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Dangers of models

In writing the aqal review of local organizations, and also talking with a friend yesterday who's very much into integral things, I am reminded of the dangers of Spiral Dynamics, and of any map, framework or model.

As with any map, or sets of ideas, it can be taken as a relative or an absolute truth, it can be used in service of shadow projections, and it can be used with more or less heart and empathy.

Relative and absolute truths

The clearest danger is in taking it as an absolute truth, to mistake the map for the terrain, to put more faith in and emphasis on what the model says rather than what the terrain is doing.

Seeing any map as a relative truth, it becomes a tool of temporary and practical value, an aid for navigating and functioning in the world. There is nothing absolute about it. Just a tool that works more or less well in any given situation. A tool with no inherent value, which can be modified and discarded as needed. It remains secondary to the terrain, to life itself.

Relative truth only: known or realized

One thing is to know this intellectually, that it is a map, a tool, a relative truth only, not absolute in any way. Another is to live from that realization.

Knowing intellectually that it is only a tool, I can still use it as a weapon. I can use it to cut others down, to affirm right and wrong views, to build up and preserve a particular identity, to see myself as right and others as wrong, to see myself as better and others as less good, to see myself as more evolved and others as less evolved, to divide the world into neat categories, to make the world into simple abstractions I can easily analyze and think I am right.

When it is realized more fully as a tool only, it becomes transparent. It becomes a thin, transparent veil of abstractions placed on top of the world. It can not so easily be used as a weapon because it is so clearly not substantial.

Shadow projections

Any map can also be used to affirm an identity. To split the world into I and Other, and us and them. To neatly divide the world into right and wrong. To build up, maintain and protect a particular identity.

Spiral Dynamics can be used to make me right and more evolved, and (some) others wrong and less evolved. It can be used to attack people who carry my shadow, such as the mean meme folks at any level.

To me, it seems that Ken Wilber does this, in particular towards the mean green meme and those he sees as living from this. He seems to have a personal hangup about them. A need to put them in place. To distance himself from them. To prove that he sees it more clearly than them. To thoroughly beat them up intellectually.

This is of course a projection from my side, because I certainly know this from myself. I did it when I wrote the aqal review of local organizations, and daily in many other ways. It is a partly blind and partly seen projection.

And my own projection is independent on whether it happens for KW as well. Acknowledging my own projection here does not say that it does or does not exist for him as well.

Still, other than seeing KWs attacks on the mean green meme as a partly blind shadow projection on his part, I cannot find any reasonable explanation for it (which does not mean that there isn't one).

It seems that his strategy only serves to alienate folks at the green level, to push them away from any interest in an integral framework. I may be wrong here, but my limited understanding of the second tier is an ability to meet people where they are at, and using a language they understand.

Also, why focus the attack on the mean green meme, when that one is relatively harmless compared to the mean amber and blue? Again, if the purpose is to help people beyond green into second tier, then meeting them at where they are at seems far more effective. And enjoyable.

Not ready?

On a related topic:

My friend seems to think that only a handful of people locally, maybe 10 (of nearly 200,00 people!), would be interested in learning about a more integral approach, so why even bother doing any form of outreach? I guess this is based on the statistics of how many are at second tier levels.

To me, this again is an example of where attachment to a map can cloud clearer seeing. Everything becomes filtered through the model, in spite of what the world itself may tell us.

I personally find that lots of people are interested in hearing about it, because the aqal model is really just a practical tool.

And as long as there is just a little opening towards acknowledging the usefulness of the four quadrants and the levels and lines of development, then there is interest. To me, it seems that nearly everybody seem to have this opening, unless - in very rare cases, there is a strong attachment to an ideology which excludes either some of the quadrants or any idea of human development.

I know people that would be considered amber in SD, Christian fundamentalists, who would be open for it. And people at orange who are interested. And certainly lots of people at green. Anybody who wants to explore tools and maps that are practical and pragmatic would be interested, and most do.

So to me, it seems cynical to assume that the aqal model is only of interest to a very small segment of the population. It seems that as with SD itself, it can be - at least intellectually - understood and used by folks at almost any level. It can become a useful tool for just about anyone at any level.

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  • Anonymous Sean says so:
    10/01/2006 01:58:00 PM  

    One reason for outreach is that these models can be practical. Perhaps a person or group may not be interested in the spiritual dimensions or higher levels of development, but may still find element of a given model useful.

    For example, I'm slowly developing a model for Integral Design (mostly in my head at this point). Designers, especially industrial designers already look at many different perspectives and levels of development. Currently there is no larger model to hold all these perspectives, so the industrial design "world" focuses on one perspective or set of perspectives at a time, then jumps to the next idea almost like a fad.

    Aspects of AQAL seem to be a perfect fit to hold all of these perspectives, although the ranking of relative importance still seems tough. If the model is useful in organizing what designers already use, the heightened awareness of relationships between perspectives might naturally push folks up the spiral. top

  • Blogger . . . says so:
    10/01/2006 04:47:00 PM  

    > One reason for outreach is that these models can be practical.

    Hi, Sean. Yes, exactly. It seems that the aqal model, in some form, can be of interest to and used by almost anybody, not just those at second tier (if we even know what that means).

    Design seems a natural fit for the aqal model (since it already involves pattern awareness and holding of a large number of considerations.) top