Artwork for podcast Deep Transformation
Nicholas Hedlund & Sean Esbjörn-Hargens (Part 2) - Grappling with the Metacrisis: Understanding and Responding Effectively to the Great Challenges of Our Time
Episode 7130th March 2023 • Deep Transformation • Deep Transformation Podcast
00:00:00 00:41:18

Share Episode


Ep. 71 (Part 2 of 3) | 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.”

(For Apple Podcast users, click here to view the complete show notes on the episode page.)

Topics & Time Stamps – Part 2

  • The difference between dialogue and debate: being willing to have one’s mind changed and opening up the opportunity for real dialogue (01:23)
  • The critical reality principle/truth that we all share one world (03:07)
  • The call to evolve together and mature spiritually (05:14)
  • Reasons to be optimistic and reasons to be concerned about what lies ahead: the metacrisis will be a developmental catalyst for some but not all (07:33)
  • The integral ecology mantra: things are getting better, things are also getting worse, and the eternal nature of perfection (09:33) 
  • How can we speak to the fears of the people? The failure of liberal globalism, the rise of conservatism, and the search for higher political ground (12:01)
  • Learning to listen to reality itself and what is being communicated by the profound intelligence of nature (15:03)
  • What steps can we take to contribute to the full system reboot that is needed now? Cultivating the reverent heart sensibility (21:15)
  • Applying big picture maps to addressing aspects of the metacrisis: six qualities pointing to the ways in which we need to be connected in order to make any progress (22:56) 
  • How can we all be friends? Cultivating filia, connecting heart to heart, is the secret ingredient to the success of long term collaboration (28:11)
  • How do we scale heart connection among humans? (35:43)
  • We need more expressive capacity as a humanity, which metatheories can help us with (37:47)

Resources & References – Part 2

* As an Amazon Associate, Deep Transformation earns from qualifying purchases.


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, 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