Integral Institute Australia

As I write, Melbourne is witnessing its first “consultation process” in the proposed establishment of Integral Institute Australia.

Honestly, I tried to attend. I even got half way to the venue, but as a Western Suburbs Man, I grossly underestimated the east-bound traffic at 6:30 pm on a Wednesday, and eventually abandoned the journey. I had so many things I wanted to say, too: Maybe it’s best I didn’t make it…

Proudly reprinting a letter from Integral Institute CEO Robb Smith (who dropped by this blog once asking about my “desire to connect,” but when I did clearly had no desire to connect with me), this new initiative is intended to offer “I-I-sanctioned in-country research.”

But for all the scholarly aspirations of the various uses of the word “research,” one thing jumps out at me: Smith frames this process twice in terms of the “market”: “the market consultation process” and “a market exploration process.”

I have an academic paper coming out soon called Lohas and the Indigo Dollar: Growing the Spiritual Economy, which looks at precisely this type of thing: how I-I has positioned itself in the spiritual marketplace as a seller of integral products and services, co-opting Lohas (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) and spiritual values along the way.

It’s quite easy to imagine the integrally-sanctioned products and services that will come from I-I Australia. Of the current board, we are told: Don Adlam attended the inaugural Integral Psychotherapy Seminar in Boulder; Adam Fletcher has completed the Integral Leader course in Boulder (and “financially contributed to the Integral Institute for 18 months”!); Jennifer Gidley spent three months in Boulder in 2005 as a member of the Integral Institute education committee. These guys will no doubt be happy to on-sell their integral experiences to you in Melbourne. Also of the current board, John Wood has been employed in corporate roles and managed his own business; Bob Millar has qualifications in economics and accounting, and a background in public finance. All the better for keeping good books (I talk a bit in Lohas and the Indigo Dollar about Wilber’s essay Right Bucks in which he waxes lyrical about accounting procedures for sharing the Dharma).

Anyway, I’m sure any day soon we’ll receive a report on Integral Life about how the consultation process has shown that the Australian market is ripe for integral exploitation research, and probably a request for volunteers interested in being on the cutting edge of shifting product consciousness.

19 thoughts on “Integral Institute Australia

  1. Really interested to read this forthcoming article of yours. It’s been an ongoing research interest of mine too: the spiritual materialism/ hegemony of much of the Integral enterprise, and the the cultural imperialism of Boulder integral exported worldwide without attention to indigenous perspectives (sound familiar?), despite integral, proto-integral and post-integral work being done elsewhere.

    I’m finding my post-Wilber integral interests much more nourished outside this LOHAS spiritual materialist marketplace: both here in Scotland with Kenneth White’s geopoetics, Patrick Geddes’ triads, Smiths’ “Caledonian antisyzygy” and the Scottish generalist tradition of the ‘Democratic intellect’ (see George Davie etc).

    Incidentally, some great small-i integral stuff is coming out of Australia too: the recently published ‘Tackling Wicked Problems Through the Transdisciplinary Imagination’, edited By Valerie A. Brown, John A. Harris and Jacqueline Y. Russell is pretty mindblowing, and John Croft’s Dragon Dreaming stuff is good too- and pays proper attention to indigenous Australian perspectives.

    Big ‘I’ Integral, by adopting this Anglo-American capitalist model, is positioning itself as a bourgeois lifestyle accessory. Wilber’s ‘Right Bucks’, as you indicated, is revealing of this, not to mention Robb Smith’s recent comments on how important a ‘solid financial foundation’ is in order to be Integral, and his comments that ” we as citizens don’t think twice about providing food stamps for our poorest citizens while also relishing the most expensive items at a fancy restaurant for ourselves”: the use of ‘we’ here seems to situate this version of Integral firmly within the bourgeoisie, with the poor being ‘other’ to Integral. Also his recent love poem to a gold Rolex was beyond parody.. but I digress!

    All this does not represent much wisdom or relevance for the suffering world outside Boulder, or an ‘integral’ vision, to me at all, informed as I am by liberation theology’s ‘preferential option for the poor’ and Freirean pedagogy.

    Wilber’s Guruji fail also adds to this sense of disconnection from what really matters.

