion their knowledge isnt that deep

Some important points about mythology:

1.Mythology has nothing to due with stories or fables.

2.Mythologies are just allegories that describe universal subtle laws on all levels of understanding.

3. A myth is usually based on a real event, simply because myths are always playing themselves out in the real world in some form. It is important to understand that myths have levels of interpretation

For example: The statement in the mythological New testament of Jesus:

“I and the father are one”

Is a description of the path of the mystic merging with the universal idea of cosmic science? This is the high level interpretation.

The lower level [for the exoteric believers] is a description of being one with “God”

Another myth– that of the Garden of Eden story– is also HIGHLY misunderstood.

The tree of in the Garden of Eden is really very lofty states of “Paradise” not a real tree with an apple.

The Garden of Eden itself is the inner structure known as The Essence, that which rules all of our states of consciousness.

These are just two examples of the very rich dynamic knowledge and wisdom that are cloaked in mythology.

The modernist, and postmodernists, personified by folks like Mr Wilber apparently dont understand the higher levels of interpretation of mythology.

  Lionza : Sweetfire  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Lionza said Apr 25, 2008, 11:12 PM:

  Yes I agree.  Myths ARE multy layered coded stories of the major  principles, havoc and games playing in  nature and her creatures, human emotions, stellar events, etc.   But since many of them have not only been coded but have also been warped by additions and twists along the corridors of time , it  gets difficult to see how consistently they do this. 

I too have been perplexed as to why Ken Wilber practically dismisses them without a close examination. Jung first understood the idea of archetypes when a bizarre dream of one of his European patients described an image of the Sun exacly like a Mithraic myth which the patient had never known.  

And I also agree that advanced laws of science are coded in myths.  For example, the idea of all of creation springing out in a Big Bang from a ´tiny seed´of compressed potential was described centuries ago in myths of the Indian sub- continent . 

Definately, treasures would be had if myths were to be deciphered  AND weeded out of warped additions.

Debate b/t Religion and Science: Theists, Atheists, Agnostics, Integralists

 – – –


This response profoundly misunderstands Karen Armstrong’s arguments.  This isn’t a fair portrayal.  As far as I understand her arguments, the criticisms presented here don’t seem to touch upon what she actually writes about.

Armstrong’s books are very scholarly.  She isn’t against rationality and science.  What she supports is making subtle intellectual distinctions in order to create a rational context to discuss otherwise non-rational issues.  She backs her arguments with historical evidence which is the best one can do when trying to analyze the development of religion and society.  And nothing she states contradicts any known scientific facts or theories.

Armstrong offers great insight into the religious mind.  Her explanation of the origins of literalist fundamentalism make more sense to me than any argument I’ve come across.

Her argument is that a new way of thinking about religion arose with the Axial Age.  In particular, this involved the ability to think metaphorically.  But I don’t think she disagrees that it was initially (and for many centuries to come) a style of thinking limited mostly to elite theologians.  It was only with the Enlightenment that the the Axial Age ideals started to take hold more clearly and science provided a new paradigm by which metaphorical thinking could be contrasted.

In response to science, the idea of religious literalism arose as entirely distinct from allegorical interpretation.  It’s not that literalist thinking didn’t exist to an extent earlier, but it only became an ideology unto itself in modern times.

Armstrong isn’t an enemy of atheism.  The only thing she is an enemy of is closed-mindedeness and simplistic thinking.  Her criticism of the New Atheists isn’t a criticism of atheism in general.  She is simply pointing out that certain arguments made by some popular atheists aren’t the best arguments to be made.  Her main issue is that, by talking about religion in literalist terms, the atheist just plays into the hands of literalist fundamentalists.  She wants to undermine religious literalism at it’s base.  She wants to show fundamentalism for what it is by showing how it developed.

 – – –


We seem to be talking past each other or something.

