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INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
M. Alan Kazlev is a self-taught esotericist and metaphysician, science fiction writer and fan, amateur biologist and palaeontologist, and student of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's teachings and yoga. His website is at www.kheper.net and he can be contacted at akazlev at bigpond dot com. For Integral World he has written two series of essays on integral philosophy: Towards a Larger View of Integral (4 Parts) and Integral Esotericism (8 Parts). In the following essay he gives on overview of the integral landscape.
M. Alan Kazlev
Authors note: this essay builds upon and incorporates an earlier blog post on Integral Praxis integralpraxis.blogspot.com/ . In the process of writing it, I revised and refined my original position considerably, so that in places it is almost unrecognisable. I would like to thank everyone who commented on these posts and added their own feedback and critiques; I have tried to incorporate this into the current thesis. To help with the flow of text, I have avoided the use of footnotes in this essay. There is also a pragmatic reason for this: in order to cite everything the essay would need many pages of footnotes! Instead, important books have been referenced in the text itself. I have also included various on-line urls, but again, not a comprehensive selection. This essay updates and complements my earlier essays on Integral World
In this essay, I re-define "Integral" in a way that includes all current definitions. This involves five definitions: Religious, Theoretical, Practical, Enlightened, and Divinised. Each of these definitions is defined. Of these, the first is considered pseudo-integral, the others authentically integral. This gives us a broader framework that can accommodate, but also go beyond, the various more limited definitions. A lot of difficulty also arises from confusing the Integral Movement as defined by Ken Wilber and Don Beck with Integral Yoga as defined by Sri Aurobindo. I show that these are very different; they are radically different teachings based on totally different states of consciousness.. A sequence of stages of the evolution of consciousness and society is also presented, which includes stages beyond the current Post-Materialism and Integral stages consciousness, is suggested, and the first of these, called Post-Integral, is briefly described.
2. The Problem
Currently, especially in America and on the Internet, the word Integral, and the Integral Movement, is defined almost totally within the context of the philosophy and personality cult of the American autodidact Ken Wilber. This leads to the following problems:
However, the original definition of the word was not by Ken Wilber, but by Sri Aurobindo, whose teachings were in almost every respect the opposite of Wilber's. The only things they had in common was (b) the synthesis of different perspectives (such as spirituality and materialism, and the meeting of East and West), (c) an evolutionary worldview, and (d) use of the word "Integral" to define their respective teachings.
3. The need for a definition of what constitutes "integral"
Since mid-2004, I've been attracted by the intellectual, social, and spiritual potential in the so-called Integral movement. Unfortunately, that attraction turned to disillusionment as I became progressively more aware of narrowness and religiosity of much of the movement (centered as it is around the personality and teachings of Ken Wilber), the head-centered intellectualism, appeal to authority ("Ken says") rather than scholarship, and lack of authentic gnosis.
But over the last year or so there seems to be an emerging Post-Wilberian community and discourse, as representing a broader Integralism than the original Wilberian movement. This is also incorporating many other teachings and themes, so much so that it constitutes a new synthesis (here called the Integral Synthesis, or the Integral movement proper). It seems to be developing under its own momentum, and that is a good thing.
But here's the problem; for a long time I could find no definition of "integral movement" outside this mainstream of Wilber, his former and present co-workers, his supporters and critics, and trhose influenced and informed by his work. It seemed to me that the whole concept of Integral had yet to be defined in a way that is agreeable to and inclusive of everyone concerned.
This lack of definition of what constitutes "integral" is easily apparent because if you look at Sri Aurobindo and Mirra Alfassa (The Mother), Pitirim Sorokin, Jean Gebser, Haridas Chaudhuri, Michael Murphy, Ken Wilber, Sally Goerner, Ervin László, myself, and many others, it is obvious that everyone each gives their own definition. Without a proper definition, the whole concept of a single Integral movement, Integral theory, and Integral practice, is problematic.
And because there is no definition of Integral that includes every "integral thinker" under that label, by default Integral has often come to refer to an American on-line perspective based on reworking of developmental and transpersonal psychology, pop philosophy, and pop mysticism, allied ideas such as the secular developmental socio-psychological models of Spiral Dynamics (Clare Graves, Chris Cowan, and Don Beck), developmental psychology (Robert Kegan, Susanne Cook-Greuter, etc), and most especially Ken Wilber's attempt at integrating opposites within a larger intellectual framework. This is a valid school of thought, but to me it still isn't universal enough. For want of a better label, I call it the "Integral Movement sensu stricto" (in the strict sense), or "the Integral mainstream". (I want to avoid labels like Wilberian, except in reference to those who adopt a very literal approach to Wilber's own work, because this stream is already much bigger than just Wilber's own work). And perhaps the only reason it has such a high profile is because Wilber's books are quite popular and written in an accessible manner, and groups like the Integral Institute are very good at marketing and outreach.
Therefore the present essay uses these definitions
See sect.7 for a genealogy of "Integral" groups.
4. The Basic thesis
To begin, it would be useful to define these various conceptions of what is meant by "integral", taking into account these different influences and different streams of consciousness. My thesis is that:
5. Do we need another theory?
A number of people have, replying to my original thesis posted on the Integral Praxis blog, stated that we don't need any more theory, and that practice is what is important.
My reply is threefold:
For all these reasons, I propose the following new definition of Integral theory, practice, and transformation.
6. Integral, a New Definition
A central thesis of this essay is that all the different perspectives and uses of the word "integral" in a philosophical, cultural, or spiritual context, can be presented in terms of five progressive definitions, each of them increasingly more profound. Only by taking all these definitions into account can we have a complete definition of Integral.
These five definitions are:
An "Integral" philosophy, practice, or transformation may include one, two, or more of the above. The earlier ones lead to the later, and the later feed back to the earlier, as explained in the following diagram:
Note that these definitions do not correspond to ontological or metaphysical categories. Were I to refer to that I would group the first three under "mundane consciousness" (representing the surface personality and everyday reality), then there would be a subtle or intermediate region next (this includes occultism which to date, with one exception, a hermetic-AQAL synthesis that no longer seems to be on-line, has not been considered by the Integral movement), then transcendent Enlightenment, and finally the Supreme realisation or Integral Divinisation. More on this a little later.
These various categories cannot be considered in isolation. They are not hard and fast categories, but rather as general aspects. And the same thing would be different according to different people. If Wilber himself, as an original (or even as a derivative!) thinker, writes something, he belongs in category two, theory. But if one of his more uncritical followers simply uncritically accepts what he says, and adopts it without thinking, in a naďve religious manner, that is category one, religion.
Nor should they be considered as a linear sequence like Cowan and Beck's psycho-social stages of Spiral Dynamics. However they can be considered holons in a Wilberian sense, in that the higher definitions inform the lower ones, but the reverse is not the case. So Sri Aurobindo, from the perspective of integral enlightenment and divinisation (stages IV and V) still write a detailed philosophical theory (stage II) and even, with his co-worker The Mother, became the basis for religious-like devotionalism (stage I). But a theorist (stage II) can never appreciate enlightenment (IV) as long as they remain stuck in mental conceptiosn or theory only
One can however progress from the most "exoteric" (external) and religiously limited interpretation to the "esoteric" (inner) Integral transformation of the later stages.
But for a more complete description and definition of "Integral", we also need to determine the characteristics not just of each of the above stages or definitions, but of "Integral" as a whole:
7. Integral Groups – a preliminary review
Having defined what the characteristics of an Integral group or movement would be, we can now look at some examples. First, those who use or used the term "Integral", secondly those who don't, or were only around before "integral" became the latest buzz-word.
Regarding the former category (those who use the term "integral") Here also I want to distinguish between "integral philosophy" and the "integral movement". Prior to around 2003/2004, there was no "integral movement", only a Wilberian-based movement that called itself "integral". But Integral cannot be based on person or philosophy alone. Only when there was a true synthesis, did the conceptual framework that presents a convergence of many philosophies and insights and practical approaches, can there be an "integral movement". I am however still not sure whether there even is an "integral movement" as something distinct from the larger new paradigm "rising culture"; I remain agnostic on this point for now.
In the twentieth century, word "Integral" was coined, totally independently, four times, in each case around a certain cluster of shared memes (ideas).
Of these, I have not included Schuon in the following discussion, because as a member of the Traditionalist school (founded by Rene Guenon) he rejects modernity and evolution, two essential elements in the Integral movement. However his Integral metaphysics as transcendent insight or experience of the Intellect (in the sense of Intellectus = gnosis) is in keeping with Sri Aurobindo's teachings regarding the Divine.
