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Our core variations on a generally integral theme

Wilber's integral spirituality to Perlas' integral sustainable Development

Ken Wilber's Integral Spirituality encompasses his four "quadrants" – intentional, behavioural, cultural and socio-technical (1). Also from the U.S., Don Beck and Christopher Cowan's Spiral Dynamics spans the pre-modern, traditional, modern and evolutionary (2). Germany's Jean Gebser, through his Ever Present Origins incorporates the archaic, magical, mythical, mental and integral (3). Most recently Philippine environmentalist Nicanor Perlas' (4) Integral Sustainable Development (see Chapter 9), spans spiritual to ecological development. These have been developed over the course of the last half century into a now strong enough idea to form some kind of movement. As a philosophy and worldview, as such, the integral worldview is indeed coming of age. So what is our particular contribution to taking this overall integral polity further?

Sekem's Sustainability Flower

Figure P.1 Sekem's Sustainability Flower

Sekem and Its Sustainability Flower: Natural, Cultural, societal, Economic

Our integral starting point, in fact, is practical as well as philosophical, socio-political as well as cultural-spiritual. For Sekem in Egypt, which is in the Middle East or West Asia, founded by engineer and environmentalist Ibrahim Abouleish (5) is, at one and the same time, ecologically and culturally, societally and economically oriented, as an integral enterprise. From the outset it was established to heal the earth – the desert in this case – as well as to develop the cultural life of Belbies, where it was based, while also safeguarding human rights, and ultimately making an economic contribution. Moreover, Abouleish was inspired, as we shall see (Chapter 22) not only by the Ancient Egyptian goddess Ma'at (harmony) and by the Islamic notion of tawhid (unity or oneness), but also by Rudolf Steiner's Threefold Commonwealth – embracing cultural, political and economic life – and most recently by Norwegian philosopher Aerne Naess, particularly his Deep Ecology.

Sekem, as a specific enterprise then, has now also been accompanied by the development, via its Sustainability Unit headed by Helmy Abouleish, of a so-called Sustainability Flower, as a means of monitoring and evaluating the performance of any such integral enterprise, in ecological as well as cultural, social and economic terms (see Figure P.1). The Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development, moreover, which Sekem recently established and which is accredited by the Egyptian Higher Education authorities, is intended to take that enterprising cause forward academically, for Egypt and for the world. From Egyptian social innovator, Ibrahim Abouleish, we turn to contemporary American political philosopher, Louis Herman.

Future Primal: Individuation, Discussion, Direct Democracy, Big Picture

Louis Herman (7) is a political scientist and philosopher, and former medical man, of African heritage now based at the University of Hawai'i West Oahu, in the USA. The lesson of the "primal polis" that he has drawn in his Future Primal (see Chapter 16) is that all moves to decentralize power need to proceed in parallel with strategies for universalizing commitment to what he calls "the truth quest". Such a democratization of wisdom requires cultivating the ability to move between opposites: local and global, the individual and the collective, humanity and wilderness. He points out, for example, that political decentralization backfires if it focuses exclusively on electoral mechanics, which can simply privilege the lowest common denominator of prejudice. Every step towards devolving power requires a corresponding effort to augment and universalize the truth quest – to grasp the bigger picture and to see the connections between part and whole, self and other, enemy and friend.

Future Primal identifies an archetypal model of the human search for order that emerges from the evolutionary dynamics of consciousness in the earliest human societies still living in a wilderness ecology. The model identifies four interconnected elements:

• the self-understanding of the searching growing individual;

• honest face-to-face discussion;

• participation in a democratic community;

• the construction of a big picture of our shared reality.

The Mandala of Primal Politics

Figure P.2 The Mandala of Primal Politics

Together, these constitute a four-part structure that can be represented graphically as a mandala, with four quadrants (see Figure P.2). The mandala also is, appropriately enough, the oldest and most universal symbol of order, representing the relationship of the searching individual to the cosmos.

Since the model seems to express an archetypal structure of the search for order that is rooted in the primal human condition – the autonomous creative individual, in face-to- face community, embedded in nature – we find it reappearing at those creative moments of transition in history where one order is collapsing, a new one is emerging, and the big questions resurface.

We now turn from Egyptian social innovator (Abouleish) and American political philosopher (Herman) to our third co-author, European sacred geographer Marko Pogacnik.

The Four Elements: Material, spiritual, Emotional, Vital-energetic

Marko Pogacnik's (6) integral starting point, as a Slovenian sacred geographer and conceptual artist, whose unique craft takes him around the world, is the four elements that traditionally compose the fabric of life on earth (see Chapter 14) (see Figure P.3):

• the material (earth element), embodying the ecological;

• the spiritual (air element), representing the cultural;

• the emotional (water element) reflecting the social;

• and the vital-energetic (fire element), depicting the economic.

Marko goes on to elaborate in Table P.1.

The Elements

Figure P.3 The Elements

Table P.1 Dimensions of Landscape


Landscape Dimensions

Means of Expression

Life-Giving Powers Divine Impulse

Activities of the Elemental Beings Materialization

Vital-energetic Dimension spiritual-soul Dimension emotional Dimension Physical Dimension

Power structures Landscape Temple Nature temple Areas Landscape Formations

There are thus focal points for all four of the elements even within a small plot of land if it is cared for with love and devotion. The extent to which these are manifest depends largely on the consciousness of the gardener, arguably then, for us, being the natural and communal base for our integral approach to sustainable development. Finally then, we turn to our own Trans4m perspective, represented in this case by Zimbabwean Ronnie – Samanyanga – Lessem.

Integral Worlds: South, East, North, West and Centre; Releasing GENE-ius

The contribution of the Trans4m Centre for Integral Development, based in Geneva, to newly integral worlds, finally (8,9), has been threefold. Firstly, it has brought such an "integral" notion into the realms of economics and enterprise, where it has hitherto been somewhat absent, and now into politics as well. Secondly, it has aligned such "integrality" with, and between different "Southern" and "Eastern", "Northern" and "Western" worlds. In that sense we link the particular with the universal and the universal with the particular, in the process co-evolving local identity towards global integrity. In other words, at least as far as we – that is Alexander Schieffer and Ronnie Lessem – at Trans4m are concerned, an integral approach in India is different from that in Indonesia or Iceland, and, what is more, they prospectively complement one another.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly for the purposes of this book, we have developed an integral approach to releasing the genius, so to speak, of an individual, an enterprise and a community, in a particular world, starting from nature, through culture, onto society and economy: what we will term an all-round polity so to speak.

Altogether Integral

Figure P.4 Altogether Integral

In Figure P.4, as such, we statically accommodate diverse worlds (integral realities) and dynamically release GENE-ius (integral rhythms) within each world, at the same time aligning our Trans4m approach (grounding to effect) with the "fourfold" approach of Abouleish (ecological to economic), Pogacnik (life giving powers to materialization) and Herman (direct democracy to individuation). Where then, all together, do we go from here?

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