Update: His Ph.D. thesis is here. And a pdf copy is below.

Mark has been cited more in this forum than probably any other source. I even started a few threads about some of his work but he deserves one in this room. The following are various posts from those threads and others where he is prominently mentioned. Again there is no rhyme or reason to the order, nor are posts or comments identified, again being the 'property' of this open source forum. As always if you need to identify the source they're easy enough to find.

In researching intersubjectivity and Mark Edwards I found the Institute for Integral Studies and Mark's blog on altitude sickness. Following is an excerpt. Sound familiar from our recent discussions?

As with all lenses the altitude lens is subject to different kinds of truncations and reductionisms. I call these reductionisms the varieties of altitude sickness and, in a spirit of playful finger-pointing, I will briefly describe a few of these here:

1. Lens absolutism: This is the general problem of relying solely on one lens to explain vertical development.

2. Stagism: This is where all developmental capacity is thought to be function of the whole-of-system movement from one stage to another. This ignores the evidence that incremental learning and evolutionary process can result in transformative development.

3. Developmentalism: This is the view that transformative change is the result of changes in an individual’s own structures rather than the structures that exist in their social and material surrounds.

4. Immediatism: This is the lack of awareness of the role of mediation in vertical development. For example relying on Piagetian models of structural change to the exclusion of Vygotskian ones.

5. Pigeon-hole(ism): This is the tendency for stage-based theorists to assume that those who are critical of stage-based models are relativists.

6. Vertical co-dependency (student variety): This is the assumption that only those at a higher stage can teach those from lower stages.

7. Vertical co-dependency (teacher variety): This is the assumption that those at a lower developmental stage need to be taught by those from a higher developmental level.

8. Communal altitudism: This is the assumption that a community of the adequate can only be constituted by those of requisite altitudinal level.

9. Individual altitudism: This is the view that you must know the altitude of your critic to judge whether their criticism is valid or not.

10. Altitude metricism: This is the seriously mistaken view that we need to be able to measure the altitude of individuals to be able to help them develop.

11. Lack of oxygenism: This is the syndrome of delusional symptoms that the human mind suffers from when it reaches a certain altitude.

12. Altitudinal fascism: This is the illness that besets a country when those who wish to take or maintain political power view all of its history in terms of the stage-based development of an elite group.

13. Altitudinal collectivism: This is the illness that besets a country when those who wish to take or maintain political power rationalise any action in terms of the stage-based development of the collective.

14. Altitudinal leaderism: This is the assumption that we need enlightened leaders to have enlightened communities.

And the following is an excerpt from Edwards' 6/2/10 blog:

"I don't see Wilber's AQAL as an integral model of development because it does not use these three lenses [stage, mediation, learning] but only the stage-based lens (sometimes in conjunction with other AQAL lenses).

"To unwrap this a little let's take the student-teacher relationship as an example. From the stage-based view the teacher is at a higher level and the student is at a lower level. The relationship is one of expert to apprentice. There is a qualitative difference in their identities such that the student does not understand what the teacher is taking about until some dramatic mysterious transformation occurs. We see this, for example, in stage-based model of spiritual development where we have the wise guru teaching and assisting the development of the devoted student or disciple. This is an ancient model that goes back thousands of years and is the prevailing model of the he student-teacher relationship used in the AQAL-informed writings and research.

"The weakness in the stage-based view is that the teacher can all too easily become the master and the student becomes the servant or slave. This relationship can obviously go very astray very easily and, by itself, this lens is an inadequate model to use for the development process in contemporary society. In my opinion, there is far too much reliance on this model for explaining the he student-teacher relationship in AQAL-informed circles. Particularly when applied to the area of spirituality the stage-based model suffers from serious shortcomings. First, the use of the stage-model needs some serious updating to contemporary views about stage-based development. Gurus and teachers who support evolutionary and stage-based view of development are very prone to overestimating the importance of the guru-devotee model and the qualitative differences that they assume exist between teacher and student. When practices within insular settings and non-traditional environments, these kinds of gurus often fall into all the traps of abusive power that many of us are aware of.

