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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Josep Gallifa, Ph. D. in Philosophy and Education, Full Professor at FPCEE Blanquerna-Ramon Llull University in Barcelona, Department Head, and Principal Investigator of a research group in the fields of Psychology and Education. He is author of several books and academic articles in the fields of Thinking Skills, Human Development and Integral Education.
Basic Integral Theory and Integral Education
Integral Theory (IT) has become a framework, widely discussed and applied, which uses diverse kinds of claims, belonging to different fields of discourse: physical, biological, social, cultural, personal or metaphysical. Because of that inherent complexity, IT received also many criticisms. The need to count with a coherent integral meta-theory of human evolution and development makes convenient the proposal of redefining the IT as a Basic Integral Theory (Basic IT). The asset of this Basic IT -here defined and developed- is to count with a better characterization of the second tier of consciousness, having the potentiality to arrive at it from different metaphysical views, characterizing the thinking skills needed, and as a point of encounter. On the other hand, the Basic IT presented doesn't interfere in the third tier of consciousness, which is better reached from each metaphysical tradition. Once characterized Basic IT, this rationale can be applied to develop Integral Arts, among them Integral Education.
As an alternative option to the approaches of Wilber, we propose the return to a Basic Integral Theory (Basic IT) to include the first and the second point -with some enhancements- but excluding the third one. We'll explain in detail the reason and advantages of that exclusion, as well as the appropriateness of the changes. For the moment it can be explained that what is needed is a theory as general and metaphysically inclusive as possible.
This paper presents this Basic Integral Theory by reuniting previous works of the same author (Gallifa, 2018a, 2018b, 2018c, 2018d, 2019a, 2019c). These works are not fully developed here, just reviewed and organized to constitute the approach proposed. The main concern of the paper is to give a final and global vision. To do that, it develops carefully the differences with the Wilber model especially in the third tier of consciousness, which is understood with more flexibility.
Dimensions of the Basic Integral Theory
Basic IT as a map of reality: an enhanced map.
The 'map of reality' proposed in the IT of Wilber is represented, as has been mentioned, in the four quadrants. These quadrants contain all kinds of holons or units of any kind of 'reality' or consciousness. The new Basic IT approach that we propose modifies some aspects of the quadrants:
These are small changes, but refine the content of each quadrant and make the whole approach more coherent (Gallifa, 2018a). Additionally, the Basic Integral Theory provides an alternative way of representation, the circular-axial representation (Gallifa, 2019c). Without losing any of the traits and potentialities of the IT, as was originally formulated by Wilber (2001, 2005, 2007), Gallifa (2019c) proposed to represent alternatively the dimensions of the holarchy in coordinate axes, instead of the more well-known quadrants. In this model, a vertical axis is used to represent subjective-objective worlds (up-down) and a horizontal axis is used to represent the intersubjective-interobjective worlds (left-right). Using the colors of the spectrum, the circular-axial model can be represented as follows:
In the figure presented, there are four directions, each one with a different kind of representation:
In the next figure, it can be represented the whole holarchy in more detail:
To understand the representational potentiality: Starting from the central point, the evolution is represented, first of all, in the physical and biological dimensions (objective dimension). This evolution continues in the noosphere in the four directions. In each axis there is a central integration, the evolutional line, where there can be an up and down movement, so we drew a ladder. The lines on both sides are the lines of development in each dimension. Normally these lines are stable, subjected to stages and linear evolution. It's the development process affected by space-time. In each dimension, there is the representation of depth: More profundity means more consciousness. There is also the representation of amplitude: More development of lateral lines means more span.
In the next table, there is a description of the evolutional and developmental lines in each one of the dimensions (Gallifa, 2019c).
A holonic representation of the units in each one of the four dimensions is:
It can also be established an equivalence with Wilber's quadrants:
The circular-axial representation presented is an excellent way for representing the Basic IT, equivalent to the representation using quadrants. In some aspects, the proposed representation enhances the quadrants-based one. We present different arguments to support this claim. The advantages of this new kind of representation, of the Basic IT, are (Gallifa, 2019c):
These small changes make the Basic IT more appropriate to contain better the diversity of holons. At the same time is quasi-equivalent to Wilber's quadrants model, with the changes proposed especially in the inter-objective quadrant (Gallifa, 2018a).
