Integral Thinkers: Exploring the Unfolding & Emergent Structures of Consciousness & Culture

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Sprial Dynamics

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In his book, The Ever-Present Origin, Jean Gebser sets forth his integral theory of five historically unfolding structures of consciousness and culture. These are the Archaic, Magical, Mythical, Mental and Integral (or A-Perspectival) frameworks or paradigms. (Wikipedia has a brief summary of these five lenses of perception).

In his book, Coming into Being, William Irwin Thompson compared Gebser’s structures of consciousness to Marshall McLuhan’s conception of the development of communication technology from oral culture to script culture to alphabet culture to print culture and then to electronic culture. In his books Transforming History and Self and Society Thompson went on to compare Gebser’s structures to the periods of the development of mathematics: arithmetic, geometric, algebraic, dynamical, and chaotic.

James Fowler has developed a five-stage model of faith development: 1. Intuitive-Projective, 2. Mythical-Literal, 3. Individual-Reflective, 4. Conjunctive-Paradoxical, and 5. Universal-Compassionate. (More about Fowler’s model can also be found on the internet).

In his book, A Brief Theory of Everything, Ken Wilber sets for his All integral vision of All Quadrants and All Levels. The four quadrants  the upper left Intentional internal individual “I”: the upper right Behaviorial external individual “It”; the lower left Cultural internal collective “We”; the lower right Social Systems “Its”. At the simplest level the levels align with the idea of the Great Chain of Being in ancient philosophy: Expressed as emanating downward causality they are Spirit, Soul, Mind, Body, and Matter. Expressed as evolutionary upward causality they are the reverse: Matter, Body, Mind, Soul, and Spirit. Later Ken Wilber adopts the eight-fold emergent structure of Spiral Dynamics.

In their book Spiral Dynamics, Chris Cowen and Don Beck, building upon the work of Clare Graves, developed an integral theory that encompasses eight evolutionary and emergent stages of human consciousness and culture.

Of course historians have long been attempting of find over-arching meaning, patterns and trends within the unfolding of human history. In their book Generations, William Strauss and Neil Howe set forth a sort of integral theory of American history that is essentially cyclical in nature –consisting of Idealists, Reactives, Civics and Adaptives.

Some historians interpret the story of history in a rather pessimistic matter while others view it in a progressive matter. At the extremes are the apocalyptics and the utopians, and at the center are the idealist-realists, principled pragmatists, and those who think that “muddling through” is what humans have always done and will continue to do.

Some historicans give us such a fine-grained and variegated account of any historical period that it is difficult to say what, if anything, a particular period of time in a given culture is really, about since it is about so many seemingly contradictory and incommensurable things. Perhaps all we can say of any period, as Dickens does in A Tale of Two Cities, is that “it was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Perhaps all accounts of history are deeply paradoxical. Every new positive innovation and development seems to have its negative and unintended consequences. Every revolution eventually becomes reactionary, triggering a revolt by the new revolutionaries. It begins to look a bit like the idea of “historical dialectic,” whether interpreted by an idealist like Hegel or a materialist like Marx.

Nevertheless, without putting too fine a point on it, I think it is still useful to make the customary distinction between the Primal, Ancient, Medieval, Modern, Trans-Modern and Post-Modern periods, recognizing them as different zeitgeists and casts of mind, each with its own dialectical tensions and internal strifes.

What appeals to me about “integral thinking” is that it provides multiple yet integrative explanatory dimensions and levels for understanding natural, human and spiritual phenomena, rather than absolutizing any one quadrant or level of consciousness and culture while ignoring, degrading or demonizing the other “ways of knowing” (epistemologies) and “levels of reality” (metaphysics). Also, it draws upon the integral and encompassing wisdom of the right-brain hemisphere, and nests the critical, analytical, calulative knowledge of the more data and detail-oriented left-brian hemisphere within the larger contextually and holistically orientated right-brain hemisphere.  It fuses these two hemispheric ways of being and knowing together.