  2. Nice piece – we in the US who used to identify with integral theory and enjoy Wilber’s earlier books have long ago become disillusioned with the incessant marketing and commercialization of ideas as products that I-I represents and promotes. The only real movement in integral thinking is occurring outside of Wilber’s inner circle of acolytes.

    1. Yes, I find those who have left Wilber behind to be some of the smartest folks around (which, to Wilber’s credit, gives some indication of what he once aspired to, and nearly pulled off). I also identify quite a few smart folks who see the problems but nevertheless remain (either because of their desire to inherit some of his cultish fame, or some misplaced hope that things will improve): this seems sadder to me than the droves of young folks who don’t know any better.

      1. Wilber’s writings and his ability to attract brilliant minds will be his positive legacy. His self-promotion, poor organizational leadership, and promotion of cult leaders his negative one.

        I’m looking forward to your paper–I hope it is available to the public?

        1. Yes, the ability to gather interesting people is a great skill, but it seems to be disconnected from doing anything really useful with them. I can think of various characters around like this at the moment.

          The article will be in an open access journal, so freely available.

  3. tanks for keeping me in this blog…i aint as well read on the subject but i is following the thread…long time ago i done a social ecology degree which opened me eyes to better ways of challenging hypocrisy. again i salute your academic watch-dogging of megalomaniacs and pseudo spiritual cults. xo

    1. “watch-dogging of megalomaniacs and pseudo spiritual cults”: another great tag line for the site! (plain old maniacs and cults most welcome, of course).

  4. I re-posted this over at Integral Life:
    http://integrallife.com/member/joseph-gelfer/blog/integral-institute-australia
    One reader charges me with “bait-and-switch” and seeking “cheap publicity.” Robb Smith offers a rebuttal that ends with integral speak for “piss off”: “It is a very, very free world and there are literally millions of communities out there and I encourage people to find one that’s right for them”. Oh dear. Rob goes on to request how I figure he is caught in the pre/trans fallacy on this matter. Here’s my take, call me first tier:

    “You give the impression in your language of offering a sophisticated second tier understanding of how to communicate “integral” thought, but remain firmly grounded in first tier thinking. Your framing of the “market” (however you qualify it) and “support [of] free market capitalism” simply cannot be second tier. It does not transcend and include: it merely includes, and this cannot be fixed by a verbal whip around the quadrants. You use integral language to justify first tier late capitalist activity (as does the whole LOHAS sector, as outlined in the forthcoming article), and despite your claim that we are among “a scary intelligent community,” you rarely get called out on it due to the fact that a significant constituency of the community is in the same boat, largely unknowing of how little it knows (and unwilling to own that which it does know), which is one of the most dangerous spaces to inhabit for productive thinking. There are also those in the community who are well aware of this, but hope that something can be salvaged from it (sorry, no names: these comments come to me in confidence, which should be an alarm bell), and probably those who wish to secure privileged positions within the community that would otherwise be jeopardized by open dissent (that’s speculation).
    By all means pat each other on the back in a mutually-affirming ecology of integral jargon; feel free to click the “No” button on “Was this useful?” Integral thinking may be great in theory (the jury is out): but I rarely see anyone enact it. Note: I do not claim to be “integral,” and I reject the claim that only those who the Integral Few perceive to be integral have a sufficient grasp on it to offer a critique.”

  5. Hi Joseph and others,

    I think that some of your comments about the commodification and marketisation of integral institute’s approaches, are well-placed. However, be careful of “straw-manning” the new Australian initiative without really finding out who the people are and what it is about. These things need to dialogued in an open and respectful manner. Joseph, your very selective comments about the people involved is not well-researched and is rather partial. Your idea of “spiritual economy” seems to be a recursion of the ideas of Chögyam Trungpa on “spiritual materialism” in the 70s. That’s not to say it isn’t happening in the integral movement. But based on my experience of people working with “integral, proto-integral and post-integral work” in various parts of the world (USA, Australia, Germany, France, Luxembourg), I think the way to go forward is trying to find the common ground in a diversity of approaches (that’s where I put my energy). We are in the mother of all crises on planet earth right now. Let’s try to work together and not waste our energy nit-picking our brothers and sisters when there are much bigger critiques to be making.

