The word integral means comprehensive, inclusive, non-marginalizing, embracing. Integral approaches to any field attempt to be exactly that: to include as many perspectives, styles, and methodologies as possible within a coherent view of the topic. In a certain sense, integral approaches are “meta-paradigms,” or ways to draw together an already existing number of separate paradigms into an interrelated network of approaches that are mutually enriching.
- Ken Wilber
What is Integral Theory?
During the last 40 years we have witnessed a historical first: all of the world's cultures are now available to us. Knowledge itself is now global, that means that also, for the first time, the sum total of all human knowledge is available to us. What if we took literally everything that all the various cultures have to tell us about human potential and put it all on the table? What if we attempted, based on extensive cross-cultural study to use all of the world's great traditions to create a comprehensive map that included the best from all of them?
Over the last several decaces, Ken Wilber and others have lead a search for this comprehansive map of human potentials. This map uses all the known systems and models of human growth - from the ancient shamans and sages to today's breakthroughs in cognitive science - and distills their components into 5 simple factors, factors that are essential elements to unlocking the and facilitating human evolution.
This is the integral approach.
A holon is something that is simultaneously a whole and a part. Holons are self-reliant units that possess a degree of independence and can handle contingencies without asking higher authorities for instructions. These holons are also simultaneously subject to control from one or more of these higher authorities.
A hierarchy of holons is called a holarchy. The test of holarchy is that if all instances of a given type of holon cease to exist, then all the holons they were part of must cease to exist too. Thus an atom is of a lower standing in the hierarchy than a molecule, because if you removed all molecules, atoms could still exist, whereas if you removed all atoms, molecules, in a strict sense would cease to exist. Ken Wilber's concept is known as the doctrine of the fundamental and the significant. A hydrogen atom is more fundamental than an ant, but an ant is more significant.
Each holon can be seen from within (subjective, interior perspective) and from the outside (objective, exterior perspective), and from an individual or a collective perspective.
All four perspectives are complementary, rather than contradictory. It is possible for all to be correct, and all are necessary for a complete account of human existence. Each by itself offers only a partial view of reality.
Each quadrant is as valid as reality in the others; no quadrant can be reduced to the others. No exception. For instance, your felt emotion is not less real than electro-chemical reactions in your brain. It is the same "thing" but looked at from a different perspective, both being real.
World centric - Starting 50 years ago
Authentic irony, Ecology of perspectives
Quest: Peace in an incomprensible world Transrational perceptions, AQAL
Pitfalls: pathologies of the soul
.1% of the world, 1% of power
Integrated individualism - Starting 70 years ago
Live fully and responsibly. Integrate the whole spiral
Quest: Integral synthesis - to balance the whole Evolutionary streams awaken, integrate diversity with discernment, healthy heirarchies (holoarchies)
Pitfalls: aborted self-actualization, existential angst, bad faith, withdrawal
1% of the world, 5% of power
Age 15-21 years years Social Democracies -Starting 150 years ago
Seek inner pease within a caring community. Power with solidarity, human rights activism
Quest: affectionate relations, beneficial resolution, dialogue and consensus
Method: appreciate diverse views, listen well, consensus, empathicize group needs, marginalize no one
Pitfalls: inauthenticity, lack of discernment, directionless attempts at consensus, hostile towards heirarchies, flatland
10% of the world, 15% of power
Age 9-14 years/Capitalistic Democracies - Starting 300 years ago - Scientific Rationalism
Act from self interest, play the game to win, market driven meritocracy
Quest: material pleasure, defense of civilization
Method: excel, set goals, acheive, measure success
Pitfalls: identity crisis, role confusions, consumerism ecological crisis workaholism, denial of spirit
30% of the world, 50% of power
Age 7-8 years/Late mythic, Nation States, Authoritarian, Conformist Religious - starting 5,000 years ago
Life has meaning, direction, purpose, predetermined outcomes
Quest: good vs evil, ultimate peace
Method: follow given rules, discipline, faith, know your role
Pitfalls: archtypal role identification, fundamentalism, facism
40% of the world, 30% of power
Age 3-6 years/Early mythic, feudal - starting 10,000 years ago
Be what you are and do what you want, regardless of consequence
Quest: heroic status, power, glory, rage, revenge
Method: align with power, take what you need, force, rule
Pitfalls: anxiety, depression, phobias, excessive guilt, terrorism
20% of the world, 5% of power
Age 1-3 years/Tribal order - starting 50,000 years ago
Magical thinking, keep the spirits happy and the tribe safe
Quest: safe mode of living, security
Method: petition to gods or powers with ritual
Pitfalls: narcissism, omnipotent fantasy, tribal conflicts
10% of world, 1% of power
Age 0-18 months/Survival bands - starting 100,000 years ago
Do what you need to stay alive. Pure narcisstic behaviors.
Quest: food, water, warmth, shelter
Method: scavenge whatever you need
Pitfalls: primitive developmental psycho pathologies, autism