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Integral Ethics Part II: Money


Dec 17th I will be hosting the second in a multi-part discussion on Integral Ethics. My invite is below. For more details and to join us look here:

Integral Ethics Series

Integral Theory helps us hold multiple perspective; still, decisions must be made and actions taken. In that regard, one question remains largely unanswered, “does an integral worldview impose any moral imperatives?” Postmodernity, taken to the extreme, makes all perspectives equal. Integral includes honoring the relative truth of all perspectives but also reintroduces ranking. An integral perspective does not pretend that all actions are equally loving and good for the kosmos. No matter how many perspectives we honor in theory, we end up embodying the ones that we find ethical and act accordingly. The question is whether or not integral consciousness will tend to foster certain behaviors over others. Does integral have normative potential?

This Months Topic

This month we will look at how holding an integral perspective impacts our relationship to money. Throughout the ages money has been imbued with all manner of value. We live in a world where money is required for the vast majority of our activities and endeavors. From basic survival to the utmost luxury very little happens without an exchange of money. Inescapably money has become the most coveted of all acquisitions and the most condemned of all evils. Some have gone as far as to call it ”the root of all evil.

A more nuanced approach to money ethics might point out that money, in and of itself, is value neutral. It is the thoughts, feelings, actions, products, and services that are done in the name of money that can be considered as more or less loving, more or less damaging, and more or less ethical. Moreover each of us in the modern world can be said to have two primary relationships with money: how we earn it and how we spend it. An integral approach to money ethics should explore both. There may well come a time when our entire monetary system is replaced, but for now and as long as money remains the universal way in which the we quantify exchanges, any attempts to live with more integrity must include an honest and rigorous evaluation of our relationship to it.

Has learning integral theory caused you to re-evaluate your work? Has attempting to embody the concepts that Ken Wilber and others expound changed the ways that you spend your hard earned money? And should it? These are but the beginnings of a deep exploration into the Integral Ethics of Money.  




Integral Ethics Part 1: Food

Nov 19th I will be hosting the first of a multi-part discussion on Integral Ethics. My invite is below. For more details and to join us look here:  

Integral Ethics Series

Integral Theory helps us hold multiple perspective; still, decisions must be made and actions taken. In that regard, one question remains largely unanswered, “does an integral worldview impose any moral imperatives?” Postmodernity, taken to the extreme, makes all perspectives equal. Integral includes honoring the relative truth of all perspectives but also reintroduces ranking. An integral perspective does not pretend that all actions are equally loving and good for the kosmos. No matter how many perspectives we honor in theory, we end up embodying the ones that we find ethical and act accordingly. The question is whether or not integral consciousness will tend to foster certain behaviors over others. Does integral have normative potential?

This Months Topic

An integral approach to the ethics of eating means considering everything from personal well being to tribal connectivity to planetary ecology to economic feasibility when making food choices. Food is one area where we do not have a clear scientific consensus on best practices. Facts will continue to be presented in an endless process of discovery. It is the values we place upon this objective data that determines our ethics. We each hold cultural and social norms which vary wildly depending on tradition, region, religion, class, education, generation and socioeconomic means. Personal preferences change with the seasons and with the years.

In days past religious laws from Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism all imposed dietary restrictions that were passed down from above and largely accepted. Contemporary eaters consider food being local vs. imported, organic vs. conventional vs. GMO, vegan, vegetarian, dairy or gluten-free and on and on. We each make our own decision based on tradition, law, reason, instinct and intuition.

You have likely been asked many times whether or not you feel a moral imperative to limit your consumption of meat. Have you had dog on your plate this year? How about cow? Do you support your local farmer? How about when dining out, at holidays or as a guest at someone else’s home? We each have ideals. We also have practical limits and exceptions to these ideals. Have you taken a hard stance dietarily? Did it stick? Have you recanted?

We all talk about the gap between theory and embodiment. The decisions we make and the ethics by which we make them are our personal statements, our theory embodied. While we vote for the president once every four years, we wield great power daily when we make food choices. This discussion will not be about judging one another. It will be about letting ourselves be a little bit vulnerable so that we can learn from and share with one another. Integral theory does not judge people as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but can it help us to assess actions and ideas as more or less loving? Does this not have have normative potential?

All of these questions and many more will be ‘on the table’ as we attempt to come up with an Integral Ethics of Eating.