What are some different ways that people respond to integral theories, and why? Have you noticed that some people in their use of language are predominantly oriented toward the concrete, factual, detailed, empirical, specific, elemental, signal, literal and indicative, while others are predominantly oriented toward the abstract, fictional, schematic, theoretical, general, categorical, symbolic, figurative and analytical? And have you noticed that still others seem to combine these two approaches, the Rational-INTUITIVE and the Rational-SENSORY in equal measure? Studies in the characteristics of highly creative people indicate that they are able to combine opposite tendencies, to use both the strengths of the holistic integral right-brain and the critical analytical  left-brain.

Those who enjoy developing and exploring “integral theories” have been described as “rational-mystics.” What counts for some people is the skill with which particular “integral theorists” can provide credible peer-reviewed “empirical evidences” to support their grand integral theories. However, if one simply does not like or distrusts a particular integral theory, perhaps because it conflicts with a different “theory of everything” to which one is already consciously or unconsciously committed, there are probably not enough “arguments and evidences” in all the world to change a skeptic’s mind.

The same is ironically true if one is already committed to the post-modern proposition and “anti-theory” that “all theories of everything are not to be trusted.” If one prefers post-modern eclecticism, irony, absurdity and polyphrenia, then any attempt to develop an integral pluralist theory of everything will me met with grave suspicion and doubt.

However, if one has become equally disillusioned or dissatisfied with pre-modern religious dogmatism, modern objectivist physicalism and post-modern subjectivist relativism, then the trans-modern integral pluralist approach to reality that envisions the unfolding and emergence of multiple dimensions and levels of consciousness and culture may have a compelling appeal.

 

On Becoming a Student of Life-Long Learning & the Liberal Arts

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The first thing that must be said is that not everyone is called to become a student of life-long learning and the liberal arts. There are an infinite variety of ways to live one’s life, and this is but one of them. In the Simpsons Lisa Simpson is a precocious student while Bart Simpson is happy to be a “slacker dude.” Surely part of what makes us a student of life-long learning and the liberal arts is genetic and temperamental. Some people with very limited formal education become voracious readers and inquisitive thinkers, and this passion for learning extends throughout their entire lives. Other people who have been given all the advantages of formal education, even in the best institutions, never develop a passion for learning, a sense of wonder, or the inquisitive impulse to explore the great questions of life.

Today we live in a technological society with virtually unprecedented and access to knowledge and information from all directions. And yet the paradox is that in the midst of this revolution in information technology many either do not know how to access it to expand their minds or they prefer to amuse themselves with merely superficial news and entertaining diversions. While TV, radio and the daily newspaper can all provide us with the gossip of the hour, and on the public stations more critical analysis, there remains no substitute for personal reflection and the reading of encyclopedia articles, scholarly essays and serious books. To become a student of life-long learning and the liberal arts is to choose a thoughtful and concentrative way of life rather than a superfluous and dissipative one. Any attentive and disciplined reading of “the great books” (or even good ones) is a “difficult pleasure,” as Harold Bloom reminds us. It is easier to come home, crash on the couch, turn on the radio or TV, and skim the newspapers rather than to collect ourselves to read a serious articles and books that invite us to profoundly explore the vital domains of human knowledge and life experience.

Becoming a student of life-long learning and the liberal arts is a paradoxical pursuit. On the one hand we need to follow our instincts, trust our hunches, and follow the scent wherever the trail leads us. On the other hand we need to develop our study as a methodical discipline. We may read widely as we follow our instincts into the open and uncharted wilderness, but we also learn to read deeply as we seek to master a particular body of knowledge. The well-cultivated mind combines spontaneous play and disciplined work.

I am not optimistic that any time soon in our technological society where many settle for “amusing themselves to death” that we will see a dramatic influx in the number of serious students of life-long learning and the liberal arts. It’s simply too easy to be distracted by “the ten-thousand things” that pull at our attention from all directions. It’s too easy to let anxiety and boredom, white noise and headline news rob us of the clarity and concentration that are needed for thoughtful reflection and creative expression. But for those who are willing to wear the kindly yoke of intellectual freedom and educative discipline, the rewards are immeasurable.

