Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bill Torbert

Balder started a new thread on Torbert over at IPS. He kicked it off with some quotes from an '02 interview (see thread). I responded with quotes in italics:

There should be a relationship not just between social science theory and professional action, but also between spiritual inquiry and political acts.

Here, here! 

Direct spiritual work is a work on attention.

I discussed this in the "real and false reason" thread:

Here is an excerpt from Torbert’s 2008 “Developmental Action Inquiry”:

“….in a figure/ground shift, the Alchemists and Ironists experienced ambiguity as the creative, ongoing element of all experience. This finding is consistent with the change from a primarily cognitive/structural approach to…a primarily attentional/spiritual approach in the shift from Strategist to Alchemist.”
And this excerpt from that thread using Torbert's work to make a point about a "higher level" understanding of levels themselves and how they are formlated:

Note in the Commons article above he goes into the transitional steps between stages. It is more extended that Wilber’s fusion-differentiation-integration scheme but follows the same trajectory. It is classical Hegelian dialectics, from thesis to antithesis to a newer, higher, more coordinated and integrated thesis (313). But is this notion itself postformal or just an extension of formal operations?

Because the MHC assumes that it is only an objective and quantitative model that purports to eliminate qualitative content and distinction, you find very different descriptions of the postformal levels than one might in the more domain-specific models like cognitive or ego development. For example Torbert’s (cited below) action-logics defines formal operations as being logic oriented whereas the first postformal stage a Strategist seeks “to construct an explicit and distinctive integrative theory of self and world that recognized development (e.g., theories such as Hegel)” (185). So far this sound more like an extension of formal logic I’ve been criticizing. However he also notes that the Strategist is “aware of paradox” and “relativistic” (186) so this is not quite in line with Hegalian dialectics.

The next stage though, Magician/Clown, has some interesting characteristics. For example: “ego identity disintegrates, creates mythical events that reframe situations, blends opposites, treats time and events as kairatic, symbolic, alalogical, metaphorical” (186-7). Here we get into the kind of postformal dialectics discussed at length in an Integral Review forum on Gary Hampson’s article (cited below), excerpts of which reside at Open Integral (see links below). The whole notion of a Hegelian dialectic is replaced by understanding that core dualities cannot be “resolved” into a higher integration but rather a Magician “blends opposites” dynamically according to context through analogical, metaphorical narrative. This is further reinterated in his last stage, Ironist, who “cultivates a quality of awareness and action that highlights dynamic tensions of the whole enterprise” (189).

Nothing of this sort is seen in the MHC. As Hampson’s article suggests, “the way out [of postmodernism] is through it.” I suggest Hegelian models like MHC have yet to sufficiently go through this “stage” and hence, much like Wilber, continue to conflate, exaggerate and project formal operations into postformal stages.

Works Cited

Hampson, G. “Integral reviews postmodernism: The way out is through.” Integral Review, 4: June 2007.

Torbert, W. "Cultivating postformal adult development" at this link. [Link no longer works.]

Open Integral links to Postformal Dialectics:

Also see the thread I started here with Bonnie Roy noting the following about nested levels and postformal levels according to Torbert: 

One such overused exemplar of mainstream integral theory, is the notion of transcend-and-include and the holarchical organization that results from it. When “transcend-and-include” describes a dynamic, it is describing a simple, linear dynamic that creates nested sets of levels that are related in simple linear ways. If instead of associating the term “integral” with a set of exemplary beliefs and the community wit large that promote them, we identify the adjective “integral” in “Integral Theory” as pertaining to a level of cognitive abstraction, also known as meta-systematic [5], then no theory that entails simple, linear transcend-and-include dynamics can pass the test. 

[5] This is consistent with the definition of “integral level” in cognitive-developmental theories such as Torbert, Cook-Greuter, and Fisher

Integrel Review, in its special issue on politics (6:1, 3/10), printed excerpts of Torbert's 1991 book The Power of Balance (Sage). Therein he correlated his action-logics to political power structures, from unilateral to diplomatic to rational/logistic to transforming. Here are some of the traits of the last: 

Hence, a person exercising transforming power invites mutuality—a mutual exercise of power guided by a living awareness of what is currently at stake for the particular systems participating in the transformation.

