Ken Wilber’s bashing of “unhealthy green”

When I see people do green-bashing, it looks a lot like they are fighting their own shadow.

First, what am I talking about?

Ken Wilber has popularized Spiral Dynamics which is a model of adult value development. What do we value? How does this tend to change as we grow and mature?

One of the stages described in this model is the green stage. The values here are inclusivity, taking care of nature, considering the needs of future generations, and so on. Many who are into sustainability or intentional communities are here or have it as part of their value package.

Predictably, this is a set of values that tend to come after – or be added onto – a typical modern mindset where we value democracy, science, and so on. We see that although there is much good here, it’s not quite sufficient. We also need to take care of life.

What people tend to mature into after the green values is a more integral approach, an approach where we see the function and value of the many different value-sets people operate from. Here, we can find it all in ourselves, make use of whatever makes sense in the situation, and see a bigger picture of how it all fits together.

What’s peculiar about Ken Wilber is his green-bashing. He often talks about “unhealthy green” which is not a problem in itself. If we want, we can easily find apparently unhealthy expressions of each of the different value-sets. So why is he so focused on it? Why does it seem to have an emotional charge for him? Why does he seem reactive? Why does it appear to be a hangup for him?

One answer may be his own personal experiences. I don’t know him or his life so I cannot say much about it. But I guess that he may have interacted with people who fit into an “unhealthy green” category in his mind, and he hurt himself in how he reacted to what they said and did.

To me, the green-bashing of Ken Wilber and his followers looks like shadowboxing. It looks like they are fighting their own shadow. It looks like they are fighting these sides of themselves.

And why do people mimic Ken Wilber in this? Again, I am not sure. One possibility is that they admire him and perhaps have their own identity mixed in with his, so they want to follow in his footsteps also here.

NOTES

Models like Spiral Dynamics have their value. They can help us organize data and find patterns. At the same time, they also have their limits. They are all models. They are mental representations of phenomena that are far more rich and complex and also different in nature from these representations. They are to be held lightly and used carefully.

Why don’t I engage in green-bashing? Because it seems a bit silly to me. It looks so obviously like a shadow hangup. Also, I don’t have much personal experience with the “unhealthy” side of green. And what KW and others do tastes a bit of bullying and I am much more likely to go after the bully than to join in with the bullying.

What’s my history with Ken Wilber? I absolutely loved No Boundary when I found it in the ’80s and devoured everything he published for a couple of decades after that. In the late 2000s, I got into some online integral communities and quickly got disenchanted with it all. I am sure his more recent books have value but I haven’t read them.

Why did I get disenchanted? One aspect is seeing how he obviously (and apparently unnecessarily) misrepresented certain people and approaches in his own books. That gave me a bad taste in the mouth. Another is the green bashing he and his followers engaged in. I also noticed how some of his followers seemed to use integral theory to put others down and elevate themselves, and how they seemed to take models as gospel truth instead of recognizing them as questions about the world.


INITIAL NOTES

  • “unhealthy green”
    • KW and others like green-bashing
    • and looks a lot like they are fighting with their own shadow

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