"Transcend and include... this is the self-transcending drive of the Kosmos—to go beyond what went before and yet include what went before... to open into the very heart of Spirit-in-action." Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if a group of people somewhere were for something and against nothing?" Ernest Holmes

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

DIVERGENT: Optimist "Hunger Games," Integralist Dream

"Only those who are divergent can save us"

Integral commentator Jeff Salzman has called for futurist fiction that paints a more constructive picture than your average post-apocalypse. "Divergent," first novel in a trilogy by Veronica Roth, sets the bar, and it does so with concepts that parallel Integral. Millions of young adults are rabid fans of the blockbuster which will be released as a movie in Spring 2014.

Divergent opens in a burned out Chicago where order has been restored by giving each of five factions responsibility for one aspect of the city. Each faction represents one virtue. At age 16, each person chooses whether to stay in the faction of their birth, or transfer to another faction for life.

The factions are remarkably similar to the value levels in Spiral Dynamics. The picture above is from a fan site. I've doctored the colors of each faction to highlight the SD parallels:

  • Red for Dauntless/Warrior
  • Blue for Selfless Abgenation/Mythic 
  • Orange for Candor and Erudite, two factions matching the spiral's Efficient Rationalist level 
  • Green for Amity/Pluralist 
  • Yellow for Divergent/Integral (not shown above)
I've also reordered the factions from the original image. Divergent does not acknowledge any levels among the factions except for this stunner: Only those born in abgenation are likely to become divergent.

Zombie-free "young adult" fiction. But is it Second Tier?

I am only two-thirds through this deeply thoughtful "young adult" thriller. The absence of the purple/magic level so far is noteworthy in an era when so many books targeted to young adults feature sorcerers or zombies.  I'm guessing the book is appealing to a generation whose orange/green parents shielded them from red/blue experiences of power and selfless service to the group. And so it is to these two groups that swarms of fans are declaring allegiance at Divergent's fan site.

The feeling of the book is wholly first tier so far -- except for this: the way Divergent people can be identified by others is by their reaction to simulations of their greatest fears. Divergents hold simultaneous awareness of multiple realities, and thus are more quickly able to regain composure in a simulation.

No religion, but Christ Consciousness
Divergent does not discuss religion explicitly; God is mentioned only casually. But one Christian review of Divergent says this:
Abnegation seems to be the “Christian” group, or at least religious one.  The book notes that almost all the Divergent are raised in Abnegation.  As the story unfolds, the idea seems to be that all the other factions are nothing if they are not selfless; in fact, perhaps all the other factions at their core require the influence of Abnegation.  The Dauntless are supposed to be fearless – for the sake of others.  Amity brings peace –for the sake of others.  The Erudite must learn – for the sake of others.  Candor speaks truth – for the sake of others. As a Divergent, Beatrice has three of the factions “fully” in her; I wonder if at some point we will meet a Divergent with all five – a type of Christ if you will, the Incarnation, fully everything. That would be very cool.
The same reviewer also makes a comparison to Hunger Games:
Authority figures are treated with appropriate realism. Many are worthy of trust and respect; some are not.  They are all trapped in a system doomed for failure, and for that reason are forced to make hard decisions that at times appear to compromise their integrity.  This does not build cynicism in the characters (as it did in the Hunger Games) as much as build desire to see justice and truth prevail.
Empowered to Leap over Culverts
I am loving the book, and it has empowered me both morally and physically. First, the sentence, "Only the divergent can save us," energized me to speak more forthrightly when I am seeing a situation from multiple perspectives. And second, the heroine in Divergent bravely faces a brutal initiation into her new faction with the thought, "This is my reality now." Immediately afterward I was hiking a cornfield in Pennsylvania Dutch country and found myself leaping over culverts I normally would have detoured around.

Take the Divergent Test
Fans at the fan site are clamoring to take a test to identify their natural faction. I'm hoping some of my Integral friends involved with leadership assessment might have just the thing for them.


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Christy Cox said...

Hello Teri Murphy,

I am a bit disconnected from popular culture and only just watched Divergent last night, never having heard of it or the novels. I found your post after my own train of thought caused me to google "divergent spiral dynamics" just to see whether anyone else saw parallels.

I very much enjoyed your post. Even more, I am enjoying discovering the existence of yourself and your blog. After discovering the ideas of Wilber, Beck and Cowan a few years ago, I later became disappointed that I was not able to find many female integral voices. I was especially frustrated when I bought a copy of Ucik's "Integral Dating: A Manual for Men," which included a statement along the lines of 'Don't try to talk about integral theory with women. Use the map of integral, but don't try to show it to them, because they don't care to see it.' (Paraphrasing from a very stale memory--sorry.) Anyway, objection to the assumption that I wouldn't want to 'look at the map' in a relationship aside, I can't quite name what I was feeling missing from integral discussions at that time, except that it was somewhat similar to the pang I feel when a truly inspirational spiritual person refers to a gendered God.

All this is to say: you have returned my attention to the voices of self-identified integral thinkers and I thank you for it! You mentioned that the divergent story had an empowering effect on you. I feel silly admitting it, but the movie seems to have emboldened me as well (to express my own divergent/integral perspective), and this was reinforced by finding your blog. (Oh well, Ken Wilber was pretty excited by the Matrix, as I recall.) I hope more and more women will begin to voice their integral perspectives (and also that I continue to find the ones who already are doing so.)

Best wishes to you and our entire integrating species, Christy

Teri Murphy said...

Hi Christy, great to hear from you. I know lots of women interested in the Integral map. But isn't it interesting that even women at the top levels, Diane Hamilton, for example, tend to play the "heart" to Wilber's "head." Here's to integrating them both in us all!