Integral Meta-Studies Blog

This blog is about big picture science. It's a place for reflecting on the emergence of integrative varieties of meta-level science and how they can be practiced in research activities and inquiry settings of all kinds. The notion of "integral" is used here to refer to all those meta-level knowledge traditions that have an integrative purpose.

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Culture Transformation and Values based Leadership

Jan Artem Henriksson

Here are some reflective thoughts by our presenter:

The Colloquium vas very professionally handled with many curious and well-informed people who could both question and contribute.

My goal was to test out a new process on story-telling around personal values with a construct aware crowd, that I think would be hard in a regular audience. The experiment was successful and the more playful approach to development was appreciated.

As a result, many good questions emerged regarding the limitations of adult development theory and how it can actually limit the possibility to grow.
There is a paradox that in order to get people to rise in vertical complexity you might need models that do not talk about vertical complexity but rather focus on getting to play. By playing a game with our values and meaning-making we can become aware of all the other games we play as adults. And that can help us grow!

Healing the masculine principle

Barbara von Meibom

Reflective statement about my input to the IFIS Online Colloquium by Barbara v. Meibom:

A) How did you experience our Colloquium, in general, and the way your presentation was handled there?

The colloquium was well prepared in close cooperation. So an inspiring agenda was created to achieve a good combination of information, reflexion, intuition and dialogue.

B) Did you have specific goals, concerns or objectives connected to your presentation, and how has the Colloquium helped you to achieve those?

I wanted to introduce a clear distinction between principles of the masculine and feminine, both existing in each man and in each woman, and on the other side a gender perspective which differentiates between men and women.

1.The first focus has been to give respect and appreciation to the principles of the feminine and the masculine and to acknowledge in each of them the bright and the shadow side;

2.The second focus has been to give attention to the misuse of the masculine in men (origin, form, expression) and to bring to attention how this misuse could eventually be transformed from young age onwards.

C) Which important questions came up during the event, and which avenues for further discussion or research emerged that would be particularly worthwhile to deepen in the future?

The wounding of the masculine principle differs highly between different cultures. It has been particularly interesting to have one participant from a muslimn country, thus broadening the perspective.

It might be interesting to form gendered subgroups to deepen the consciousness respectively, thus coming to a better understanding, what the male child, boy, adult might need to transform the shadow of the masculine.

It would be interesting to deepen the understanding of the polar principles, the means of balancing them, the areas of application and the foreseeable outcome.

A detailed report about this Colloquium by Iris Kunze is available here:

For further reading:

- Suki Colegrave: Yin and Yang. Die Kräfte des Weiblichen und des Männlichen: Eine inspirierende Synthese von westlicher Psychologie und östlicher Weisheit, Frankfurt: Fischer 1984Riane Eisler: Kelch und Schwert. Unsere Geschichte, unsere Zukunft. Weibliches und männliches Prinzip in der Geschichte. (2005)

- Gerald Hüther: Männer. Das schwache Geschlecht und sein Gehirn, Vandenhoek & Ruprecht 2016

- Barbara von Meibom: Spirituelles Selbstmanagement. Ein Weg zur Versöhnung von Macht und Liebe, Bielefeld: Kamphausen 2009 (also as E-Book)

- Book to read and soon to be translated into English and www.

Transforming a top-down political culture to one of dialog and inclusion

Bernard Le Roux, Dialogues Facilitation Gothenburg

Editorial note:
Bernard Le Roux was the presenter in our Online Colloquium n° 20, in which he shared experience from his dialog and mediation work with Swedish municipalities. As a Kick-off question, Bernard invited participants to explore the following question:

How do we understand the resistance of powerful people to participation processes, and to an honest, open conversation that actually addresses the issue?

Here is Bernard's reflection of the Colloquium:

I was very happy to explore the question of resistance of people in power to more intimate dialogue with participants who work in different countries with different groups. It showed me that – however sure I might be of my own hypothesis – a diverse group, well facilitated, is more intelligent than one individual.

So, my hypothesis was that people who are in positions of power (official or social) that rely on hierarchical structures for their authority become uncertain when the game changes. Often functionaries derive their identity from the position they have been elected to. If “new democratic forms” create the possibility for more people to participate on an equal basis, uncertainty arises.

This is, I admit a rather limited or simplistic view. Participants contributed with their own experiences and views. A number focused on the reluctance to own up to one’s own part in the problem, asking the question: how have I been complicit in this? This relates to the reluctance of showing one’s true self. The strategies then used are to back into maintaining the status quo, meeting opposition with counter-attack.

