I recently interviewed one of the nicest guys you could meet, Jeff Salzman. When I first came to Boulder just over a year ago, Jeff welcomed me in to various gatherings, including one on Christmas day!
I wanted Jeff to give some introductory perspectives to those who are not familiar with the ‘integral’ worldview, and I think you will find what he has to say engaging and accessible. Jeff is as well as placed as anyone to teach this stuff – he has been a leader in the integral movement for years, he founded Boulder Integral and had has been a lead teacher at the Integral Institute, side-by-side with Ken Wilber. Thanks Jeff for a great session.
For more on Jeff, check out Daily Evolver, where he blog and comments on the evolving world.
Full video transcript
Jack: Hello everyone and welcome. My name is Jack Butler, and I’m here
with Jeff Salzman. I’m excited to talk to you today, Jeff. I wonder if you
just want to give a very quick intro to who you are and where you’re coming
from, and then we’ll jump into some mutual areas of interest.
Jeff: I’m Jeff Salzman, and I’m part of the Integral Movement, part of
Boulder Integral and the Integral Institute. What that is a philosophical
movement that really looks at evolution in terms of the interiors of the
human being. What we see is that for anybody who is scientific, the idea of
evolution is not controversial. We all know that the cosmos evolved, that
humans evolved from amoebas and all that good stuff.
Jack: Right. Yes.
Jeff: What Integral adds to that picture is that human beings also
evolved in terms of culture . . .
Jeff: . . . so there are specific stages of culture that we see in
history from indigenous, to tribal, to warrior, to traditional
fundamentalist Republican, right? Orange modern.
Jeff: And then post modern or sort of the more liberal views. These are
stages of development.
Jeff: So that’s culture, and then also what Integral says is that we as
individual human beings also go through very predictable stages of
development far beyond childhood.
Jeff: We know the childhood stages. Those are very well mapped.
Jack: I studied that at university, yes.
Jeff: Then there are also adult stages, and that gets interesting because
we know we’re in one, and we know there’s one next.
Jack: Yes. So is that a never ending thing?
Jeff: Yeah, presumably it is. This is one of the things that I think
evolution in general brings, is just the sense of how big the system is.
Jeff: From an amoeba stage, from one amoeba stage to another, does this
just keep going? Little did they know just how far. So, we’re at our stage
of, God only knows . . .
Jeff: . . . what is far beyond. We have some idea of what is next, so
Jack: Yeah, yeah. One of the things that struck me when we first met and
talked was that you said quickly, I’m optimistic. You said, I think things
are the best that they’ve ever been. Could you just talk to that a little
Jeff: Yeah, it’s just demonstrably true in terms of any certainly wealth
measurement of calories per person, protein and kilowatts and bushels per
hectare, and all the things we would use to measure material wealth. We’re
living better than, by far. How many golden calves would the pharaoh trade
for a light bulb? It’s that kind of thing. We have to think a little bit
outside the box.
Jack: Yes. Is that true for everyone? I know obviously wealth has
Jeff: It’s true for everyone except the bottom billion as Jeffrey Sachs
Jeff: The good news is that 20 years ago it was the equivalent of two
billion per portion. A billion people have been lifted out of that dollar-a-
day poverty, but there are still a billion people there. If we look at the
trajectory of history, this is not about feeling smug or that we’ve got it
all together, it’s like seeing that there’s a system, and we’ve come from
somewhere, we’re going somewhere, and we’re at this place. It’s very good
news, if you look at the trajectory of history, where, I was talking to
some people the other night, and we were talking about this amazing
abhorrent practice in Paris in the 1700s of high society people getting
together and torturing cats.
Jeff: You know.
Jack: How long ago was that?
Jeff: So, whatever that is.
Jack: Like 300 years ago.
Jeff: Yeah, not that long ago. Then beyond that, the Greeks and Romans
did it for entertainment with people.
Jeff: The moral trajectory continues to raise, as it does with
individuals, too. One of the things we see when we look at the interior of
people, like me, Jeff, you, Jack, is that development just is a continuing
process of just being able to see more of what is actually here.
Jeff: There is the one stage where you really don’t see another person as
anything other than an it, and then there’s a stage where you begin to see
them as another person, you begin to see their interiors, you begin to see
the interiors of other people across the world.