And you apparently have me mistaken for someone else.  I’m far from being a religious apologist.  I can’t stand apologetics and I harshly criticize anyone who uses it.  I do have some interest in religion and I study religious scholarship, but I’m not an overly religious person as I usually think of myself as an agnostic.  I look for insight where ever I can find it whether from religion, science, psychology or whatever.  But I especially appreciate quality scholarship.
Straw-men arguments? I have no clue what you’re talking about.  My basic argument was that you didn’t understand Armstrong’s ideas, and I then explained my own understanding of her work.  Have you read her books?  If you haven’t, then I don’t know why you have such strong opinions based on such limited info.  Or if you have, you need to reinforce your argument with more specifically quoted examples.
“Of course, Armstrong doesn’t say she is against science. I never claimed this. She is completely misrepresenting it’s place in history, that’s all.”
Well, so far, you’ve mentioned science 25 times and mostly in reference to Armstrong.  Going by your own words: Your argument is that she undermines and blames and ignores science, that she doesn’t care about scientfic facts, and that she is dangerously usurping science for a liberal anti-scientific agenda.  If this isn’t your true opinion, then you need to edit your previous statements or else better explain what you actually meant by these words.
“I am amused at how you built your assumptions into the statement while cloaking Armstrong’s revisionism in the language of tolerance.”
All statements have assumptions built into them.  My argument was fairly simple and straightforward.  I wasn’t cloaking anything.
“Firstly, she is not so much making ‘intellectual distinctions’ as she is making stuff up.”
Generalized judgments and dismissals aren’t helpful.  Give me precise quoted examples of her making stuff.   Show in detail that your allegation is correct.  Explain how her supposed “making stuff up” disproves her entire argument and undermines all of her scholarly respectability.
“Secondly, your implicit assumption that there is no other rational context to discuss such issues is wrong.”
No such assumption was implied.  I’m fond of many other rational contexts.  I wasn’t arguing that Armstrong has the market cornered on rational contexts.  She isn’t even an author I obsessively read or even think about that much.
“There is one very powerful rational context that is always relevant- objective reality.”
I like objective reality.  Are you implying that my arguments or Armstrong’s arguments deny or contradict objective reality?
“No preferential treatment of facts is necessary, thanks a lot (read up on sociobiology- really read- to get a rational context for understanding religious fundamentalism).”
I don’t understand your complaint.  Preferential treatment of facts isn’t necessary, but emphasizing the importance of facts is always a nice thing.  And, yes, I do read up on many fields of study.  In particular, the relationship between biology and behavior is a topic I often read about.
“Literalist fundamentalism was always there.”
It seems we’re defining literalism differently.  I can’t assess your definition as I don’t know what facts and theories you’re basing it on.  As far as I can tell, you seem to be using a very general and vague sense of literalism.  In terms of cognitive ability, however, literalistic thinking is more narrowly defined.
“Religion is the political remnant of a system of belief that told a narrative of factual events. For modern religious moderates, when it comes to everyday issues they can understand that there is such a thing as the real world and there is the emotional world, but when it comes to religion they forgo this distinction.”
It’s not that all fundamentalists dismiss this distinction.  Many of them simply don’t understand it.
The definition of literalism I’m using is from a developmental perspective.  On the personal level, people have the potential to learn how to make clear rational distinctions at a particular stage of development, but this depends on the person’s intelligence and their social environment.  As such, development can be stalled or even permanently stunted.  Plus, integrating this ability into all aspects of one’s life involves even further stages of cognitive development that are even less common.  There are also theories that discern stages of development in societies.  A person is only likely to develop to the extent that most others have developed in their society.  Our modern understanding of literal facts didn’t exist thousands of years ago.  Even when this understanding began to develop, it was a minority of the population that grasped it.
I openly admit that it’s hard to figure out the cognitive processes of ancient people.  But plausible theories can be formed using historical data, anthropology, psychology and neurology.  Anyways, my main point isn’t that all ancient people didn’t have some basic sense of an external reality that they perceived as being separate from their own subjectivity.  I’m simply pointing out that religious literalism as we know it today has become influenced by a scientific worldview which wasn’t the case in the past.
“Please spare me the Axial age BS. It is a half-baked hypothesis that relies on amateurish post hoc reasoning. Such ideas are designed to appeal to those who have already made up their minds. In this case, it is the mind of the religious moderate who desires above all to find a way to make all the religions work together in harmony.”
You have many biased assumptions about many things.  Half-baked?  Amateurish post hoc reasoning?  Please do explain!
Armstrong didn’t simply invent the idea of the Axial Age as it (along with similar ideas) has been discussed by many scholars.  It’s common for scholars to analyze history according to ages of socio-cultural development such as tool-making, agriculture, city-states, etc.  In terms of the Axial Age, there was a specific time period when many cultures were developing written language and when certain new ideas arose such as monotheism/monism and variations of the golden rule. 
The term Axial Age is merely a way of labelling and describing a broad period of cultural transformation.  That such a transformation happened is a matter of historical record, but the cause of it is a complex issue.  Even though cultural transmission is one possibility, it’s implausible as being the sole cause as there were many separate cultures experiencing similar changes at around the same time.  It is true that correlation doesn’t prove causation, but obviously something was causing massive change.
“To understand cultural patterns on such large scales one needs to take into account a lot more real variables that Armstrong can grasp.”