"My view is that the archaic view of the teacher-guru and student-disciple has done its dash and can only be defended by those who are so immersed in stage-based development that they see no other meta-level possibilities for articulating growth (this is one of the many forms of altitude sickness that I wrote about in my last blog). I see development and learning relationships moving way beyond these limiting views of guru and student and engaging much more with the language of relationality, situational choice, shared play, communal learning, distributed intelligence, collective wisdom, reflexive learning, and action inquiry. The defence of the ancient models of student-teacher relationship, particularly where development is focused on the stage-based lens, seems to me to be a sign of regression rather than evolution."

We can see many of the issues in recent threads, from Balder's conference paper to Batchelor to transitional structures, addressed by Edwards. Part of the problem with AQAL and MHC is their almost total reliance of the holoarchical lens. Granted Wilber also uses a spiritiual or absolute lens, and he does pay lip service to types, yet altitude via holoarchy is nonetheless the definitive lens in his "relative" plane. Edwards calls this altitude sickness (see link above) which aptly describes how we get such monolithic reductions of whole individuals or entire worldviews. For example, Edwards says in Part 9 of his interview at ILR (link below):

"AQAL metatheory has focused almost exclusively on the stage-based approach where development is seen as the holarchical emergence of qualitatively new forms of complexity and capacities. This is, what I call, the developmental holarchy lens. However, this is only one among many other explanatory lenses that might be used to describe and understand transformation.

"But I think that stressing the role of the developmental holarchy lens, that AQAL and SD and DAI have so importantly drawn attention to, has reinforced that old view that we need some 'Great Leader' to lead us out of our troubles. We need a messiah to transform us. The redeeming CEO who will say the word and we will all follow to some new promised land. This is a big mistake. I don’t think that is how transformation occurs. If integral metatheorists see social transformation as resulting from the developmental genius of individuals then it is being dangerously reductive. The use of the developmental lens has to be much more sophisticated that that. We need to combine it with and differentiate it from many other lenses if we are to see how stage-based development aligns with other aspects of transformation."

We can see that such a lens problem promotes exactly the type of guru-worship rampant in integral world, if not of Wilber then Cohen, or the traditional guru model in general.* You see this model also represented in the capitalist corporate structure, hence the often noted relation of Wilber's attachment to capitalism within his AQAL lens.

Edwards offers us many more lenses through which to interpret anything, a pluralistic variety of lens that curtail altitude sickness, yet nonetheless also themselves have relation to one another in a metatheoretical framework. Hence not just a monolithic relativism. See Parts 8 and 9 of the ILR interview for some of these other lenses.

* This is another example of "monism." Or perhaps in kennilingus argot we might call it "dominant monadism."

His Ph.D. dissertation can be found at this link: "An integral metatheory for organisational transformation." In Chapter 8.4 he details the inadequacies of the AQAL model. On p. 224 he lists lenses that are missing, including system dynamics, social mediation, postmodern decentering and evolutionary process. It sounds like a partial table of contents for my critiques over the years. In my modesty I'm almost embarrassed (not) to note that I'm given an honorable mention in his Acknowledgments.

And while I'm mentioning Mark check out his latest blog entry on climate change. I like this excerpt, questions I've repeatedly raised in several posts on the forum:

"Should metatheorising try to include all views even when those views may be endangering human sustainability? Is the task [of] integration endangering the responsibility to advocate particualr visions? And what does that mean for the goals and methods of doing metatheory? Are our ideals of being 'integral' rendering us impotent to present a particular way forward? Is the maxim of 'true but partial' reducing integral visions to 'balanced and irrelevant?' "

Also check out this extended review of Mark's new book, Organisational Transformation for Sustainability: An Integral Metatheory. New York: Routledge, 2010.

Mark Edwards article in the JITP: Evaluating Integral Metatheory

Mark Edwards ILR Interview: Integral Theory in Action Part 1

Mark Edwards ILR Interview: Integral Theory in Action Part 2

Mark Edwards ILR Interview: Integral Theory in Action Part 3

Mark Edwards ILR Interview: Integral Theory in Action Part 4

Mark Edwards ILR Interview: Integral Theory in Action Part 5

Mark Edwards ILR Interview: Integral Theory in Action Part 6

Mark Edwards ILR Interview: Integral Theory in Action Part 7

Mark Edwards ILR Interview: Integral Theory in Action Part 8

Mark Edwards ILR Interview: Integral Theory in Action Part 9

Mark Edwards ILR Interview: Integral Theory in Action Part 10

Mark Edwards ILR Interview: Integral Theory in Action Part 11

Mark Edwards ILR Interview: Integral Theory in Action Part 12

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In section 3 of TAE 6 he rightly sees the mixed-up way the exterior and interior phenomena are in the UR quadrant. He gives examples from Excerpt G defining the subtle as thought fields, or related to mystical states of consciousness, on the outside? Edwards' solution of course is to create this new axis of energy-form, arguing using Wilber sources that they are two distinct and separable ontological types.