Jeff: You understand their culture, or at least seek to understand their
Jack: Yes, yes.
Jeff: That itself is a moral move. Then we start seeing the interiors of
animals. This is one of the cutting edges right now, where people are
getting hip to, wait a second, these creatures feel what we feel.
Jack: Yes, yes.
Jeff: That’s something that we actually see. It’s not just the thought.
Jack: It’s the idea, yeah.
Jeff: Yeah, yeah.
Jeff: Very cool.
Jack: Right now we’re in election season. Obviously this has a lot of
people’s attention. You were talking about those stages of development. You
used the word Republican, and you used the word liberal . . .
Jeff: Yeah, yeah.
Jack: Does that mean that the liberal world view, and I realize that’s
quite an encompassing term, is more evolved and complex than the center of
the Republican world view?
Jeff: Yes, it does.
Jack: It does?
Jeff: Actually, what it says is that throughout history, probably, but
certainly if we look at recent history, even the last couple hundred years
in this country, which is as old as we are.
Jeff: I’ve got a nice little case study here, but there has always been a
group of people who are at the cutting edge. They’re progressive.
Jeff: So they’re the people bringing in the new. So, by definition
they’re more evolved.
Jeff: Then there are people with their foot on the brake who are just
keeping things from going too fast, whatever.
Jeff: And those are the conservatives. There’s a poll there that’s
actually quite truthful, and things progress through the contention . . .
Jeff: . . . between these world views. Yet we see, and this is something
presumably most people watch and are good liberals . . . Obama yeah! What
we see is that through this contention the progressives always win. If we
look at it with whether it’s slavery . . .
Jeff: . . . or it’s women’s suffrage . . .
Jeff: . . . with women being able to vote, or civil rights in general . .
Jeff: . . . there’s always people who are lagging behind and saying now.
In fact, William Buckley, one of the great intellectual conservatives, said
that conservatism could basically be boiled down to this: We stand athwart
history shouting, stop.
Jeff: Think about that. Just thank God they don’t get to actually get
their way, but yet there’s something fruitful about the system that is in
this contention of stepping on the gas and stepping on the brake at the
Jeff: It’s not pretty.
Jeff: And people get all worked up about it, but what I would say that is
optimistic, even looking at this presidential election, is that people are
merely arguing with words. In human history this is great news. Even in our
history, less than 200 years ago, the secretary of treasury had a public
duel with the currency minister, or somebody, and one of them got fucking
killed. This happened. This was not that long ago.
Jeff: We actually have to sort of take some happiness in this.
Jack: Yes. That container.
Jeff: You see these debates. Last night we had the third of the big
Jack: Yeah. I was watching.
Jeff: By any standard of civilized behavior, these two men were just
Jeff: They were arguing in very appropriate ways. I think we can take
some pride in this and take some faith in, actually.
Jack: Yeah, right. Thank you.
Jeff: You’re welcome.
Jack: So just going back to different politics and touch some more on the
realm of kind of the psychological or individual development. You talked
about interiors. I just wondered what’s included in that notion, just for
people who are perhaps not familiar with that language of interiors. Are
you talking about someone’s inner world?
Jack: What is that comprised of, or what are some of kind of the
distinctions we can make that might be useful to people?
Jeff: There are interesting distinctions. If we start with the individual
– my interior are my thoughts, my values, my character, what I actually
see, my view . . .
Jack: Right. Yes. Okay.
Jeff: . . . is all in there. Then, in my exterior is my body, basically.
Jeff: What’s also in my exterior is something we don’t normally see, and
sometimes we confuse it with the interior, and this is where integral
theory helps, is we tease apart what is actually interior and exterior?
Part of the confusion for people is we also have an energy body.
Jeff: It’s in the exterior. That is, it’s actually palpable and real. We
may not have the machinery to sense it yet but it’s there. It’s not only
there, but there’s a whole spectrum of it. We just want to get hip to that
and not see that as just this sort of the more ethereal space of the inner
world, one’s inner world.