Why do you presume what Armstrong can grasp?  Do you personally know her and have you scientifically tested her cognitive abilities? 
She is a religious scholar.  That is what she is an expert in and so that is what she focuses on.  Why would you expect a scholar of a specific field to take into account all possible variables including those outside their field?  Yes, there are other areas of scholarship that are relevant.  So what?  That doesn’t disprove Armstrong’s contribution to her area of scholarship. 
Her ideas are just another possible piece of the puzzle, but I’m all for trying to understand the whole puzzle.  For that reason, I turn to such things as Integral theory in order to get a conceptual framework to put the pieces together.  Even so, you can never know that you’ve completely figured it out because theories about human cultural development are impossible to scientifically prove beyond all doubt.
“For example, briefly, the ‘ability’ to think metaphorically evolved at least 70,000 years ago, but possibly up to 300,000 years ago. However, the ability to perceive our world around us evolved with the first intelligent ancestors we ever had. For intelligent biological organisms to survive, they needed to be convinced that certain things were true. Metaphor as a semantic tool is pointless when faced with a hungry lion. Literalism is the default setting.”
I’m not using literalism as referring to the perception of external reality, though there are theories that propose that early humans didn’t clearly distinguish between internal and external experience (such as Julian Jaynes’ theory of bicameralism or Lloyd deMause’s theory of schizotypal personality).  Instead, what I am focusing on here is the cognitive ability to think in terms of black and white absolutes.  This is how a person cognitively processes perceptual experience rather than the process of perception itself.  So, metaphor as you are using it seems to be equated with mythological thinking which according to some theories of development represents an earlier stage of development.
“It is an insult to say that these people did not believe that stuff literally.”
I’m not saying that and I don’t think that Armstrong comes to that conclusion.  For example, consider Christianity.  Some of the earliest theologians relied heavily on allegorical interpretations.  Yes, they believed they were true but not necessarily true in a physical sense.  Christianity arose at the end of the Axial Age when the distinction between allegorical truth and objective facts was becoming more common.
In a sense, even these early Christians believed their allegorical interpretations were literally true for they conceived the spiritual realm as being the highest truth.  Still, they were making a distinction which is different than the earliest religions where the spiritual and physical were inseparable (and so mind and world were connected through magical thinking).  Nonetheless, even this conflation doesn’t deny that they may have had some understanding of reality as external to them.  If a hungry lion attacked, they would defend themselves against it.  But afterwards they probably would interpret it as an animistic encounter with a spiritual being.
I don’t know if I’m communicating this in a way that you understand.  I’ve been studying these kinds of ideas for years and I can’t claim to have it all figured out.  It’s a very complex topic involving many different theories by many different scholars in many different fields.  However, I often return to Ken Wilber’s Integral theory as it connects more of the puzzle pieces together than any other theory I’ve come across, though I don’t agree with everything he claims.  It’s first and foremost a descriptive model, but to the degree it accurately explains objective facts it can be considered potentially predictive in that all individuals and all societies tend to follow certain patterns of development.  According to Wilber’s use of Spiral Dynamics (which represents only one line of development), there are distinct stages.
 – The earliest stages see the world in terms of animism and magical thinking, and so mythology is “literally” a part of the world.
 – After the earliest stages, humans began to develop a more individual sense of consciousness meaning that that the mind was showing some independence from the environment (i.e., people could think about rather than merely react to the world).  Likewise, spiritual beings also were perceived as being more clearly distinct from the world and from human individuality.  The sense of something being “literally” true meant that it existed outside of mere human experience.
 – The stage where “literal” thinking shows itself most clearly is when humans start emphasizing binary opposites that are polarized into absolute right and wrong, absolute true and false.  Self and other become absolutely distinct.
 – After this stage, experiential data and evidence take on greater value.  Standards and methods are developed to ascertain what is objectively true.  What is “literally” true is what is verifiable.  
 – This is where postmodernism and cultural relativism come in.  “Literal” truth becomes just one perspective and what is considered true is whatever allows for and includes the most perspectives.  As such, science and religion are perspectives and there is neither is inherently superior to the other in that there simply separate paradigms of reality.  However, within multiple perspectives there is a sense that some things are universally true and I suppose that this might be taken as “literally” true in some way.  This is primarily where Armstrong is arguing from, but I don’t know if this is where her thinking ends.
 – Beyond all of this, further stages of development are proposed where inclusion of different perspectives is allowed while maintaining a meta-perspective to discern the value of different perspectives.  These higher stages supposedly emphasize the ability to understand the different stages and different perspectives toward practical ends.  Something is “literally” true to the extent that it effectively works towards some clearly defined goal.  So, there would be no singular truth per se as there are many goals.  These goals aren’t seen as necessarily in conflict for it would be considered most optimal to find where lesser goals can be directed towards more encompassing goals.
By the way, this isn’t mere theory.  Spiral Dynamics was formulated according to research Clare Graves did, and Ken Wilber correlated it with other research and other models.  My point being that Armstrong’s arguments can be placed in this larger context of diverse scholarship.  Whether it’s absolutely true or not, time will tell.  But for certain this does offer a plausible explanation of cultural development that clarifies the relationship between religion and science.
– – –