Towards an Integral & Holistic World View & Way of Life

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The perennial quest for an integral and holistic world view and way of life will encompass the seven dimensions of the Whole Mind, Whole Brain, Whole Person, Whole Culture, Whole World, Whole Cosmos and Whole Kosmos.

The chart below is a “mental map” that charts an integral and holistic perspective on human knowledge and life experience across these seven domains. Of course we are historically and culturally situated as finite human beings, and so our perspective on “reality” must necessarily be limited and partial. Nevertheless, there resides deep within our human nature a persistent desire to comprehend the greater whole of which we know ourselves to be the most small and fractional part. We seek to comprehend the nature of reality, our fleeting existence, and our fragile place within the Ecology of Being.

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WHOLE MIND:

CONSTRUCTING INTEGRAL SYNTHESIS

Particular – Relational – Universal

Differentiated – Connective – Undifferentiated

Reductive – Synthetic – Organic

Mechanistic – Complexity – Holistic

Particles – Process – Forms

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WHOLE BRAIN:

COMBINING THE HEMISPHERES

Left Brain – WHOLE BRAIN – Right Brain

Rational, Empirical – EXPLICIT & IMPLICIT – Instinctive, Intuitive

Virtual Re-Presentation – REVERBERATION – Viseral Presentation

(See The Alphabet Vs. the Goddess; The Master & his Emissary)

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WHOLE PERSON:

INTEGRATING THE HUMAN SELF

Psychological Functions

Introversion & Extraversion, Intuiting & Sensing,

Feeling & Thinking, Perceiving & Judging

Linguistic Functions

Abstract Intuitive Use of Language

General, Categorical, Symbolic, Figurative, Analogic, Fictional, Schematic, Theoretical

Concrete Sensory Use of Language

Specific, Elemental, Signal, Literal, Indicative, Factual, Detailed, Empirical

Somatic Functions

Sight (Images & Movies) and Sounds (Speech & Music)

Smell, Taste, Touch

Stillness & Movement

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WHOLE HISTORY: 

PONDERING THE AGES OF TIME

Primordial, Ancient, Medieval,

Modern, Post-Modern, Trans-Modern

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WHOLE WORLD:

RESPECTING THE GREAT CIVILIZATIONS

Central, North, South, East, West

Oceanic, African, Indian, Asian, Slavic, European,

North American, Meso-American, Latin American

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WHOLE COSMOS:

EXPLORING THE EXPANDING UNIVERSE

Earth, Sun, Stars, Milky Way, Galaxies, Nebulas, Black Holes,

Dark Matter, Dark Energy, Quantum Vacuum, Multi-verse?

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WHOLE KOSMOS:

CONTEMPLATING THE SACRED MYSTERY

What, if any, spiritual heights and sacred depths dwell primally within, intimately near and infinitely beyond the horizons of the manifest world as known by our senses, emotions and reason?

Are there “more things in heaven and earth” than are contained in our human myths, religions, philosophies, poetry, arts and sciences?

How do we live with a sense of wonder in the presence of the Ineffable Mystery in which we live and move and have our being?

Contemplative Practice through Centering Meditation

Centering Meditation

Here are ten “Centering Meditations” that guide my attention and reflection throughout the day. Perhaps they may be of some assistance to you as well, or you may wish to compose your own centering meditations. One approach is to use them with images as a rotating screen-saver on your computer and to have them on flash-cards that you can look at from time to time. Find out what works best for you.