There are in other words challenges in the way the world is changing, challenges to the old order. Part of this may well be the traditional sense retreating into rationality for fear of moving into the sphere of not-knowing.

What do the new leaders require in order to cope with the shifts in society? What do we need to be teaching our children in schools and our young people in universities? Perhaps it is to become comfortable with not-knowing, to trust that from a sense of chaos, a new order will emerge and a sense that we need to face the fact that complex living systems cannot be controlled.

I am grateful for having had this brief conversation and am hopeful that we shall be able to continue talking about collective intelligence and democracy – knowing that intelligence is multi-faceted and comprises all aspects of being human.

Working towards a more conscious society through personal development

Tomas Björkman

It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to present during the IFIS Online Colloquium session on Mach 21st, 2018. Thank you for inviting me.

The purpose of the presentation was, first, to provide a brief overview over the various initiatives I’m involved in. I spoke about the Ekskäret Foundation operating the retreat centre the Ekskäret island outside Stockholm with the purpose of exploring and facilitating the connection between inner, personal development and societal change. I spoke about the Ekskäret Klustret co-working space and the TechFarm co-living space, both located in central Stockholm. Both these spaces aim to be what Robert Kegan calls “deliberately developmental”, that is they aim to hold and facilitate the personal and organisational development of the members. I also mention our similarly Deliberately Developmental Space, a “DDS”, in Berlin: the Co-creation Loft.

Secondly, I got the opportunity to speak about my three recent books: The Market Myth (2016), The World we Create (2017, in Swedish) and The Nordic Secret (2017). The last one co-authored with Lene Andersen and describing how large scale, government supported, personal development projects in all the Nordic countries played an important role more than a hundred years ago in bringing these counters successfully into modernity. The expressed aim of these projects was to support a substantial part of the populations in becoming, again using Robert Kegan’s language, “self-authoring”.

I came off the colloquium with much inspirations and thank you all very much for the fruitful discussion and the interesting dialog!

StageLens - a digital tool for measuring ego development

Dr. Tom Murray

It was a pleasure describing the StageLens automated assessment technology to the IFIS attendees. I found the questions and conversation to be fruitful and I look forward to follow-up opportunities to dive deeper. Questions about the development of human consciousness and "wisdom maturity" are so important in our day, and though our tools for psychological measurement don't match the complexity of the phenomena, they and the theories of adult development that they are based on, can add important insights to questions about human capacity, organizational development, large scale social behavior, and civic/political conflict, collaboration, engagement, and dialogue. Now that we are beginning to see cost-effective high quality assessment technologies, which traditionally were limited to individual or executive team assessment, investigations can be scaled up to scan for patterns across organizations and populations. This brings up entirely new ethical and practical issues and inquiries. In addition to describing the StageLens artificial intelligence technology and the STAGES developmental model it uses, I engaged participants in discussing these emerging issues. For example, we can now scan for developmental patterns within a large organization, but exactly how does on interpret a developmental profile at the group level? Many theorists and practitioners in the field have intuitions or advice about this, but we actually have little real experience or best-practice principles worked out yet (as we do for individual-level developmental coaching reflection).

Another issue that came up was how to measure and theorize human development at the very highest levels ("Construct Aware" and above). Our automated scoring technology is not very accurate at those levels, but O'Fallon's STAGES system claims to be able to assess development at these levels. It is assessing *something* (and has been shown to have statistical reliability at these levels), but is it pointing to the same developmental phenomena that other system are pointing to at their highest levels? This is a fascinating topic for future discussion. Open Way Solutions is the company that offers the StageLens technology, and our mission is "to assess wisdom skills in individuals and groups using advanced technology to support the development of deep insight, broad perspectives, full compassion, and bold action." StageLens is just the beginning of what we foresee, and, for me, the "holy grail" of such technology would be to help us assess and reflect on "shadow material" at the group level. Though I work in the area of human development, I think it is more important to help people establish health, integrity, and integration within their existing developmental levels than to push forward into higher levels. Psychotherapy and contemplative practice tires to do this for individuals, but I believe we will need more tools for working at the collective level to meet our global challenges. Lets keep the inquiry going--we have just begun!