(For a bit of background on how nutritional science plays into my ethics and coaching read my post here. – Devin)




A Heart Blown Open

A Heart Blown Open
The Life and Practice of Zen Master Jun Po Denis Kelly Roshi
by Keith Martin-Smith
Anytime I can open a book and the first two words I see are Zen and LSD I am intrigued. When said book happens to be about a Zen master hedonist with an incredibly checkered past who was has spent time in prison, modeling on a runway, made millions manufacturing LSD for people such as the Grateful Dead, is deeply versed in integral theory, friends with Ken Wilber, an abuse survivor, yogi, true iconoclast and by all accounts a fearless seeker who consistently refused to accept setbacks as a limiting factor along his journey; I’m enthralled. This is the true life story of one Jun Po Denis Kelly Roshi recently wrestled into book form by Keith Martin-Smith.
I have known about Jun Po (I’ll pick that section of his name for the post) for years via the world of Integral. He is a Zen master in the Rinzai tradition who has developed his own accelerated version of Rinzai which he calls Mondo Zen. If we go with the notion that a dedicated student on the Rinzai path often takes 20-30 years to be recognized as an adept or enlightened master, it is speculated that Mondo Zen may be able to cut that by 5 years. Neat, and a wonderfully exciting idea. More importantly Mondo efforts to integrate aspects of shadow work that traditional Zen dangerously overlooks. We all know the stories of the spiritual leader who got into trouble sleeping with a student. Jun Po is one of them. He speaks of it candidly so that we may all benefit from it. Speaking from the heart with the type of audacity that doesn’t flinch at the idea of updating 12th centurey Japanese tradition is exactly the kind of iconoclastic attitude that Jun Po brought to most every aspect of his life.
Raised and abused by a misguided alcoholic father. A high school drop out. A heavy drug user and the creator of multiple failed marriages Jun Po also consistently displayed a fierce work ethic and unwavering determination to step outside of the limitations that life seemed to be handing him. It would be hard to call his life charmed. It would be much harder to call it dull or lifeless. He succeeds only through dragging himself through adventures that would send most people back home to the familiarity and security of a more rote life.
This is why this book is an inspiration to me. Jun Po’s life is the classic american story with a spiritual finale. Yes, he went from rags to riches, but that’s the beginning of the tail. After that is where things really begin to get interesting. While his is perhaps not the kind of life we might seek for ourselves or hope for our children, tucked directly inside each of the fumbles and hurdles that he moves through is a sense of possibility, wonder and openness to exploration that I think we could all learn quite a bit from.
I also really respect the openness with which someone such as Jun Po talks about his drug use and how it led him to find more stable ways of accessing the peak experiences that he glimpsed through altered states. It seems to be a little discussed truth that a very large percentage of the westerners who spend significant amounts of time on a meditation cushion owe a not so small part of their inspiration and insight into what a human being is capable of to psychedelics. I am one of those people. Any wise being recognizes quite quickly that substances alone are a paltry excuse for growth and transformation. But, as Aldous Huxley proclaimed quite loudly, the doors of perception can be cracked open amazingly quickly with a little chemical assist. From there we can spend decades learning to replicate and surpass the initial glimpse that psychedelics offer. Like everything else in his life, Jun Po jumped into the world of altered states head first, smacked his head on the bottom, did a bit of damage, but then managed learning both how to swim and how to teach others. It is this unflagging determination to self correct that I think we can benefit from emulating.
Laughing out loud, check. A gasp of breath, check. Tears streaming down my cheeks, check. A sly knowing smirk and a giggle of recognition, check². Crazy tales of supernormal powers, check. My full heartfelt recommendation, duh.
Oh, and enlightenment, this is a story of enlightenment. A fierce and unrelenting chase, many dark alleyways, many brightly lit fields and more than a few gloriously unexpected exaltations.




