ILP and Men’s Shadow Work: More Mythopoetic/Integral Crossover

I’ve been charting the connection between integral spirituality and the mythopoetic men’s movement for a while now. In short, integral spirituality, for all its desire to transcend and include, does little more than include the men’s movement, with all its problems.

Another recent example of this is Joe Perez’s article, ILP and Men’s Shadow Work: A Powerful Combination, in which he puts the integral framework in dialogue with Robert Bly, Robert Moore, Douglas Gillette, The ManKind Project, and their use of myth and archetypes. I don’t know why integral types continue along this path, as it is a clear example of Wilber’s own elegantly-formulated pre/trans fallacy. Even if one buys into the whole notion of the integral, there is nothing integral here: even Wilber states, “Jungian archetypes…are for the most part … magico-mythic motifs”; i.e. pre-rational. To talk about “men’s work” in these terms is to fall foul of elevationism in the pre/trans fallacy. I talk about this at some length in Numen, Old Men, for those interested in finding out more.

As time goes by I believe it is becoming clear that large areas of integral thought fall foul of the pre/trans fallacy. Aside from gender, which I have written about, I would also include the integral presentation of politics and economics: I write about this in a new article, Lohas and the Indigo Dollar: Growing the Spiritual Economy, forthcoming in New Proposals: Journal of Marxism and Interdisciplinary Inquiry. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to discover there were other areas of integral thought which are far from trans-rational in disciplines in which I have no experience.

Such blind spots in integral thought make its viability increasingly problematic. The Integral Emperor has been wearing no clothes for some time now: I feel for his followers as this becomes evident to all.

15 thoughts on “ILP and Men’s Shadow Work: More Mythopoetic/Integral Crossover

  1. ILP…beautiful…the mythopoetic evolves..? i do hesitate to make too much comment on “mens business” but the archetypal work has been pivotal in so much therapeutic work for both women and men. but yes the “common” four of warrior, lover, magician and king has been embraced as universal for both genders….sometimes women find places to work with feminine archetypes…i wonder how this would work for men?
    do you know the “family constellation” work? well i assisted an MKP background facilitator with an “archetypal constellation” group for both men and women (mostly men) and i would have loved to introduce more gender-inclusive archetypes than these patriarchal stalwarts… but alas the MKP co-facilitator was needing to “experiment” with the ‘constellations’ form so we kept it simple?
    thanks for keeping me posted with your work.

    1. Thanks for commenting. I have no knowledge of family constellation work beyond the quick read I just did on Wikipedia.

      Archetypes come up again and again in conversations around these issues. I just cannot see why so many people are inclined to make them a pivotal element of their work. I fully understand the arguments given for them, but they appear to me profoundly simplistic, and responsible for shutting down far more possibilities than they open up. As with all mythic elements, I do not see some portal to collective truth or experience, rather a denial of particular experience. I return, again, to Roland Barthes, but he nails it for me: “the function of myth is to empty reality; it is, literally, a ceaseless flowing out, a haemorrhage, or perhaps an evaporation, in short a perceptible absence. …myth is depoliticised speech”.

      To me, archetypes are one of the most misleading avenues of exploration of our time.

      1. yes…profoundly simplistic, ironically i have experienced this simplicity (essence of the symbol) as both limiting (shutting down) AND illuminating…for example, raising my consciousness, from ego-mind to a higher-self consciousness… apologies for “pop psychology” speak…it’s just the language i can use to describe my personal experience.’s how i function in the world… for me though, the personal IS political, a point of power or change…a way i can contribute and effect my community, society.
        i agree that archetypal exploration can be misleading…hence my own frustration around the further limiting use of only jungian/ patriarchal metaphors.
        i agree with barthes too, re the function of myth…to empty reality.

        good goddess don’t our minds need emptying regularly ! one just has to remember to wait…for a moment, in that emptiness… then discern what next “reality” we shall construct…mmmm….i’m sounding bit buddhist now…yikes. don’t fence me in….

  2. There’s a danger here of taking what might be called the “Yoda position”, in which a criticism is turned on its head and glossed with a veneer of numinosity: “the emptying is the answer, Skywalker”. But I take your point 🙂

    It would be a good example of a pre/trans interpretation: a pre-rational stance that has never fully engaged “reality” can be elevated to the trans-rational, which seeks to empty reality. Reality can only be emptied once it has been fully engaged: to do otherwise is to empty a position which has never been filled. This is why integral types give the impression they have discovered new truth: their historical position is empty, so the simple act of taking a position appears as a revelation, even if that position is far from new.

    This kind of thing happens to post-graduate students all the time: thinking up some stunning idea, but not knowing enough to know that it was thoroughly explored back in 1986. The lucky ones finally figure out the very partial nature of their knowledge; the others become experts in pub quizzes, or write books for an audience who know even less.

    1. laughing out loud…thank you

      i am enjoying the dialogue as i distract myself from studies in “alcohol and other drugs”…another myth.

      and yes, ‘taking a position’ appears as a revelation…i am quite skeptical of revelations…and yet who was it who said…nothing is new ?

      except for the goldfish in the bowl.

  3. Well said Joseph.

    The recent marketing information coming out of the Integral Institute has been like an escalating tragi-comedy with no apparent end! Wilber’s car-crash article on selling dharma was a new low point for a movement which increasingly looks like it’s unable to see past its embeddeness American corporate capitalist culture. That whole release on ‘conscious capitalism’ was a poorly-disgused and squirmy effort to sell more products, which since Rob Smith took the helm, seems to be I-I’s main purpose.