    Cheers,

    Jennifer

    1. Jennifer, I’m not researching anything in my comments about IIA, simply quoting from your website. Of course, I know none of you, which is why I say “It’s quite easy to imagine.” Your intentions may be wonderful; equally, the net effects may be quite the opposite. Time will tell: I’d love to be proved wrong.

      Call me old-fashioned, but I reject your comments about the spiritual economy harking back to the 1970s, even if this is exactly the type of response that’s in vogue in a lot of religious studies at the moment (at least in the UK and Australia). Depoliticised, in my partial view 😉

      I am not nit-picking. This is the stuff the foundations are made of: you have to get it right from the start.

      Brothers and sisters: maybe. But sharing certain goals does not necessarily make us allies: a lot of ideals have been sacrificed in this way. That said, your tone is appreciated.

  6. Hi Joseph,

    Are you up for a coffee to discuss these things in person at some stage?

    Do you come into the Melbourne CBD at all? If you’re interested you can email me via my rmit email address. I’m pretty easy to find there.

    Jennifer

  7. Joseph,

    Firstly i wanted to agree with Jennifer, I was at the meeting mentioned above in Melbourne and I would have liked to hear what you had to say regarding everything you have mentioned above, but in the first person. Whilst i may not agree with a lot of it, i do think you have the right to present your ideas as you see fit, and from what i saw the other night, the space for you do so would have been provided and available, and your comments welcomed.In fact i think most of them were mentioned by others. So you might even have had safety in numbers.

    What i will do however is make note of a couple of things. The first being a reference to massive assumptions you have made on behalf of the meeting and the board.

    Assumption 1 – How do you know it was probably better that you didn’t make it ? What are your preconceptions about what you were going to say and how it would be received ? I for one would have liked to have heard you out. What makes you think you would have been received badly, is it based on previous experience ? not on this one for sure, as you didn’t get there, so maybe you could try and be a bit more on the positive, and the clouds might break. God knows you might even get a surprise.

    Assumption 2 – The ” Interim” Board Members. Again you make MASSIVE assumptions based on nothing except your pre-concieved ideas and past experiences. Have you even gone to the trouble of meeting them ? i would imagine the answer to this is no, but i have, and you know what they are exemplary people doing there best to draw together people from many different fields, and had you actually been there you would have seen that.

    While i didn’t think it was all smooth sailing on the night in question it is still early days, and you know, maybe if you put some of all the energy you spend on debating this and that, into being positive and offering to help, you could be a part of the process. So really, i think at this point its about you more than about them.

    One last small but mind boggling point – you whole diatribe is about the commercialisation of spirituality right ?

    Have you had a look at your website, and all the google adds, talk about the pot calling the kettle black !

    Joseph my friend, be part of the solution not the problem, help us, don’t ridicule us. Please in future go to the meeting and meet the people, then you can go on about what ever you want from an informed opinion, rather than assumption.

    Cheers

    Take care

    Pete

    1. Hi Pete: thanks for the comments.

      Assumption 1: When I’ve discussed these topics with people in the past I have simply been expelled as a green memer.

      Assumption 2: I was just quoting from the IIA website, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. However, I am due to meet up with Jennifer.

      Google Ads: This is a result of having a free blog on WordPress: I cannot turn them off, and the money goes to WordPress, not me. Talk about assumptions! Just pulling your leg 😉

  8. Joseph,

    Ohhh you know what i say, there’s nothing wrong with being Green, and apparently it ain’t easy, so the saying goes ! Just pulling your leg this time 🙂

    I hope you enjoy, your chat with Jennifer. I think you’ll find out out she doesn’t have fangs wings and horns, just like the rest of the board.

    take care and be well.

    Pete

    1. My chat with Jennifer was lovely, thanks. We agreed on most things, apart from my belief in the inevitable creep of Wilberian integral product in IIA. Genuinely, I would love to be proved wrong.

  9. I think it’s great that the Integral Institute is making its way across the world to the Australian continent. Wilber’s work is great!

    With Love and Gratitude,

    The Intentional Sage

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