Why Inner Change Work and Outer Change Work Need Each Other
Societies, cultures, and the individuals and their experiences form a complex web of mutual reinforcements. No one factor is purely a driver. All aspects are both driver and driven (interdependent). In other words, it is not like pool balls in physics, A causes B causes C, etc. Rather it is more like a complex set of feedback loops, what we see in biology. So evolving to the next phase of society means somehow shifting to a different set of dynamically interacting loops. And doing it on the run. Probably with people shooting at us, hopefully only metaphorically.
This means that no matter how hard we work on any one node in the network of feedback loops, the other nodes in the network will continue to reinforce the old patterns. If we do not examine power relationships and social structures, then our organizations for enlightenment will replicate the egotistic, scarcity-driven power relationships of current society. Can it be a coincidence that some of our most important scandals have occurred with some of our most powerful and most creative teachers: Trungpa Rinpoche + Ozel Tenzin, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh/Osho, Genpo Roshi?
On the other hand, if our outer change work does not include a powerful element of inner growth and create a climate in which psychological issues that arise can be addressed, then we may find the most radical anti-hierarchy and anti-structure anarchists imposing their decisions and their tactics on everyone else just as ruthlessly as the Wall Street overlords they detest.
Sometime around the "60s", the industrial machinery driven economy, which itself had supplanted labor and land driven economies, had become so mature that it created the physical infrastructure and educated work force needed for the next stage: a knowledge-driven economy. This knowledge-driven economy that is trying to emerge needs to be able to do two things at once: reward knowledge producers and turn the knowledge totally free for everyone to use and improve on. No society knows how to do this. “Piracy” attempts the first, but neglects the second. “IP” attempts the second, but works against the first. I put both words in quotes because they are both attempts to relate to the next economy in terms of the current economy, not in the next economy's own terms. That trying-to-emerge next economy, our inability to nurture it (and therefore ourselves) properly, and our inability to see that this is what is happening are the key driving factors in the advanced nations since roughly the 1960s. This is the historical context in which Integral has arisen. That is not a coincidence.
Despite the obstacles, the knowledge-based economy has clearly developed enormously during these decades, but in a warped and imbalanced manner. The meta-sangha of inner growth work has also emerged during this time. Meditation, all but eliminated from Western culture during the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation and not so highly regarded there even before that, has become a regular feature of contemporary life. More remarkably, we are starting to see the possibility of inner growth even beyond what our sources from Asia told us about. Specifically, the possibility of being not only an Enlightened no-self, in other words shifting our identification from the self-only to the All-only, but the possibility of bringing that All-only fully into embodiment, fully into form as the All being a specific and quite individuated one (All+one). Second, we are seeing the possibility of the emergence of collective awakenings, of awakened We consciousnesses. Here, Integral provides a clear language for understanding this: there has always been We as seen from the outside and We experienced as an element within an I, but an autonomous We experienced from the inside with we-self-awareness and speaking for itself is something emergent. I apologize for the clumsy word making. The phenomenon has not existed enough in the past for us to have a word for it and "welf-awareness" just will not do.
I do not see yet all the linkages between this emergent We consciousness and the trying-to-emerge knowledge-centered economy, but I intuit that it is not coincidental that both are emerging now. The We consciousness certainly would help serve as an antidote to the atomization fostered by meritocracy and intense competition in the knowledge producer class, especially meritocracy with impaired integrity.
If the ultimate spiritual goal is to be the awakened All-only, that which contains all time and space rather than being contained within them, with no particular connection with any one form, then sitting out on the edge of society is fine. It avoids unnecessary complications.
However, if we want to embody this All as an individuated one, then we must fully digest all of our own personality and social conditioning. (Otherwise, you have a one-only who provides some flashes of the All and is fueled by the All, but who is still basically running programs based on the self-only's illusion of separation.)
All the more so once the All manifesting as a one notices that all the other ones are also the All manifesting as ones, just mostly without the one part being aware of that. For the All in form, the awakening of all ones from the illusion of separation (the illusion of being only the self) is just the natural next phase of the development of the All. It is what All does.
