Nicholas Hedlund & Sean Esbjörn-Hargens (Part 3) – Grappling with the Metacrisis: Understanding and Responding Effectively to the Great Challenges of Our Time

Sean Esbjörn-Hargens Nicholas Hedlund Metatheories

Nicholas Hedlund & Sean Esbjörn-Hargens are big picture philosophers with extraordinary big hearts as well as big minds, dedicated to understanding how consciousness, culture, and nature relate to each other, and to forging a path for the Earth and civilization to flourish rather than fall apart. In this dialogue, the world of metatheories comes alive with urgent, purposeful meaning, because as Sean and Nick point out, integrative metatheories like Ken Wilber’s integral theory and Roy Bhaskar’s critical realism are the only tools that provide a useful framework for us to talk about and confront the vast web of interrelated and wicked problems we face on every level at this time. Now, we are only just beginning to understand the nature of the metacrisis—how the external crises are driven by interior crises of sensemaking and meaning making—but how do we bring everyone to the table to find solutions? How do we get the wisdom of these approaches to bear upon the crises we face? 

It turns out that heart connection—love, caring, and being willing to listen and to change—is a crucial, key ingredient for us to move forward in a positive way. Nick and Sean express both heartbreak and wild enthusiasm—heartbreak that our entire planetary community is so threatened and we have only a small window of time (till 2030) to transform our consciousness and culture into taking a cooperative and reverent approach to life, and enthusiasm to be alive at this pivotal time where everything hangs in the balance. Recorded December 7, 2022.

“We really need both—we need big Heart to connect and be friends with each other and love each other and we need that in equal measure to big Mind.”

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Topics & Time Stamps – Part 3

  • What metatheory is and what it is not: integrative metatheories explore how consciousness, culture, and nature relate to each other (01:35)
  • Big picture models are antidotes to the single focus fallacies, single issue fallacies, single cause fallacies, and single solution fallacies (04:07)
  • Developmentally, the majority of people are at a stage of “advanced linear thinking” and the metacrisis requires “advanced systems thinking” (05:21)
  • People need 3 things to grow under stress instead of regress: context, pointing a way out, and being told what we can do individually (06:46)
  • How do we communicate the urgency without invoking the psychology of fear? (09:08)
  • The crucial window to transform the very foundations of our civilization is between now and 2030 (10:18)
  • What can we do? We’re still working on the context but we need to have a collective conversation to figure out what is the path out, or the possible paths out (11:20)
  • A core developmental practice we can actually do is perspective taking, perspective seeking, and perspective coordinating (14:28)
  • Ego death is all along the path; we need to keep opening up to a bigger version of ourselves (16:15)
  • Taking perspectives is not enough (18:37)
  • Business as usual is not going to happen—how do we create new educational systems to transform the world in the ways that are needed? (21:10)
  • The importance of sounding our note, sitting in prayer in humility, and asking, what can I do? (25:10)
  • Pessimism and optimism are both ego strategies to deal with uncertainty; we need to learn to rest in uncertainty individually and collectively because no one knows what will happen (27:20)
  • How has grappling with the problems of the metacrisis changed Nick and Sean? (31:16)
  • Where is the hope? (36:44)

Resources & References – Part 3

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Sean Esbjörn-Hargens Metacrisis Metatheories

Sean Esbjörn-Hargens is a global leader in the application of integrative thinking to leader development, organizational design, and mixed-methods design. In 2011 he founded MetaIntegral, a social impact network that supports change leaders around the world in applying integrative principles. Sean’s passion lies at the intersection of design, integral theory, and embodiment. He has published and edited numerous articles, chapters, and books. His most recent book is Big Picture Perspectives on Planetary Flourishing. He also is the Program Director of the MA/PhD program Integral Noetic Sciences at the California Institute for Human Sciences.

Nicholas Hedlund Metacrisis Metatheories

Nicholas Hedlund, PhD, is a visionary philosopher working at the nexus of philosophy of science, worldviews, and socioecological transformation. He received his PhD in philosophy and social sciences from University College London, studying under the philosopher Roy Bhaskar. Nicholas also holds a master’s degree in philosophy & religion, as well as one in psychology. He is director of Eudaimonia Institute, an emerging social innovations lab for planetary flourishing. His work has appeared in numerous anthologies and peer-reviewed journals. He is co-editor of Metatheory for the Twenty-First Century: Critical Realism and Integral Theory in Dialogue and Big Picture Perspectives for Planetary Flourishing: Metatheory for the Anthropocene, Vol I. He currently teaches at the California Institute of Human Science. 

Podcast produced by Vanessa Santos and Show Notes by Heidi Mitchell

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