Nutritional Science Sucks

(What follows was offered to lay some groundwork for Integral Salon discussions that I led in Asheville, NC and New York City on the ethics of eating)
As an ‘integralist’ do you feel the need to limit your consumption of animal products?
One of the decisions that we all make many times a day is whether or not to eat animal products. Clearly an integral approach to this topic becomes very complicated very quickly. For each of us this means considering everything from personal well being to tribal connectivity to the planetary ecology to economic feasibility. I am truly interested in hearing a myriad of perspectives on this topic. The many ways that others choose to answer this question is something that I want to learn from and allow to inform my own ongoing decisions regarding what I am and am not going to choose to foster in myself and the world with my food choices.
One perspective from which to view this decision which I have invested a lot of my own time and energy into understanding is personal health. I am a certified holistic health counselor, an integral life practice coach and a self proclaimed growth and transformation enthusiast. Because of this I am at a point where the scientific arguments for why vegan, vegetarian or omnivorous diets are more or less healthy are no longer compelling to me. To be honest, for me, these are some of the least interesting lines of reasoning I think we could discuss. Let me explain why.
In my view, there may be no worse science than nutritional science. If we define science as ‘a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject’ then it becomes readily apparent to me that, when it comes to nutrition, we are perhaps as far from a consensual scientific understanding of what to eat and why as we have ever been in history. I could get into disasters such as the USDA food pyramid, fad diets or any other numbers of food trends. I won’t. What I want to illuminate is the underlying flaw in any and all attempts to create a prescriptive dietary system divorced from ones subjective experience of food.
When attempting to make definitive statements about what should or should not be part of a human beings healthy diet there are not very many things that can be said with any real authority. For nearly every piece of ‘science’ that is published there seems to exist a clearly contradictory argument of equal scientific rigor. A vegan diet prevents disease. An animal based diet prevents disease. A raw diet cures diabetes. I have heard world renowned experts speak on all three of these views with reams of objective evidence to back their claims.
Depending on the day of the week, the trend at the moment and the scientific studies that are currently getting funded we have gone from knowing that butter is a staple food, to demonizing it, to being split on it’s place in a ‘good’ diet. Margarine anyone? Corn-fed vs. pasture raised cow butter? We have gone from loving fat, to demonizing all fat, to demonizing saturated fat, to now focusing on trans-fat. We have been told that dietary calcium can help prevent osteoporosis, arthritis and hip fractures to evidence that it is a leading cause of all of these things. Cane sugar has gone from being good to evil and back a number of times while artificial sugar substitutes have gone from being neutral on the glycemic index to being equal to the sugar they replace. We have been told that whole foods supply all that we need to being told that supplemental vitamins are part of a healthy diet to being told that vitamins make my pee worth more than fine wine to being told that it depends on hundreds of factors about the vitamin, when you take it, what you have eaten, whether or not you chew before you swallow it to what your blood levels were at the time you took it. Fat free on a label is a good or bad thing? How about sugar-free? These are shifting tides in the popular debate, but the clinical research being done is no less contradictory. Look up the evils and glories of fiber. You can do the same for whole grains, milk, cooked food and yes, animal protein. While I do believe that from a broad enough perspective we are inching ever closer to a science of food, following the leading edge is clearly no way to make decisions.
It is incredibly hard to find a scientific study for which a contradictory study has not been published. If you think you just read one, wait 10 minutes and check again. Why is this?
The bulk of nutritional science, like most western medical science, is based on the assumption that there is something static that exists which can reasonably and functionally be called a human being. As far as relative classifications go this term has all kinds of day to day use in both theoretical and intellectual debate. When it comes to our attempts thus far to create a conclusive body of information that can inform individual dietary decisions we are in a quagmire. While the term ‘human being’ has a degree of relative truth and therefore function no one thing called a ‘human being’ exists. Never has. Not only are we all different, we all change constantly. Yes we know that Vitamin C is connected to scurvy and a number of other basic dietary principles. Beyond these little is conclusive, certainly not enough to inform my moment to moment food choices. Mostly a concept such as this simply helps me to understand why, in a world of abundance, sometimes I crave citrus.