 “After the publishing of this response,the commenter responded by ignoring my entire rational argument in favor of more confirmation bias.”

Confirmation bias simply means that people tend to seek confirmation to their own view which is something everyone does to an extent, but it’s generally used to describe extreme examples of someone biased thinking.  However, making this allegation against an opponent can just as well be used polemically to dismiss another person’s view and evidence.  In this case, Kamal’s allegation of confirmation bias appears to be an example of confirmation bias.

“My statements were twisted in typical religious fashion, using the all-too-common religious dance between objective and subjective concepts in order to obscure naturalistic truth.”

Twisted?  I merely pointed out Kamal’s exact words.  I didn’t even take them out of context.  Anyone can look at his comments and see for themselves what he wrote (assuming he hasn’t since edited out these statements).

Typical religious fashion?  I presented carefully explained rational arguments supported by diverse theories and evidence.  All of the references I made can be found within the mainstream intellectual tradition.  Many of the ideas I was using for context are taught in universities and in some cases are based on social sciences research.  If Kamal considers this “typical religious fashion”, he must interact with some very intelligent and well-read religious people.  I wish he would give me their contact details because I’d love to meet such intellectually respectable believers.

“I am not interested in arguing with religious people since there are plenty of more useful things that I can occupy myself with.”

I explained to him that I’m not religious.  Some atheists can’t differentiate being interested in religion and believing in religion.  Anyone who has studied religious scholarship in any depth would quickly realize that many religious scholars aren’t religious believers.

“The writing of this article, contrary to what religious folk may think, has nothing to do with actually arguing against religious folk and everything to do with ridiculing Armstrong’s incoherent religious apologetics.”

He states his true intentions.  He isn’t interested in actual debate no matter how intelligent.  His main (and maybe only) purpose is to ridicule Armstrong because he has categorized her as a mere believer.  As his perception of her opposes his atheistic ideology, she must be attacked at all costs even if it means sacrificing intellectual honesty.  Polemically winning the debate by silencing one’s opponent is more important than the open puruit of truth.

