Integral Wealth

You may remember a while ago I had a lively exchange with various members of Integral Life and Robb Smith of Integral Institute about capitalism and money: I claimed integral thought unconsciously perpetuates the capitalist status quo; they claimed I overstate my case and that they promote conscious capitalism (which I am too developmentally challenged to appreciate). I offer an analysis of this in my recent article, LOHAS and the Indigo Dollar: Growing the Spiritual Economy.

This morning’s sales propaganda from Integral Life starts with the question “are you making as much money as you want”? It goes on to flog a new wealth-generating attitude scheme from internet marketer Eben Pagan:

Notice everything going on in your mind and emotions right now, everything set in motion by the question of money. If you’re feeling a bit of a charge, take a moment. Settle into it. Make new use of an old yoga practice, and… Breathe into your checking account. Notice any sensations that may arise.

You probably outgrew your exclusive identification with the achievement mentality a long time ago. You no longer experience your drive for success as who you are. Instead, it is a part of you. But how comfortably does that part sit with you? Does it flow effortlessly into your life or does it keep you up at night?

We’re writing you to recommend a program that will dramatically improve your relationship with wealth and help your achiever do what it does best… to achieve! It was created by our friend and colleague Eben Pagan. Eben is a longtime student of the human potential and personal growth movements with a solid understanding of integral theory and the values of the integral movement. Plus, he is, shall we say… well-qualified to talk about success.

His program, “Self Made Wealth,” speaks to a conventional audience but delivers an exceptional level of insight. If you stick with him, you will soon find that he is a master at re-framing, capable of lifting his audience up from a constricted and confused identification with money into a space of genuine confidence and inspiration.

Do you really need any more evidence to demonstrate how the indigo dollar is privileged in contemporary Wilberian integral thought?

And note how Pagan is described as embodying “a solid understanding of integral theory and the values of the integral movement”: this is yet another example of the ever-expanding posse of “thought leaders” who are assigned the brand of “integral” simply by selling their products and services to the integral community.

Every time a flaky new thought leader is branded, another nail is hammered in to the coffin of integral thought. I know there are plenty of smart folks who hold on to the concept of integral as having value; however, my suggestion is to salvage what you can, call it something else and move on.

Integral is exhausted: abandon it to Oprah Winfrey Network.

38 thoughts on “Integral Wealth

    1. The whole discourse of authenticity is problematic: I write about it some in the paper linked to above, Lohas and the Indigo Dollar. Generally, whenever I hear the word “authentic,” alarm bells ring, as it’s usually a repackaging of the status quo with a dusting of integral glitter.

      I have no doubt that Tripp is well-meaning (a few emails in the past suggests this), but his presentation of masculinity and manhood is dull, to say the least. He doesn’t even aspire to any sophistication of thought in the way that Wilber does on this matter (even if that aspiration is clearly faulty). That this level of stuff is considered integral is a complete mystery to me: as I suggest above, this is Oprah’s domain, not the trans-rational. I’ve stopped mentioning these things every time I see examples, as it’s always the same old nonsense, and no one has any interest in responding to any criticism apart from the old chestnut of relegating it to the mean green meme.

      You’ll note, too, that like the above inclusion of Eben Pagan, we’re seeing here the ever-expanding brand of integral thought leaders, one product and service after another, slowly diluting itself to the point of nothing.

      1. One of the things I find paradoxical about the integral community (at least defined by Integral Institute and Integral Life) is its weird relationship with appropriately complex thought for complex issues.

        In other new age/positive thinking environments (which this form of integral can loosely be aligned), there are not many claims to complex thought: it largely revolves around “feelings” and the ineffable.

        In integral thought—largely due to Wilber’s historical complexity (accuracy aside)—we see this odd thing where the integral community alludes to complex thought (note how Robb Smith and others claim the community is so very clever and smart), yet often swiftly backs away from it when it occurs in the form of criticism (even within its own ranks), and repeatedly showcases simplistic content.

        I can’t figure out if this is some cunning sleight of hand to privilege AQAL blather, or whether they genuinely don’t know how little they know.

    2. AMP appears to me to be a therapy cult, primarily focused on men displaying heteronormative (aka “real” or “authentic” masculinity) masculine behaviors, especially dominance over women and other men, albeit somewhat more subtle and new agey than say the Promise Keepers.

  1. I have grown to despise the word “authentic” as much as “empower.” And I rarely bother with such sophisticated concepts as “integral” anything, or even “conscious capitalism.” I just call most of it “New-Wage.”

    Eben Pagan… isn’t he the “Man Transformation” guy? And wasn’t “Man Transformation” all about transforming oneself into the type of guy who can get as many women into bed as possible?

    In any case I’m glad to have discovered your work, Joseph. I have a lot of catching up to do. Now I’m off to read about LOHAS and the Indigo Dollar.

      1. Thanks for the link to that chapter. I’ll read that next. In my own (admittedly superficial) recent blog post about the men’s movement I was originally planning to at least do a drive-by snark at the manly seduction community, mentioning Ross “Speed Seduction” Jeffries, who claims that Eben Pagan/David DeAngelo was his protege. But it seemed to be too much of a divergence on an already too-long post. Anyway, I’m glad to see that your work addresses the seduction community in depth, as well as, from what I’ve seen, another faction of manly men that has long interested me: the aggressively ministerial (e.g., Promise Keepers).

        As I said earlier, I have a lot of catching up to do.