The other three constitute the founders of the Integral movement, as a sort of geneology of the Integral. I have noticed that there are a number of distinct groups that "own" the word "Integral". I then discovered that Integral educationalist Gary Hampson has observed the same thing ("Integral Re-views Postmodernism: The Way Out Is Through" Integral Review 4, 2007 pp.13-4, integral-review.org) Hampson suggests that there are at least six intertwined genealogical branches here, those aligned with Sri Aurobindo, Gebser, Wilber, philosopher Ashok Gangadean, László and Austrian esotericist Rudolf Steiner (according to Jennifer Gidley; Robert McDermott of the California Institute of Integral Studies makes the connection between Steiner and Sri Aurobindo). Although his brief coverage is extremely informative and useful, and I would highly recommend it to historians of the Integral movement, his list leaves out Pitirim Sorokin (Harvard sociologist), Paul Ray (Cultural Creatives) and interdisciplinary scientist Sally Goerner, which are here tentatively grouped in a single catagory. I have left out Steiner because he himself did not use the term. For the same reason, I have excluded here Henri Bergson, Samuel Alaxander, Alfred North Whitehad, Vladimir Vernadsky, Pierre Teilhard, Edward Haskell, Oliver Resier, Arthur M. Young, and many others (however, these individuals might be included in the following section). In other instances I have suggested new categories. All of which make eight altogether (not counting non-aligned individuals who have also adopted the term). The following diagram shows a geneology ofd teh word, but not of all influyences. For limitations of space, and to avoid teh whole diagram becoming much too complex, I have had to avoid including many important influences.
As can be seen in the diagram, the Integral Yoga stream has yet to connect with the larger movement of Integralism. There is a reason for this. Integral Yoga is esoteric, and involves a radical transformation of consciousness, whereas the Integral mainstream is exotericx, andf involves very little if any transformation.
As mentioned earlier in this essay, there is no one definition of "integral". So mainstrewam integralism corresponds only to the integral stage of psychological and social development in teh West, whereas the Integral or Supramental Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother represents a stage many orders of magnituude in advance of anything in the Western exoteric tradition.
For this same reason, some of the less confronting the intellectual aspects of Sri Aurobindo's teaching have been influential (thanks no doubt to their popularisation by Integralists like Wilber, Combs, and Cohen), but not the practical teachings, and not the more radical implications of the divinisation of matter.
The following, very preliminary list, elaborates upon fig.2, and represents my own interpretation of various individuals and teachers who have referred to their philosophy and practice as "integral". Others may have completely different understandings. Note that someone can belong to a number of categories; they are not necessarily exclusive. But in general there seem to be a limited number of "attractors" around which the larger and more eclectic Integral majority gravitates.
Integral Yoga (Sri Aurobindo and The Mother)
Beginning in 1914, Sri Aurobindo and Mirra Alfassa's (the Mother of the Aurobindo Ashram) taught a profound spiritual-esoteric teaching of individual and collective divinisation, "Integral Yoga", which initiated the entire Integral Paradigm. This is the Integral Yoga community - This is the community of Integral Yoga practitioners; those who follow the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother as an authentic spiritual path. Some are more religious and "heart-centered", others spiritual rather than religious. I would advise anyone who who wants to understand Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to dialogue with the actual community itself (which has a decent online presence), rather than rely on the misinterpretations of Wilber and other integralists. As well as the Larger Integral Movement (see below), this is the tradition I most closely resonate with. There seems to be a division here into various sub-streams, although for the most part relationships between them are good.
Some important representatives (to date) are:
Outside the Integral Yoga community, which includes people who have devoted their lives to the study and practice of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's teachings, the true meaning of Integral Yoga remains almost incomprehensible to the rest of the Integral movement, which is far more exoteric (surface consciousness) in approach.
Integral Society (Pitirim Sorokin, Paul Ray, Sally Goerner)
A more scientific, rather than spiritual or yogic, approach is provided by sociologists who point to the rise of a future, more holistic and spiritual, Integral Society. One of these was Pitirim Sorokin, a contemporary of Sri Aurobindo. Intriguingly, Sri Aurobindo in The Human Cycle (like his other major works dating from 1914) has a very similar series of stages to those suggested by Sorokin and Gebser, so these ideas seem to have been in the air at the time. The concept of an Integral Society fell out of favour until being revived in the 1990s, its most important contemporary advocates are Paul Ray and Sally Goerner (for more detail on each of which, see below). However, exactly the same theme, but described in different terminology, is found in the New Paradigm and New Age movement, in Eco-spirituality (Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, Joanna Macy) and in global activism (David Korten). All of which again shows that the word "integral" in this context is not something apart from, distinct from, or advanced over the general Alternative / New Age / New Paradigm movement that dates from the 1960s and 70s.).
Integral-aperspective (Jean Gebser)
Innovative Swiss cultural historian and phenomenologist Jean Gebser who, in his magnum opus The Ever-Present Origin , published in 1949, used the term "integral-aperspectival" to refer to the multidimensional state of consciousness that will replace the current mental-perspectival mode. Like Sorokin, he came upon the term Integral independently of Sri Aurobindo, but later referred to the parallel between his own writings and both Sri Aurobindo's and evolutionary theologian Teilhard de Chardin's. His ideas influenced a number of other philosophers and scientists. Unfortunately, his work, being rather difficult to approach, is not widely known nowadays. Most people know him through the one-dimensional popularisation and misrepresntation of his ideas by Ken Wilber.
California Institute of Integral Studies (Haridas Chaudhuri and others)
The philosophy and psychology of Haridas Chaudhuri, a student of Sri Aurobindo who founded the California Institute of Asian Studies in 1968, renamed the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS for short) in 1974. According to Wikipedia, the "Integral" of the institutes's name reflects the original mission to synthesize the ideals of East and West, but later expanded to include a global perspective as well as the adoption of a holistic approach to education. The Institute however is not specifically Aurobindonian (which is why I include it in a distinct category), but includes a wide range of New paradigm/Alternative/Integral/Eco-spiritual/Eco-feminist academics, including such luminaries as deep Ecologist and activist Joanna Macy; cultural historian and ecofeminist Charlene Spretnak, cosmologist Brian Swimme (the Universe Story), psychologist, philosopher and cultural historian Richard Tarnas. Here we see the blurring between "integral" and "new paradigm".
Integral Transformative Practice (Michael Murphy and George Leonard)
Michael Murphy, who spent several years at the Aurobindo Ashram, was co-founder of Esalen Institute (and hence of the human potential movement and from there the New Age movement), and author of Future of the Body, a ground-breaking work that appeared in 1992, which combines material from parapsychology and comparative mysticism with occasional references to Sri Aurobindo (despite the emphasis on transformation of the body, The Mother is not mentioned), from whom he adopted the term "Integral". He is involved with Ken Wilber's Integral Institute. With George Leonard he has established Integral Transformative Practice.(www.itp-life.com), which seeks to integrate body, mind, heart, and soul.
Integral Movement sensu stricto (Ken Wilber, Don Beck, and many others)
This, the central stream of the modern Integral movement, can be referred to as the Integral Mainstream, because of the predominant influence of these themes in the Integral movement, at least on-line, or even Integral Developmentalism, because it is grounded in developmental theories of psychology, sociology, and cultural evolution. It is based on the theory of psychological and social evolution and the AQAL-metaphysics promulgated by Ken Wilber, and related ideas in the Spiral Dynamics of Don Beck (www.spiraldynamics.net), as well as the various intellectual, artistic and New Age members of the Integral Institute (www.integralinstitute.com) founded 1998 (Wilber, who has been influenced by but also misinterprets both Sri Aurobindo and Jean Gebser, first used the word the previous year). This mainstream Integralism is strongest and most insightful in the areas of developmental psychology and social analysis and, I have found, weakest in the areas of the hard sciences and life sciences. Because the mainstream Integral movement is based on developmental psychology and popularised Buddhism and Vedanta, it has so far seriously fails both in areas of hard science and in both devotional (bhakti) and metaphysical (Traditional, Hermetic, Integral Yoga) spiritualities.
Apart from Integral Yoga, this is the only stream, of Integral that has become formalised as a tradition, in this case due to a combination of Wilber's personal charisma and the strongly formulaic nature of his main theory (AQAL) which can be easily memorised and applied as a typology.
Unlike the other groups, the Integral mainstream is powered by a vibrant culture of criticism, involving mainly reaction to, critiquing of, and acceptance or rejection, or modification of the voluminous writings of Ken Wilber, as well as acceptance or rejection of his enthusiastic and (to critics) cantankerous personality. (see for example Frank Visser's Integral World website www.integralworld.net)
Despite its diversity and explosive growth, there are still a number of frequently occurring themes that distinguish Integral Movement sensu stricto from the other groups and categories. These are:
Obviously, not everyone will advocate all of the above. So I would suggest that two or more of the above would qualify as mainstream integral.
Important representatives (to date) are:
Magazines and journals:
I have in the past divided this tradition into Wilberian (loyal to Wilber) and Post-Wilberian (disillusioned with him but still retaining some of his ideas, but also providing new contributions as well). Although this categorisation is probably much too simplistic, I continue to find it useful, at least in an informal sense. It is probably still too early to attempt a precise definition of the various currents and tendencies within the mainstream Integral movement. There seems to be however a migration of representatives of this stream to the category of Integral Syncretism, as the proportion of “post-wilberians” continue to grow, so that Wilber's role in the leadership of the Integral movement becomes more and more irrelevant (even if he retains strong influence as a major theorist).