1. THE BODY IS PRIMAL: Eat, Sleep, Play

2. LIFE IS WHOLE: Being, Knowing, Doing

3. LIFE STAGES COMBINE: Learning, Labor, Leisure

4. TIME GOES BY: Past, Present, Future

5. REALITY IS NESTED: Micro, Midi, Macro

6. WISDOM IS BALANCE: Yin, Yang, Tao

7. THIS IS ME: Body, Mind, Spirit

8. WE ARE HERE: Lover, Warrior, Hierophant

9. THOU ART HOLY: Light, Life, Love

10: I AM ONE:  Being, Consciousness, Bliss

Recovering Sacramental Presence and Contemplative Practice in a Noisy and Neurotic World

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I believe it is vital that we recover sacramental presence and contemplative practice in today’s a noisy and neurotic world. That is where I’m going in this essay, but if you will indulge me I’m going to a curcuitous route to my destination. I will lead up to it with some comments about the Aristotelian middle way, the influence of temperament upon our preferred way of life, the importance of seasons of life, the value of historical consciousness, and the contemplative “reading” of history. So here goes.

Which is primary, changing the individual or changing the systems in which people live? I remember having this perennial debate years ago with my dear departed friend, Bill Olsen, an organizer and  organizational consultant, God rest his soul. In our friendly debates I defended the Aristotelian middle way, holding that the two approaches —  changing individuals or changing systems — are not mutually incompatible. At the same time I argued that most people are naturally constituted in such a way that they tend  toward one polarity or the other, that is, to being contemplatives or activists. I still believe this is true.

My own constitutional tendency is toward the way of contemplation because I really have little choice. I admire organizers and activists who are committed to being creative and courageous change agents in the world. The world needs principled and pragmatic organizers and activists who seek to make a difference through changing the social systems, laws and policies of the society in which we live. At the same time, the world also needs individuals who contribute to the Ecology of Being through cultivating sacramental presence and contemplative practice, combined with humane knowledge and cultural literacy. This will sound like a marriage of monastic spirituality and renaissance humanism, and I suppose it is. I could just as easily say that the world needs individuals who dialectically integrate in their own persons the utilitarian, urbanized, rational and scientific values of the Enlightenment and the transcendental, rustic, poetic and aesthetic of Romanticism. It is the tension between opposite tendencies within our individual persons and our collective society that constitutes the dynamic of creative complexity that thrives “on the edge of chaos.”

There are seasons in our lives. In my younger years I fashioned my self more as an active change-agent and was preoccupied with the challenge of  leadership. I still think that leadership matters, and that one can lead from the center as well as from the margin. But as I’ve grown older a deeper strata of my character has continued to reveal itself to me. It has always been there but now it will not be denied. More than anything else I seek a soulful and spirited life of sacramental presence and contemplative practice. I don’t expect others to understand this impulse unless it has called to them as well. For me this sacramental and contemplative impulse is combined with the “right-brain” sensibilities of the Humanistic Renaissance, the German and English Romantic Movements and the American Transcendentalist Movement. Of course I am also grateful for the legacy of the Enlightenment — the age of reason, science, discovery and democracy. And life as we know it today would be impossible without the new technologies that have open the way to global communication and global travel. What I’m saying is that one does not need to be a nostalgic and regressive Luddite in order to locate one’s center of gravity in the integral wisdom and spiritual practice in an earlier age than the 21st Century. Because our scientific breakthroughs and technological advances are so spectacular it is easy to succumb to “chronological snobbery,” to assume that people didn’t know much about what it means to be a human being until we “moderns” and “post-moderns” came along to show the way out of “the dark ages” of the primordial, ancient and medieval past.

Recently I’ve been reading Thomas Cahill’s “hinges of history” series of books that include How the Irish Saved Civilization, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea (ancient Greece), The Gift of the Jews, Desire of the Everlasting Hills, Mysteries of the Middle Ages and, most recently, Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World. I would guess that Cahill’s next book will cover the Enlightenment and Romanticism. Tracing the steps of history in its paradoxical “grandeur and misery” provides abundant material for both critical reflection and contemplative insight.