Introducing the Lectica assessment model for measuring leadership development

Jonathan Reams

It was interesting to engage with an informed audience around dynamic skill theory and the Lectica assessment model. Discussion around the lenses people used to evaluate the order of statements in the exercise was rich and helped to illuminate how any kind of ordering we do in trying to understand phenomenon is subject to the lens we use to perceive and make meaning of the phenomenon. As well, questions helped to illuminate the boundaries within which such assessments can be useful and contexts, focal points or conditions under which it might not be adequate.

Once the boundary conditions and appropriate domain on utility was circumscribed, the robustness of the model was clearer. As with any assessment tool, fitness for purpose of use is important. Here it was emphasized that the utilizations of such assessments is only as a support for highly targeted, domain specific skill building. In this context, it is also clear that ‘skill’ as a construct can imply quite subtle cognitive processes, such as emotion regulation. Working to build such types of core cognitive skills in one domain can increase the ease of learning pathways of applying such core skills in other domains.

In terms of practice, long term coaching and or programmatic use of Lectical assessments can be a more precise and robust way to support growth. While this model and tools is highly informed by and focused on verticality, it also understands that vertical growth in cognitive functioning is primarily a result of building robustness at existing levels of cognitive functioning. Finally, it was made clear that this is only one aspect of healthy growth and development. The contents of our beliefs, the morality of our actions, and the domain of embodiment to have integrity in the area of performance are all also essential components of healthy growth and development.

Experience with the IFIS Online Colloquium

Harald Walach

Normally I am quite sceptical concerning hybrid and new technologies for communication and prefer the classical set-up with people in front of me I can interact with. But this was surely a very good example to the contrary. I would have never thought that it is in fact possible, even fun to have a good colloquium via internet. (It’s possible to have one, but whether it is good is another question. This one I found was good.) I have done that once previously and found it very tedious, because there was always the odd glitch. Now it worked perfectly well. The Zoom platform is very professional. So, from the technical side, it was really perfect.

I felt well as a presenter, although it does make a difference, whether you can see and sense your audience directly or not. However, true to the topic, I felt that there was sufficient connectedness between the remotely placed but online connected participants such that I felt listened to and addressing real people and not just the ether in general. So it felt like a decent seminar. I think, my input was useful and well received, and I learned that useful communication can happen even over the internet. The break-out groups via internet were a first-time experience for me, but funnily it worked well.

Whether, what I had to say was useful for the participants they have to decide. It seemed to me I was able to convey what was important. What emerged as a topic to follow up is clearly the question of phenomenology and analytical scrutiny. The danger of starting to think from a new paradigm is surely inflation: everything is suddenly somehow weird and quantum-something, and we tend to then forget straight and clean thinking. That is the big danger I see, and that is also, why I use any terminology of that type in normal discourse very sparingly, although I am quite convinced that we need a new type of thinking. But this will not come as an alternative or something that replaces what we have, but rather as a complement. So the question will not be that of an “either – or” disjunction, but a conjunction of “as well as”: using classical analytical thinking and a more integral, holistic approach. The question is not either – or, but when to apply which at what level. And this question is tricky. The best way to approach it, I find, is to start with very good phenomenology, documenting the effects, observing them closely and then see how much of it can be understood using classical approaches and what aspects of a phenomenon defy classical interpretations. That is, when a holistic approach like the one I have sketched, comes into play. And to be quite clear here: I have just shown one possible path. There may be many more, and the one I have shown might not even be the best option. But one has to start somewhere, and here is a possible starting point.
So to carry on, I would urge people to collect phenomenological instances of experiences that seem to cry out for a non-local explanation, and then carefully think how they might be explicable in classical terminology and via analysis, and which aspects defy such an approach. There we will have the raw material that is needs another type of analysis. Perhaps a website like the IFIS website might be a possible starting point for collecting such experiences, and then allow for a discussion?

For more info about Harald Walach's presentation see here:

Resilience – a useful "one word answer" to the recent increase in crises? An integral approach

Karim Fathi

The presentation "Resilience – a useful "one word answer" to the recent increase in crises? An integral approach" during the IFIS Online Colloquium on November 30, 2016, was part of my ongoing reflections within the frame of my postdoctoral lecture qualification.

The purpose of this presentation was, first, to provide a brief overview over the very different contexts and systems levels the notion of "resilience" is currently used. Second, this presentation was and is an invitation to jointly and critically discuss the resilience concept in a transdisciplinary fashion. An open key question for me was in how far this notion could be transdisciplinarily applied as a "one word answer" to different types and contexts of crisis.