There’s a Jeff, and there’s a Jeffness. There’s a witness and an observer,
and all that’s in the interior. It’s interesting. Then we look at the
culture. The culture’s exterior is its civilization with the way we live
and organize ourselves, and we have clocks, and we have houses and all that
Jack: Yes. There weren’t liable to be pistols drawn.
Jeff: Exactly, and they didn’t have to frisk them before they went on
stage, actually, because we have a mutual understanding now that what’s
going to move things forward? What’s going to create a better world? And
that is the impulse of evolution actually, to create a better world, a more
complex, capable world. We see that the way forward, and actually nation’s
see this now, too, is not to conquer your enemy and plunder their
resources, that’s a lot of trouble. What’s better is, let them do their
thing, let us do our thing, and let’s trade.
Jeff: So we see that with each other, too, as individuals. Part of
individual development is just increased complexity in our ability to
relate to each other. Just you and me even right here. We actually have an
antenna for our subtle energy bodies, whatever. Just this is more of the
story, more on line.
Jack: Yeah. The advantages to bodies, if somebody where listening to that
and thinking, I don’t get it, what is he talking about this energetic body
that’s outside of the skin, like a second skin?
Jack: Is that something that can be unarguable from a sort of scientific
perspective? That’s not kind of shamanic or spiritual. They can be those
things is actually like . . .
Jeff: Right. What integral theory would say is that those are the next
two stages, sort of, is shamanic and then ethereal, or angelic realms.
Those, too, happen in the interiors, but they also happen in the exterior.
There is ever and ever more subtle energies that are on line until we
finally get to, I don’t know a finality, but the next big stage that is
sort of a cosmic feeling of just sort of the cosmic buzz. That is just
there, so people that are wondering what that is, that’s the first step is
to ask yourself, what is that?
Jeff: I can’t tell you, I just did my best. What is it? Inquiry is really
Jack: Yeah, yeah. What do you think, you obviously meet a lot of people,
you work with a lot of people, what do you see is the biggest common
developmental needs, or does that question only make sense in the context
of, tell me someone’s level of development and I can give you a stab on
Jeff: We have these, I walked through them a little bit earlier, three
big stages of development that are on line in our culture right now, for
the most part, are the traditional. This is fundamentalist. It’s pre-
modern, so it’s not scientific and it’s not really rational, so it’s
mythic. It’s a big story of good and evil which organizes into absolutistic
thinking, and it’s great progress over the stage before it which was just
Jack: Some of the nations you were talking about last night. We were
talking about the Arab Spring, presumably the kind of the red or blue.
Jeff: It’s pre-traditional.
Jeff: It’s more tribal, warrior, clan, that sort of thing.
Jack: Yes. Okay.
Jeff: Then when we get to traditional, that’s a big organization of the
good and evil. Now, the downside you’re always in battle between good and
evil. For a traditionalist to talk about one world and that sort of thing
is like asking them to sup with the devil, you know. There’s that.
Then the next stage is rational and scientific, and we see this
historically. This is not just some idea. There’s a traditional stage of
development that was for about 5000 to 15,000 years before that of warrior,
but then we have modernity comes in about 400 years ago, 300-400 years ago,
with Galileo and those guys, and the idea is the world is knowable on its
own terms. The truth is no longer delivered in a book. It’s observable.
Jeff: Yes, and that just kicks off this whole thing, with technology,
with, as Dan Dennett said, the spectacularly tangible results of modernity,
triple life spans, the indoors, for instance. Transportation,
communication, all of what we have materially, and that’s a stage of
development. Then there’s a stage of development that comes after that that
just came on line after World War II basically that is post-modern. It has
its own art. A lot of it came in through Dylan, The Beatles, LSD and
Jeff: It’s focused on civil rights, ecology, feminism, and that sort of
thing. That’s a very powerful thing, but relatively new. This is the world
of the liberals.
Jeff: The liberals and the conservatives tend to split the rationalists.
Jeff: The business people go to the Republicans, and the scientists and
academics go to the Democrats, and that’s right where we are. The whole
system is moving, so the parties are always adapting to the system that’s
moving, and you can see that with, for example, the Todd Akin thing. That’s
the senator who talked about legitimate rape and that sort of thing. He was
disowned immediately by his own party the next morning. Yet, that was the
majority view that would have been completely noncontroversial when I was a
kid, this idea of legitimate rape.