  2. wow…aint blogs grand ? great to see gelfer and connie now exchanging “musings” and “keeping the bastards honest”…from across the oceans !

  3. Oh dear.. cringe. Another big splash of Wilberian integral jumping the shark. It’s now up to Integral Review, Integral Leadership Review, and Sean Esborn-Hargen’s SUNY Integral books to keep integral discourse alive: Boulderian integral has left the building. Integral Life is now part of the internet marketing syndicate, which the Salty Droid blog has done useful work documenting, for example here: I wonder, though, if this Devin Wilson kid has gone rogue, or if this has the Integral imprimatur from Ken Wilber etc? At the very least, it conclusively demonstrates they have nothing useful to say about sustainability, the global economic downturn, or poverty.

        1. hmm. the Gafni blind spot is shameful, I agree, although I’ve come across useful articles in JITP. The book series has potential though, as Esbjorn-Hargen’s ‘Integral Ecology’ with Zimmerman is a major work, the only integral book worth bothering with in the last 15 years (and the one I recommend to people wanting to find out about integral- trying to bypass Wilber, sadly!)

          1. Everyone keeps telling me that Esbjörn-Hargen is a smart cookie, but I find it hard to see how anyone genuinely smart can be part of the Wilber Machine (clearly the desire to salvage integral is strong in some people).

  4. Pagan became popular for his books teaching men how to psychologically manipulating women to have sex with them by being an insulting asshole.

    From his book Double Your Dating:

    “[powerful women are] secretly wanting a man that is in control of himself, his reality, and them” (pg 13 of the 2003 edition)

    So much for feminism! Women “really” are secretly wanting to be controlled, not be empowered.

    This goes right along with Integral B.S. (primarily from David Deida, whom Pagan promotes) about being post-feminist.

    In addition, Pagan helped develop some of the most manipulative internet marketing practices on the web. Integral ™ is officially a cesspool of scammers and cult leaders. There are still some wonderful people in the community, but they live on the margins of the community.

  5. oh my gawd..i went along to a david deida based, workshop…supposedly promoting the “sacred” relationship between men and women…it was creepy and promoting predatory/sleazey “relating” from men. we’re going backwards…right into the sludge that cosmic connie called…new-wage…and post feminism ? i don’t think so…

    1. Last year I had a dream in which Deida set me up to co-host a masculinity workshop, for which I got paid a hefty (to me, at least) sum in $50 notes: I was completely freaked that everyone would discover I had sold out.

      I’m sure the conscious capitalists would tell me this is my unconscious acting out my unresolved shadow material with money … which also explains why I don’t have many $50 notes in the first place.

      1. Well money is more plentiful in the shadowy back alleys of society, whether on Wall Street or in the internet marketing Syndicate, so they may have a point there.

        Me, I recently discovered a childhood motivation for why I’m so opposed to corruption when I see it: I recently recalled a disturbing memory from my past where my male childhood friends engaged in abuse of a young girl and I witnessed it but couldn’t get up the nerve to stop it. Being motivated by “shadow” doesn’t necessarily mean neurotic, it can mean speaking up against something that never should have happened and everything that reminds you of it.

  6. “I was completely freaked that everyone would discover I had sold out.”..well you should be…and they would have ! lol…

  7. and yes duff, “shadows” are mighty motivatin and revealin…and for’s never too late to speak up. silence makes us neurotic.

  8. As some of you might know, I am a vocal critic of what I call kennlingus, which meaning should be obvious. I have explored integral capitalism in numerous threads and am currently now exploring alternatives in progressive economics both at my site and at Integral Postmetaphysical Spirituality forum. I found a few comments from Christian Arnsperger’s work relevant, especially since it has appeared at Wilber’s blog and in JITP. For example, this from his essay Integral Economics at the Wilber blog:

    “”It might—to take a hard and sensitive issue—show us that along certain lines of moral or psychodynamic development, Soviet Russia in the 1960s, or Cuba in the 1970s, was clearly superior to the United States of the 2000s in the sense that, for instance, Soviets and Cubans had developed a more communal attitude in some sectors of social life (though by no means in all…) and also that communist principles implied that basic social provisions, lodging, health care, etc., were to be provided freely to all citizens, regardless of their ability to purchase these things on markets—something the less evolved US mentality makes unthinkable.

    1. Thanks, I’ll follow up Arnsperger: always happy to indulge a communist apologetic 😉

      You might also like Žižek’s “In Defense of Lost Causes”: his point is not so much to argue for those lost totalitarian causes of the past, rather “to render problematic the all-too-easy liberal-democratic alternative” (2008, p. 6). Integral capitalism is one of those all-too-easy liberal-democratic alternative.

  9. Do you think the term Integral could be rehabilitated by a perhaps more Aurobindoan renaissance? M. Alan Kazlev proposes an alternative to the current Wilberian integral movement. Here at, Kazlev gives some profound insights into some mishandling of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s original integral message by Wilber.

    1. There are certainly plenty of smart folks who maintain useful employments of “integral” (and plenty of them have written over at Integral World), but I’m not sure if it’s possible to rid the term of the nonsense Wilber has brought to it in recent years.

  10. dude watch out, your link is posted on salty droid, negative people will now come to your blog and comment ridicule.

    1. Um… Jonathan… you’re about ten months behind. We discussed Salty Droid briefly back in January and February. I suspect our host is not particularly distressed about the links. I’m one of those “negative people” frequenting the Droid’s blog.

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