What is Integral Philosophy, Integral Theory?

An answer to send your friends who are asking.

Stéphane Segatori
Jul 3, 2017 · 3 min read

(Extract from the “Integral Center Membership Manual” in Boulder Colorado. They are owner of this beautifully written material)

What is Integral Philosophy?

We are on the cusp of a major cultural transformation, akin to the enlightenment of the 18th century, and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. We can witness the markers of the Integral Age as we see greater degrees of holistic thinking emerging in all areas of life: medicine, politics, relationships, business, parenting, art, spirituality, and community. However, the tipping point will not happen on its own; it requires us to take responsibility to cultivate wholeness in our own lives… which invites others around us to do the same.

Ken Wilber’s Four Quadrant Model

Ken Wilber’s All Quadrants All Levels (AQAL) model, pronounced “ah-qwul”, is the basic framework of Integral Theory. It suggests that all human knowledge and experience emerges within four primordial perspectives, that can be mapped along the dimensions of “interior vs exterior” and “individual vs collective”. Here is a simple diagram of some basic aspects of humans in community.

When we want to create impact in our community, by paying attention to all four quadrants of experience we can design strategies that have deep and lasting impact. The Integral Center strives to improve the lives of our members by teaching and supporting healthy lifestyles in All Quadrants, and in All Levels.

Spiral Dynamics

Based on extensive research begun by Clare Graves, Spiral Dynamics (developed by Don Beck and Christopher Cowan) is a developmental theory that sees human beings evolving or developing through eight major waves of consciousness. We talk a lot about these stages at The Integral Center. You may hear us talking about colors and wonder what’s up. We’re talking about different stages of conscious development.

There are many explanations out there of the different levels of consciousness. The main things to remember are that all levels are important and necessary for human evolution, each level builds on the next, and we are all capable of thinking on each level. For instance, in a moment when you’re hungry and desperately looking for something to eat, you’re thinking out of an instinctive mindset, whereas at that moment that you realize that it is both important and possible to care about people and the planet AND make a good income, you’re thinking out of a systemic mindset. We are not trying to be at the highest levels all the time; just striving to constantly expand our understanding of the world and think in a more holistic way more often.

Integral Principles

  • Humility — All perspectives are true. Everyone is right! We practice noticing when we’re assuming/judging that someone’s perspective is wrong and practice extending regard and being more inclusive.
  • Discernment — All perspectives are false too! We may be capable of including another’s perspective, but we also stand by our own with dignity and self-respect so as not to collapse into someone else’s worldview.
  • Enactment — Just believing in a more integrative world won’t make it happen. It is our responsibility to express our values and shepherd ever more integral conversations. How do we champion an Integral conversation? That’s what we get to practice here, so we don’t have to forever hide our values when we’re in different cultures (our families of origin, our friends in other communities, etc); with humility and dignity, we can lead more inclusive ways of relating.

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