Brief summary of my presentation: Resilience can be defined as “… The capacity of a dynamic system to withstand or recover from significant challenges that threaten its stability, viability, or development.” (Ann Masten et al. 2013). There are different types of resiliency: Prevention (before the crisis), reaction (during the crisis) and bouncing back (after the crisis). Furthermore, this notion is applied to different system levels, like individual, organizational and societal resilience. Each level itself refers to very different resilience factors and crisis types, i.e. societal resilience may refer to natural disasters, cyber terrorism, economical crises, the refugee crises etc. One might rightly criticize that referring to resilience as a "one-word-answer" to all of these very different crises might be like comparing apples and oranges. However, in today's highly complex world one might argue that all of these different systems levels and crises contexts are interrelated requiring a cross-contextual concept.

Closing my presentation, I formulated the following three summarizing statements:

1. Against the background of a highly complex world and cross-disciplinary manifesting crises, there is an increasing (theoretical and practical) relevancy of a “broadly applicable” notion of resilience.
2. Resilience as an “umbrella-term” may be only useful in terms of a transdisciplinary approach, but should carefully distinguish between different sub-concepts and definitions of resilience.
3. The application of AQAL and other transdisciplinary approaches (including various concepts of systems thinking) leaves open questions for further research.

The subsequent discussion included a lot of contributions inspiring me for further research:

- What does resiliency mean with regard to the AQAL dimension Levels: Are there different development levels of resiliency? From a cybernetical point of view: the higher the level of complexity, the higher the competency to deal with complexity. But from the other hand, high development and complexity might also lead into higher and more complex vulnerability.
- Similar questions also with regard to development lines and states...
- What does resiliency mean with regard to the AQAL dimension: Types? Given the fact that contemporary resilience studies is highly Western-centric, it would be interesting to consider inter- and transcultural dimensions. I.e. Japanese and German organizations and the whole society proved to be highly resilient in the aftermath of WWII. However both societies appeared to show very different cultural patterns of resilience.
- With regard to the "panarchy of adaptive cycles" model contrasting the concept of evolutionary resilience: In how far can the resilience concept be related to already existing models of evolution and development? And in how far is this useful?
- What does a cross-disciplinary concept of resiliency mean in terms of "transformative science" (mode 3 science)? An aspect making this question very challenging is the fact that transformative science has ethical and normative implications, whereas this is not necessarily the case for the resilience concept (i.e. resiliency can also be inspired from and implied by amoral actors like the mafia or IS).
- What does systemic resiliency imply in a trans-anthroprocentric (or metaphysical) context? I.e. if humankind does not prove to be resilient and dies out in the face of an utimate crisis - what does this mean for the planet (and its resiliency) and the emergency of an adapted post-human species in terms of "evolutionary resiliency"?

With these and other reflections in mind, I came off the colloquium with more questions and inspirations than in the beginning of my presentation. Thank you all very much for the fruitful discussion and your highly enriching contributions!

The problematic relationship between integrative science and integrative spirituality

Mark Edwards

Meta-studies are integrative endeavours. But when does the search for integration and integral become a colonising endeavour? Where are the boundaries that distinguish a holistic integration from and a totalising meta-narrative?

Science, philosophy and religion are all very different realms of human endeavour. They have some things in common but they are not the same thing. They are constructed, evaluated and experienced in fundamentally different ways. They have very different institutional bases and their constituent communities behave in different ways and follow different cultural norms. There are shared characteristics but these commonalities are best seen within the context of core differences that each contribute uniquely to the human story. Given this when we derive scientific metatheories what is their relationship to the domains of religion and philosophy? In particular, what role might scientific meta-frameworks play in the world of religion and spirituality? I think it a great mistake to take the metatheories and meta-philosophies developed within the discipline of science and rational learning and apply them to spirituality. Many dangers lie in this indiscriminate application of metatheory to the way we experience religion.

What is of particular relevance here is the application of integral approaches like AQAL that purport to be "all embracing" to other domains of human experience. Can an integral theory be used to structure and develop spiritual practices and techniques be used to guide spiritual development and growth, be used to promote one form of spirituality over another. It seems to me that that the exportation of scientific models into other territories of human experience needs to be very consciously and cautiously done, and the due regard for the dangers and fragilities of that process be clearly kept in mind. If not then the no boundary assumptions that I see as plaguing the development and use of AQAL in the scientific domains will be reproduced within the spiritual domain with disastrous impact. I see the ongoing parade of scandals (including the very recent dramas) involving several spiritual teachers associated with forms of integral spirituality as being closely linked with the “all-embracing” myth that surrounds AQAL and with the lack of domain boundaries that accompany this form of metatheory.

