63. IBP: Daniel Ingram on Integral Theory


“Hmmm, this one’s gonna be good.”

Off we go with our first long-form interview/conversation for 2020, and it’s with returning guest Daniel Ingram! Are you ready for more? It seems that many of you are. Back in 2019 when Daniel was visiting here in Trieste, we discussed a range of topics we might cover on the podcast and one topic that repeatedly came up for Mr Ingram was his take on Integral Theory. We finally got the conversation done before Christmas and here it is. For this one I play the devil’s advocate somewhat as my knowledge on Ken Wilber’s work was quite limited and I had heard mainly complaints about it from our more educated listeners. As always, however, it was a pleasurable conversation and Daniel’s take on Wilber’s core theory seems pretty attractive as a model for understanding stages of growth, both for individuals and groups. We cover sex scandals, power grabs, groupy love, spaced-out gurus, religious fundamentalists, and how we are all too human.

See what you think, and don’t forget to visit Daniel’s website; it’s called Integrated Daniel after all. www.integrateddaniel.info/ For those new to the podcast, and crazy for Daniel’s enlightenment stories and pragmatism, there is a plethora of past conversations to enjoy. From our first ever conversation with him years back, there’s a far more recent and fun series on non-Buddhism in which Daniel tackles the Speculative non-Buddhism project as well as an episode looking into the Practising Life; our theme for this year of podcast episodes.

55. IBP: Daniel Ingram Down the Rabbit Hole: Imperfect-buddha-podcast – 55-ibp-daniel-ingram-down-the-rabbit-hole
54. IBP: Daniel Ingram Meets Trash Theory: Imperfect-buddha-podcast – 54-ibp-daniel-ingram-meets-trash-theory
53. IBP: Daniel Ingram on the Practicing Life: Imperfect-buddha-podcast – 53-ibp-daniel-ingram-on-the-practicing-life

Our next episode will be with Adam Robbert, host of the Side View podcast and journal, before our first ever oral blog post series on…ideology.


  1. You know what “annoys the crap out of me”? (Quote from Daniel Ingram.) When you and your guest both promote bullshit gender stereotypes that equate “male” to “analytical” and “unemotional.” Stop it, please. It makes it very hard for me to keep listening to your podcast.


    • Hi Jill,
      Thanks for listening to the podcast. I find your comment a little out of sorts. I was merely quoting a common complaint of Wilber’s work expressed primarily by female followers. That should have been clear in the context. As for Daniel, he’s free to say what he wants and use dated, outdated, or current stereotypes: I’m certainly not in the habit of censoring guests and never would be. If that’s reason enough for not listening further to the podcast, the choice is yours.
      All the best,


  2. I liked the interview, thanks. I suspect many will not appreciate the pigeon holing of their favorite ideas. Wilber’s framework is useful and one of the risks it holds is encouraging a limited understanding of concepts because they need to “fit”. For example, non-philosophy or social constructionism have a lot more to offer if they are considered to be paradigms that don’t fit Daniel’s model (and placing them as “extreme” positions within that model is effectively loading the dice).

    it is great that Daniel is so up front about how he is organising things and his ability to manage so many options for organising things is very impressive.

    I suspect that we/he would be better served by a collection of different non-totalising theories than a collection of totalising theories. A privileging of not-knowing might help dampen the enthusiasm for totalising theories.

    I suspect that the (limited) commitment Daniel has to this framework might make it hard to alternate into other paradigms like that of non-buddhism. However, I will take my own medicine, and suggest that from within Daniel’s model it would seem most appropriate to display an ability for “immanent critique” of SNB. The exchanges so far appear to be more of an external critique of SNB that privileges “mode 7”. If Daniel tried an immanent critique of SNB, my guess is that the resulting interaction might lead to an understanding of SNB, and that could perhaps allow for constructive dialog. Of course it would be equally useful if Glenn performed an immanent critique of Daniel’s position, but that is probably hard to do without wearing the Arahat hat.

    If someone has a flexibility with paradigms, a pragmatic orientation and an appreciation of the socially constructed self, then I wonder if 1000’s of hours trying to explore states of consciousness is a distraction from those insights. It would be interesting to understand why brilliant people like Matthew, Daniel and Glenn can’t seem to get on the same page regarding pragmatic action.