    I think it’s a genuine shame – some of Wilber’s philosophical efforts are well cast, and if he’d developed a more humble and disciplined theory in the academy (cf Integral Review, for example) rather than surronding himself with a marching band of yes-men, this whole ship might have turned in a more generative, sensible direction. While I think the whole Integral Life parade is a sinking ship (at least intellectually), I still hold some hope that the wider movement of non-Wilber integral scholars will be able to shift course and continue to develop a compellling transrational, postformal epistemology capable of adoption in a range of disciplines.

    There’s a lot of people working outside the icky I-I complex who are developing a promising range of research and theory with all the rigour which should be expected. Unfortunately, despite a few small pockets, the discourse on gender, sex and sexuality is sadly lagging well behind these other efforts.

    1. Thanks for your comments Luke.

      Yes, it’s true that there are folks thinking around the integral who should not be tarred with the same brush.

      I wonder, though, given the synonymous nature of Wilber and the integral, perhaps the integral nomenclature should be dropped? For example, I don’t know if the “transrational, postformal epistemology” framework you speak of necessarily requires the kind of historical “integral” context provided by Wilber (and before him Gebser, Aurobindo et al); but this also speaks to my feeling that the kind of levels of awareness suggested by the transrational are not necessarily unique to the developmental trajectory presented by Wilber et al.

      The assumption of a linear/spiral developmental way of thinking (and the elitism of various flavours this implies) is very hard to shake. This sounds a bit pretentious, but I prefer to think spatially in terms of Deleuze’s rhizome which does way with clear directionality, looking instead (in our context) at the equivalent to a set of transrational values in any number of positions: this keeps the essential meaning of the transrational in place, but unhooks it from development/evolution in its various forms, stripping it of its “integral” heritage (and also democratising its essential meaning at the same time).

      I should articulate this at greater length and with more clarity…

  4. I’m writing this on the fly, but yeah, Deleuze’s rhizome conception definitely overcomes much of the difficulties I have with Wilber’s usual presentation: linear directionality, single pattern dynamics (spirals) and their ‘synthetic-integral’ transcend-include tradition couched in Aurobindo’s adoption of Hegel’s dialectic. Have you ever read the article by Daniel Gustav Anderson on this exact point? If not, I think you’d enjoy it.

    Of Syntheses and Surprises: Toward a Critical Integral Theory,%20of%20syntheses%20and%20surprises%203,%202006.pdf

    More soon,


  5. To me, archetypes are one of the most misleading avenues of exploration of our time.

    Perhaps it can be shed, but I would argue only with an “imaginal” equivalent. Meaning something that inspires the imagination enough to make it digestable to a larger public.

    Jung’s language is problematic because it uses a static phenomenology. But a similar archetypal language can be freed from the bounds of stasis by using Deleuze’s becomings. It is also open to a great deal of creativity, variety, and new ideas.

    The problem is Deleuze can be remarkably unreadable at first.

    1. Yes: I like Deleuze too, but he needs to be read like a dream, not a text.

      His smooth/nomad space has a whiff of what I was talking about previously in searching for that space beyond the barriers of language:

      “There is no line separating earth and sky; there is no intermediate distance, no perspective or contour; visibility is limited; and yet there is an extraordinarily fine topology that relies not on points or objects but rather on haecceities, on sets of relations (winds, undulations of snow or sand, the song of the sand or the creaking of the ice, the tactile qualities of both). It is a tactile space, or rather ‘haptic,’ a sonorous much more than a visual space. The variability, the polyvocality of directions, is an essential feature of smooth spaces of the rhizome type, and it alters their cartography. The nomad, nomad space, is localized and not delimited.”

      It’s almost become a cliché to refer to Deleuze, but he’s far from exhausted.

  6. As I venture into understanding integral ideas and Ken Wilber (which my knowledge is limited) I do have a sense of the pre-trans phallacy. But I am not so sure Jung elevates archetypes. After all he mainly saw them in neurotics, psychotics and schizophrenics and attempted to “cure” them. My view on this is archetypal healing methods are really a way of addressing the immature, pre-rational aspects of a neurotic or mentally distressed. If you dream of a figure that wants to kill you for example it is worth looking into what your pre-rational paranoia is about. Read this way Jungian psychology is merely a pathway out of the pre-rational and not it’s elevation. In fact Jung’s teleological goal was precisely this a realization where much of the pre-rational can be let go. Jean Bolen in her book “The Ring of Power” suggests this also. I think Wilber may be misreading Jung, but so has Robert Moore. A person can exit the pre-rational neurosis that is what myth really is about in my opinion: A pathway out.

  7. i love this blog..

    do you suppose these discussion sites only give pleasure or venting opportunities to like minded or reactionary readers…just adding to the gendered debates…or are we really influencing human thought ?
    are we still just pre-rational and immature (neurotic)..or is this a pathway out…
    hang on …isn’t the paradox that we are actually prisoners of the rational and mature..trying to find our way back to the child-like and irrational-ways-of-knowing?

    1. I think it’s about 95% giving pleasure or venting opportunities to like minded or reactionary readers: but the 5% is worthwhile in itself.

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