Here’s a quick list of things often taken into account when giving an individual dietary advice:
Genetic makeup
Weight (current and desired)
Sensitivities (gluten tolerance, lactose tolerance etc.)
Geographic location (tropics? Arctic?)
Time of year (seasonal food needs)
Time of day
Blood type
Activities (at a desk all day or rock climbing)
Previous meals (today, yesterday ad infinitum)
Bacterial levels (good and bad)
Enzymatic presence
Ayurvedic type
Current mood (desired mood?)
Emotional connection to food you are about to eat
PH levels (tendency towards an acid system?)
Sun exposure
Insulin resistance
What those near you are currently eating (surprisingly important)
–The list could go on. The point is that ALL current scientific studies ignore most or all of these. They assume they are simply studying ‘human beings’.
The simple truth is that there are just far too many factors that science can not possibly take into account for me to take seriously any of the current attempts at being scientific about food choices. Everything from who you are to where you are to what you are trying to cultivate must be included. Our scientific approaches at this point are just too simplistic to be of very much use. They inform my decisions, but they still leave a lot on the table so to speak. So, have I just dragged you into a crippling deconstruction of terms and practices that leaves you mired in fear, confusion and doubt? Not at all. There is actually a very simple solution.
More than doctors, scientists, nutritionists, health counselors, gurus, your mother and certainly me, there is one person on this planet who knows exactly what you should eat. You. You are the only one, whether you currently trust it or not. You always have been and, for the foreseeable future, always will be. The body knows. This is what animals seems to grok. This is what I teach my clients. This is what we can all learn to recapture over time. This is why I want to talk to you about eating animals. There is no greater authority on your dietary needs than you. So I am intensely curious how you go about making this decision.
Yes, I have studied over 100 dietary theories. Yes I continue to read about studies on food ‘science’. Yes there are experts and approaches that seem to contain more truth than others. Yes at times I play with diets. But above all else I experiment on my self every single day with every single meal and whether you are conscious of it or not so do you. What worked for me when I was twelve may not work for me today. What I needed this morning I likely don’t need this afternoon. Tomorrow is an unknown. My digestive system is in constant flux. My mind, my body, my emotions, my subtle energy systems, no matter what I conceptualize, the only constant is change. Sometimes I want to cultivate 6th chakra insights. Sometimes I want to stoke my 3rd chakras digestive fire. Sometimes I want to ramp up my 2nd chakra and have raw animal sex. Sometimes I want to feel grounded in my 1st chakra. Sometimes I want to open my 4th chakra and feel connected to those around me. Sometimes it is a 7th chakra transpersonal awareness I want to cultivate. Sometimes I want my 5th chakra to open up so I can better express my voice. Sometimes I am sick and need to cleanse. Sometimes I am in a tropical climate and need to cool off. I can have an impact on any one or an infinite combination of these factors with my food choices. Can you tell me which diet I should choose to be healthy? I can. The fun part is that our awareness of how food affects us grows ever subtler by the moment when we place our consciousness there. But first we must stop assuming that someone else is going to figure it out for us. As long as we are paying attention we are learning. What may seem scary at first becomes truly joyous with time.
So, where did all this start? Eating animals. Eating animals of certain qualities and quantities at certain times can make me feel strong, grounded, connected to the earth, in tune with my family, inline with my cultural heritage, in touch with the cycle of life and death, masculine, sated, grateful, engaged, alive as well as tired, destructive, angry, confused, greedy, selfish, wasteful, disconnected from the cycle of life and death and just plain sad.
Whether or not I eat animal flesh is a decision I will be faced with in every meal I eat going forward. While all of the complexity above is part of my rational understanding of what to eat, the truth is that my dietary decisions are generally much more instinctive and intuitive than anything else. I trust my body. It knows what I need. But I also trust my friends. How do you make these decisions?