    • I would agree with the point about immanent critique. You could argue for an embodied critique, a situated critique, or relational stance that transcends one’s existing paradigmatic commitments; not the easiest position for anyone to take, but certainly aided by a pragmatic grasp of the non-philosophy or non-Buddhism heuristics. I’ve found this to be the case for myself, and perhaps an ethics of distance emerges as a consequence.
      The question emerges; what would it take for someone to engage thus? I would like to suggest that the kind of uncoupling of everyday consciousness from the obsessive self-referentialness that emerges from a self/I/Ego, as articulated within Daniels’ model of awakening, is a really helpful step towards this, even as it presents risks and its own forms of ideological capture. Of all those who have made similar claims to Daniel regarding awakening, he has been the most game so far in stretching the boundaries of what they will engage with intellectually and thus experience. A couple of qualities that Daniel and I share that have allowed us to have these conversations and enjoy them, are endless curiosity, a disregard for self-importance and the ownership of roles (a lightness of touch if you will), a generation-X sense of humour, and decades of experience moving in and out of ‘spiritual’ realms of thought and practice without getting too stuck. These are actually, more or less, qualities Glenn posses too…
      As for including me in the triad of ‘brilliant’, I’m flattered, but don’t really know what that means. I do agree that Glenn has carried out his own act of brilliance with non-Buddhism and I am very grateful to him for it. I agree that an immanent position, as you seem to be hinting at, would be a fun exploration for Glenn though probably out of bounds due to his own intellectual commitments. That said, when we last spoke, he did speak of a shift towards constructing ways forwards rather than mere critique though his concern with thought, language and concepts may mean an unwillingness to seemingly return to terrain he left after his own disenchantment.
      Me personally, I am a recovering experience junky and happily submerge myself in any world of thought and experience that might disrupt my own complacency and open up a new realm of possibility.
      I don’t know if any of that is a meaningful response to what you wrote, but there it is.


      • Perhaps we need a “family” term for those styles of interaction e.g. immersive critique. I didn’t want to promote a technical interpretation of immanent critique, and I think we are on the same page regarding the orientation.

        I’m less convinced about the ethical implications. I suspect that words/theories are typically used to justify ethical stances not construct ethical stances. From the stages model it might be interesting to imagine where an ethic of distance fits. Perhaps you will describe this in more detail. A concern I have toward the transpersonal end of Daniel’s spectrum is a confusion over relativism and relationalism. The idea of an ethics of distance brings up concerns over denial of a personal worldview which can come across as non-committal (which is of course a huge ethical commitment). This is more about me than you, it is hard work for me to try and keep moving within a relational orientation so I’m no doubt being overly sensitive/critical.

        I’ve been exploring a concept of “epistemological alternation” in my studies as one way of trying to develop practises that might help the paradigm shifting. I do agree it is hard work. From a transformative model like Daniel’s it is pretty much impossible for a “lower” stage to understand a “higher” stage. This is one reason why I see the responsibility to engage in an immersive critique rests more on Daniel’s shoulders. Certainly if practises have lead to a fluidity of self/ego/identity then that alternation is much easier, I particularly liked Daniel’s awareness of functioning from more unconscious and self-centric stages most of the time. I far prefer the concept of heterarchy instead of hierarchy and this is potentially part of the problem of these staged models. If stage X is objectifying stage Y as stage X then it gets complicated. That is one reason practises can help, for example the conflictual style of SNB is going to be a continual pull toward ego-centric reactions. An immersive critique is more appropriate in many cases but that raises the difficulty…

        You might think of brilliant as in “shining out”, clearly your podcast does this in the buddhist space. I know you don’t want to let the flattery reinforce egotistical reflexes. Because I used your name doesn’t mean it was a personal compliment, perhaps think of it as a diachronic compliment 🙂

        One thing I observe shared by you, Glenn and Daniel: all so busy creating things that you don’t have motivation to play a primarily supporting act. This was something I tried to do with my studies, but the same sort of issue is arising. It is hard to “tow the line” but I’m not sure collective action can be effective without that. This is perhaps where the personal paradigm is more effective than the transpersonal and a heterarchical understanding of staged models is perhaps more appropriate.

        Your comments are really useful as I can only think with someone else helping me do that. Thanks.


  3. I would like to hear from Daniel on the difference between synchronic and diachronic conceptions of experience. The practises that Daniel encourages seem to promote synchronic experience (the present moment), but I suspect this is a more limited and limiting conception of experience compared with a diachronic notion of experience (i.e. the past/present/future are not isolated). A diachronic conception of experience seems more appropriate for the modern subject.


    • I have no plans to interview Daniel but this is an important topic that I will likely chat to someone about sooner or later. I consider it fundamental to disrupting the naive claims of present-moment awareness made by so many teachers, whether Buddhist or Mindfulness. Lots to be said, but not right now.


      • I was hoping Daniel might reply here, I guess Daniel is “lurking”. Another interview with Daniel and you will have to call him a co-host!

        Liked by 1 person

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