Integral Science (Ervin László and others)
A loose association of scientists who prose a holistic understanding based on the union of modern science and ancient Wisdom (Ervin László etc). An example of this is "Wisdom and Science in a Dialogue: The new Planetary Consciousness" - Scientific Symposium March 23-25, 2006, Dusseldorf, Germany; inspirational highlights provided by ARI Films in the film Toward Integral Consciousness (more info on both here eng.kabbalahbooks.ru/events/dusseldorf.html ) . According to Hampson "Integral Re-views Postmodernism", p.13), László began using the term Integral in relation to integral science in 2003, and adopted Wilber's phrase "An Integral Theory of Everything" in 2004, thus creating a new locus as an alternative to the Wilberian mainstream. He observes that Wilber's work does not constitute a theory in the scientific sense of the word. Ervin László established the Club of Budapest (www.clubofbudapest.org).
Larger Integral Movement
More and more in recent years, with increasing dialogue and discussion, Integralists don't belong to any one of these categories, but rather incorporate elements of all of them in a larger synthesis. This can be called Integral Syncretism, Integral Synthesis, or simply "TheLarger Integral Movement". it and represents perhaps is the true spirit of the Integral movement. It really took off in 2005, reflecting vibrancy of the Integral movement sensu lato. Here we have journals like Kosmos ( www.kosmosjournal.org - founded 2000), Integral Review (integral-review.org), Conscious Evolution ( www.cejournal.org), the online Zaadz community (too diverse to fit in the Wilberian stream alone) and the new, Post-Wilberian, Integral Praxis blog, can also be included here. It is quite likely that this stream will subsume the sensu stricto stream, due to the growing post-wilberian dissatisfaction with a strict application of and adherence to Wilberian thought. In addition, an increasing number of non-Wilberians are likely to become involved in this larger non-sectarian movement.
Global Dialogue (Ashok Gangadean)
According to Gary Hampson's review, philosopher, author, Co-Convenor of the World Commission on Global Consciousness and Spirituality (globalspirit.org) Ashok Gangadean, incorporates László's work among others, to form his own dialogical integral approach. He started using the word "integral" in 2006.
The relation between the various factions is not always a happy one. Wilber (in Integral Spirituality) seems irritated by László's use of the word "integral", while László (who has adopted Wilber's term "integral theory"), correctly points out that Wilber has not developed an Integral theory in the strict scientific sense of the word. Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson include Wilber in their "integral" stage, but Wilber and others claim that what Ray is really describing is actually the previous, sub-integral, "post-modernist" or "green" stage. On the other hand, the mainstream Integral movement did dialogue with "evolutionary allies" at the AUM 2007 conference "Integral Yoga in Dialogue with the World", sponsored by the California Institute of Integral Studies and held at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) in Petaluma, California during June 20th to 24th, 2007 ( www.ciis.edu/publicprograms/spring07/aum.html ).
8. Other groups and intellectual streams
There are other groups and intellectual streams might be called "integral", except that they don't use the term. What they all have in common is at least two of the "integra; aspects" listed in sect. 4. It would however be impossible to make a comprehensive list. The following therefore is suggestive only.
Doubtless many others could be added to this list.
Note that some of these would be not be considered "Integral" by the Integral Movement sensu stricto. Some like the New Age and the Great Story movement would be considered "postmodern"or "green". More on the problem of "postmodern" versus "integral" in sect. 10.
If Integral is about spiritual empowerment (and for me Spiritual and Religion are very different things; I tend to use "spiritual" in a similar way to how Wilberians use "third tier"), then it also has to include the "higher" (more spiritual) aspects of the New Age movement. In many ways Zaadz (www.zaadz.com) might be categorised as a "new age" forum, but in other respects it constitutes the best current example of an online "integral" community.
This is the whole idea behind the list of attributes in sect.6. To define Integral, it is necessary to get away from a bias to one particular system, and rather to include all of them.
9. A Timeline of the Integral Movement
I consider the The Larger Integral Movement to represent the beginning of the Integral community proper (as opposed to a merely Wilberian-inspired Integral community). According to this definition, the larger Integral Movement can only be dated from the period from 2003 to 2005, because this is where there was for the first time a synthesis of different perspectives. Because the movement is only still a few years old, it is impossible at this stage to look at it from a historical, objective perspective. Every comment concerning the Integral movement itself contributes to shaping it.
Prior to that there were specific philosophies such as Aurobindonian, Gesberian, Wilberian, etc, but no common theme as such, beyond the general Alternative/New Paradigm movement. But with Integral Synthesis, we no longer have separate categories, but Integral in a more global sense. This was made possible with not one but at least three academic journals (perhaps there are more) dedicated to this subject, and also a number of new non-sectarian internet forums. The only question is whether this Integral movement is distinct from the alternative / new paradigm / rising culture (as argued for example by Wilber and, more recently, McIntosh), or whether it is simply a new current or theme within the rising culture, or even just a synonym for it.
So, here's a partial timeline (incorporating some material by Scott Zimmerle). It is divided into four broad eras or phases, with the Integral as a movement of synthesis probably starts around 2003. For the sake of space I have given only the most scanty coverage of the earlier dates. I have also ignored most of the more recent developments in streams that do not specifically define themselves as Integral (e.g. Process Theology, traditional New Age, etc). This list is unapologetically biased; e.g. I consider Edward Haskell et. al. to be "integral" in both theoretical and practical definition, lacking only in the transcendent spiritual. Oliver Reiser is another seminal and now little known figure from about the same period who again was well ahead of his time. Conversely, I leave out some philosophers like Jurgen Habermas that Wilber is enthusiastic about. While I don't dispute his importance as a contemporary philosopher, or his contributions to Wilber's own ideas, what is of relevance here is Integral as a theory, practice, and yoga of evolutionary and transformational synthesis. In a book in progress I hope to consider this whole revolution of consciousness in more detail:
Basic ideas and initiators:
Founders of "Integral" philosophy:
Counterculture/New Age/New Paradigm/Sectarian Integral:
Non-sectarian Integral (Larger Integral Movement):
The Integral movement itself is in constant flux and growth, and what is true today may not be true five years from now. Moreover, anyone who writes on the Integral movement himself or herself contributes to and alters it; it isn't possible at this stage to write an objective historical review. Every new book and thesis and website and blog contributes to further defining it.
10. "Postmodern" versus "Integral"
Central to the Integral Movement sensu stricto, and to the Syncretic (Integral Synthesis) stream in as much as it has been strongly influenced by the former (Integral Movement sensu lato), is the distinction between "Postmodernism" and "Integralism".
This practice, much vaunted by the developmentalist stream, and dating back to Don Beck and Ken Wilber, to distinguish the authentically "Integral" from the "postmodern", may be problematic as far as traditional Integralism goes. This is because "postmodern" as defined by Beck and Wilber, refers to a hodge-podge of deconstructionist philosophy (Derrida etc), modern academia in general (regardless of affiliation), environmentalism, feminism, political activism, multiculturalism, narcissism, relativism and meaninglessness, the New Age, the Baby Boomers generation, and anything else that takes their ire. To call it "postmodern" is rather like the fundamentalist strategy of grouping together Atheism, Humanism, Darwinism, the New Age, eastern philosophy, Occultism, and adolescent rebellion satanism. Each has created a bogey-man that consists of everything they dislike, but which has no reality outside their own respective worldviews. Both ironically include opposites in their respective lists, e.g. activism is the opposite of narcissism, and humanism (which is physicalistic and includes scepticism) the opposite of eastern philosophy, the new age, and occultism.
I'm not saying that social stages and social evolution do not exist, because there seems to be a lot of evidence to the contrary saying that it does. Paul Ray's data indicates three distinct demographic groups, Traditional, Modern, and Integral/Cultural Creative. This matches the Wilberian series of Premodern-Modern-Postmodern-Integral in all ways (e.g. Traditional is the same as mythic/religious/ "Blue", the stage that immediately precedes Modern or "Orange"), except that the latter identify Ray's Cultural Creatives with their "postmodern". The reality of that social-evolutionary stage has also been confirmed on an international basis by the University of Michigan's World Values Survey This is based on the concept of "post-materialism" and the "the silent revolution" was first popularised by Ronald Inglehart in the early seventies.
So, at least in the West, there is a specific sequence of stages, although these may not apply so well in other cultures and civilizations. For example to describe traditional Indian or Chinese culture as "mythic" ignores the great insights of Indian spirituality and Chinese holistic healing; insights far in advance of anything in the West.
But the problem however is in Wilber's authoritarian attitude (I have elsewhere mentioned his response to criticism of his sloppy conception of evolutionary science ) and lack of scholarship. In many respects he seems to presents not the integral position but an updated traditional religion, based on pronouncements from on high. The unfortunate result of all this is that Wilber's more recent teachings (Wilber-V, see for example the book review section in Integral Spirituality) and the Integral Institute marketing tactics, are highly competitive and aggressive in their claims of superiority to everyone else. In this "more integral than thou" approach, Wilber is lauded as "the world's foremost integral philosopher", and all rival interpretations of Integral are either automatically considered "postmodern", "green", or "lower tier", or are only partially integral, in relation to Wilber's AQAL-powered fully integral.
Yet this very competitiveness and defensiveness works in favour of a more diverse movement, because many have become disillusioned with him and so strike out on their own. In this way, Wilber's own flaws are ironically contributing to the maturity of the Integral movement, and act as a safeguard to prevent it becoming just yet another New Age religion.
