Integral theory, a philosophy with origins in the work of Sri Aurobindo and Jean Gebser, and promoted by Ken Wilber, seeks a synthesis of the best of pre-modern, modern, and postmodern reality. It is portrayed as a "theory of everything," and offers an approach "to draw together an already existing number of separate paradigms into an interrelated network of approaches that are mutually enriching." It has been applied by scholar-practitioners in 35 distinct academic and professional domains as varied as organizational management and art.
It initially started as a theoretical transpersonal psychology that attempted to synthesize Western and non-Western understandings of consciousness with notions of biological, mental, and divine evolution. Wilber has since distanced himself from transpersonal psychology and Integral Theory has turned into an emerging field of academic discourse and research focused on the complex interactions of ontology, epistemology, and methodology. However, there is ongoing discussion surrounding its standing in academia.
Integral Theory has been applied in a variety of different domains: integral art, integral ecology, integral economics, integral politics, integral psychology, integral spirituality, and many others. Researchers have also developed applications in areas such as leadership, coaching, and organization development. The first interdisciplinary academic conference on Integral Theory took place in 2008. SUNY Press currently publishes the peer-reviewed Journal of Integral Theory and Practice and has also published four books in the "SUNY series in Integral Theory."
- 1 Methodologies
- 2 AQAL Theory – Lines.
- 3 Contemporary figures
- 4 Themes
- 5 Reception in mainstream academia
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
AQAL, pronounced "ah-qwul," is a widely used framework in Integral Theory. It is also alternatively called the Integral Operating System (IOS) or by various other synonyms. The term stands for "all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, and all types." It is conceived by some integral theorists to be one of the most comprehensive approaches to reality, a metatheory that attempts to explain how academic disciplines and every form of knowledge and experience fit together coherently.
Sri Aurobindo, Jean Gebser, and Ken Wilber, have all made significant theoretical contributions to integral theory.
In the teachings of Sri Aurobindo, integral yoga refers to the process of the union of all the parts of one's being with the Divine, and the transmutation of all of their jarring elements into a harmonious state of higher divine consciousness and existence.
In his book The Ever-Present Origin, Swiss phenomenologist Jean Gebser distinguished between five structures of consciousness: archaic, magic, mythical, mental, and integral. Gebser wrote that he was unaware of Sri Aurobindo's prior usage of the term 'integral', which coincides to some extent with his own.
Wilber, drawing on both Aurobindo's and Gebser's theories, as well as on the writings of many other authors, created a theory which he calls AQAL. AQAL stands for "All Quadrants All Levels."
AQAL Theory – Lines.
Principles and Properties:
Lines are defined as relatively independent capacities of growth and emergence that unfold in levels or stages. The relative independence of lines stresses that they can be developed to various higher or lower degrees. (This explains the different levels of the lines we see in the psychograph.) Whilst we typically focus on lines of human development in the UL quadrant, lines are actually present in all quadrants, serving as areas of growth in tetra-evolution.
In the UL quadrant of individual subjectivity, lines fall into three groupings or categories; cognitive lines, self-related lines and talent or skill lines.
The relative independence of lines does not preclude some important necessary but not sufficient relationships. i.e. A certain degree of physiological development is necessary but not sufficient for cognitive development, and so for cognitive development > self-development > interpersonal development > moral development. Lines have levels and levels arise within lines. They are mutually inter-dependant but can be investigated separately.
Lines in all quadrants:
Lines are present in each quadrant, arising as distinct developmental domains or capacities.
UR examples include; physiological development, nervous system, endocrine system, behavioural development, task complexity. LR examples include; techno-economic modes of production, physical systems, species, modes of transportation, economic exchange systems, geo-political systems, linguistic structures. LL examples include; world-view, intimate relationship, development of a ‘we’, linguistic semantics, cultural values. UL examples include; cognitive, self-identity, interpersonal, moral, emotional, aesthetic, kinaesthetic, spiritual and more. Lines in the UL: Lines in the UL quadrant concern the development of individual skills, capacities and intelligences. Each line can be understood by simple questions we confront as we go about our lives.
- “What am I aware of?” The cognitive line concerns your ability to register phenomena and take perspectives. This line has been explored by Jean Piaget, Kurt Fischer, Robert Kegan, Michael Commons and Francis Richards among others.
- “Who am I?” The self-identity line explores your ego development and self conception. Primary researchers in this area include Jane Loevenger, Susan Cook-Greuter, Michael Washburn and Jenny Wade.
- “How do I interact with others?” The interpersonal line concerns social cognition and role taking. Researchers in this area include Robert Selman and Robert Perry.
