Beyond the old style zero-sum politics and moving past win/win bi-partisan politics, there is a new approach to government that is truly transpartisan. Unique Self is an essential technology for developing a new integral political wisdom capable of solving the world’s problems.
Q & A
The following is a transcript of an excerpt from a dialogue between Joe Perez and Marc Gafni in July 2012.
Joe: This is Unique Self and Politics. I’m here with Marc Gafni. Welcome, Marc.
Marc: Welcome Joe. It’s great to be here with you.
Joe: Likewise. On this sunny day in election season, politics is on the brain.
Marc: Completely. I guess our conversation is – as you and I talked in the pre-recording conversation – How do we move towards an integral politics, and what is the contribution of Unique Self towards an integral politics, and that’s really what we want to talk about today.
Joe: Exactly. By integral politics, we’re talking now about the contribution of the integral movement – particularly leaders such as Ken Wilber – in creating a vision of politics in which the role of government is seen as being one that brings people together and not dividing people among different factions and ideologies.
Marc: Okay, that makes a lot of sense. “Integral” represents a broad range of perspectives of integral theorists and thinkers, Ken being one of the very important leading thinkers and teachers, and a host of other really important voices over the last 150 years.
Integral is, if I can state it, is meta-theory. Integral says that we have a larger vision of the patterns that connect, which is a non-metaphysical, non-dogmatic vision. Integral means that after all the deconstruction is over, we need to begin the great reconstruction project of drawing together all the systems of knowing and weaving them into a larger vision of meaning and direction.
Another way to say that, which is fantastic, is that integral is bringing together different perspectives. That’s really what it’s about. Every particular political party, and every faction within a political party, is holding a perspective. One of the things that integral theory likes to say is that no one is smart enough to be entirely wrong. There’s something to that perspective. It’s got some kernel of something to it.
I’m taking out of the conversation perspectives that are really rooted in malice. There are perspectives you need to exclude. Not every perspective is kosher. If everything’s kosher, nothing’s kosher. If we exclude the fringe perspectives that emerge from malice, or what Scott Peck once called People of the Lie, the core center perspectives on either side, all sides of the aisle, are really important, and all the core perspectives within every party and all the core perspectives within each branch of government, all of those need to be honored. They are all unique perspectives. That’s really what Unique Self is about.
Unique Self says that reality sees uniquely through every human being because each human being has a unique perspective. That’s precisely the idea of Unique Self. Every perspective needs to be brought to the table. But not at the level of ego. At the level of ego, I’m struggling for my ego’s survival, I’m competing with you for resources, and I need to win and you need to lose. From a Unique Self perspective, uniqueness is the currency of connection, and all the unique perspectives together create a new vision, all the unique perspectives create a larger evolutionary We-space in which all those perspectives are recognized as true but partial, and they can all be heard.
So that’s the beginning of an integral politics. An integral politics is not an “Us against Them” politics. It’s a politics in which every unique perspective, both of every person who is a voter who expresses their unique perspective through voting, and through whatever sort of civic or political activism that they’re moved to do, that you can do in a democracy. That’s an incredibly dramatic idea that never existed previously in history, and every organized group is allowed to and encouraged to express its perspective. But what’s happened is that politics until now has become a zero-sum game. It’s Us against Them, we’re right and they’re wrong, and the notion of listening deeply to another person’s perspective and saying wow … I see that, you are really pointing towards something I hadn’t thought of before. I disagree with three things you said, but one dimension of what you said has really moved me and I really want to incorporate it. You don’t see that a lot on your classical James Carville, Rush Limbaugh talk shows. Because it’s a zero sum, either/or game.
Joe: Another way of putting this point would be to draw a distinction between bi-partisan politics and trans-partisan politics, if you get that general distinction. Bi-partisan: you can have two fixed groups who are opposed to each other coming up with a compromise that doesn’t really make anyone happy and can ignore the larger good. Trans-partisan politics comes from a Unique Self perspective and it’s not so much concerned about getting factions to a concrete action but about aligning factions with that ultimate good. Is that how you would put it, or do you see it differently?
Marc: That’s completely correct. What we’re basically doing is putting perspectives front and center. The link we’re making is absolutely critical because there are two conversations. There’s a Unique Self conversation, and there’s a perspectives conversation. They’re both actually the same conversation. The entire point of Unique Self is the irreducible perspective which is unique. Let me say one more word about that because I think that’s where the essence of it is.
In the old enlightenment the assumption was that if you really got clear, you’d get beyond your separate self. Your sense of perspective of uniqueness came from that separate self, when you moved beyond it you’d become part of the Light, and the Light is all One. It’s an unqualified Oneness. That’s the old enlightenment.
In the new enlightenment, we actually realize—number one – that Light itself is not unqualified. There are frequencies of Light. When you move into the Light, you don’t lose perspective, you lose the grasping, distorting perspective of the ego which is deluded into thinking you’re separate from everything else. No, you realize that you are part of the all. While you are part of the all, you still remain apart. You’re part of the larger at-one-ment. You retain your unique perspective. What we’ve realized in the new enlightenment is that an irreducible perspective is the ontology of the new enlightenment. It’s part of what essence is about. Once that’s true, it’s not about proving the other guy wrong.