Jack: Yeah. Okay.
Jeff: The whole system moves, and that’s why liberals need to relax
because you’re going to win. There’s just no other option if you look at
history. You’ve got your foot on the gas, and the good gas wins. The system
levels and contends its way forward.
Jack: Yes, presumably part of the system contending its way forward is
the people who choose to contend on behalf of that world view.
Jeff: Yes. Absolutely. We’re all doing our part. The integral world view
– that’s the world view we see as coming out of post-modernism. The key
marker, there are several markers of that, and your listeners might be
interested because they’re probably people who have those capacities. One
of them is the ability to hold multiple perspectives.
Jack: Is that just a cognitive thing?
Jeff: It happens probably in all four quadrants, to use the jargon, but
for sure it’s the idea that you want to actually be friendly to these
earlier stages. You want to see what’s the benefit of traditionalism?
Faith, order, discipline, obedience.
Jeff: A feeling of being part of a group, there’s a certain feeling of
knowing I’m seen and loved by almighty God. That’s delicious. A rationalist
asks us to let go of that.
Jeff: We actually see that we’re on a rock hurtling through space, and
God only knows why, except there’s no God. It’s a real problem, and it’s an
existential dilemma that creates a lot of anxiety for people. At the same
time, we’re using this idea that we can have technology and triple our
horse power we’re talking about. Nuclear power, and of course the downside
of nuclear bombs.
The idea that the rational thing, which in the 1700s-1800s, like Thomas
Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and all these guys, talking about how
rationality was going to deliver human beings into the promised land where
everybody is rational. The first half of the 20th century blew that idea
out of the water, which leads to post-modernism, or what we call the green
meme, which is just dissolution by the whole system, which thinks nothing
There is a deconstruction of all these previous stories. In a sense, we do
that in our own development. People realize when they sort of lose their
religion. They lose their faith in the whole system, and that’s a stage of
development, and an important one.
Jeff: It then leads to a re-integration of the whole system and leaves
the malaise of green behind. That’s why I talk about getting on to what
actually brings on a new sense of being heartened, optimistic and alive.
Not mad at things and not mad at the system. Then that actually gives you a
chance to engage the system in an optimal way instead of in a way where
you’re trying to fix it because something went terribly wrong.
Jack: Or, I’m just going to step out of it because . . .
Jeff: Because it’s hopeless.
Jeff: Yeah. We’re a cancer on this planet. We shouldn’t have happened.
Give me a break, you know. But that’s where that green thinking can go at
the same time it’s humanizing and deeply pacified and opening us up to each
other in ways where we can become one. That’s what drives people crazy at
this stage, is that these conservatives still see the world as . . .
Jack: Right and wrong, black and white.
Jeff: Yes, and the colossal battle between good and evil. If you’re not
fighting evil you’re not doing your job.
Jack: Yeah, right, yeah. You’re not taking personal responsibility.
Jeff: So we’re driving each other crazy. Of course the conservatives
think the liberals are woolly-headed, naïve, thank God you’re not in
charge, weakling, apology tour, all that stuff that just drives them crazy.
Bowing to the King of Siam, or whatever, Obama did.
Jack: Yeah, right.
Jeff: For those of us who are post-modern, of course, yes.
Jack: Respect. Cultural understanding.
Jeff: Drink each other up.
Jack: Yeah, I know. Here’s an idea for you, just a sort of developmental
idea. It seems to me that people often focus their attention on the things
that they have a kind of natural disposition towards. I said there was what
you might get involved in, like a holotropic breathing or shamanic course
or something like that. You might be able to predict the types of people
that would be most likely to come to that course, just like if we run
something in business strategy and marketing, we might have a sense of who
would be drawn to that.
I’m wondering if within that if oftentimes people are drawn to the things
that’s it’s the leading edge in the sense that it follows their interest,
their passion and what they might be good at, and where there gifts and
talents are, and when it comes to like the whole being
development, and oftentimes the development is in another direction, the
bit that’s less obvious to you, the bit that other people see that you
How do we put that together? Does that just sort of resolve itself again in
awareness of time. You think, I’ve been here so many times, I’ve been to so
many of these courses, maybe I need to try something else?