Summing up: There are a number of distinct groups and streams that "own" the word "Integral". Some are more tolerant than others, but not all of them agree that all of the others can be called Integral. In addition there are many individuals that refer to themselves as "Integral", although they may have only a more limited effect on the overall discourse.
Conversely, there are other important groups and individuals (e.g. Process Philosophy, "Great Story" scientific pantheism, the New Age movement, Peer to Peer, etc) that, whilst not, or only rarely, referring to themselves as "Integral", nevertheless present many or all of the same themes.
11. Stages of Psycho-socio-spiritual evolution
It would be wrong to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I do not want to dismiss the Integral Movement sensu stricto because of flaws in Wilber's presentation. All the interpretations of Integral listed in fig.2 have something authentic to offer. Integral philosophy sensu stricto does include many profound and useful insights, such as the analysis of developmental stages of consciousness and of societies as a whole.
The fact that only Graves, Cowan and Beck (Spiral Dynamics), and developmental psychologists associated with the Integral Institute are the only ones to have discovered the transition from "green" or "post-modern" (I would say post-materialist) or "formal operations" to the next stage of consciousness, does not invalidate the truth of what they say, because ultimately there has to be someone who makes a discovery in the first place. Freud was the first to articulate the subconscious, Einstein relativity, Darwin and Wallace natural selection, Eratosthenes the size and shape of the Earth. Every discovery has to begin somewhere. It behooves us therefore to determine where cultural creatives/postmodernism/post-materialism ends and Integral begins. This problem is a sticky one, as this stage is not yet recognised by mainstream academia.
Possibly independent confirmation in the distinction between Alternative (Post-materialist) and Integral is the former's focus not just on external activism alone, but on drug addiction, by which I mean marijuana use, which is, at least socially speaking, endemic throughout the entire alternative movement. Long term reliance on any drug is indicative of lower, rather than higher, consciousness. Hence more advanced stages such as Integral/Spiritual Creatives and Post-Integral would go beyond this immature attitude with a more wholesome approach of personal, social, and spiritual development.
The following table builds upon the Spiral Dynamic and Wilberian system of stages. It seems to me that the problem lies not in the stages themselves, but in the inflexible way they are divided up. For one thing, the Modernity stage lasted for some half a millennium, from its beginnings with Galileo and Luther to the materialism and relativism of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Because Modernity itself incorporates several substages, I have divided it up into rather simplistically into Early and Modernism proper. This should not be taken as a hard and fast definition, because there were and are thousands of influences at work, and the subtlety of things far exceeds the scope of such simplistic formulas to describe them. Moreover, I am not a historian, so I no doubt have made many errors in this analysis. So the following table should be considered provisional only. Note that this branch of development of consciousness pertains to Western thought only
Were one to include other civilizations, they either would not go as far in this series, or they would follow totally different (but equally valid) branches. It is an ethnocentricx bias to expect all of human history to conform to the sequence from Traditional to Modern to "post-modern" (or as I call it, Late Modern).
There is also a distinction between Late Modern (which i haven't shown on the above table because of lack of space) and Post-Materialism. Because these appeared at the same time (the 1960s) and because certain Late Modernity academics such as the deconstructionists and neo-pragmatists reject the certainty of science (middle Modern) just as the the Alternative movement (Post-Materialism) rejects the materialistic values and conservatism of conventional society, the Integral movement sensu strictu (e.g. Wilber and Spiral Dynamics) consider these two the same, and refer to them as "green" or "postmodern". I have explained why I reject this interpretation this in section 10.
In fact, Late Modernism - itself used here as a catch-all phrase which includes but is not limited by "post-modernist" academia, contemporary media-based culture and the cult of the celebrity - constitutes one of several branches of Modernism. Another is Transhumanism, which is not included in the above table. And another is the New Paradigm movement. So my difference here with mainstream Integralism is that I conceive of culture as a phylogenetically branching tree, just as organic life on Earth, rather than as a simple linear sequence.
But why should there be this divergence between Late Modernism and Post-Materialism in the 1960s?
My answer would no doubt be totally unacceptable to mainstream Integralism, because it involves assumptions based on much higher stages of consciousness, which are inconceivable to the secular mind. So I'll leave it to sect 23. The interested reader is free to skip ahead if he or she wishes.
12. The Integral Stage of Consciousness
On the basis of the mainstream Integral movement, the Integral stage of consciousness can be defined in three ways; as a religion, as theory (or even meta-theory), and as practice. Of course, one doesn't have to use the word "Integral stage" at all. A useful alternative term is "Spiritual Creatives", a term coined by anti-globalisation leader David Korten in his book The Great Trurning. There, the "Spiritual Creatives" are distinguished from what Paul Ray calls the "Cultural Creatives", the Post-Materialism socio-cultural stage. Korten, perhaps following developmental psychologist Robert Kegan and others; associates the Spiritual Creatives and Spiritual Consciousness with the Integral World. So Spiritual Creatives can be considered another term for Integral stage or Integral Culture. And mainstream Integral movement is only the small part of a much larger movement of Spiritual Creatives, who also include the more mature elements of the New Age. I have however retained the word "Integral" here, to distinguish it from the more encompassing Post-Integral stage (see sect. 16)
There is a strong religious element in the Integral movement, which is centered around the personality of Ken Wilber. Like all potent religions, it is based on the magnetic power of what Sri Aurobindo has called the Intermediate Zone. True Integral (or perhaps it is really only "post-integral") Consciousness requires the individual to break free of this sort of immature attitude, and be established in their own center. Nevertheless, because this religious element is a big part of what is meant by the Integral movement, and a major factor in determining my polemical attitude to the mainstream movement, I have given it a few comments in the following section.
The next three sections explain each of these in turn.
13. The Integral Stage as (non-integral) Religion
Defined as: Uncritical acceptance of Wilber's writings and devotion to his personality (Greatest Living Philosopher, Greatest Living Integral Thinker, Einstein of Consciousness Research, Bodhisattvic, etc). In-group/out-group dichotomy, being a "fan" (cult of celebrity), drug-like feeling of euphoria, exclusion of other worldviews, hostile and defensive attitude to "critics". This cultic attitude is humorously referred to by some integralists as "wilberitis".
Examples: fundamentalist Wilberism only. Note that although the same attitudes apply in all charismatic New Age cults, the Wilberian movement is the only one that actually calls itself "Integral". Hence it is the only example listed here.
My reassessment of Integral, and disappointment with the failings of the mainstream Integral Movemnt began when I realised that the Wilberian movement looked like squandering its tremendous promise and potential by becoming yet another cultic religion.
The reason I became interested in the Integral Movement in the first place was because it seemed to me to embody a spirit of universal spiritual synthesis combined with the intellectual rigour lacking in the New Age. The reason I became disillusioned with the Integral Movement is when I realised the whole movement is limited to a very Wilber perspective, which goes against the whole idea of a synthesis of teachings, in which everyone has their say. Who wants to follow a guy who isn't even enlightened? This is why (I discovered to my great disappointment) there is no authentic gnosis or integral spirituality there at all.
This gives us the most obvious definition of Integral is that of a tolerant but still sectarian movement, philosophy and quasi-religion that has developed around Ken Wilber's teachings and books. This is where most orthodox Wilberians are at. Indeed, Wilber and his followers have really appropriated the word "Integral" for themselves (and others such as Andrew Cohen can also be included here).
The problem with the Integral Movement is that its foundation is not spirituality or enlightened revelation, but both a religion based on Wilber worship, and an intellectualism based on Wilber books, and some Westernised Buddhism thrown in (Buddhism of a watered down, non intensive kind is pretty much the only spirituality they can handle, because it is intellectual and pragmatic, and does not involve metaphysics or radical practices such as Surrender to the Supreme; you can be a physicalist and still be a practicing Buddhist! It is ideally set up for the secular Western mindset), as well as some Californian Lifestyle choices marketed as "Spiritual Cross-Training". And even the people disillusioned with Wilber, not interested in his personality cult, and involved in activism and practice, are still limited by his intellectualism; there is no gnosis there at all.
For a powerful critique and description of the religious, even cultic and drug-like nature, of the Wilberian movement, see "Winning the Integral Game?" series of postings on Integral World. I do not want to single Wilbeerism out in this context, because everything that is said there can apply to many of the other "new religions", including more traditional ones like Christian evangelism. The only difference with Wilberism is that they use the word "integral", and that Wilber himself is an important theorist in the movement. Hence any discussion of the Integral Movement has to take this religious element into account.
14. The Integral Stage as Theory
Examples: Process philosophy/theology (Bergson, Alexander, Whitehead, Teilhard), evolutionarily Unified Science or Knowledge (Vernadsky, Haskell, Reiser, Jantsch, etc) New Age, Great Story Eco-pantheism (Berry, Swimme, etc), developmental (including post-formal) psychology (Graves, Loevinger, Kegan, etc), Integral Development (Wilber, Beck, etc), Integral Science (Laszlo, etc), many others
An Integral movement may or may not begin with people who may have sectarian affiliations, which is stage 1. But that itself isn't Integral in the true sense. If you are a fundamentalist believer of some guru or a member of a religious sect based on a charismatic leader or teacher, you only accept that and exclude everything else, or include it only condescendingly. Integral however has to inclusive, not exclusive. So Integral proper only begins with stage 2 (theory). This is the present-day Integral Movement.