While it might untangle Wilber's UR quadrant some I don't agree with the ontological distinction. Wilber used this to rationalize reincarnation, since one's 'spirit' can disengage from one's body. Granted he still has to use subtle and causal bodies to house this spirit, but they are not material and separable from it.

I'm thinking more in terms of Bryant's onticology, where matter-energy are of the same ontological class. He does however distinguish between corporal and incorporeal machines. The latter however always require a material body to exist. I need to ponder this further.

Hey Joe, I'm with you on the academic integralites. In their race to gain academic acceptance anything outside an ivory tower tends to be outright ignored or at best marginalized. I for one know this firsthand. But even in the guerrilla forum and blog community it takes time to gain street cred, especially if one is introducing a new model. I don't have that problem because I don't go that route, instead addressing limitations and possible openings of specific issues within others' models. Again, guerrilla tactics is my niche and it's a far easier road to travel. I admire your ambition though and am interested in the project, so might deign to "violently oppose" it on occasion. ;)

Hey Joe, I'm with you on the academic integralites. In their race to gain academic acceptance anything outside an ivory tower tends to be outright ignored or at best marginalized.



PS: Bruce and Mark excepted.

Some recent events reminded me of Edwards' essay "On being critical" at Integral World. It seems the kennilinguists have yet to heed Edwards in this regard, still engaging in the same old story of "you can't criticize if you ain't at the same level." Never mind that they define what a particular level means and then self-fulfill that prophesy, valid criticism on the nature of that level to the contrary by again defining that criticism as a lower level as well. Circle-jerk par excellence. From Edwards in the section called "What level does the critic need to be at?":

"Should the level of development (developmental profile) of the critic be taken into account when judging their criticism? To this question I answer a resounding NO. Here are my reasons. (All of these reasons are based on consistent interpretations of well known integral theory principles).

  1. Development is complex, people are complex, and assessing the developmental profile of any individual is an extremely difficult and, even in settings were it might be possible, it is often inappropriate to do so. It is certainly not possible to do such a thing outside of a clinical, standardised setting by someone who is not professionally trained to administer the suitable tests and interviews. Thinking that we can assess the developmental nature of an individual on the basis of their critical comments or theoretical writings is not only naïve it is also almost certainly bound to be significantly deficient. Consequently we need to move our focus from the critic to the nature of their criticism. What's truly important here is the validity and the accuracy of the criticism itself and how we make use of it, not the developmental nature of the critic.
  2. Integral theory is an integrated model that addresses and includes all levels of development. Therefore, any criticism from any level or relating to any level has the possibility of being valid for the relevant level(s). For example, integral theory deals with many postmodern issues such as pluralism, relativism, and contextualism. Consequently, postmodern critics of integral theory who are experts in these areas can make valid criticisms of the way integral theory deals with this “level”. This means the GREEN theorists can offer very pertinent criticisms that may need to be incorporated into the integral framework. The same is true for experts in the areas of physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, spirituality, etc.
  3. There is much about integral theory that has nothing to do with levels. For example, quadrants, types, perspectives, lines, and dynamics have nothing essentially to do with levels. That's why the integral theory framework is called AQAL (All Quadrants, All Levels, All Lines, All types, All …) and not simply AL (All Levels. Full stop). Consequently, someone who is expert in, say, developmental dynamics might be able to offer very cogent criticisms of how integral theory deals with transitional issues irrespective of what level they are at.
  4. No one is “at” a level. While people may have a general centre of gravity, that centre can change dramatically in any direction in particular circumstances. Mini transformations, peak experiences, sudden insights and flow experiences can overtake us at certain times. Individuals therefore might have some new insight into an integral way of looking at things that is valid and cogent and which might add to the storehouse of integral theory propositions irrespective of their standard modus operandi or developmental centre of gravity.
  5. The inclusion of the ideas of developmental lines in integral theory means that development is idiosyncratic and ideographic. Individuals can be at several levels of development within different domains of life at the same time. They therefore may well be able to connect with a wider range of developmental worldviews than is commonly acknowledged (see APPENDIX for a further discussion on this). This argument simply warns us against making judgements related to the linking of criticism with the developmental profile of the critic. These are complex realms that have no real place in the judgement of criticism and its theoretical cogency."