Transforming power cannot be insolently and unilaterally wielded. Instead, it requires a continual, humble effort—not just to be rational—but to be aware of the present moment in all its fullness. This awareness effort includes and transcends one's own material interests, emotional preferences, and intellectual theory about the situation, as well as those of the others and the institutions involved.

Transforming power is not merely open to, but actively seeks, challenge and contradiction.... The person seeking to exercise transforming power must seek challenges to his or her approach in every way possible.

Any theory of development and transformation, such as this one, clearly has general, universalistic elements to it, and may be applied “in general” without specific attention to the uniqueness of the given situation. This, again, is a danger of the Strategist who tends to identify with the theory. In fact (or, more precisely, in act) transforming power is never properly applied in general, but always in response to the unique circumstances of particular situations and systems—always in response to a living awareness that revivifies and revalidates (or else disconfirms) the general categories of the theory.

Put differently, transforming power is not enacted in a deductively logical fashion. It does not deduce a specific action from general principles. Instead, transforming power is enacted ana-logically. It seeks analogies between a general theory and an independent apprehension of the present situation, felt from the inside as a participant in it.

Transforming power empowers all who come within the radius of its influence, including those who oppose its influence.

But note the following, that the power of balance comes not from a strict identity with even the transforming power structure, but the ability to use each structure where appropriate:

There must be a “power of balance”....but the power of balance would, precisely, have each subordinate type of power (including transforming power) rather than being (fully identified with) any one type of power. It would exercise each type of power occasionally and intentionally, not always and assumptively.

[Quoting from another Balder excerpt]

The fourth distinctive feature of DAI (the D in DAI) is the developmental theory used to map the evolution of the action logics through progressive forms of increasing complexity, differentiation, and integrity at the personal, team, organizational, and institutional scales. 

So one question for me is, as in the real and false reason thread, how does one formulate and measure "increasingly complex" stages? The terms he's using--increasingly complex, differentiated, integrity--seem akin to Wilber's (and the MHC"s) transcend-and-include holarchical subsumption of the prior and "smaller" holon/levels into the larger. But it appears that he doesn't "measure" levels in this way but rather does so, as he says, analogically to certain traits displayed at such levels, i.e., single, double and triple-loop learning.

Also from above one can see that while the higher action-logics in a sense transcend and include the lower ones the latter are not completely subsumed, because there is yet another aspect, this attentional focus,* that keeps up triple-looping around even the highest (as yet), transformational level so that one can consciously choose what level(s), and to what degree(s) and or mixtures, one might enact from among them depending on the unique particulars of a given circumstance.** This sounds much more akin to Gebser's integral-apersectival as I pointed out in the real/false reason thread.

* The intentional attention (which can be distinguished from the other three territories, can experience all three simultaneously... 

** The singular event, in Caputo/Derrida terms. See this for example.

Now I do have a question about this "intentional attention," since it is apparently not synonymous with one's basic phenomenology, one's "self-sensing of one’s own embodiment, breathing, moving, perceiving, etc." What persactly then is this beast? Geber's awaring? Which only comes with the integral aperspective? See this, for example, and this, this, and this.


  1. In the inaugural issue of Integral Review (June 2005) Torbert has an article called “Timely and Transforming Leadership Inquiry and Action: Toward Triple-loop Awareness.”* A few select excerpts:

    "He explains that triple-loop awareness re-presents a change in consciousness. It is the simultaneous awareness of all 4 territories of experience – of the outside world, one’s own behavior, one’s own feelings and thoughts, and at the same time, a kind of witnessing of all this. It can be called presencing (Senge et al, 2004). Triple loop awareness occurs in any moment when there’s an attention distinct from the mental thinking, from the physical sensing, and from the objects of perception, infusing them all with an immediacy that is at once passionate, dispassionate, and compassionate. You’re more likely to have these experiences when you put yourself in a position where you’re on the edge of your known reality – on the not-necessarily-comfortable threshold between the known and the unknown.