The problem, as I said, is that no-one can agree on what "integral" means or what Integral theory is. So the best thing is to try to get to the common denominators, something that everyone can agree on, and use this to define Integral "theory", "philosophy", whatever you want to call it. At its most basic then, Integral theory, or Integral philosophy, can be reduced to two elements:
Or in a single phrase: an evolutionary synthesis of knowledge.
Most of the Integral movement or Integral paradigm at present seems to be based on theory (and I agree with Dr László that for the most part it isn't theory in the strict scientific sense, I am using "theory" here in the generic colloquial sense of theory as opposed to practice, map as opposed to territory). Hence there is Ken Wilber's "Integral theory" or "AQAL" and its modern developments (Perspectives, Altitude), Don Beck's "Spiral Dynamics" (which is very similar to the non-Integral Spiral Dynamics of his former co-worker Chris Cowan, all of which shows how arbitrary labels like "Integral " can be), development psychologists like Kegan and Cook-Gruber, In Integral Developmentalism are people who have been influenced by Wilber but add extra contributions to his ideas (e.g. Mark Edwards, Steve McIntosh), as well as Post-Wilberians (who have been disillusioned by failings in Wilber's personality, philosophy, or organisations such as Integral Institute, but still retain certain of his ideas). And we have lots of others who use "integral" in a non-wilberian sense - e.g. Ervin László "Integral theory of everything" (based on systems theory and science in general – see Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything), Sally Goerner's "Integral Science" (After the Clockwork Universe: The Emerging Science and Culture of Integral Society), and Paul Ray's sociological studies (Cultural Creatives).
There is also a lot more that isn't called Integral but that says the same thing - e.g. the New Paradigm movement (the Holistic worldview that emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s and summarised in Marilyn Ferguson's The Aquarian Conspiracy and Fritjof Capra's (of Tao of Physics fame) The Turning Point), and also the more intellectual aspects of Sri Aurobindo's teaching, the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, Jesuit evolutionist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (The Phenomenon of Man and other books), educator Edward Haskell (Unified Science – the book is out of print but online www.synearth.net/Haskell/FC/ ), traditional Spiral Dynamics (Chris Cowan), Great Story neo-Teilhardism (Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme - The Universe Story and many other books), New Age sensu lato and so on.
Although many integralists present Wilber as "the greatest living integral thinker" (or even the greatest living philosopher!) the fact is that his worldview and has already been established by others before him. When he talks about evolution he is saying the same thing that Schelling, Bergson, Sri Aurobindo, Teilhard, Whitehead, Haskell, Jantsch and many others have already said.
And even with the Integral Development current, there is nothing that distinguishes it from the New Age sensu lato (as defined for example by the Dutch scholar of esotericism Wouter Hanegraaff, see New Age Religion and Western Culture) . Common themes are spiritual evolution, holism, rejection of reductionism, working for a better world, rejection of old left-right political ideologies, often (although not always!) a mild or weak other-worldly attitude (spiritual transcendence but still acknowledges this world), objective reality is not something separate, and even for that matter embracing capitalism and commercialism! The Wilberian objection is that being "upper tier" they include and transcend "premodern" (traditional spirituality), modernity, and "post-modern" (a rather amorphous label for modern academia, activism, the New Age, pluralism, etc), but the same can be said about the New Age, which combines (often watered down) traditional spirituality, modernist consumerism, and "post-modernist" pluralism, as well as bringing in their own spiritual themes.
The same might also be said for the New Paradigm, Alternative, Global Mindshift, and other such movements in general. See for example Mark Woodhouse's Paradigm Wars
It could be argued that Integral theory is able to integrate not only and the contradiction between between the scientism of modernism and the relativism and pluralism of "post-modernist" academia, but also the old political-ideological left-right divide. But Oliver Reiser (Cosmic Humanism), Edward Haskell (Unified Science), Paul Ray (Cultural Creatives), and David Korten (The Great Turning) have already done this as well.
The only way that Wilberian Integralism differs is in a certain degree of crypto-physicalism (subtle beneath the surface materialism), as indicated by the rejection of metaphysics and ontology, depreciation of traditional teachings as "premodern", and kowtowing to the exoteric worldview of academia. But I see this as a weakness and limitation, not a strength. In this regard, the Integral mainstream is still shackled to Wilber's infatuation with conservative academia and the secular and deconstructionalist methodologies of modern philosophers like Derrida, Habermas, and Rorty.
It is true that on the theoretical level, Integralism is able to synthesise opposites and integrate the diverse areas of human knowledge in a larger evolutionary paradigm, and does so in quite an extraordinary manner. But so do Whitehead, Vernadsky, Teilhard, Reiser, Haskell, Jantsch, Swimme, Barbara Marx Hubbard, László, and many others. So what is unique? Integral is just a subset of a broader paradigm shift, some of whom I identify with the label "integral", others among whom don't.
More persuasively, it may be argued that, via Habermas, Wilber brings in the important element of inter-subjectivity, a common social world or moral standard, such as a legal norm agreed through free and rational discussion (McIntosh, Integral Consciousness, p.189). The Intersubjective domain thus makes possible a shared cultural consciousness, such as Wilber's "lower left" quadrant.
Why this is interesting is because I define the "post-integral" stage in terms of collective or participatory consciousness. The difference being that Wilberian theory is still at the exoteric or external level, whereas post-integral concepts such as the "collective Buddha" take this to a more transcendent and esoteric level as well. Here the intersubjective isn';t just cultural, but noetic (pertaining to consciousness as well).
In a very different manner, the theosophical and occult idea of "thoughtforms" refers to the fact that thoughts and ideas (which after all are the building blocks of culture) have an existence independent of our own thinking them. Rather than the brain or mind creating thoughts, it receives them from the larger universe. But further discussion of this important occult truth would take us too far from the scope of the present essay.
15. The Integral Stage as Practice
Note that not everyone will advocate or practice all of these, but at least one or several will be emphasised.
Examples: Integral Yoga (practice), New Age (practice), some Post-Wilberian, Integral Synthesis (practice), Global Mindshift, many others, see in text
If stage two (Theory) is to amount to anything at all, it requires stage three (practice), the practical definition of collective and individual transformation, otherwise it is nothing but incessant intellectualising. The challenge is to progress through increasingly more difficult levels of practice. And it is only here that there a spiritual change in the individual and in the world (because both have to be transformed). At the same time, Theory and Practice complement and support each other.
Whereas theory is based on philosophy, psychology, science, cosmology, metaphysics, and so on (spiritual evolution plus synthesis of opposites), practice is based on values and ethics. These represent the practical side of things, that complements theory, and determine what qualities one should cultivate and which ones one should reject. Indeed, an ethical life, guided by a strong inner sense of values, is what determines all right behaviour in the world.
Practice itself can be generic (Integral life, or Integral praxis), or divided into Individual, and Collective (but the individual transformation, truly applied, is much more difficult than the collective, because you have to do it all on your own). Here four aspects can be mentioned.
All this means putting the integral theory (defined in the previous section) into practice in thought and word and deed. This is the cutting edge, the "frothy edge" to use Wilber's term, of the Integral Movement now. But there is also Great Story eco-spirituality and practice, the Alternative Movement, the New Age sensu lato, etc etc . Once again, the Integral movement as it is now can easily be interpreted as a small subset of a much bigger paradigm shift (New Age sensu lato (Hanegraaf) / New Paradigm / Rising Culture / Global Mindshift ).
This is a very important and essential development in the transformation of human and planetary consciousness. It doesn't matter whether it is presented in an integral paradigm (as with the Kosmos journal and Kosmos website www.kosmosjournal.org), in an ecological context, as in the "great turning" (an evocative term coined by deep ecologist Joanna Macy), as a global mindshift (Swimme). All are part of the same global awakening. The determining point is whether only one perspective is emphasised – post-materialism rather than modernism (hence activism which still in itself remains one-sided) – or both, with the post-materialistic insight informing and reforming modernity, creating a higher synthesis of both, rather than just one trying to tear the other one down
Having almost completed this essay, I purchased a copy of Mark Woodhouse's Paradigm Wars. This was published in 1996, and hence predates the current "integral movement". I was quite astonished to find Woodhouse saying "There are two master agendas for our time. One is the inner goal of exploring and positively transforming consciousness. The other is the outer goal of creating a sustainable global culture." (p.53, italics in original). These are actually the two fundamental aims of any Integral Practice, and have been described with only slightly different words both in this essay and the earlier blog post on Integral Praxis, and also in my books in process. All of which shows that we are all participating in a larger global Zeitgeist.
I differ however from the mainstream New Age/New Paradigm/Rising Culture Postmaterialism and Integral stages, by adding to their individual and collective transformation a further dimension, that of the transcendent and esoteric. This in no way interferes or contradicts the practical dimension, but enhancing it, deepening it, expanding it, enriching it. And that is the synthesis of spiritualities and yogas (not just one spirituality), the transformation of all parts of the being, and the transcendence of limited mental perspectives can reconcile the contradictions that arise among different individuals working together, but each with their own perspective. Hence stage 4 (Enlightenment, going beyond mental perspectives) is the true Integral spiritual state of consciousness, upon which the Integral Movement must be grounded, if it is to get anywhere at all.
