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  • Writer's pictureJoe Lightfoot

Memetic Mediation: Hanzi's Metamodernism vs Wilber's Integral

Here’s a conversation between different parts of myself around the intersection, overlap and distinctions between the Wilberian Integralists and Hanzi-nian Metamodernists.

Part 1 is my inner sage and Part 2 is my inner revolutionary.

1: Pretty fascinating to watch the Metamodernists & Integralists coalesce hey?

2: Yeah I feel that while there are still lots of brilliant people across the Integral network in reality it peaked quite a while ago. Wilber seems to have really slowed down and many of the bright lights in the Integral scene appear to have moved on to other things. Isn’t Hanzi really just a new and improved Millennial version of Wilber?

1: He kind of just took Wilbers AQAL theory cut out the panpsychism bits, removed the Buddhist cosmological leanings and focussed in on the political. Is it really all that original?

2: Yeah but Wilber just kind of remixed Gebser, Hegel, Aurobindo and some of the developmentalists before him. Though AQAL was pretty neat… Just like Hanzi's application of the Four Quadrants to Spiral Dynamics was a pretty sweet move. And the dude can write! He really freshened things up and made Meta theory relevant to the present day again, plus there are still more books to come. Good to remember he emerged from the Integral scene after trying to motivate his fellow Integralists towards political action but was frustrated by everyone just wanting to talk about UFO’s and reincarnation. Shouldn’t we just gently retire the whole Integral movement and redirect that energy towards Metamodernism?

1: I’m not sure, isn’t there room for both? A Meta-Integral space that transcends and includes the strengths and weaknesses of both cultures?

2: Ugh, I suppose so, but I feel like puking a little bit every time I say Meta-Integral, I guess the phrase Meta Space works for now and can also point towards the rest of the Sensemaking sense as well. But seriously considering all the Integral and Integral adjacent sex scandals and community fallouts, as well as the subtle corporate overtones of the Integral brand isn’t it better to just lay it to rest? I mean there’s a reason we bounced right off it in the early 2000’s when we first encountered those hugely expensive CEO friendly retreats in Boulder. Like I’m sure 20 or 30 years from now it’ll be wise to retire the term Metamodernism once it’s picked up its own litany of controversies and baggage along the way. I’m sure either Hanzi or some other Meta-adjacent luminary is going to end up sleeping with someone he shouldn’t… It only seems right to compost our terminology every couple of generations or so. Plus the AI’s are going to want to rename everything soon I’m sure.

1: Hmm yeah but so many people have so much invested in the Integral brand and some of it is very high quality. Plus it’s a cool word with fascinating and rich roots that were around before Wilber and have spread far wider than just the confines of his own writings. Also let’s see how willing you are in 2050 to just jettison Metamodernism after 30 years of theorising around it. Also there is already a bunch of contention around the term Metamodernism, Hanzi essentially just stole it from a few dutch theorists and remixed it anyway. And yes there seem to be a few more women and people of colour involved so far but it still seems pretty white and male at this stage, just younger. Plus what are we really talking about here, a few different mailing lists, some conferences and the odd Facebook group? It’s all still pretty nascent. Why can’t the two communities just continue to co-exist?

2: Well they can, but perhaps it’s wise to remain cognisant of the distinctions between the two as while there is an enormous (but far from complete) overlap in both the theory and community there is still a marked difference in the flavour and culture of the two scenes. If we don’t clearly delineate between the two a lot of the magical thinking and inertia that takes place under Integral banners might dilute the more fresh and streamlined energy that is building around Metamodernism. And really don't we all need to unite? If we’re actually going to make an impact beyond publishing a few fancy papers and books isn’t it critical we round up everyone approaching or already at 2nd Tier/Integral/Metamodern and start cultivating the mycelium for an actual political movement? Doesn’t rounding off the New Age edges and doing this under one name make much more sense?

1: I think any beautiful future will need to be much more tolerant of differing views and opinions so practising collaboration across community lines might actually be some of the best political action we can take. There’s plenty of room for all these ideas and subcultures after all. Kinda sad that Hanzi and Wilber can’t sit down and discuss all their similarities and differences hey?

2: Yeah, Ken seemed to kind of just write off Metamodernism as an unimportant facsimile in that one podcast he spoke about it. Hopefully Hanzi takes a different approach to critics and new iterations in the years ahead.

1: So what are we? An Integral thinker? Metamodern thinker? Both? Neither?

2: I’d say we’re both but feel more drawn to co-create in the Metamodern stream. Ken will forever hold a special place in our hearts for completely blowing our minds with his ideas but it’s definitely time to take him off his pedestal a bit. And let's be careful not to lionise Hanzi or any other of our favourite theorists too much, we’re all just wonderfully conflicted beings with fragile egos and a whole host of shadowy impulses and desires hidden from view behind our shining intellects and resonant hearts.

1: I just wish we could really all experience sustained community together beyond social media, podcasts and the odd video call. I want us all to live close by in one big Meta bioregion, to form our own micro economy and cultivate real regenerative culture with one another. It’d be amazing to properly integrate the energy and ethos of the Solarpunk movement as well. Not to mention some of the more feminine, queer and Indigenous wisdoms that are still under represented in the Meta space.

2: Nah that sounds like way too much work, plus we’d all fight in real life anyway, everyones far too smart for their own good and I’d rather just post a few memes and watch the the conflicts unfold on Facebook.

1: You’re holding us back. I’m going to lobotomise you out of existence.

2: How dare you, I’m the only reason we made it this far.

1: Wanna eat ice cream and forget about all this Meta nonsense?

2: I’m down!

Joe Lightfoot is a writer, podcaster and apprentice community weaver. He is the author of A Collective Blooming: The Rise Of The Mutual Aid Community and the host of The Lightfoot Podcast. You can sign up to his newsletter The Lightfoot Letter and find him on Facebook & Twitter.



2021 Joe Lightfoot

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