“Such ridicule is well within my right, and I believe it is essential to the process of developing a strong freethought response to institutionalized superstition.”

Free speech is definitely everyone’s right, and it’s his right to choose whose comments he wants to post.  However, if his purpose is genuinely to promote freethought, then he should support the free speech of others rather than attempting to silence disagreement.  New understanding comes from the meeting of different perspectives.  Freethought isn’t about any particular ideology or theory.  Freethought is dependent on respect for open discussion and respect for all rational viewpoints.  His opinion that my viewpoint is wrong simply doesn’t matter from the perspective of freethought.  An intellectual argument deserves an intellectual response… which is what Kamal refused to do and so he loses any rational justification for calling himself a defender of freethought.

“In view of this, I have decided to not publish any further comments form religious folk. If you think you have won the debate, good for you. Please continue to feel good about yourself.”

Thank you.  I do feel good about offering you opportunity to have a rational discussion, but it saddens me that you apparently have embraced pseudo-intellectualism.

“We rationalists have our hands full trying to build real moral alternatives to religion and I would rather not waste my time arguing with those who cannot let go of primitive superstitions.”

Primitive superstitions?  Is that the best you can do?

Oh well… 

 – – –


I posted the first two comments to Ajita Kamal’s blog.

However, the second comment apparently wasn’t allowed to be posted.  I can only assume that Ajita Kamal had no rational response to my dismantling of his argument.  I don’t know if Ajita Kamal is an example of a pseudo-intellectual, but his actions seem to show a lack of intellectual humility and maybe honesty.  After my comment was posted there and not approved, an earlier commenter returned to praise his writing.  He accepted this praise, but didn’t mention my having refuted his criticisms of Karen Armstrong.  Ajita Kamal is the type of ideologue of the New Atheist variety who gives atheism a bad name.

For obvious reasons, I made no attempt to post the third comment to Ajita Kamal’s blog.  Kamal did finally acknowledge in his blog the existence of my comment, but he still didn’t offer any rational response.

 – – –


I’m no expert on Armstrong’s scholarschip, but she is someone I refer to on occasion.  She is highly influential and probably can be considered to have taken up the position of authority that Joseph Campbell once held.  If you don’t like or understand Campbell, then you’ll probably have the same attitude about Armstrong.  Both began as Catholics and both sought a non-literal understanding of religion.

As for Armstrong, she was a nun who became an angry atheist and then later came to accept the label of “freelance monotheist“. 

I usually describe myself, perhaps flippantly, as a freelance monotheist I draw sustenance from all three of the faiths of Abraham.  I can’t see any one of them as having the monopoly of truth, any one of them as superior to any of the others. Each has its own particular genius and each its own particular pitfalls and Achilles heels. But recently, I’ve just written a short life [story] of the Buddha and I’ve been enthralled by what he has to say about spirituality, about the ultimate, about compassion and about the necessary loss of ego before you can encounter the divine. And all the great traditions are, in my view, saying the same thing in much the same way, despite their surface differences.

My sense is that she just means that she has the sense of something profoundly true, but she is unwilling to making any ideological claims about it.  She separates her scholarship from her experience, but at the same time sees scholarship as a way of exploring possible universal aspects of human experience.  From what I can tell, she isn’t trying to apologetically convince anyone of a particular position.  Her own position is an attitude of openness and acceptance (which I would deem intellectual humility).  She takes her role as scholar very seriously and so her attitude of openness is also an attitude of intellectual curiosity.  She doesn’t seem to start with the position of having anything figured out (either theistically or atheistically), but neither is she resigned to relativism.

What is interesting about Armstrong is how differently people react to her ideas.  Some religious believers agree with ideological atheists in their belief that she is the ultimate enemy (whether of “faith” or of “reason”).  On the other hand, many religious believers, agnostics, atheists, and generally open-minded curious people consider her to be a proponent of freethought and religious insight.  What is clear is that those who disagree with her are forced to come to terms with her very popular scholarship.