16. The Post-Integral Stage
The integral movement as it stands now is still centered on the individual self. This is not trrue of the whole group of Alternative, Cultural, and Spiritual Creatives. But I have noticed with the mainstream Integral movement a strong sense of ego boundaries. In contrast to this, the Post-Integral stage includes the qualities of the Integral stage, but adds to it the empathic dimension of inclusive, empathic, participatory, and/or collective spirituality. My central inspiration here is the extraordinary essay by Helen Titchen Beeth (and following series of comments), based on a statement by Thich Nhat Hanh that "next Buddha a collective". For a complete listing on the Zaadz forum, see Mushin Schilling, "The Collective Buddha - Polilogue 1". Within traditional Integralism, the inter-subjectivity dimension is emphasised as the "lower left qadrant" of Wilber's AQAL diagram, but this takes to a whole new spiritual level. The fact that this discussion incorporates themes and teachings from the "Great Story" (Berry & Swimme, and especially Elisabet Sahtouris) camp will make it unacceptable to the mainstream (strictu senso) Integralist stream, who may regard it as "green" or "postmodern". I argue the opposite, for these reasons:
It is interesting to relate this collective or intersubjective spiritual to the Participatory consciousness tradition; the idea that a collective transformation has to be based on an empathic, participatory spirituality. As well as the work of Edward Haskell et al (Unified Scence), John Heron, Richard Tarnas, and Jorge Ferrer, one should include here Michel Bauwens' Peer to Peer (p2p) thesis (Peer to Peer and Human Evolution and blog blog.p2pfoundation.net), which shows how egalitarian internet mediated culture is creating a new social ethos and indeed a whole new society.
All of which brings us to Empathic Consciousness. This involves the ethical dimension, what I call Integral morality, In other words, empathic consciousness, participation, ethical life and practice. This first appears in the "Golden Rule" of traditional religions and philosophy ("do unto others as you would have them do unto you"), and living a true religious-spiritual life has enabled this to be put into practice (such as Christian ideals of charity and Buddhist "loving-kindness" meditations). In post-materialism for the first time this ethic is found without reliance on religion or tradition. Hence human rights, environmentalism, animal liberation, and so on. It is present in the integral stage as well, but without further advances. It requires a post-integral, or a post-post-integral, stage with its dissolution of ego boundaries and hence of the inherent narcissism of the human condition before it can be further developed.
As far as physical reality goes, there would seem to be at least four spheres of empathy:
Of course, these spheres also pertain to the further stages of post-post-integral as well. In fact, one can suppose the existence of a series of post-post-post-(however many)-integral stages, approaching (perhaps at an accelerating rate, as a spiritual counterpart or equivalent to the technological singularity) and finally converging with the highest spiritual realisation. The result, as described by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, would be a totally radical and all-embracing consciousness, quite different not only from stages of evolution of outer human consciousness, but even from traditional spiritualities and esoteric paths as well.
17. Exoteric and Esoteric, Evolution and Transcendence
A major problem in defining higher stages of consciousness in an evolutionary context is the distinction between exoteric and esoteric. The former refers to external consciousness and reality, the latter to subtle, occult, and transcendent spiritual realities. The former either rejects metaphysics or downgrades it, the latter acknowledges supraphysical ontological realities. The former is based on mind and rationality (which may be anything from fantasy and wishful thinking to "postformal"), the latter transcends such conceptual limitations altogether.
The problem is that it is simply not possible for the exoteric to understand the esoteric, although the reverse is not the case, because the esoteric perspective starts with the exoteric and goes beyond it. So, from an exoteric perspective, Sri Aurobindo is considered only partially integral by Wilberians, with the limitations of his worldview having to be corrected by Wilber's supposedly superior insights. From an Aurobindonian perspective, it is Wilber who is limited, as I explained in my first essay on Integral World "Towards a Larger Definition of the Integral". But even this is not fully Integral, because in each case it is pitting one against the other. So what is required is a further synthesis between my earlier position and Wilber's current one. I have tried to acheive this (and more besides!) in the present essay..
This also brings up the distinction Evolution and Transcendence. While the Integral Movement sensu stricto has established in great thoroughness an evolutionary synthesis of knowledge (which is still only one among many possible explanations), and is also beginning to explore the practical dimension, it totally lacks any concept of an authentic Integral Spirituality (in the sense of an Integral Yoga, an Integral Spiritual practice). Instead it presents a "head"-centered non-integral spirituality, based on a secular interpretation of Eastern nondualism, and failing to accommodate bhakti, hermeticism, or other such paths. Therefore much of the Integral movement is at present unable to accommodate the Esoteric/Enlightened definition that is central to any authentic Integral spirituality..
It is also important to distinguish here the "postformal", "vision logic" or "integral" stage of cognitive development from inner or higher insight (gnosis). The former represents a cluster of interpretations of, or forms of, rational mental consciousness beyond the ordinary concrete mind or "formal operations" level of mental functioning. The latter goes beyond the rational intellect altogether.
In other words, it is important to distinguish here between evolution and transcendence. Evolution refers to increasingly complex and more organised structures within the realm of outer being, the exoteric reality. Transcendence refers to going beyond evolution and the world of duality all together. There is also a third stage, which completes this Hegelian triad; physical divinisation, by which both evolution and transcendence are surpassed by an even greater realisation. More on this shortly.
So, as mentioned, there is evolution and transcendence. Between these two metaphysical dimensions are the subtle or intermediate regions, defined by occultism and esotericism, but denied by modernity. This is because the latter is based on the mundane consciousness of the surface personality and everyday reality, and rejects all explains away other realities. Wilber's rejection of metaphysics and ontological levels means that this limitation of thinking is also standard in much (but not all) of the Integral movement. Wilber is fine when it comes to transcendence (which he approaches from a Tibetan Buddhist perspective and describes in his book One Taste). But he has no comprehension of occultism, and the rest of Integralism to date has followed suite; the only exception being Frank Visser, who has a theosophical background.
In this essay I have not discussed this subject, because the Integral Movement as a whole has not yet explored it, apart from the knowledge the Integral Yoga community have of these subjects thanks to the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. However, a truly integral comprehension has to embrace everything. It cannot deny hermeticism, occultism, or esotericism because these things don't fit with the modernist reality framework.
One could even suggest as a possible candidate as the dividing line between modernity (by which I mean modernism and some of "postmodernism") and a complete (post-post-)integral (complete in that it integrates the exoteric and the esoteric) is metaphysical insight, in other words gnosis. But, this being an integral synthesis, this is gnosis alongside the insights of science and academia. Which is why I don't agree with the Traditionalists (Guenon, Schuon, etc) rejection of modernity.. So if you can acknowledge esoteric realities beyond the secular and the material, and truly integrate both, you are no longer within modernity's conceptual framework. But from this perspective, very few Integral groups really are integral, in the sense of being able to embrace not just exoteric but esoteric (inner) realities.
Esoteric definitions of post-post-post- (however) – Integral consciousness include a number of different dimensions or stages
Practice (evolutionary, esoteric/occult):
Practical action for social and global transformation; which may be in the
So ideally, there would be four "integrals" - evolutionary, esoteric/occult, and spiritual/transcendent, and divinised. These can be shown diagrammatically as follows:
The ultimate goal, as is shown here, is divinisation. But this doesn't mean the end of history. Only the end of history as we know it.
Evolution is endless, while transcendence is timeless. But physical divinisation is both.
18. The Integral Transformation
Whether one calls it Integral, New paradigm, New Age, or anything else, this is a mighty transformation. Incorporating the five definitions of Integral in fig.1, and the four aspects in fig.3, I would refer to an Integral Transformation; as the turning point of human, indeed of planetary and even cosmic evolution. From our present limited perspective the culmination of evolution up until now, the synthesis of all spiritual realisations, the end of history as we know it, Supramentalisation, Omega Point. But that is only from our present limited perspective, because evolution and progress have no end, and will continue regardless.
From the pragmatic perspective there are three progressively more subtle and potent dimensions of integral transformation. These are not sequential but more or less simultaneous:
Because the Integral movement has not yet incorporated esoteric and occult realities, Lightworking is not included in the five definitions of Integral in fig.1, although it may be that in the near future this sphere will be recognised by integral theorists. Another option muight be to just scrap the term "integral" in this context and use "esotericism" instead.
19. Integral as Spiritual Synthesis, Esoteric Insight, and Enlightenment
Not all these are necessarily the same, but they have themes of higher synthesis, higher truth, supra-rational, and multidimensionality
Examples: Sufism (blind man and the elephant parable), Ramakrishna, Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Traditionalism in part (Schuon's "esoteric")
Just as there is theory (of, say, some specialised topic) and integral theory (integrating many fields in an optimistic evolutionary synthesis), so there is spirituality and integral spirituality. Many authentic spiritual paths lead the practitioner to individual enlightenment, and are to be honoured and respected for doing so. But that doesn't mean they constitute an Integral Spiritual practice.
In the same way that the Integral movement represents the synthesis of different theories, practices, methodologies, perspectives and so on, so Integral Yoga represents the synthesis of different spiritual techniques.