Note: The appendix is an excellent expansion of the last highlight.

This post on cross-domain networks reminds me that Edwards has an article in Integral Review 9:2, "Towards an integral meta-studies: describing and transcending boundaries in the development of big picture science." This issue of IR also refers to that Latourian notion, as it's called "research across boundaries."

This previous post applies to the below from the last Edwards source:

"Wilber and many other metatheoreists rely on traditional scholarship methods of essentially reading a broad, but ideosyncratic, selection of writings and research and then making of it what they will according to their own assumptions and predilections. This traditional approach is not adequate if metathetical research is to be taken seriously as a form of social science research. Metatheorising can and should be done as a rigorous and methodical research activity and that AQAL metatheory needs to participate in this process if it is to be truly grounded in the scientific tradition. Until that time, AQAL metatheory will remain the visionary creation of one thinker and corroborating evidence for its framework of quadrants, levels, lines, types and states will remain anecdotal at best. This is, perhaps, the most forceful reason for the lack of acceptance for metatheorising, and particularly for AQAL metatheory, across mainstream higher education institutions and their constitutive disciplines" (183).

I just discovered this site where Edwards has a few blog posts on climate science, economics and worldviews.

Concerning some of the "altitude sickness" points in this Mark Edwards thread. The points I do not mention I am in full agreement with.

1. LENS ABSOLUTISM. What sort of "lens absolutism" is a problem? Certainly the attempt to be overly comprehensive with a tool that is inadequate for the task leads to some distortions. However we might also want to embrace the instinct which seeks for a generalized primary lens whose special characteristic is that, at any given moment, is signifies the largest coherent collection of lenses (including lenses which focus upon the relations between lenses).

5. PIGEON-HOLISM. The concern that we might be devaluing legitimate criticism of stage-based models (by attributing this to relativists) must be balanced against the fact that we need to diagnose the ways in which relativistic instincts, dogmatic, nihilism, etc. may in fact pose criticism which is either illegitimate or already included. I.e. we must be careful not to pigeon-hole the dismissal of criticism as pigeon-holism.

6 & 7. VERTICAL CO-DEPENDENCY. Part of the problem here is an overly objective view of the situation. "A" teacher appears to placed over and against "a" student. But if I am the student, I cannot stand outside and evaluate a depth I do not possess. All I can is make receptive efforts in the direction of the emergent depth potentials of my own experience... basically my next "holon". One is not taking the situation personally enough. Likewise the teacher should probably assume that those at lower stages need to be taught by those from higher developmental levels -- but that does not in any sense imply that any teacher is for any student, that this is the only method, that it must be enforced or manipulated into existence or that it cannot be in error.

8. COMMUNAL ALTITUDISM. A community of the adequate requires a sufficient "amount" of the requisite altitude in order to cohere around its adequacy... but this may take the form of quantity, quality or context. The difficult in getting this correct without becoming dysfunctional should not make use predisposed against forming communities who honor the differential represented by their altitude. It is only that in general social affairs the definition of "adequate" must be more diverse than in private affairs.

10. ALTITUDE METRICISM. We do need to be able to better measure the nuances of altitude and other factors in order to form more complete and ongoing internal profiles of individuals in order to both accelerate their development and bring them into greater communion with greater autonomy.

12. ALTITUDINAL FASCISM. Fascism is not the rule an altitudinal elite. If this was the case, it would never have stood out historically as problematic. It is a self-destructive cultural field which is characterized by the active governance of a false elite who are altitudinally inferior to the bulk of the educated populace which inspect them.

13. ALTITUDINAL COLLECTIVISM. We must recall that having a rational reason to believe that taking political power to benefit the collective's stage-based development is flexibly distinct from rationalizing a conventional power move based on a partially integrated notion of development.

