Out of the Labyrinth

By Carl Frankel
Copyright 2004
Monkfish Book Publishing
$16.95, 256 pages

Reviewed by Richard Walthers


The power of words constantly amazes me. I know from my experience in the sustainable design field that the words "love" and "spirituality" can empty a corporate boardroom faster than the phrase "Lunch is served." These twin concepts of love and spirituality have never been welcome at the corporate table, but they just might have received their first bona fide invitation from Carl Frankel's exceptional new book, Out of the Labyrinth.

Frankel's plea for the inclusion of such concepts as love and spirituality in the corporate decision-making process comes in a multi-layered work that never falls off any of the tracks it follows. The concepts he explores are encapsulated in the context of an extremely personal story. The author bravely bares his soul in the telling of the familiar tale of a father/son alienation and misunderstanding that was part of almost every Baby Boomer's generation gap experience.

Out of the Labyrinth is written with humor and insight, and is filled with political and cultural commentary. Frankel writes from deep within his own self-defined inner being and draws on numerous sources to describe our current environmental and cultural depravity while philosophically tackling a wide array of topics. Most importantly he delves into the nature of identity and the nature of sustainability and how they relate to each other. The book has an accessible style that makes you feel like you are engaged in a wonderful conversation with a great raconteur.

Stories give meaning and purpose to our lives, and in the process of writing this book and telling his story, Frankel has a belated reconciliation with his long ago murdered father. He goes prospecting in his inner self and comes back with gold in the form of not only a good story, but also a structure of the self that he calls the "Triad." Frankel's vision of the Triad consists of three components. One is the strategist, who pursues goals in the objective domain; second is the citizen, who participates in society in the social domain; and finally there is the seeker, who quests for meaning in the depth dimension. Inherent in the psyches of each of us are all three of these components or sub-personalities.

The second part of Frankel's vision is what he calls the "Integral Way." He proposes a new way to respond to information by including the voices of all the domains and not playing favorites with any single one. By being inclusive and balancing the inputs from each domain, the creative tension between domains will provide solutions to problems that far exceed any solution derived from single domain thinking.

With this process in mind Frankel clearly wants to engage in a referendum on modernism, which he calls the tyranny of the objective domain that has held sway over all of our institutions, particularly business and technology, for the last 400 years. He believes it is time for another voice to be heard and it may be the only way we can get beyond the presently stalled debate on sustainable development. The discussion has been stalled by the business community because most companies, even those that would consider themselves environmentally enlightened, are very uncomfortable with such depth dimension concepts as meaning, love and spirituality.

Frankel suggests that the concept of sustainable development stopped evolving right after it acknowledged the social domain by adopting Corporate Social Responsibility principles. It has been stopped precisely because, in order to flower into its next stage, sustainable development has to address and integrate an awareness of depth dimension characteristics, and the tyranny of the objective refuses to consider any aspect of the inner realm as relevant to business. This is an essential reason why Out of the Labyrinth is such an important book that should be read by both business managers and political leaders.

If Out of the Labyrinth does nothing more than jumpstart the debate on sustainable development and eventually make it respectable for love and spirituality to be seriously considered in corporate organization and strategy, it will have achieved a major coup. However, I suspect it will become recognized as a significant contribution to the overall sustainability debate and a work that the author's father would have been truly proud to acknowledge.