Sri Aurobindo's Synthesis of Yoga is the first major work that does describe an authentic (in the sense of all inclusive) Integral Spiritual Practice. And really, it has never been superseded. In contrast to the non-integral spirituality of Wilberian and related streams of the Integral movement, it can serve as the basis for the Esoteric/Enlightened perspective, and enable a much larger Integral perspective than the current exoteric Integralism.
The following passage, from chapter V of the introduction of Synthesis of Yoga, explains how even in its most preliminary methodology, the Integral spirituality of Sri Aurobindo goes far beyond anything in the Integral movement now, and probably beyond anything the Integral Movement will have to offer for decades to come (unless my own work has an influence; because by writing about something I am also changing it).
"...it is always through something in the lower that we must rise into the higher existence, and the schools of Yoga each select their own point of departure or their own gate of escape. They specialise certain activities of the lower prakriti and turn them towards the Divine. But the normal action of Nature in us is an integral movement in which the full complexity of all our elements is affected by and affects all our environments. The whole of life is the Yoga of Nature. The Yoga that we seek must also be an integral action of Nature, and the whole difference between the Yogin and the natural man will be this, that the Yogin seeks to substitute in himself for the integral action of the lower Nature working in and by ego and division the integral action of the higher Nature working in and by God and unity. If indeed our aim be only an escape from the world to God, synthesis is unnecessary and a waste of time; for then our sole practical aim must be to find out one path out of the thousand that lead to God, one shortest possible of short cuts, and not to linger exploring different paths that end in the same goal. But if our aim be a transformation of our integral being into the terms of God-existence, it is then that a synthesis becomes necessary."
Ok, let's look at Sri Aurobindo is saying here.
Ordinary existence or nature itself is an integral movement, but one based in ignorance ("ego and division").
The various previous yogas were not interested in transforming this world, only in finding the quickest shortcut out, selecting only a single attribute of the lower nature (prakriti) and using taht to attain the transcendent (so it could be jnana or bhakti or whatever). Hence Buddha's parable of the arrow. Why waste time discussing metaphysics when you can be working on attaining Liberation?
Sri Aurobindo's unique synthesis, Integral Yoga, in contrast has to combine all the systems. This is because he isn't interested in fleeing the world. rather he wants to transform it. But to transform it he has to address all the aspects of the lower nature, and hence incorporate all the yogic techniques. rather than just one, he has to synthesise all of them.
This means Going beyond mental understanding to a higher state of all-inclusive and all-integrating Unity. Beyond mental forms altogether, and going beyond exoteric limitations, and living and practicing a life and praxis and activism that is infused with gnosis and enlightenment and spiritual transformation of self and world at every stage. In this, Insight or Consciousness or Being is able to include all other perspectives, philosophies, religions, and aspects of being without contradiction. Not as a hierrachy, with one's own favourite philsoophy or one's own theories on the top, and all the others as lesser or more partial or primitive stages of development to that. But acknowledging them integrally as each having their own valid and equal truth. This is the explanation given by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, and to a lesser (but still intriguing) extent Jean Gebser. It is also found in the concept of the universal esoteric truth behind all religions, as advocated in the Perennialist Sufism of Frithjof Schuon.
But this cannot be discussed as theory. It can only be felt as living insight. That's why I suggest reading the original material, rather than my comments. And then come to your own experience from there.
And most important, this Insight has to be grounded in and transform the entire being, even the physical body itself.
Here is where certain elements in the integral development movement falls short. Because an integral enlightenment involves all spiritualities, not just, for example, a Westernised (or even only specifically Americanised) Buddhism. Now, I don't want to criticise it, because even a popularised and Americanised Buddhism can justly be seen as an authentic if exoteric adaptation of an ancient and valid spiritual tradition for secular Western sensibilities. And it can serve as an essential guide and invaluable aid for those who are at that level. It has its place in the universe and shouldn't be dismissed. But, for those of us who wish to go further, it has two big shortcomings.
So a new definition of Integral Spirituality is required, which can acknowledge not just the transcendent Enlightenment taught by the Buddha and other great sages, but also other forms of spirituality too.. And apply this not only to the self, but take it into the world as well.
What is necessary then, is to add to the already established aspects of theory, integral practice and social transformation the further dimensions of individual and collective spirtual transformation. Rather than diminish the current theory and current praxis, this will only enhance it, add a whole new dimension to things, which is non-contradictory and synergetic. In the past, spirituality was a reclusive practice that involved the rejection and denial of the world, and activism was all about changing the world but not changing the self (with the result that the revolution, began in the service of justice and freedom, always goes sour and becomes a totalitarian regime). The Integral movement presents the possibility of healing this rift in a higher synthesis; indeed, it is already beginning to do so.
An integral spirituality and integral yoga that transforms the world, and adds to the essential contributions of those working on an activist, social, media, etc level to improve the world, additional dimensions of insight, tranquility, wisdom, and centeredness.
It is not just the individual that integral spirituality has to address, it is the whole world as well.
Even the enlightenment of the physical body, and of all physical bodies, and of matter itself.
Which brings us to Divinisation.
20. Transcendent versus Evolutionary Enlightenment
The final, the greatest, the ultimate (post-post-post-whatever-) Integral consciousness, at least as far as our limited human consciousness can envisage (because there are always further and moere profound stages of evolution) is what Sri Aurobindo calls "Supramentalisation", and I refer to here as "Divinisation". This is a synthesis not just of the different yogas and spiritual teachings, but also of Evolution and Transcendence itself. This can be shown in the following table
Evolution is endless, while transcendence is timeless. But physical divinisation is both. It is an evolutionary enlightenment, an ever progressing, ever transcending, enlightenment in the physical world, and in the physical body itself.
Interestingly, "Evolutionary Enlightenment" is the term Andrew Cohen's uses to define his own teaching. It is a very neat phrase, but unfortunately it has absolutely nothing to do with an authentic supramental evolutionary enlightenment, just as "Integral Spirituality" has nothing to do with Wilber's book of the same name. I find it ironic that the same phrases – such as "Integral Spirituality" - seem to arise between my work and that of the Integral Movement sensu stricto, but the concepts, presentation, and reality pointed to, are so different. At the same time, one has the feeling that there is a sincerity there; that the Integral movement is "seeing through a glass darkly" when trying to glimpse the vast message that Sri Aurobindo's teachings represents. In this sense at least, one can talk of a common integral paradigm.
So an Evolutionary Enlightenment, or perhaps I should call it Evolutionary Divinisation to distinguish it from Cohen's teaching, solves the limitations of both non-integral enlightenment and yoga (the "yoga of ascent" in Sri Aurobindo's phrase), and the ego- and finite-based evolution of material nature on her own.
The former is represented by enlightened sages like Guatama Buddha and Ramana Maharshi. They teach the intrinsic realisation of the Self (Atman) or Suchness (or in the Buddha's case, the attainment of the state of cessation (nirvana). Or alternatively the devotional path of Christian Mysticism, Sufism, and Vaishvanite Hinduism, which teaches the merger of the individual self or soul with God. Both are true and authentic spiritual paths, and both lead to the transcendence of the entire world-process, the end of individual evolution, the passing away of the individual continuum into God or the Absolute.
Now that's fine if you want to renounce the world. But I have always wanted to embrace the world. And this is why the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo, and the idea of spiritual development and evolution in this world, as found in the New Age and Integral Movements, is appealing.
As Sri Ramakrishna purportedly said: "I want to taste sugar, not become sugar".
But this doesn't mean samsara (going round and round the wheel of rebirth). It means being the Divine, consciously, evolving in the world, and as the body and personality, but a body and personality that has become Divine. Then, evolution is no longer a struggle in ignorance and obscurity, but, as Sri Aurobindo puts it, the progression "from light to greater light".
21. Integral as Divinisation
Defined as: going beyond transcendent enlightenment, reconciling and transcending liberation and samsara, divine transformation of the gross physical body (the body becomes an instrument of the Supreme), enlightenment of the cells, collective divinisation of the Earth, enlightenment of matter
Examples: Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, see especially Mother's Agenda and its condensed version Notebook on Evolution
Integral Divinisation means the total Divinisation of every aspect of the individual and also of the world as a whole. It comes about as the result of the Supreme with the phsyical evolution. Here we have the authentic Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, and its culmination in Supramentalisation, the Divinisation of the entire world The Lurianic Kabbalistic concept of tikkun olam ("repair of the world") is equivalent. Teilhard's "Omega Point" is similar, although Teilhard does not take into account the Divinisation of matter. More mythological and distorted refernces can also be found in Trito-Issiah ("a new heaven and a new Earth") and hence in the Judaic (whence Kabbalah) and Christian religions, and from there the New Age (also in some theologians and mystics of the Russian Orthodox tradition regarding Pantheosis; e.g. Sergei Bulgakov; and esoterically the sophiology of Bulgakov and Vladimir Solovyov is worth comparing with the concept of the Supreme Mother as found in Sri Aurobindo's teachings, as well as the transcendent Fatima described by French Iranologist and esotericist Henry Corbin) . I should emphasise however that all these earlier conceptions are really only presented through a veil of distorting religionism. It is important to get away from this extraneous theology and mental conceptions in order to preesent Divinisation in a clear manner (in this regard at least I agree with the Wilberians and their linear model of history).