If you’re interested in further criticisms of the New Atheists, see these other posts of mine:

Here is a thoughtful criticism of the atheist response to religion:

A Mission to Convert
By H. Allen Orr
The New York Review of Books

And some other interesting blogs, articles, and videos:
























Criticisms of Spiral Dynamics

I’m actually a major fan of Spiral Dynamics, but I’m more of a fan in terms of serious intellectual interest which still allows for plenty of room for doubt.  I’m a curious guy and Spiral Dynamics is just one theory, one possibility.  I love models that bring order or demonstrate a pattern to some realm of human experience.  I do intuitively sense that there is some truth to Spiral Dynamics.  However, I’m always a bit wary of broad generalizations.  And so…

Criticisms of Spiral Dynamics (from the Wikipedia article on Spiral Dynamics)

Critics point out that the model’s implications are political as well as developmental and that while the terminology of the theory is self-consciously inclusive, the practical implications of the model can be seen as socially elitist and authoritarian.[2] In their work on the subject, Beck emphasizes that one of the characteristics of “tier two” individuals, also called “Spiral Wizards“, is their ability to make superior decisions for all parties concerned and to manufacture consent for their approaches at lower levels using resonant terms and ideas. In addition to outlining an underlying developmental theory, Spiral Dynamics gives explicit suggestions to these “Wizards” for both consensual and non-consensual management of “lower-tier” individuals. One critic of Spiral Dynamics, Michel Bauwens, has argued that some conceptions of what it means to be “second tier” have come to resemble Nietzsche‘s idea of the Übermensch.[3] Co author Cowan no longer supports the ideas of his ex-partner Beck.

The emphasis Spiral Dynamics places on exercising power derived from greater developmental attainments has also been characterized as derivative of a number of other past political theories emphasizing decision-making by a select elite, including Plato‘s idealization of the philosopher king.[citation needed] It should also be noted that, within this paradigm, Spiral Dynamics is itself characterized as a “second tier” concept, implicitly flattering those who support the theory and potentially inviting confirmation biases.[citation needed]

Further, some criticisms of Spiral Dynamics have been dismissed as expressions of lower-level memes, particularly the “mean green meme.” This internal refutation of external critiques was one of philosopher Karl Popper‘s criteria for establishing that a system of belief is non-falsifiable and for distinguishing non-science from genuine scientific theory.[4]

Some critics dispute the universality of deeper linear or emergent transitions as proposed in Spiral Dynamics, due to the high degree of variation they see among human cultures over time. The claim that humans have changed systemically on psycho-social dimensions, such as self concept or the human propensity and reasons for self sacrifice, over the time period proposed in Spiral Dynamics, is not supported by mainstream anthropology, the social sciences, or evolutionary biology.[5]

Political Identity, Myers-Briggs, Spiral Dynamics

I’ve written off and on about the relationship between politics and personality.  It seems obvious to me that there are two distinct ways of viewing the world… or actually there are many distinct ways but I tend to simplify it into two.  Myers-Briggs is the best single system to understand the nuances.  I’ll limit this discussion to the four functions: the Perceiving functions of iNtuion (N) and Sensation (S); and the Judging functions of Thinking (T) and Feeling (F).   The following is me speculating according to my present understand which is incomplete and everchanging (I’m an INFP afterall).

(I’m going to assume anyone reading this already has a basic knowledge of the subject.  If you don’t have a basic knowledge and are interested to learn more, it’s easy to find numerous summaries through search engines or by going to Wikipedia.  Or else you could look at my old posts… there is a decent summary of personality types that can be found on my About page and I’ve also written about Spiral Dynamics many times before.)

I’ve read of one argument that points out a cultural difference.  Asian culture tends to emphasize the Perceiving functions and Western culture tends to emphasize the Judging functions.  Basically, what this means is that we Westerners prefer clear conclusions and results.