Basic IT as a model for the evolution of conscience to the second tier
The Basic Integral Theory can provide a better characterization of the second tier of consciousness or integral levels (levels 7 and 8). The points to carefully consider here are:
The last point, about the preeminence of postegoic logics, is based on the fact that the desire to share (soul, essence) corresponds to the integral stages, because (Gallifa, 2019b):
The integral thinking (Gallifa, 2019a) can be very useful to go in-depth on these levels. The first level (7) can be denominated as 'Holistic consciousness' and the second (8) 'integral consciousness' because of the use of integral thinking capabilities (Gallifa, 2019a). Integral Thinking can be recognized from different metaphysical traditions. It can be a point for encounter without the need to leave the corresponding tradition.
The third tier of consciousness and the desire for unity
The third tier is considered a phenomenon of subtle consciousness (Rowan, 2012). This can be described as the desire of unity with divinity, or affinity (Devekut in Kabbalah) with the Spirit, appears as an evolution of the desire to share, desire to only share, and desire to find unity. What the traditions explain is that it requires a personal asceticism, through spiritual practice in a tradition. It is not a simple cognitive understanding of a stage. It requires the annihilation of the ego-desire to receive for oneself alone, and a leap in a new order (third tier). This leap is mentioned in diverse traditions as to be 'born from the fire'. In the terminology of the Kabbalah, for instance, the Light of Chochmah or divine Wisdom is received. In the second tier, there is some experience of anticipation of these levels. There are very few who reach the third tier.
Second-tier without metaphysical references
The presented enhancements allow reinforcing the Wilberian views, in the point to help to arrive at the second tier of consciousness independently of any metaphysical stance. It can be done from a post-metaphysical stance (as Wilber does) or from any metaphysics because this progress can be understood as the first step in the spiritual work in any tradition. The tools provided by Basic IT allow for this kind of progress. Basic IT provides the common language, shared by the diverse metaphysical traditions. All the traditions can recognize themselves in the Basic IT language. Therefore, this is the main purpose of the Basic IT: To arrive at the second tier of consciousness with the Basic IT framework.
This coincides with the aim of Wilber. Effectively, in our world, there is a priority, before reaching the third tier, destined to mystics, saints, and advanced sages within each tradition - without underestimating it- is a priority to arrive firstly and effectively to the second tier, to the integral levels (7 and 8). Wilber himself gave the keys:
Putting together these considerations we can understand easily that the path is very clear: How can we make possible that a critical number of people can reach the second tier, and how people from different traditions can be recognizing themselves as belonging to the same second tier. We propose therefore to leave the third tier, as we argued, in the place that it has in the diverse traditions, concentrating Basic IT to the second tier.
This is in what we, modestly, are intending to contribute: in understanding the true nature of Basic Integral Theory, concerning the metaphysical traditions. The key issue is not to have to abandon our tradition and to become something different denominated integral, by having to embrace another tradition (IT for instance). Alternatively, we can start from our tradition and be recognizing other traditions, as a different "you", and, if advanced, also be recognizing this “you” as equally integral. This is the challenge, if we want to move human evolution in the direction that Wilber proposed: “We would have to start seeing a minimum 10% of the population in integral or Emerald, or Second Tier, or Vision-Logic, or stages of development that reached the Centaur, since they are the first stages that demand Unity; they seek plenitude, and they are truly holistic in the best way” (Wilber, 2016 p. 4).
The exclusion of the progress to the third tier of consciousness in the Basic Integral Theory
Because the rationale developed until here, we propose the exclusion of the progress to the third tier of consciousness in the Basic Integral Theory. Effectively, IT contains all the holons and the last levels of consciousness are part of the IT. But this doesn't allow the supposition that the progress to the third tier can be done with a similar process than the one to reach the second tier. People arrive at the third tier from different metaphysical traditions. The Wilber post-metaphysical stance is only one possibility more.
Let's explain it with an example. The formulas for Aspirin or Tylenol are in Basic IT. There is a process of production using raw materials and the procedures (tekhne) are interobjective representations, which are part of the Basic IT. Nevertheless, knowing these formulas, part of the Basic IT, doesn't cause any relief of a headache, because it is a different issue to be containing a procedure, a representation, to have a potentiality than to act as a cure, the level of activity. The medicines are artifacts but unless they were created following a correct process of production, using appropriate formulas, and then being swallowed, they wouldn't have any relief effect. Basic IT, contains every holon, but can't replace other particular tekhne or Arts.