There are a million places where you have to argue that this perspective is wrong because it didn’t take into account this or that or the other piece of information. However you also have to be listening to say, Is this perspective showing me something, showing me uniquely from that particular perspective that I’m not able to see because it’s looking at it from a different angle? An integral politics moves to bring all the unique perspectives of all the different dimensions of society and all the individuals in society into a larger, as you say, trans-partisan vision. I love that distinction between bi-partisan, which is trying to make everything a win/win game so it will be better for both of us, and trans-partisan where there’s a real evolutionary We-space. Integral politics requires the technology of Unique Self in order for it to actually become real.
Joe: Does Unique Self – and this has been on my mind recently – what does it say about nations? Does each nation have a Unique Self? And does the world itself have a Unique Self? And how do we even talk about this without sounding like we’re slipping into some old style metaphysics?
Marc: That’s a fantastic question. In other words, is there a Unique Self which is not some nationalist xenophobia but that actually reflects something essential? I think the answer is yes. What’s happened is we’ve failed to make a pre/trans fallacy. In the pre-universal days, our identity was wholly defined by our particular identity: national identity, religious identity, and so then we said we’re the unique ones, the chosen ones, and everyone else is excluded. Then we moved beyond that limiting, distorted prism of identity, and we said no, no, we’re part of a universal One – the universal rights of man. That was a huge evolutionary leap forward which shifted consciousness and evolved love – which is incredibly important. Now at level three we’re now beginning to understand that an enlightened pluralism at a higher level of consciousness is not merely the ethic of a melting pot society, where we all melt into a larger one, but one in which the singularity of every person and the singularity of every sector and dimension of society is what moves us towards a shared vision. At level three, we are able both to acknowledge and embrace our role as global citizens, as participants in a World Spirituality, but our metaphor has now become that of a symphony.
In a symphony, every instrument plays its own music to perfection, and the recognition is that what is essential is the music and every instrument can play the music in its own particular way even as it listens to the other instruments and participates in the larger symphony. That’s the kind of reclaiming of Unique Self that we need to do on a national level. Every nation is an instrument, a unique socio-cultural, ethnic, existential, geographic, values-perspective spiritual instrument, and that instrument is necessary and important.
Therefore reclaiming the native traditions, reclaiming the aboriginal wisdoms, reclaiming the original shamanism if you will, of every people and culture is critically important, but not in the old way. In the old vision of shamanism, the shaman was responsible, for example, for this bush to that river to that mountain range. It was a very ethnocentric, local view. In a kind of evolutionary shamanism, we actually begin to incorporate in a very deep way the Unique Self, the original Unique Self shamanic intuition and understanding which is evolving and emerging of every people, every nation. To lose that would be to lose perhaps one of the most important sources of wisdom – wisdom,depth, insight and Eros that we have on the planet. It’s about an evolutionary shamanism which reclaims the Unique Self of every nation – not on a pre- level, pre-universalism, xenophobic nationalism of the old kind, but on this new evolutionary level.
The following text is excerpted from the book:
Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution
Chapter Five Integral Politics
The rise of every historically significant new worldview brings about substantial political evolution. Each emerging worldview’s new political vision serves as a showcase for its relatively more evolved values and higher ideals of morality. For example, we noted that emerging modernism rejected the oppressive structures of feudalism and absolute monarchy and championed the new ideals of freedom and equality embodied in the call for democracy. This movement for democracy was, in fact, one of the main themes of the “New Philosophy” that articulated the modernist vision and served to define the character of the Enlightenment. Then again in the 20th century, emerging postmodernism rejected the ethnocentric morality that condoned racism and the slaughter of innocents abroad and championed the political issues of civil rights, women’s rights, and peace in Vietnam. The political issues of the war in Vietnam, and the struggle for equality served to bring people together in a common cause. Thus many who adopted the postmodern worldview in the sixties and seventies did so because they had been politicized through their allegiance to these causes.
Just as much of modernism and postmodernism emerged from the crucible of politics, we can expect something similar with the rise of the integral worldview. After considering this carefully for a long time, I’ve come to the conclusion that the politics of integral consciousness can be expected to engage life conditions in the 21st century in two ways: first, integral politics will make common cause with the postmodern political agenda, helping it to be more effective by moderating it and by translating its truths into terms that can be better understood by the modernist majority. And second, integral politics will demonstrate its new ideals by championing a transcendent vision of a more evolved form of human political organization. We’ll examine each of these aspects of integral politics in turn.
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Steve McIntosh J.D. is a leader in the integral philosophy movement and author of Evolution’s Purpose—An Integral Interpretation of the Scientific Story of Our Origins (SelectBooks 2012), and Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution—How the Integral Worldview Is Transforming Politics, Culture, and Spirituality (Paragon House 2007).