In general we must be wary of assuming that totalitarian moves, arrogance, dangerous gambles, interference with the social system, vertical righteousness, etc. (which can under certain conditions be compatible with higher altitudes) not be conflated with fascism, self-enclosure and self-deluded aggrandizement which flatters itself with altitudinal dreams.

We should be as wary of the anti-hegemonic attitude as we are of hegemonic tendencies. Neither is sufficient and both remain problematic until they converge in a mutually coherent and complementary fashion. These concerns about altitude sickness largely depend upon a shallow or narrow understanding of altitude. We must define it in such as way that balance and minimized pathology are essential components. 

I think the absence of Vygotskys (i.e. social factors) is critical. However I do not think it is (as Edwards sometimes alleges) the result of an over-focus on developmental stages. What is missing, really, is an assimilation in people of the full tetra-situation represented by stages. The difficulty strikes me as often being an exaggeration upon the subjective individual as the privileged (spiritual or narcissistic) site of development. AQAL structurally critiques such a position but that is not always brought forth in its advocates. Although everybody is delving in their own zones, it seems the LR quadrant is generally the most difficult for most humans because its depths are often uncanny and elusive. Therefore it must be more fully fleshed out.

As I mentioned in commenting upon Balder's re-presentation of Sean's diagrams in a recent thread -- the tendency of integralites to "conveniently" drop the LR and fall back upon "big three" models is dangerous. 

"In general we must be wary of assuming that totalitarian moves, arrogance, dangerous gambles, interference with the social system, vertical righteousness, etc. (which can under certain conditions be compatible with higher altitudes) not be conflated with fascism, self-enclosure and self-deluded aggrandizement which flatters itself with altitudinal dreams."

The kennilinguists, led of course by the Lingam, have proven time and again their totalitarian organizational structure via I-I, as well as their self-righteous indignation toward so-called lower levels and rampant group aggrandizement via their marketing strategy. Do you really doubt this?

As for vertical co-dependency, of course a student needs the teacher to train them and must submit to the teacher's expertise to learn a skill. But when we're talking about enlightenment it's not just a particular skill one learns but it's about one's entire being in the world. Every aspect of that being comes under control of the master. And this is of course what's wrong with enlightenment so framed in this all consuming, all subsuming manner as Master of Reality. If meditative state training were viewed postmetaphysically as just learning a skill that would be acceptable, but that's not what's going on.

Which is of course the same criticism of the metaphysical AQAL model based on set theory. It lays claim to knowing Reality as it is via direct experience with Causal consciousness* beyond relative space-time, aka the metaphysics of presence. Therefore it can lay claim to transcend and include every other paradigm into its really Real. Again it's not just about learning a skill but about what is real and true and good, and sets up THE standard by which all other models and states and stages much be judged.

* Consciousness per se is the expression favored in Integral Spirituality. As proven, it is a Yogacara idea and much in dispute even within Prasangika, the supposed best brand. Lingam is still selling it in his aggrandized Fourth Turning.

As to the lack of Vygotsky, it's not just about including other quadrants. It's about how quadrants (and zones) interrelate. And most importantly, how the so-called UL quadrant, the I, even comes into existence via the interaction of its neurological base with cultural inculcation. Even said neurological base, and its correlated states/stages of consciousness, were formed over aeons through interaction with environment and culture. It's more about how the inner/outer and individual/culture interact via mereological assemblages which have both intensional and extensional relations, aka endo- and exo-relations per Bryant.

If we accept this distinction, and if the likes of Luhmann, Varela and others are right, then even within individuals the levels of body-emotion-mind-spirit are not transcended via subsuming (intensional or endo-relations) but each remains an autonomous suobject that structurally couples with the others via extensional or exo-relations. It is even more significant with individual/social assemblages, where if we accept the intensional relationship then as individuals we're doomed to the hegemony of capitalism. Granted the Lingam addresses this actually using Luhmann to differentiate individual/social relations, but he doesn't go far enough into the kind of analysis explored by Varela or Bryant. And all of which is critical in how we formulate even so-called integral consciousness based on mereological relations. See the states/stages/fold thread for more detail.

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What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

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