L7 Unitive Principle

Tools For A New Political Economy

The Unitive Principle

(Portions excerpted from
Managing Complexity with Constructive Integralism; see also Level 7 Property Position)

In short, the “unitive principle” is innate and cultivated love — specifically an unconditional love-consciousness that inhabits the felt experience of compassionate affection — that invites social cohesion, stimulates prosocial behaviors, and energizes individual and collective moral evolution. The impact of the unitive principle on personal and societal development is captured in this chart:

Integral Lifework Development Correlations

It takes a while to absorb the content of such a chart, and it would take even longer to discuss it more fully, but the idea that there is a predictable arc of moral advancement is an essential feature of the values hierarchies that support constructive integralism. Why? Well, for one thing the shape and feel of a “the greater good” — or any other overarching imperative that directs our intentions — would otherwise be impossible to predict or promote. For another, “love-consciousness” would be just one of many possible states of being, and there would be no way of validating its primacy. We would have trouble, for example, defining and grouping emotionally “healthy” states, or defending the observation that they are more constructive or efficacious than emotionally “unhealthy” states. This is precisely the same relationship that multidimensional awareness has to a higher tolerance for complexity, so that an open-minded, self-discerning mode of evaluation is clearly more beneficial than a closed, reflexive loop that relies on externalized guidance. And without a way to prioritize ideations, values and actions, our efforts would be set adrift amid an ocean of competing and seemingly equivalent ethical ideologies…which is in fact one of the more miasmic maladies of the postmodern era. Indeed, I feel it is this very malady that may have infected some of the other iterations of integral thought.

As an alternative, if we allow responsible and skillful love to instruct and refine all other emotions, thoughts, behaviors and intentions – all impulses of consciousness, body and will – we can begin to arrive at values hierarchies that are not only internally consistent, but that energize a clearly defined evolutionary arc amid complex and often competing systems. When combined with multidimensional awareness, we can sort through the profoundly complicated issues of the modern world and assign dynamic, flexible priorities. I can attest to this not only theoretically, but from my own experience. In managing people in organizations, for example, whenever I placed “the good of All” above any other agenda — above shareholder profits, for example, or my own ego gratification, or the favoritism of one person over another, etc. — then the outcome was always beneficial to the largest degree for the largest number, as long as I could integrate as many perspectives as possible within this compassionate prioritization. And this was true in all sorts of environments, from non-profit to corporate to governmental to community organizations: a principled decision motivated by maximally-inclusive compassionate affection always created more harmony and contentment in the end, even if it wasn’t initially popular with one or two employees or community members, and even if it ruffled my manager’s feathers.

Of course, we could also choose something else to power our values hierarchies. We could choose acquisitive materialism, or reinforcement of unequal social power structures, or righteous indignation, or violent justice, or self-imposed victimhood, or childish egoism, or malicious spite, or one of the many other motivational memeplexes available in humanity’s noosphere. But what the sages of nearly every wisdom tradition declare, the prosocial genetic programming of primate species suggests, the depths of mystical gnosis illuminates, and multidimensional awareness affirms, is that the felt experience of compassionate affection has the greatest motivational efficacy. It is the wisest pilot for our consciousness, the most elegant moral arbiter for our species, and the choicest compass for our soul. In True Love, I go so far as to say that skillful love is a prerequisite for adequately nourishing ourselves or others in any dimension:

“A stronger way to state this principle is that without the cofactor of love, the nutrients available to different dimensions of our being cannot be properly metabolized. You could even say that a paucity of love is our greatest barrier to wholeness and well-being. The felt experience of compassionate affection must develop in parallel with every other aspect of self; it is both a prerequisite and product of nurturing efforts. Returning for a moment to the strata of moral valuation, consider that movement from one stratum to the next cannot occur unless love is firmly seated in our consciousness. Authentic love, in this context, is the fullest expression possible of our particular level of moral development; it progressively defines what we value and how courageously we act on those valuations. This leads to one way we can define love-consciousness: love that has become fully conscious within us, producing a sensitivity that is wholly infused with love and grounded in ever-expanding arenas of affection. Another way to say this is that our moral development reflects the maturation of love within us, and this in turn defines how skillfully we can achieve multidimensional nourishment for ourselves and throughout all of our interactions. Our energy exchanges become the very currency of love and the evidence of its sovereignty in our life…

…If I feel affection for myself, won’t I want to nourish every aspect of my being? And if I can care for myself effectively, won’t that help me become more competent in facing new challenges? Thinking, choosing and acting from a place of loving kindness, we have the courage to be flexible and allow appropriate fulfillment impulses to take the upper hand when needed. Then our love can flow forth into the world around us as well. I am sure you can intuit the critical role that compassionate affection plays in the nourishment process – it is the beginning and end of our journey. True love is the kernel of enduring strength at our core, the wind that lifts us, and the distant horizon towards which we fly. It is the cofactor for metabolizing healthy nourishment in every dimension of self and the sunlight that enables growth. It inspires change and supports us as we test our wings. Love then provides the courage to see ourselves and the world around us clearly, and envision a future appropriate to who we really are. In the end, it is only through love that we can grasp the importance of the life we choose to live, or measure the real worth of our triumphs.”

My understanding of love-consciousness, values hierarchies, the golden intention and so on continue to be transformed by the integralizing filters of discernment, a neutral holding field, flexible processing space and multidialectical processing. I believe it has been through this growth curve that I eventually arrived at the book Political Economy and the Unitive Principle, where the importance of collective moral development in enabling the capacities and durability of civil society becomes so pronounced. Here again, all of this remains dependent upon individual commitment to self-nourishment and loving intentionality that expresses the “unitive principle” of love. As I wrote there:

“Is it the natural maturation of a more sophisticated and far-seeing self-interest that inspires a unitive vision? Is it an inevitable evolutionary refinement in social relations? Is it an arbitrary hiccup in the development of the brain that provides some adaptive advantage? Is it evidence of a divine imprint on the human psyche, or part of what Sri Aurobindo called "supramentalisation," the ongoing descent of the divine into the material plane? I have my suspicions, but of course I don't know the answer. I have just observed it over and over again: the unitive principle appears to be firmly embedded in holistic nourishment and moral creativity as a function of natural maturation and growth, with continuously humanizing, harmonizing and liberating effects. And this why I believe transformative, all-encompassing love-consciousness should become our guiding intentionality for everything, including models of political economy, because this kind of skillfully compassionate affection has proven itself to be the most constructive force available to us.”

Also of interest is Paulo Freire’s pedagogy of love, which closely aligns with the developmental and motivational basis of the unitive principle — as well as its expression in praxis.
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