There is an easy way I’ve come to understand the difference between Thinking and Feeling (but keep in mind I’m somewhat biasing my interpretation according to ST  and NF).  Thinking is about separating, analyzing, seeing the parts… whether of things, ideas or people.  Feeling is about connecting, relating, seeing how the parts fit together.  Thinkers believe people should serve principles.  Feelers believe values should serve people.  The difference is who or what gets the blame.

A simple example is that I’ve heard a conservative say that abstinence should be taught in schools even if it was shown to be ineffective towards preventing pregnancies and STDs.  The principle was important and we must strive towards (and enforce this striving upon others) even when we fail.  It’s because we fail that we need to enforce principles ever more strongly.

I just explained the difference between iNtuition and Sensation in the concluding comments of my previous post (My Response to the News):

Conservatives ‘fear’ change because they tend to want the world to stay the same or else to return to some idyllic past.  Conservatives are interested in the concrete reality of the present which is built on a sense of continuity with the past.  They’re more comfortable with what is familiar.

Liberals ‘hope’ for change because they tend to want improvement and progress.  Liberals are interested in imagined possibilities that even though not entirely real in the present have the potential to be real in the future.  They’re more open to new experiences.

These distinctions are important, but they’re hard to clarify in terms of everyday reality.  I think that our culture is shifting from a Judging mentality to that of Perceiving.  Whether or not that is the case, it seems difficult to make a clear distinction between the functions.  According to American politics, iNtuition and Feeling have become identified with eachother and likewise with Sensation and Thinking.  In the past, the American ideal was the ESTJ, the man of power and action, the authority figure who takes control and gets things done.  But this is shifting… towards what it isn’t clear.

There is a mix of issues that is hard to distinguish.

Certain social situations place greater value on particular personality traits.  In the patriarchal agrarian society of early America, a practical-minded ESTJ had a great advantage.  With time, however, we as a culture have come to value the abstract and imaginative abilities of iNtuitives.  The NF idealist has particularly come into its own in 20th century America with the growing emphasis on civil rights and with the renewed sense of democracy after WWII.  The individual who can take care of himself is less useful in the (post-)modern complex world.

Another confusing factor is that conservative Sensors will naturally idealize what is or what was no matter the specific social context.  Sensors idealize the past agrarian culture of small town America partly for the simple fact that it’s where our culture came from.  But put a Sensor in Russia and they very well might idealize Stalinism.

It’s just a matter of how the person perceives the world.  The Sensor perceives the concrete which is grounded in what is known and familiar.  The iNtuitive looks past what is and perceives what is becoming or what is possible.  They have a hard time simply accepting things just the way they are.  So what it worked in the past.  The present isn’t the past and we must change as all of the world is always changing.  The Sensor would agree the world is changing but would see this as a negative, something to be resisted.  The big picture and wild dreams of the iNtuitive mean nothing to the Sensor.  What can realistically be done right here and now?  We can’t ignore the past, but must work with the way things are.  Humans don’t fundamentally change.  What worked in the past will still work or can be adapted to present circumstances.

Society develops and the 21st century will be different than the 20th century.  The Sensors of the 21st century will idealize the 20th century and the iNtuitives will be looking further into future possibilities.  The Sensors are the brakes and the iNtuitives are the gas, and so history lurches as the two fight for control.

To really understand why conservatives and liberals come to their respective values, one would have to look at social development models.  Spiral Dynamics is a good example.  Conservatives are less open to further development than iNtuitives or else they’d rather have development happen more slowly.

A large part of the population is still in the Blue meme which emphasizes social order and hierarchical authority.  The Blue meme represents our recent collective past.  It’s the foundation the modern world is built upon.  Liberals often forget this and underestimate the power of influence it still has on society.  Obama has fallen into the same liberal intellectual trap that many Democrats have fallen into.  Most people don’t value the intellect over everything else.  The ideals of objectivity, rationality, and intellectual fairness are still fairly new to the human species.  Most modern people have some intellectual ability, but most people aren’t primarily influenced by intellectual arguments no matter how logical and factual (this is why experts tend to make bad debaters).  Obama needs to touch upon the emotional core of the argument or else fail.