- “What should I do?” The moral line describes the unfolding of moral reasoning and judgement from pre-conventional ego-centric to post-post-conventional kosmocentric levels. Primary researchers in this area are Lawrence Kohlburg, Carol Gilligan and Cheryl Armon.
- “How do I feel?” The emotional or affective line concerns your awareness, management and control of emotions. Researched by Daniel Goleman, Peter Salovey and John Mayer.
- “What is attractive to me?” The aesthetic line describes 5 distinct patterns of thinking that correlate to the amount of exposure people have to viewing art. Researched by Abigail Housen and others.
- “What is of ultimate concern?” Development in the spiritual or faith line describes the unfolding nature of your faith and religious beliefs across your lifespan. Research by James Fowler.
- “What do I find significant?” The values line describes the unfolding of what individuals find important. Research by Clare Graves, Don Beck and Chris Cowan.
- “What do I need?” The needs line concerns individual’s changing conception of what they want or need from life and others. Research by Abraham Maslow.
In addition to AQAL, scholars have proposed other methodologies for integral studies. Bonnitta Roy has introduced a "Process Model" of integral theory, combining Western process philosophy, Dzogchen ideas, and Wilberian theory. She distinguishes between Wilber's concept of perspective and the Dzogchen concept of view, arguing that Wilber's view is situated within a framework or structural enfoldment which constrains it, in contrast to the Dzogchen intention of being mindful of view. Wendelin Küpers, Ph.D., a German scholar specializing in phenomenological research, has proposed that an "integral pheno-practice" based on aspects of the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty can provide the basis of an "adequate phenomenology" useful in integral research. His proposed approach claims to offer a more inclusive and coherent approach than classical phenomenology, including procedures and techniques called epoché, bracketing, reduction, and free variation.
In the context of an integral approach to climate change, Sean Esbjörn-Hargens has proposed a new approach called Integral Pluralism, which builds on Wilber's recent work but emphasizes elements such as Ontological Pluralism that are understated or absent in Wilber's own writings.
A variety of intellectuals, academics, writers, and other specialists have advanced the integral theory in recent decades.
In the context of Integral Theory, Integral art can be defined as art that reaches across multiple quadrants and levels. It may also refer to art that was created by someone who thinks or acts in an integral way. It can be variously defined as art that reaches across multiple quadrants and levels, that transcends and includes all limited forms, interpretations, or perspectives, as the belief that every human being is creative and that art is integral to all human endeavours, or simply as art that was created by someone who thinks or acts in an integral way.
There is no one form of integral art, and although the term is most commonly applied in the Wilberian context, it is in no way limited to that paradigm or organisation. Integral art may equally derive from integral teachers like Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, or other integral thinkers, or simply developed integral art independently. As with Integral thought in general, any list of Integral artists will be controversial.
Integral artists influenced by Ken Wilber
- Michael Garfield (b. 1984) is a songwriter, painter, and essayist once associated with Integral Institute as a member of Ken Wilber's editorial team and as a featured performer at Integral Naked. Multi-perspectivism characterizes his work in all media. He has interviewed Ken at length about integral art.
- Donna Willard-Moore (b. 1954) is a fine artist whose work includes the collection Angels & Demons (2008) focuses on Integral Archetypes.
Integral ecology is a multi-disciplinary approach pioneered by Michael E. Zimmerman and Sean Esbjörn-Hargens. It applies Wilber's integral theory (especially the eight methodological perspectives) to the field of environmental studies and ecological research.
Integral economics is a ‘paradigmatic’ methodology emanating from integral thought and theory as it translates to economics. This 'new' praxis offers a structural framework for addressing and resolving problems the Integral Institute has associated in their Mission with “evolutionary forms of capitalism; and the culture wars in political, religious, and scientific domains”. These efforts are thus affording "theorists and developmental psychologists a needed and useful early look at the formal, dynamic process by which the evolution of higher-order development proceeds" in relation to an integral model. 
The book "MEMEnomics" (published 2013) by Said E. Dawlabani, builds levels of economic insight and analysis specifically upon the "Spiral Dynamics" model developed by Beck and Cowan from the research of Graves, making a significant contribution to what can be referred to as "Integral Economics."
As the term is often used, Integral leadership is a style of leadership that attempts to integrate other major styles of leadership. In "style" terms, integral leadership is an approach to influence that involves understanding 'where people are' (their mindsets, values, goals, capabilities and situational dynamics) and then interacting with them in a way that is appropriate and helpful given 'where they are'.