It also makes sense for a more immanent spirituality to emerge at a time when we have more balance between women and men than we had had. This is a fundamentally different attainment from what our Asian predecessors aimed at with their institutions. So for that reason alone, we figure to need new forms of practice, at least new forms of organizing communities of practitioners. A good first guess is that if we are aiming for fully embodied awakening together with many of our fellow practitioners, then forms that are more democratic and more peer-to-peer will be more effective. (Of course, the traditional teacher-student power disparities and transference are potent tools. The guru/lama/zenmaster thing works. But it is also possible that in the end, we will find that as powerful as it is, it is also dangerous. Just as the first wave of Western students of Eastern teachings discovered about LSD.)
If replicating patterns from pre-modern east Asia poses one set of issues, unexamined replication of contemporary Western power patterns poses another set, both at the sangha level and also at the individual level.
The meta-sangha of inner growth work within which Integral arose is basically of what is sometimes called the "creative class". The existing "creative class" produces knowledge, but under the current conditions of blocked emergence. The "creative class" can not come into its own until the knowledge-centered economy does.
The actually existing creative class is in a quite ambiguous position. Within this class, there is a loyalty and dedication to creativity itself and much curiosity and love of learning. For many of us, this is not just what we do, it is who we are. At a personal level, we need knowledge to be unleashed. But creative class members also need to be compensated. So creative class members are and will remain at the very pivot point of the contradiction. Pulled in both directions, like a Jovian moon ground and threshed by tidal forces. The only solution is for the creative class, to which most of us belong, to be the guiding class of a new society, not the flak catchers and high-level clean-up crew of the old one.
There seem to be two futures with two different creative class. In one, the creative class continues to stand apart from and look down on those from the previous classes who work with things. In that future, the creative class becomes the elite of a divided society. In the other future, the creative class widens to include pretty much everyone and creates a society more inclusive than anything imaginable now. One curious thing is that in both futures, the creative class will claim to speak for all. It will present a vision that claims to be inclusive. One of key facts of right now and for Integral in particular is that the creative class has not yet "made up its mind" whether it wants the future in which that will be true or the one in which that will be public relations of the highest order.
Personally, I suspect but can not prove that the basic need of a creative class led society (free flow of information and appropriate compensation too) can not be achieved by a non-inclusive society. Or even if it can, not stably. And I bring this up precisely because the more openly this is discussed, the more likely we will choose the genuinely inclusive future. (Disclosure: That is my preference.) Back to the comparatively dreary present. Under the actually existing dispensation, one of the major tasks of the creative class is to obscure the facts of differential power. To do this, it can sometimes be quite helpful to not see it oneself. This is the reality within which careers must be carved out.
Much more than was the case a generation or two ago, many must carve out creative class careers as individuals. There are not so many of the old escalators, that one climbed onto by joining some company after college, then rode in a fairly stable manner for 30 years. (Medicine might be somewhat of an exception to this.) This subjects creative class members to comparatively constant competition and raises insecurity to a whole new level. The middle class already was the first class in history that had no guarantees about the social status of its offspring. But the creative class does not even have guarantees for itself. This insecurity is further heightened by the formal meritocracy of much knowledge work. The more that the knowledge economy grows within the constraints of the current system, the more misshaped it becomes and the more corrupted. Because direct compensation for the actual social contribution does not exist yet, knowledge must be monetized. This has long affected research topics and how the results of research are used. Research that seem promote use of a drug is disseminated (often in advertisements to people who have not enjoyed the education necessary to properly understand it), but research suggesting dangers in a drug may be hidden.
This means that in many creative fields, too much integrity can be a career liability. The more integrity someone has, the more careful they must be about picking their place within the creative class and the more talent they must have to get away with having integrity. This also means that the most successful within the creative class are a fascinating mix of the most talented and the most unscrupulous. A good example of both sides combined in a single person would be Steve Jobs (as the creator of the iPhone and iPad and as an employer in China). If I am correct and the contradiction between the trying-to-emerge knowledge economy and the still dominant thing economy is continuing to intensify, then the corruption of the current elite and of the creative class that serves it will also intensify. This is no way that this can fail to affect us as individuals and to affect our sanghas and the meta-sangha.
Jessica Yogini is independently curious and persistent. She has been meditating daily for over 30 years and has been blessed to practice with a number of powerful and generous teachers. She is currently a technomad.