I’ve detected that there are some fundamental differences in the ways in which historians, theologians, philosophers, literati,  artists, scientists, psychologists, sociologies, economists, ecologists, as well as political and military historians approach their hermeneutical readings and interpretations. They have different interests and concerns, and they each place their own intellectual discipline at the center of inquiry.

It is instructive to read multiple accounts of different periods of human history. Jacques Barzun’s From “Dawn to Decadence” covers some of the same ground as Thomas Cahill. Each man has his own implicit and explicit world view, and it is in their particular telling of the story of the history that they also tell us something about themselves. Again, what we find is that there is no view from nowhere. Each historian sees the world from a particular angle, placing different elements in the foreground or back ground, depending upon those elements they choose to highlight. Just as there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors, there is great benefit in reading multiple historians who know the same “facts of history” but assemble and interpret them in different ways and with different emphasis. In the course of their writing they will reveal to us what is the relative breadth and depth of their knowledge not only of historical events and the persons, forces, ideas and values that have influenced the shape of the past, but also how they themselves attempt to make sense of the strangeness of history.

I find myself approaching the reading of history as a spiritual exercise in contemplative practice. Historical knowledge can be views as merely brute facts that are devoid of any meaning at all, just “one damn thing after another.” That too is an interpretation. But history may be much more. It may reveal to us the contours of nature and the dynamics of the human mind. It may even reveal to us amidst its obvious contradictions and absurdities, conflicts and cataclysms rare moments of epiphany and insight, illumination and breakthrough. There may even be moments in time when “the veil between the worlds” is thin and permeable, as the Celts put it. We may encounter remarkable individuals who seem to tower as giants among men, seeing further and knowing more than their contemporaries. In the reading of history we tend to find what we are looking for, and of course much more. I am always on the lookout for rare men and women of sacramental presence and contemplative practice who bring sanity and serenity to a noisy and neurotic world. In my view they have always been “our last best hope” for building a better world.

“I Contain Multitudes” — The Protean, Polymorphic Shape Shifter

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The idea of the “shape-shifter” evokes many different images, some of them aboriginal, some trans-personal, and some trans-human. “The post-modern condition” has sometimes been described as protean, polymorphic, and shape-shifting. How has this happened?

Today we are exposed through radio, television, movies, videos, books, magazines and of course the internet to a wide variety of cultural traditions, societal conditions, worldview perspectives and ways of life. Geographical mobility through “planes, trains and automobiles” combined with multiple career changes has produced a modern nomadic society in which many of us spend our lives living in different cities (or even different countries) employed in a variety of different occupations and careers. Economic necessity in the so-called “late capitalist society” has meant that many of us are required move away from our home-towns and our families-of-origin as we grow into adulthood, and to continue moving to new places from time to time. We may live in several different cities throughout our lives, and our grown children may need to life and work in cities and towns far away. This has become “the new normal” for millions of Americans. If we seek to experience anything like “family” and “community” we must create it ourselves in new places again and again. In the midst of this process we learn to “re-invent our selves” in each new place where we live and in each new career that we pursue.

But there is a “protean, polymorphic, shape-shifting influence” that is even more radical than the city we happen to live in and the career that we happen to pursue. Others may identify us by “where we live and what we do for a living,” but for most of us our sense of an increasingly complex and multi-sided “identity” runs much deeper. In today’s “polyphrenic saturated world” we are exposed to a multitude of different world views and ways of life. As time goes by we may be inclined to “try on” different ones for size, much like trying on different fabrics, styles, sizes, colors and fits of clothes. We may even decide to purchase a whole new wardrobe and wear it for a while until we decide again that it’s time to go for yet a new look as popular fads and fashions change.

It is no surprise that we often take on the character, style, attitudes and values of the community and culture in which we live. If we live among conservatives whom we find likable sorts we may be unconsciously inclined in that direction.  If we live among liberals whom we rather like then we may be unconsciously included in that direction as well. This identity fusing process is called enculturation and socialization. Most prefer to “fit in with the crowd” rather than “stand out like a sour thumb.” It takes a stong individual to “march to a different drummer” or “swim against the tide.” Relaxed conformity to the dominant mind-set and life-style produces less cognitive dissonance.

