Rationalists should meet Integral Theory

Around 2018 I was actively posting in the rationalist community, I still run the lesswrong slack and I still keep an ear out for things that are going on in the rationality community.  But that’s around the time that something changed for me.

I felt like I was fairly stable in my rationality.  I had read the sequences, superforecasters, how to measure anything, atomic habits and more (2017 book list which continued to be quite long each year since), but there were still plenty of problems in my life.  I had already started researching in the slightly more unusual self help territory, with my general slogan for my behaviour switching from, “is there evidence behind it” to a more general, “well if it works”…

My reading habits were in the categories of business, productivity, relationships, psychology and a little bit of philosophy.  And eventually I stumbled upon “integral theory”.  Doing what I usually do, I picked up books on the topic and devoured them.  Integral theory was funny because it didn’t make sense to me.  This was significant because I considered myself some kind of goddamn genius, reading textbooks for fun and arguing with the smartest people I could find.  But something was wrong here.  Integral theory was not wrong, and it was not yet right either.  It was a giant floating theory that I was building in my head and it didn’t map to reality yet.

As a group organiser myself – my local rationality community (dojos and socials), I did what I do, and I looked up and found the local sydney integral community.  When I met them, they definitely weren’t keenly rational being but they were very friendly and welcoming.  They were patient, understanding and listened to myself and each other in ways that surprised me.  Despite me not knowing integral theory yet, I was joyous and willing to participate because they were so welcoming.

Here is where my journey usually turns off rationalists from a “don’t get sucked into cults” perspective.  I went on a retreat.  I guess it was similar to CFAR however this one was with a focus on personal development.  I heard about it late, and there was a discount on the last ticket.  The retreat turned out to be an intensive experience with 10 participants and 2 facilitators.  

The retreat story is a whole different story but the important part is that suddenly on day 3 of the retreat, integral theory made sense.  The missing piece that I was needing, suddenly fitted in, and integral theory made sense.

(more on that in another post)

That moment was definitely the start of the decay of my ability to communicate clearly.  Within a week, my friends on the slack had freaked out at me, my friends at home had freaked out at me, and it became clear to me that I was having communication difficulties.  After the retreat, I came home with what I would call “strong mindfulness” from a meditative perspective.  I also had a problem where I couldn’t speak so well to what I was experiencing.  The words didn’t quite point to what I intended them to.

I did what I usually do and I contacted a whole bunch of my friends and became incredibly social.  I dropped myself deep into kagan stage 3 – social relational development.  As well as starting to devour books on meditation in an attempt to catch up on what I was missing.  

My book habits turned to psychology, adult development, business leadership, meditation, therapy and spirituality.

It was here in the books about therapy and meditation that I branched into the weird hippie community.  I joined strange dancing groups, and attended a variety of meditation events until I did a whole bunch of self work to get my personal “stuff” more under control.

Turns out that when we talk about the lens that sees it’s flaws, the mind is itself a very biased machine.  But biased in ways that can be improved through meditation, reflection, and other esoteric practices, we can train the parts of the mind to work together in a more integrated way.

Eventually my gibberish subsided and my communication skills improved to such a point where I get very excited when I can’t understand something because I obnoxiously think I’m that good these days that moments of non-understanding point me to people either lying to me or trying to trick me. 

I kept working on my person, on my psyche, developing, processing, tidying, coming to peace with… I already had my cognitive faculty well trained, but rationality never trained my emotional capacity.  I worked on my emotional capacity until I had the confidence to visit any emotional state without being stuck there.  Suddenly my ability to get done what I need to get done, is greatly increased because the emotional baggage of the things I want to do, no longer tie me up.  Which left me with my sensation substrate, the subtle sensations in the body on top of which everything else rests.  I’ve been cleaning that up, and I’ve now come far enough along the journey of clearing out my physical sensations that reality is appearing different to me now.

Now I have more space in my mind.  I have more peace, I have generally positive sentiment to my days, my time, and to everyone I meet.  I have curiosity, I have freedom of mind and most importantly, all of these capacities are not accidental.  I haven’t hit a “good day” and been able to work clearly, I’ve worked my way into a good and clear life.  It’s consistent, every day is a good day.  Every day is a rewarding day.  Every day is an exciting day.

With my time now I work in property, crypto and life coaching, and when I’m not doing that, I host discussion groups, run my rationality group, meditate and have an awesome time.  It’s very easy to coach people when I can now see through their problems like never before (which is a bold claim).

I hope to elaborate in the future on my stepping stones, but some of the resources I have accessed are:

The best starting resource I can recommend on integral theory is http://www.kenwilber.com/Writings/PDF/IntroductiontotheIntegralApproach_GENERAL_2005_NN.pdf followed by the book, “integral spirituality” which somehow was more about psychology than about spirituality.

I am slightly biased here in this post because not only do rationalists need integral, integralists need rationality.  Desperately. And I hope the two mix.

cross posted to lesswrong: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/GuGcyraWpsm4Bi9J3/rationalists-should-meet-integral-theory

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