    "One-dimensional time awareness of sequential passing time permits us potentially to act, then identify a gap between act and intended outcome, then adjust one’s action, and achieve one’s goal (maybe), thus doing single-loop learning…. Double- and triple-loop awareness introduce us to the second and third dimensions of time, which are hidden within durational or passing time.

    "The second dimension of time can be imagined geometrically as orthogonal to linear durational time from the past to the future, passing through the present. From the point of view of our ordinary (zero or one-dimensional) temporal awareness, the present is a vanishingly small instant that can never be grasped because it is past by the time that its sensations, thoughts and feelings register within us. Is there a different quality of awareness that permits a timeless, conscious experiencing of the present – a quality of awareness that permits us to live nowhere but the present… inhabiting the eternal present in all of its unfolding fullness… experiencing a sense of our own presence and of other presences around us even while remembering something, or focusing on a particular task, or imagining a possible future?

    "A third dimension of time can again be imagined as orthogonal (the Z axis) to the plane defined by chronological time (X axis) and eternity (Y axis). The three-dimensional “volume” of time can be imagined as holding all possibilities, all the potentialities of the future and the still-hidden meanings of the past, some of which emerge into the present (become act-ualized) and then pass into linear, historical time, through a translation process that quantum physics now describes as a “quantum collapse”…. Is there really a different quality of awareness that goes beyond a deepened sense of presence in the present to sensing oneself as a creative subject actively participating in midwifing an emerging future?"


  2. Balder's Integral Life blog post* on the topic said that TSK's future infinitive is

    "not as something that will 'eventually arrive' or as a space into which we will eventually move, but rather as the unfoundedness and indeterminacy of being that is always with us.... This indeterminacy finds expression in our knowledge, as an active not-knowing that allows for the new. To engage the future infinitive is to embrace openness and the unknown in the midst of the familiar."

    I appreciate how Balder uses the infinity sign here (see graphic in the post) to represent this future infinitive which is present along each point in time, from past to the future right now. I also use this symbol to represent the relationship of states to stages in the WC lattice in a similar vein.

    As for Torbert's triple-loop-de-loop he says:

    "I believe [it] echoes the perspective explored in TSK as the future infinitive...and clearly defines a post-reflective, integral mode of time-consciousness that should not be confused with the present-centered and exquisitely sensitive, but nevertheless still narrow prereflective temporality of the Pirahã."

    All of which reminds me of "someone"** who said:

    "But such progress does not move in a line from pure origin to guaranteed New Jerusalem. Its aim remains as Derrida insists, messianically yet to come, a to come that does not unfold as a predictable future outcome of present history. Progressive theopolitics might then entail an alternative temporality, the time of event–relations, in which our becoming together, now, makes possible but does not determine that which is to come tomorrow: a helical, fractal or rhizomatic kind of nonlinear progress."



  3. Also see Gidley's Appendix A* from her lengthy paper "The evolution of consciousness as a planetary imperative" in Integral Review 5, 2007. Therein she discussed Geber's concretion of time. She said (p. 176):

    "Gebser’s nuanced concretion of time does not represent a linear developmental endpoint like that of the modernity project, nor is it endlessly recursive in non-directional cyclical space as in Eliade’s “myth of the eternal return” (Eliade, 1954/1989). Integral consciousness as understood by Gebser does not place mythic and modern constructions of time in opposition to each other, as both modern and traditional approaches tend to do. Alternatively, Gebser’s temporic concretion is an intensification of consciousness that enables re-integration of previous structures of consciousness—with their different time senses—honoring them all. It opens to new understanding through atemporal translucence whereby all times are present to the intensified consciousness in the same fully conscious moment."



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.