Jeff: Well, I think when I look at my own development, what you’re
talking about is largely characteristic of green. That is, you have to kiss
a lot of frogs is how I see it. My whole spiritual development, I came to
Boulder, and I did all that stuff.
Jeff: And it was all good. Was any one of them my salvation? No. But this
is where Integral comes in handy, because it says religion good, science
good, cognitive therapy good, everything good, as long as it’s about seeing
more. That’s all we ask.
Jeff: We know that we’re moving. I know that I, Jeff, am evolving. There
is actually an impulse in me that wants to be bigger and better Jeff, and
we all have that. We know that there’s a trailing edge that just becomes
Yes, we’re just completely magnetized to the light, but there’s also a part
of us that we feel the deepest pain. That’s one of the cool things about
Integral is that the orientation is that we turn towards that pain, and
orientations of earlier stages are about getting rid of that pain. Praying
Jack: I see.
Jeff: Medicining it away.
Jeff: Thank God, all of them have their place, but at Integral we just
sort of see that there’s power and a lot of evolutionary potency in the
contracted parts of our psyche, and all of these things help us. Again, if
you can just see more. Outward Bound, great. Freudian psychoanalysis,
Jeff: Whatever. It’s all good.
Jack: All in the [inaudible 00:24:16] as we say.
Jeff: Yes, exactly. We can see through what attracts us, and we go
there. Then actually what repulses us? I know one of the things I did was
Body Electric for Gay Men.
Jack: What is that?
Jeff: I mean actually did that with a friend, and it was like, fuck.
Fifteen minutes in we’re all naked in this house, 40 men.
Jeff: Anyway. It was all above board. It was actually very good spiritual
work, and Body Electric is respected and actually has a straight version,
too, I understand.
Jeff: It was challenging. That kind of thing, where I came out of it
three days later with no body issues.
Jeff: With myself or anybody else. That’s not bad. I’ve had a net gain
with that. I’ve probably lost some of it, but that was powerful stuff.
Jeff: And completely unexpected, and the last thing I would have chosen
if I’d known what my friend was taking me to. There you go.
Jack: You’ve got to go with it sometimes.
Jack: I am conscious of time. We probably need to wrap up shortly.
Jeff: Probably so.
Jack: I’m wondering if there are any things that you are expecting us to
see more of in 2013? Sort of like Jeff’s predictions, or things that might
Jeff: Well, we’ll have, if we just look at American politics, we’re going
to have either a second term or Barack Obama, which will put him in a
higher pantheon. Two-term presidents are just automatically significant.
Jeff: One-term presidents have a different place, but it’s lesser. That
will happen with him or not, and I love him so much. I feel the integral
dogma soul with him. He’s my guy. Romney is either integral, and I think
there’s an argument that he is. He actually has just been able to work the
system without being deeply ideological grooved with any of them, and that’s
actually an integral marker, is that you work the system, to the good. I
believe he’s a good man trying to do good, by his lights. I just love
Obama, but I’m not going to be bummed if Romney wins. If Romney wins, I’m
going to say, okay, on with the show, because I trust the bigger system.
Jeff: I don’t expect it to go my way, thank God. No one should. This is
where we need to surrender some. Integral is about, as a way, going back to
these previous stages. This is one last thing I would say because this is
really potent practice, is to go back to these previous stages and feel
into what’s good about them. Deep community of tribal. We want that back.
The magic of tribal, the great myths, the great faith and obedience of
traditional. The curiosity and self expression of modernity. The sense of
oneness and feeling into the pain and bringing the whole system together,
realizing people have been left behind, of the post-modern. We want all of
that in a more open, integral space that can actually hold more than one at
Jeff: More and more consciously, you know.
Jack: Let’s hope we see more of that in 2013.
Jeff: Let’s do more of that in 2013.
Jack: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Jeff: If people want to connect with you or find out any more about your
work, I know you’ve got an active blog, and we talked a little about that
earlier, where should they find you?
Jeff: At the dailyevolver.com. That’s my blog. Dailyevolver.com.
Jack: Brilliant. Go there. Thanks very much for your time today, and good
to connect with you again.
Jeff: My great pleasure, Jack.
Jack: Yeah. Onwards and upwards. All right. Be well.