One distinctive feature that characterizes the post-modern  mindset is patch-quilt eclecticism and global fusion. We take scraps and pieces of concepts and artifacts from different cultures that we have visited in the past or with which we have once identified and we re-assemble them in novel, imaginative, ironic and idiosyncratic ways. We may even turn imitative “knock offs” and  “whimsical kitsch” into a post-modern art-form. Post-modern “players” like to decorate their homes with art and enjoy music that is eclectically Americana, Latino, Anglo-Celtic, European, Middle-Eastern, Asian, African and Oceanic. The world has become our playground. We may also construct our own multi-cultural and globally eclectic “therapeutic and aesthetic spirituality” rather than identify with one and only one historical faith tradition. Our we may vaguely identify one tradition as primary and several others as secondary and tertiary. Most Americans are not becoming atheistic or irreligious so much as “spiritual but not religious.”

It now appears that Walt Whitman was prophetic of our times when he declared, “If I contradict myself I contradict myself; I contain multitudes.” Emerson felt what millions now also experience, that “a small consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” It now seems that ambiguity, plurality, irony and paradox have come of age. Is not “the post-modern turn” a recovery of the “both-and” artistic, metaphorical, eclectic and paradoxical right-brained sensibility after three hundred years of the left-brained “either-or” rationalistic, literalistic, objectivist and scientistic sensibility?

The “trans-modern turn” simply takes the eclecticism and global fusion of the “post-modern turn” and creatively arranges it into multiple ways of knowing, multiple levels of being, and multiple stages of development. In this way the inner multitude of counselors is preserved while organizing them like the parts of an orchestra. The cultural messiness and chaos of “the post-modern turn” may have been a necessary pre-condition for the historical emergence of “the trans-modern turn.” They work together “in concert” as global eclecticism displaces cultural imperialism, radical empiricism displaces reductive empiricism, and the magnetically attractive polarity of integrative pluralism learns to peacefully coexist in dialectical tension with the repellent polarity of incommensurable difference.

The post-modern, protean, polymorphic shape-shifter may be a necessary but transitional phase of our evolutionary development. It may be that we will eventually learn to manifest the many sides of a larger and more integrative and encompassing identity with greater simultaneity, rather than need to “jump” and “shape-shift” from one patch-quilt self to another. The left-brain is concerned with the assemblage of parts. The right-brain is concerned with the integration of the whole. “The whole brain, whole mind” will live in the dialectical tension “between” the earlier developed right-brain “image language” of paradoxical non-linear “both-and” and the later developed left-brain “word language” of logical linear “either-or.” Neurologically speaking, the philosophical “non-dualists” and “dualists” both appear to be partly right. The only question is which hemisphere with its distinct orientation and methodology is calling the plays and running the show.

We all contain multitudes. That does not mean our inner multitude of sub-personalities and ego-states must succumb to a chaotic and confusing cacophony. There always remains before them the harmoneous opportunity to sing together in a great chorus.

Brain Hemispheres & Temperament Types: From Dualistic Polarization to Dialectical Synthesis

I am Left Brain; I am Right Brain

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Enneagram-diagram

The above four charts will be familiar to all those who have explored brain hemisphere theory, Jungian (Meyers-Briggs & David Keirsey) temperament types, and the nine-pointed Enneagram. They all have one thing in common. They are all attempting to provide us with models of brain-mind functioning while giving an account of our irreducible differences in how we process experience and perceive the world.

In his book The Master and his Emissary, Iain McGilchrist postulates an asymmetry between the two brain hemispheres, with the right brain being the more primal side of the brain, the side that sees reality more holistically and organically, that is, closer to the way it really is. In his paradigm experience arises in its immediate “presentation” in the right-brain and then is transferred to the left-brain where it is virtually “re-presented” before returning again to the right-brain in a receptive and generative “reverberating” relationship. The movement is from unity to differentiation to unification, but like Hegel’s idea of thesis, anthesis, and synthesis.