I recently became an Executive Producer. Stuart Davis reached out looking for some help with season two of his show Sex, God, Rock ‘n Roll and I jumped at the opportunity to get involved.

He’s a freak of the highest caliber. I first heard about Stuarts music through Integral Naked, now Integral Life. He’s a long time friend of Ken Wilber and a ‘twisted mystic poet’ who writes, paints, sings and eventually started making his own TV show. An earlier version starred three versions of Stu bickering with one another. The newest iteration has him co-hosting with the gorgeous Kandyse McClure who all Battlestar Galactica fans will certainly recognize. Check it out now on HDNet.

Every episode talks about guess what? Sex. God. Rock n Roll. It’s ridiculous, irreverent and brilliant. I’m proud to have played my little part in bringing it to the world.



Good News

How do you feel about the state of the world today?

Do you have hope for the future? Are you enamored with the present? What kind of momentum are you aware of? Do you think that your awareness has any effect on what is happening in the world? How about in your life? How about your mood?

Years ago I swore to myself that I would take control of the information that enters my mind and the value that I assign to it. This means applying my own filters to the news and information that I ingest and purposely seeking out sources whose filters I respect to provide such information for me.

For much of my young life I was depressed. I felt crushed by the weight of the world and what I saw as my inability to have anything resembling a positive impact on it. Everywhere I looked I saw suffering and the tides appeared too great to stem. Eventually I began to consider the ways in which I create my experience of the world. It started to become clear that health and happiness can be a choice and that such a choice begins with attempting to cultivate hope and a sense of empowerment while disallowing myself to wallow in despair over things that I felt powerless about. The information that I allow into my mind feeds my thoughts. To state the obvious: My experience of the world is dependent entirely on what information I feed my senses. Depending on the ‘news’, certain ideas flourish while others wilt.

In my mind, what the situation calls for is careful selection of the views and actions that we want to cultivate. Yes, I think that it can be incredibly damaging to watch the evening news and feel that you are informed. For many this experience is crippling. To sit and witness tragic events which we have little or no control over is a powerful and potentially soul crushing experience. The world takes on a tragic hue when news is harvested through the lens of sensationalism and sound bites that much of modern media relies on to keep us watching. When seen in this light and without an understanding of the positive impact that you and others can have on the situation the experience can be paralyzing.

But the world is full of people doing amazing things.

And the people reporting on such things are many. Consciousness is evolving. The world changes daily. Cultivating an awareness of the way in which things continue to go right is a choice. In every moment we exercise an immense power when we direct our focus and channel our resources in one direction over another.

Think that smart people aren’t doing good things for one another?
Ode is full of stories of succesful, intelligent optimism at work.

We don’t need to know in advance what we will do with any of this information. The idea here is not that things are figured out in advance. What I attempt to do is to cultivate hope in my life; to allow room for faith to creep in. As I do so I notice that my thoughts start to be filled more with visions of what I can create and less with ruminations of what I hate. I am trying to use my words less to denounce that which I despise and more for spreading the things I want to see flourish. In doing so my actions begin to become slowly more aligned with my deepest values, and my experience of the world more of a celebration and less of a drowning.

At times I do feel that it is important to watch Fox, NBC, CBS, ABC etc. simply to understand what their focus is and how the world is being packaged and distributed by conventional news channels. But doing so for me is a very different experience than in my childhood when I simply watched and felt as if what I was seeing was the truth about the state of the world. Sure there is truth in everything that they show. I do not mean to deny this. But in this modern (post-modern…whatever) world, perspective is primary. The fact that we can now witness genocide on another continent is, believe it or not, an incredibly positive thing. We now stand poised to act in anyone’s defense. These atrocities are not new to this age. I do not see them as a sign of a world gone wrong. And bearing witness to these events is the seed of future action to correct them. But by turning our cameras so heavily on the bad things that are distant we create the impression in ourselves that this is what the world is made of. Since we have more access to the happenings in the world than ever before it is as easier than ever to find violence. But the same is true for love!

Feel like spirituality got lost somewhere along the way?

Find out how people are co-creating more integrated approaches.

The amazing thing is that I live in a city of 8 million people that is incredibly safe and peaceful. In times past tribal feuds were the norm. Small groups of people would clash whenever they came near. In parts of the world where civilization has happened the quickest hundreds of millions of people now live in relative peace with our neighbors. This is an astounding fact by yesterdays standards. The fact that we can even worry about the well being of people in Africa says an immense amount about how far we have come. These United States have been filled with slavery and genocide and war and the subjugation of women and children in years not too far in our past. But we have grown immensely, and I do not think that these things will happen again. I see the same progress taking place in other places, though perhaps at a different pace. But allowing myself to see the world this way has been an effort.

The internet is a powerful tool for information sharing, but our options are daunting, so our choices must be full of a carefully chosen intent.

Worried about the state of the environment?

Find out about breakthroughs in the science of sustainability daily.

Where does your information come from?

This does not mean putting your fingers in your ears and skipping around singing ‘la-la-la-la-la’ and just hoping that somehow things work ok. This is about cultivating that which you want to see flourish in yourself and the world around you starting with the things that are simplest and closest. What does your mind hunger for? We are what we eat. I think that this includes our minds. The information that we choose to feed ourselves is transformed into the thoughts in our head, the words in our mouth and the actions that define our lives and the lives of those around us.