Liberals forget that emotion and intellect need not be opposed.  In Myers-Briggs, it’s taught that we should strive to accept our inevitable differences all the while striving to bridge the divide.  Similarly, if one wants to convince the public of a particular change, then it’s best to ground it in the past… which interestingly is what Obama is now trying to do by switching to a moral stance.

Obama Calls Health Plan a ‘Moral Obligation’

“These struggles always boil down to a contest between hope and fear,” he said. “That was true in the debate over Social Security, when F.D.R. was accused of being a socialist. That was true when J.F.K. and Lyndon Johnson tried to pass Medicare. And it’s true in this debate today.”

Political Party, Morality, Personality, Gender

Here is a very insightful article: What makes People vote Republican? (written by Professor Jonathan Haidt and annotated from a Spiral Dynamics perspective by Dr Bruce L Gibb)

The author explores why Liberals don’t understand the human motivation behind moral behavior. The specific morals aren’t important nor even their inherent ‘goodness’. Rather, morality is about the social order it helps create. Or at least that is what morality is about on the level of group behavior. This might be where it is helpful to differentiate ethics from morality.

I learned about this aspect of morality from my morally conservative parents. They argue for abstinence. I’ve mentioned to them such things as the fact that research shows abstinence programs lead to more pregnancies (and I suspect more venereal diseases as well) and that kids develop sexually about 4 years earlier than when my parents were kids (maybe because hormone in food and estrogen-like compounds in bottles). But these facts didn’t matter to my parents sense of morality. Right is right. This could be interpreted as the embracing of ignorance, but my parents are smart and they’re able to rationally argue their views (especially my dad).

This seemingly strange thought process is explained by this paper. The purpose of condemning sexuality isn’t about whether people are actually able to follow the rules perfectly. The rules are there to create conformity through guilt and punishment. And they work. They suppress the individual for the sake of social order. The moral rules are red herrings that distract away from the fundamental issue. Maybe that is part of the power of such morality. People obsess over the surface details and the underlying motivating force can work unconsciously.

The article also discusses Spiral Dynamics which is also helpful. In a sense, many liberal elites are more highly developed morally, but only in certain ways. People have the tendency to deny previous vmemes (approxamately equivalent to levels). So, the rational ability to not be controlled by one’s emotions is great in being objective and can lead to great understanding. The problem is that isn’t where most of society is morally centered. In developing one’s morality, one needs to stay grounded in the fundamental moral sense that remains true for all humans. Development transcends and includes. If liberals try to exclude what they deem as irrational, then they won’t sway many voters.

Obama probably won because he knew how to rhetorically touch upon the emotional core of an argument. If the Democratic party is smart, it will take heed and learn the lesson well.

I want to bring up one other aspect to all of this that is only briefly mentioned in the article:

“But now that we can map the brains, genes, and unconscious attitudes of conservatives, we have refined our diagnosis: conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death. People vote Republican because Republicans offer ‘moral clarity’ – a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate.”

These traits correlate with MBTI. In particular, Intuition and Sensation correlate with liberalism and conservativism. Relevant to this article are the percentages of the population. I’ve seen research that shows that Sensation is more common, but I’ve also seen research that shows that women have a tendency towards Intuition.

This brings to my mind the percentages also of the Judging functions. Thinking and Feeling also show bias respectively to men and women, but I was just reading another statistic that showed that men were fairly split between the two even while women tended strongly toward Feeling. That is interesting as Thinking (specifically Extraverted – TJ) also seem correlated to moral conservativism, and definitely seems like a personality factor that would be favored by the blue vmeme (hierarchical social order). The reason that is interesting is because morally conservative cultures also tend to be patriarchal.

One other personality division I’d bring up is Hartmann’s boundary types. Thin boundary types lean towards the liberal, and thick boundary types lean towards the conservative. This may because thin boundary types tend to have a strong sense of empathy meaning that they experience people as individuals rather than as mere social entities. Also, these boundary types correlate to MBTI and most specifically with the Perceiving functions of Inution and Sensation.

For the record, my parents are both TJ types and my mom is an STJ. I, on the other hand, am a liberal NFP raised with a heavy dose of green vmeme (despite my parents conservativism).