Integral politics is an endeavor to develop a balanced and comprehensive politics around the principles of integral studies. Theorists including Don Beck, Lawrence Chickering, Jack Crittenden, David Sprecher, and Ken Wilber have applied concepts such as the AQAL methodology of Integral Theory to issues in political philosophy and applications in government.
Integral psychology is originally based on the Yoga psychology of Sri Aurobindo. In the context of Integral Theory, it applies Wilber's AQAL and related themes to the field of psychology. For Wilber, Integral psychology is psychology that is inclusive or holistic rather than exclusivist or reductive, and values and integrates multiple explanations and methodologies.
Integration of integral theories
Emerging from the broader integral movement is a range of meta-theoretical approaches to integral theorizing. This includes Mark Edwards[disambiguation needed]' notion of integral metatheory, Jennifer Gidley's integration of integral views and Gary Hampson's ecology of integrals. Gidley's position is that integral theory creation to date has been seriously hampered by internal rivalry, factionalism and, ironically, lack of integration of kindred theories. She offers a means for perceiving the interrelationships among significant integrative approaches that have been operating in relative isolation from each other. Her research points towards the possibility of new liaisons between approaches that are: inclusive of the vastness of noospheric breadth (macro-integral); that provide rigorous theoretic means for cohering it (meso-integral); that attend to the concrete details required for applying the theories (micro-integral); that encourage the participation of all aspects of the human being throughout this process (participatory-integral); and that are able to traverse and converse across these multiple dimensions (transversal-integral).
Reception in mainstream academia
Integral Theory is widely ignored at mainstream academic institutions. Nevertheless, about 90 M.A. theses or Ph.D. dissertations have been written between 1987 and 2009 that make use of Integral Theory, according to the Integral Research Center. It has been said by some that Integral Theory has a way to go in terms of being brought into dialogue with other disciplines.
The capacity of Integral Theory to synthesize major Western and non-Western psychologies, the perennial philosophy, and religious ideas into a cross-cultural map of consciousness has been applauded, sometimes with arguably hyperbolic enthusiasm. Huston Smith, a professor of Philosophy and Religion at Syracuse University and author of The World's Religions, has said that Wilber's integral theory brings Asian and Western psychology together more systematically and comprehensively than other approaches. Michael E. Zimmerman, writing in The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, says that Wilber's views are sometimes sharply contested, but he is widely admired for his efforts in forming a "constructive postmodernism" able to "reenchant" the world without inviting regression.
Forman and Esbjörn-Hargens, two of the leading proponents of Integral Theory, maintain that the integral paradigm has made limited inroads in academic research because many of Wilber's influential writings have been situated between conventional academic discourse and popular philosophy. However, the independent scholar Frank Visser says that there is a problematic relation between Wilber and academia for several reasons, including a "self-referential discourse" wherein Wilber tends to describe his work as being at the forefront of science. Visser has compiled a bibliography of online criticism of Wilber's Integral Theory and produced an overview of their objections. Another Wilber critic, the independent scholar Andrew P. Smith, observes that most of Wilber's work has not been published by university presses, a fact that discourages some academics from taking his ideas seriously. Wilber's failure to respond to critics of Integral Theory is also said to contribute to the field's chilly reception in some quarters. Forman and Esbjörn-Hargens have countered criticisms regarding the academic standing of integral studies in part by claiming that the divide between Integral Theory and academia is exaggerated by critics who themselves lack academic credentials or standing. They also said that participants at the first Integral Theory Conference in 2008 had largely mainstream academic credentials and pointed to existing programs in alternative universities like John F. Kennedy University or Fielding Graduate University as an indication of the field's emergence.
Jennifer Gidley, Research Fellow at RMIT University Melbourne, states that there is a need in the 21st century to create conceptual bridges between Integral Theory, philosophy and pedagogy and other related philosophical, theoretical, and pedagogical approaches. She undertook a comparative study of key evolution of consciousness thinkers, focusing particularly on the integral theoretic narratives of Rudolf Steiner, Jean Gebser, and Ken Wilber (but also with due reference to the seminal writings of Sri Aurobindo and those of contemporary European integral theorists such as Ervin Laszlo and Edgar Morin). She noted the conceptual breadth of Wilber's integral evolutionary narrative in transcending both scientism and epistemological isolationism. She also drew attention to some limitations of Wilber’s integral project, notably his undervaluing of Gebser's actual text, and the substantial omission of the pioneering contribution of Steiner, who, as early as 1904 wrote extensively about the evolution of consciousness, including the imminent emergence of a new stage. As a contribution to the knowledge base of integral education, Gidley has also undertaken a hermeneutic comparative analysis of Rudolf Steiner's educational approach and Wilber's Integral Operating System.
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