Rather than trying to explain what all this means (I have presented a few comments towards the end of this essay www.integralworld.net/kazlev3.html ), I will refer the reader to the only references in print of Divinisation. Only one supreme adept, Mirra Alfassa, The Mother of the Aurobindo Ashram, has described her experiences of divinisation of the body, and these serve as the most complete, and still really the only, account of the transformation to the new state of being. This is given in Mother's Agenda published by Instuitute of Evolutionary Research, and also available at several online sites. There is also an excellent condensed version Notebook on Evolution, an anonymous compilation by Luc Venet, which I cannot recommend too highly. This saves the reader the tedium of ploughing through 13 massive volumes. It is available at www.aurobindo.ru. See also Satprem's Mind of the Cells (which is a sort of summary of the Agenda) especially the Mother's quotes there; I find Satprem's comments on the evolution of a new species to be misleading in this context; it isn't a new species, it is a whole new Creation. Satpreme and Venet out of print Life Without Death is, I believe, clearer and more interesting (www.kheper.net), although I would still advise reading Notebook on Evolution first and formeost.
The terminology here is confusing. Sri Aurobindo used the term "Supermind" and "Supramental", which is still standard. I feel uncomfortable with this word because it implies supra- mental, when this transformation is also supra-spiritual, supra-emotional, supra-physical, and for that matter intra-mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, and everything else (words baulk at trying to grasp it). The Mother spoke not only of the Supermind and a transitional Overman consciousness (Surhomme – a word that was lost in the current translation of the Agenda; this has only recently been shown by Georges van Vrekhem in his book Overman but also of the consciousness of the body and of the cells. Her disciple Satprem popularised this latter as "the mind of the cells". Currently the French "Mind of the Cells" tradition of Integral Yoga (the works of The Mother, Satprem, his English translater Luc Venet, and the Institute of Evolutionary Research is formost in promulgating this discovery. However it is likely that this will change; indeed is changing. On the internet, Russian devotees have been very prominant, posting the entire Agenda and works of Satprem online, and for a while (this was back in 2000) they and webmasters worldwide linking to them faced harrasment from the Institute of Evolutionary Research, which sad to say was more concerned with protecting its copyright.
But as The Mother's discovery of the physical divinisation of the body becomes better known, the collective consciousness of this possibility will spread. In this regard the books of Begian writer Georges van Vrekhem (Beyond Man and follow-up works) have been of great importance, both for revealing information previosuly hidden in obscure references, and in the fact that he presents the material from a more objective and scholarly, less devotional, approach, and hence is more appealing to the general reader.
Important note: despite some statements by Satprem to the contrary (which is why secondary material is never as good as the original!), Divinisation is not about physical immortality. That is where many people go wrong. It is about Physical Divinisation, which does not have to pander to human stereotypes of immortality etc. See "Osho, Sri Aurobindo, and Immortality" for the refutation of Rajneesh's ignorance in this regard.
22. Why is Divinisation incomprehensible to many advocates of the Integral Movement?
Divinisation is so far reaching as to be incomprehensible to many. In fact it goes radically against everything that both modernity and most of Traditionalism (with very few exceptions) stands for . I have also found a lot of resistance among Wilberians and Post-Wilberians to this insight. So this is something that even the mainstream Integral Movement, which prides itself at being at the leading edge of evolution, baulks at. It seems that in the current Integral Movement outside of Integral Yoga there is an almost total lack of receptivity to the possibility of collective Divinisation. Thus the possibility of the highest Integral definition, Individual and Collective Divinisation, is not a part of the consciousness of much of the Integral movement. There are a number of possible reasons for this
I will add one more thing, which will be apparent to anyone who reads the Agenda, or Notebook on Evolution with sincerity and receptivity, but will be absurd to someone only coming at things from the surface consciousness.
Divinisation has not just been attempted but actually attained. This force is working in the world now, on the subtle level. All that remains is for it to be established in the gross physical. This is such a radical statement that it seems nonsensical if you haven't contacted the esoteric reality behind the words. But I see no reason why I should try to accomodate the metaphysically dwarfish perspectives of secular modernity. I'll leave my more conservative contemporaries to do all that compromising and kowtowing.
23. The emergence of the New World
In sect 11, I ask the question, why was there a sudden divergence between secular, relativist, and consumerist Late Modernism and activist and spiritual Post-Materialism in the 1960s?
I promised the reader an unconventional answer, one probably unacceptable to anyone who still looks at things from an exoteric perspective. Here it is. In February 1956, Sri Aurobindo's co-worker The Mother brought down the Supramental consciousness (this is the God-Omega of Teilhard, the end point of evolution as we know it). This took about five or ten years to filter through to the mass consciousness. At this point there was a huge revolution in youth culture, an awakening of new possibilities and of spirituality and psychological development outside the old dichotomy of science and mainstream religion. This was the Counterculture, which after another five or ten years matured into the New Paradigm movement, Post-Materialism, the Cultural Creatives. This was the real turning point of human, indeed of cosmic, evolution.
Post-Materialism was only the first stage. This was complemented by a further evolution, representing the Integral paradigm. Although this draws on material going back one or two centuries (with visionary forerunners like Hegel, Bergson, etc), as a popular movement it has only caught on in the 1990s with Wilber's Integral Institute, and more specifically the last few years as the Integral Movement finally begins to mature beyond its original external founders.
Even so, this is not as clear-cut as the birth of Post-materialism. If the Integral movment really is a global development in the evolution of consciousness, then there should be lots of other people independently coming upon the same truth.
Perhaps the reason why this is not apparent is because the larger integral transformation is working in an accelerated manner. No sooner had one phase of consciousness incarnated, then another appears, and so on. At the same time the old stages continue, contributing to the diversity, and the mixing of the various streams making hard and fast distinctions impossible.
This is why we cannot stand back and study the whole thing empirically, historically, and sociologically, the way that can be done with the emergence of post-materialism for example.
My hypothesis is that the current integral movement will be quickly supplemented by post-integral, and that by post-post-integral, in a process of accelerating change, very like the technological singularity idea of Ray Kurzweil, John Smart, and others. The faster this happens, the more blurry the borders between the different stages of consciousness. So it may simply be impossible to come to any conclusion anyway, this side of the "singularity".
The ultimate singularity of course is the Supramental transformation itself, divinisation, theogensis. For that, I refer the reader to the literature cited in section 21 of this essay.
24. The most confronting thing of all
I do not wish to say that a simplistic Wilbercentric perspective has to be replaced by a simplistic Aurobindocentric one (for one thing, Sri Aurobindo can never be understood just through his surface words alone). Rather, there has to be a multifaceted worldview based on the largest and most inclusive perspective, but which can include other perspectives, not just superficially but insightfully. And not just include, but transform as well. Which is where practice comes in.
Hence this essay is presented, like my previous essays, in the hope of contributing to a much larger, much more universal, framework of Integral; a redefinition that can happily include both the this-world evolutionary synthesis of the Integral Movement and the heights of Integral Yoga and divinisation.
Ultimately, every integralist and every transformer of consciousness has to build their own worldview, and come to their own practice, based on their own higher inspiration and inner guidance. That is the definition of Integral, that it is essentially creative, and co-creative. Transformative, and co-transformative. At the same time, there is also a hierrachy of insights; I certainly do not accept reducing everything to a sort of facile lowest common denominator.
And if I do advocate Sri Aurobindo and The Mother (the latter as we have seen is rarely mentioned, no doubt because of her pragmatic and down to earth, no nonsense approach to spirituality, occultism, and the yoga of transformation) as the highest and most integral of all, it is not out of cultic naivity (which is the opposite of any authentic higher spirituality). Rather it is because in all the almost 30 years of studying esoteric and spiritual teachings, I have still yet to come across anyone more inclusive, or who taught a more awesome and universal message of transformation, perfection, enlightenment, divinisation, not just of one aspect of the individual being, but of every aspect of the individual being (including those qualities like the physical body and the base desires that are rejected by most other spiritualities); not just of every aspect of the individual being, but of every aspect of the collective as well. And ultimately, of the whole cosmos. And not just taught it as some fascinating but still abstract intellectual theory or visionary revelation. But actually lived it. Lived it.
The following books were helpful in writing this essay:
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, Pondicherry, 10th ed. 1977
_____ The Human Cycle, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, Pondicherry, 2nd ed. 1992
_____ The Synthesis of Yoga, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, Pondicherry (3rd ed. 1999)
W. J. Hanegraaff, New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought, Brill, Leiden 1996, State University of New York Press, Albany 1998.
Khalifa 'Abdul Hakim, The Metaphysics of Rumi – a critical and historical sketch, Institute of Islamic Culture, Lahore, 4th impression, 1965
Gary Hampson “Integral Re-views Postmodernism: The Way Out Is Through” Integral Review 4, 2007
David C. Korten, The Great Turning, from Empire to Earth Community, Kumarian Press / Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2006
Steve McIntosh, Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution, Paragon House, 1st ed., 2007
The Mother (Mirra Alfassa) Mother's Agenda (Engl. transl) Institute for Evolutionary Research, New York, NY (13 vol set) (1979-19?? )
Mark B. Woodhouse Paradigm Wars, Frog Ltd, Berkeley, 1996