If we correlate this process with the various domains of knowledge we begin to see a division not only between the “what” of knowing but also the “ways” of knowing. The Left Brain versus Right Brain divide includes such dualities as either-or and both-and, logic and paradox expressed in the different casts of mind represented by  the Sciences & Humanities.

But fundamental difference in “casts of mind” can be modeled in quadrants as easily as in dualities between right brain and left brain. The Jungian model does precisely that. It may not be entirely self-evident to everyone how the polarities of introversion and extraversion, intuition and sensation, feeling and thinking, perception and judgment correlate with the right-brain and left- brain preferences. I would propose that the Oceanic Idealist (Intuitive Feeling Type) and the Volcanic Artisan (Sensing Feeling Type) belong to the right-brain preference, while the Ethereal Rational (Intuitive Thinking Types) and the Territorial Guardian (Sensing Thinking Type) belong to the left-brain preference. Poets, Novelists, Musician and Artists have a right-brain family resemblance while Philosophers, Scientists, Mathematicians and Technologists also have a family resemblance. They belong, if you will, to different “tribes” that process experience and perceive the world in different ways.

The Enneagram is based on a triadic model of Feeling, Thinking, and Willing, or Action. The “nine points” are generated by the fact that people tend to either fixate upon, neglect or become avoidant toward one of these three centers of energy and consciousness. The original aim of the Enneagram was therapeutic in the sense of identifying nine different psychopathologies that prevent us from transcending the ego and moving into the universal essence of Being. However, some people today have completely lost sight of its original purposes and using it much like astrologers use the star constellations to proudly declare which of the twelve signs of the zodiac describe them. If our goal is not to become more idiosyncratic and frozen in a limited and parochial conceptions of our self-identity and belonging than we already are, then we need to be willing to give up our over-attachment to any of the nine points and begin to see ourselves as having the expansive potential to “live in all worlds” but without being bound and tethered by any of them. In terms using the Enneagram to move “from Ego to Essence” this means that while we recognize our natural predisposition to identify exclusively with one primary point (and its two wings) that we dare to reach out toward the fullness of humanity in its irreducible diversity. This means that we begin to recognize and honor the archetypal Reformer, Caregiver, Entrepreneur, Investigator, Loyalist, Enthusiast, Leader, and Contemplative (by whatever words we choose to use) that potentially and latently if not actively dwell within me and within all persons. We will still have our own native temperament preferences and predispositions, but we begin to appreciate how it is that others can and do process experience and perceive the world differently. This does not mean that “anything goes,” or that we no longer make discerning value judgments about the relative healthy or dysfunctional expression of each psychological predisposition. In finding others with whom we can share common ground, one advantage of identifying with both brain hemispheres, with all four quadrants, and with all nine Enneagram points (at least to some degree) is that we learn to live in a bigger and more diverse web of relationships within the ecology of Being.

It is tempting to define our identity and relationships dualistically. The world has been doing this for a very long time, and it does seem that the preferred “either-or” method of the left-brain will continue to do so. At the same time, an excess of “both-and” right-brain thinking at the expense of the may tend to reduce us to non-dual bliss-ninnies who are incapable of critical thinking and empirical judgment. Neither left-brain objectivism (with its vulnerability toward autism spectrum and even schizophrenia) nor right-brain subjectivism (with its loss of capacity for detached critical distance) produces a healthy and fully functional human being. We need a pluralistic, dialectical and integrative approach to thinking and living that values the right-brain contributions of imagination, myth, poetry, literature, music,  arts, empathy and ecology, and the left-brain contributions of information, history, prose, philosophy, mathematics, science, detachment and technology. It is essential to the wholeness of our humanity that we learn to live “between” the dualities of our experience in such a way as to synthesize our horizons into an ever greater and growing Gestalt.