Yes, we need to witness the horrors that others perpetrate so that they can be stopped. The world is full of need and this need can manifest as violence and hate. But from my perspective these things are lessening as the years pass. I look out and I see a world where, even though there are places where this is not yet the norm, in general, there is less slavery than there has ever been in the past. Women have more rights in most of the world than they ever have in the past. Children are treated better in the world than they ever have been in the past. And the ability for people to communicate and share resources is growing exponentially. But before we can save the world, we must be sure that we are being careful with ourselves. This means nourishment and careful choosing of our experiences.

Having made these rather bold statements about how wonderful the world is, I also agree that we stand on a precipice. Our power as a species is huge. We have never before held such capacity for change. There is no guarantee that we will learn to use our technology as we must quickly enough. There is no guarantee that we will learn to hold one another and the this earth with the gentleness that is required for a sustainable and equitable path to be tread; one that verges away from many of the trodden patterns that consumerism has wrought. But I am hopeful. And when I choose to look in the right directions, I see many, many others who are hopeful as well. And they are doing amazing things; things that we would all be better off witnessing and learning from.

Of course, we will never control all of the information that we ingest. To attempt to do so would be crippling and isolating. What I am describing is more about recognizing the control that you already exert, and attempting to bring more consciousness into each decision. We give an idea power when we repeat it. The simple act of looking at an image creates a reverberation in our own body/mind that stimulates sympathetic frequencies with profound impact for the tone and timbre of the life we manifest. Let’s choose to echo the actions of people we respect and admire. One way to start is simply seeking this information out by upgrading our daily news feed.

One piece of advice: It took me far too long to realize that it is not about what I don’t watch (for me evening news) it is more about what I do watch. Much like with your diet, I would recommend focusing on what you should ingest and let this crowd out the things that you want to move away from. Simply focusing on removing the negative creates a vacuum, a negative space that will be filled by what your are familiar with. But to seek out good news is a gift you can give yourself daily. So why not allow a little optimism to creep in? It’s out there if you are looking for it.



Does Conscious Capitalism = Integral Business?

A while back I got engaged in a discussion on Conscious Capitalism on the Yahoo iNYCs forum. Russ Volckmann of the Integral Leadership Review was lurking in the background of that conversation and upon reading what I wrote asked me if I would be interested in writing an article for the October issue of the ILR. I was and I did.

My basic premise is that many in the Integral community, but also in spiritually awake communities at large, seem to have an allergy to for profit business. There is a shadow that lurks in many that leaves them expressing a sense of distrust with those who are running large corporations and also a hesitance to engage the world in a way that will earn them wealth. The population at large has a sense of non-profits as serving the social good and for profit companies as feeding off of society for selfish gain.

As I’ve mentioned before when talking about FLOW, if we are going to steer this ship of humanity towards mutual flourishing it seems obvious to me that large corporations are going to have to play a huge part. So, given the option of demonizing them or engaging their potential to heal the world, I choose to focus on the latter. In general, given the option to put energy into preventing what I don’t want in the world versus putting my efforts into creating what I do want, I certainly try to spend most of my time generating positive movement.

Check out my article here:



Integral Circumcision?

Recently my friend Gilles and I took over responsibility for organizing the NYC Ken Wilber Meetup group. This is a group of people that have been getting together once or twice a month for the past 5-6 years to discuss an incredibly wide array of topics using Integral Theory as a lens. For the past 3-4 years this group has been run by Barbara Larisch. It was decided that she needed a break to focus on other things, so Gilles and I took the reins.

This is an amazing group of incredibly diverse people who are all surprisingly intellectually, emotionally and spiritually awake. The conversations are all over the map ranging from books written by Ken to politics, psychology, religion; I led a meetup recently on drugs and one a while back on money. We had one a few weeks ago on pathology. The next topic we will be tackling is circumcision. Read Gilles writeup below:

For our next Integral conversation, we choose to tackle a delicate topic—the survival of surgical ritualistic practices that involve cutting a piece of an infant’s or child’s body, such as the circumcision of (baby) boys and girls. Let’s see where the Integral approach leads us. From an Integral standpoint, circumcision is a fascinating study case. For different reasons, all symbolic (e.g., rites of passage to adulthood, reinforcement of gender differences, display of ethno-religious identity, and various combinations of the above), cultures as distant as the Egyptians and the Aborigines enforced practices which entailed ablation of the foreskin, sub-incision into the urethra, bleeding and/or tooth pulling for boys, clitoridectomy and/or labial reduction for girls, just to name a few. While these practices emerged in Purple and Red societies, some survived, if not flourished in some Blue cultures. This is typically the case of male circumcision among Jews and Muslims, and female circumcision in parts of the Islamic world. Surprisingly, both male and female circumcision reappeared in Victorian England, with a unconcealed goal: to hinder masturbation among youths and prevent the many disorders that allegedly ensued from it. While female circumcision was quickly abandoned, the practice of male circumcision spread in English speaking countries, particularly in the United States (with the help of the famous Dr. Kellogg). Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, studies in the US confirmed the numerous health advantages of circumcision on newborn males. Overall, medical studies are contradictory, and male circumcision is not recommended anywhere outside the US (in fact, since 1999, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have stopped advocating this procedure). Today, male circumcision for medical and/or aesthetic reasons appears to be a distinctive feature of American society, apart from religious circumcision in Jewish and Muslim cultures.

Wikipedia lists male circumcision as “circumcision” but female circumcision as “female genital cutting/mutilation.” Western countries are unanimously outraged by the practices of female genital mutilation still enacted in some parts of the Muslim world. On the other hand, newborn male circumcision, despite an increasingly vocal anti-circumcision movement, remains widely accepted. Why? Interestingly, male circumcision—a medical routine or ritual practiced by integrally informed rabbis—has not yet been openly discussed by Integral thinkers.

How do integral thinkers hold circumcision in the grand scheme of the Integral framework? What is the sacred meaning, role, and value of this ritual at a Turquoise level of cultural development? At the same time, why is male circumcision accepted, if not praised, in Integral circles, while all other rituals of a similar nature (be they imposed on boys or girls) are deemed cruel and immoral? Why are some practices acceptable and others not? And most importantly, what are the cultural assumptions that determine our moral choices, be we for it or against it?

Why has cutting an infant’s body (without the infant’s consent obviously) for symbolic or (disputed) health reasons not been investigated Integrally? We think it’s about time. Let’s open up into a multi-textured, many flavored discourse. All points of view welcome. All perspectives honored. Discernment, authenticity, and tact are encouraged. Let us remember also that, from an Integral standpoint, problems (and solutions!) emerge from all four corners of the AQAL map, and that “transcend and include” is the only acceptable resolution. We invite you to join us in this discussion, which, without a doubt, promises to be passionate, heated at times, fascinating, and testing the very edge of our Integral consciousness.

The meetups are open to all. Head over to the site, sign-up, and come check one out.



Integral Drugs – Just Say Yes?

I will be leading a discussion on drugs at the next NYC Ken Wilber Meetup. We will be exploring drugs and drug use through the lens of Integral Philosophy. My writeup for the event is below. More details can be found here:

What is a drug? Why do we break laws to obtain some, are medically prescribed others, minimally aware of yet others and in ways a bit scared of them all? From heavy handed states of overwhelm to routine daily doses that are meant to make us feel normal, we use drugs in more ways than we often acknowledge. Societal norms, social circle expectations, our own internal chemistry, physiology, mood swings, shadow, spirit; all of these things and many more must be addressed in order to look at drugs and drug use from an integral perspective. Join us as we explore our relationships with and ideas about drugs in an attempt to come to a more holistic embrace of drugs and the roles that they play in our lives, religions, evolution, relationships, jobs, morals and general sense of well being.

The truth is that drug use has been a part of human life for as long as we have information. The likelihood of this changing is very slim. Yet, like other constants such as sex, there exists both an intense draw and deep dark shadows. Many claim to have had great awakenings, insights and inspiration through drug use. Others seem to be attempting an escape from reality or to just subtly dull the experience. Some of our greatest art was created with drugs. Some of these artists died at the hands of the same drugs. For some drug use is a medical necessity that their body or society demands. Many drugs blend into the baseline of our days in an almost symbiotic relationship, filling gaps as they arise, supplementing the basic systems of our body/mind in a way that both enables and cripples us, at times without our conscious recognition of their presence.

What is an Integralite to do? Try everything? Avoid them at all costs? Begin drawing lines in the sand? How do we navigate the sea of choices and what are the potential costs and benefits of doing so? Join us for a guided conversational exploration of the many faces of drugs. Sobriety optional.