When the scientific map of and “all embracing” “theory of everything” form of AQAL (which makes strong claims that it possesses scientific validity and that it has been developed on the basis of scientific theories and empirical evidence) is exported into the spiritual domain all kinds of relational boundaries can get lost – interpersonal, philosophical, and cultural. That some spiritual teachers who take on the boundaryless AQAL map may also lose a clear sense of boundaries does not surprise me. The wholesale and uncritical transportation of scientific meta-studies into other, very different, domains of human experience is not a good thing. When those meta-theories claim and all-embracing relevance and application, their transposition onto other areas of cultural life is doubly problematic.

There need to be many conversations around these issues if the relationship between scientific big pictures and their use in such areas as spiritual practice are even begun to be understood. Without those conversations and critical investigations the relationship between metatheories and how they inform spiritual models and practices will continue to be an area of ethical concern.

Explaining the current developments in the Middle-East

Mark Edwards

Why is there an outpouring of energy for democracy and freedom in the Middle East, in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen? Trying to explain this is difficult and there are obviously many factors at play into what has led up to the public demonstrations against undemocratic and tyrannical governments throughout this region. An integral meta-studies approach is useful in providing an analysis of these explanations because it flexibly employs multiple lenses and is conscious of the limits on the range of theoretical lenses it can use to develop explanations of complex social events.

Spiral Dynamics and AQAL-informed thinkers will probably move straight to the developmental levels for their analysis of the events occurring in the Middle East. AQAL-inspired explanations might propose that it is those more advanced individuals from the educated sector of these communities who are leading the demonstrations. Their needs, desires, levels of awareness and core purposes enable them to harness the pent-up frustrations and aspirations of the great mass of people. Theorists who rely on developmental levels, degrees of education, or stages of complexity to explain dramatic change often employed a lens that sees elite individuals or very skilled groups in the population planning, managing and leading revolutionary change through strategic processes of communicating to and even manipulating the less educated or less cultured desires of the majority. It is almost invariably the case that the use of developmental stages lens will come up with analyses and explanations that are based on issues of leadership or the strategic intentions of elite minorities. This is why Wilber always explains successful revolutions in terms of the actions of developmentally advanced individuals and groups. This is why he also advocates interventions to transform society at the level of leadership and the education of influential elites.

Using a mediation lens, however, helps us to come up with very different possible explanations. These not only complement developmental explanations but recontextualize them into completely different forms of explanation. It is was not only highly developed individuals who have led this uprising but the ordinary aspirations of common and simple people inspired by such mediating means as television, mosque services, word-of-mouth, internet and mobile communications and conversation with neighbours, friends and family.

Let me explain this mediational lens in this way. Within each person there is a full range of developmental potentials and capacities. Some lie dormant and latent within the individual while others are expressed in words and behaviour. What is dormant and what is expressed changes moment by moment depending, at least in part, on such factors as situational context, social modelling and ethical climate. To put this more simply and to generalize, when we are with good people we do good things and when we are with bad people we do bad things. When we are immersed in a mediating environment of violence and oppression we become violent and depressed. When we are surrounded by good people and wonderful opportunities then we can express our lives through those means. Mediating agents within social and technological environments can inspire and resonate with our highest and most aspiring needs and desires and when those agents tap into people's personal and interpersonal needs for freedom and self-expression and democratic expression they get out on the streets and they march against the tanks.

It's all about the mediational environment rather than the developmental centre of gravity. Elites and charismatic leaders come into the picture only as part of this mediating sea that constitutes a social environment. Democratic transformation is not led top-down by saintly leaders of the third tier. It emerges through the leadership of individuals from across all developmental profiles and capacities. Each of us plays a role in the emergence of democratic possibilities because each person has these potentials and can resonate with the dreams of freedom that are communicated to us through the mediational links that surround us and through which we move moment by moment.

The ordinary "first tier" people of Egypt and the Middle East are the real leaders of this change, it is not only or even primarily the educated and thoughtful members of the upper middle classes. The millions of Egyptian citizens who hunger for something more generous from their political leaders and systems are listening to something singing away deep in their hearts and they want to start singing that song with others in their community. How this will turn out in the long run is not the issue here. What is the issue in question is this: If we propose explanations that rely on developmental levels as their central analytical tools we will never understand how ordinary people can do extraordinary things.


Next IFIS Online Colloquium: May 15, 2019. More info here.

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