The same occurs with spiritual work for elevating consciousness. There is a need for metaphysical traditions. The religious, philosophical, psychological traditions differ because there is:
A matter of fact is that the diverse traditions differ in metaphysical assumptions but also in methods. Only in this last issue, traditions do not coincide on the paths to follow, showing notable divergences. To put it in examples: Some traditions emphasize that connection with the Self requires the complete elimination of the ego (desire to receive for oneself alone), others insist on its attenuation, some do not point out that it is essential to eliminate reactive desires. Wilber - for example — doesn't seem to care very much about the ego. In another issue, the techniques and purposes of meditation, used in most of the traditions for the advance to the third tier, vary greatly from one to another: emptying the mind, meditating with a purpose or using intuition to enrich consciousness. On the other hand, methods also differ in the role they give to sexuality, which is important because of the energy that contains. Here traditions prescribe different behaviors such as chastity, liberation from the repression of instincts related to sexuality, channeling sexuality to the wife, or transmutation of sexual energy. We mention these divergences to show that there isn't a unified path in particular methods towards the third tier. A focus on a tradition is needed. The divergence in metaphysical 'objectivity' and their dynamics is even greater.
The coincidence between traditions is that be arriving at these levels of the third tier is not an easy path. It's not a matter of having a rational knowledge of the levels; it's about being there by following an idiosyncratic process that needs a tradition. Moreover, the traditions explain that this leap is not evolutional but revolutionary. Basic IT explains evolution but is inadequate to explain revolutions. The progress towards the third tier can follow —therefore- diverse paths, and all are valid, as far as we can know. The Wilberian claim to have discovered the ultimate path to the third tier, discarding the other paths, doesn't sound reliable to many spiritual advanced people as Wilberian critics emphasize.
Basic IT meaning
Basic IT means:
Basic IT as a tekhne
Basic IT is a tekhne, an Art in the Aristotelian sense (Gallifa, 2018a). This integral Art:
Integral thinking and integral Arts
Integral Thinking is a kind of thinking to facilitate the elevation of consciousness to holistic/integral levels (Gallifa, 2019a). Basic IT can be understood as an Art to create Integral Arts. The purpose of this Art is to transform the other tekhne into Integral Arts: Medicine to Integral Medicine, Education to Integral Education, etc. This is possible because the general elevation of consciousness that the use of Integral Thinking produces, and the evolution to integral levels in all the dimensions, both individual and collective.
Summary about Basic IT
The Basic Integral Theory:
Advantages of the Basic IT respect to the Wilber IT
The Basic Integral Theory provides the framework to define and develop Education as an Integral Art. Integral Education, as such art, acquires the aim of facilitating the evolution of personal consciousness and personal development in the different lines and directions.
Meaning of Integral
The meaning of 'Integral', coming from the Latin 'integralis', is: “composed of parts that together constitute a whole”, and/or that all the parts are necessary for making the whole entire and complete. There is another trait when a part is denominated as integral: It means that it's a necessary, essential, or fundamental part. A general trait of an integral approach can be found by joining the diverse meanings: “Because the whole has to be complete, it requires an equilibrated, balanced, and irreplaceable presence of the constituent and essential parts” (Gallifa, 2019a, p. 18).
“An integral approach is inclusive and does not privilege particular parts over others; rather, people judiciously and with careful deliberation fuse relevant parts into new entities to address the complexity of the situation” (McGregor, 2014, p. 8). The combination of the parts will be able “to get a new whole that provides the complexity required to address the unique situation” (McGregor, 2014, p. 9). The resultant whole will be an emerging outcome. “By using the term integral, we foreground concepts of inclusivity, holism, pluralism, and reverence” (Gidley, 2010, p. 1045).
The need for an Integral Education
Why is it necessary to add the adjective 'integral' to education? Doesn't would be enough to use only 'education'?
The response to these questions lies in the bias that the word 'education' acquired in past and present times. To include in the term 'education' the personal development and consciousness is necessary to surpass the framework and mentalities, shared in many societies and contemporary educational collectives, of 'modern' education.
As a second and no less important reason for the need for including the integral approach can be mentioned that is because education can't be understood independently of today's problems of the world. The huge changes ongoing in the world can be summarized in:
All of these changes are interrelated, and one can influence others. In this context, the modern curricula and approach to education may be limited because was created for another kind of world that doesn't exist anymore. Today more holistic approaches are needed to educate in such an interrelated and more complex world.
Holistic education approaches change the following dimensions of the educational acts: the program, the orientation towards developing the whole person, the dimension of projective action, and the promotion of an evolved culture (Gallifa, 2018d). Some authors (Esbjörn-Hargens, 2005, Helfrich, 2008) denominated this kind of education as Integral Education because derived their definition from the Integral Theory of Wilber. Because the development made here about the Basic Integral Theory, is consistent to do the same and derive the construct of Integral Education from the Basic Integral Theory developed here.
A definition of Integral Education developed from the Basic Integral Theory
Having developed the Basic Integral Theory, the next question is how this theoretical approach can impact the characterization of Integral Education. How would be an Integral Education approach founded in the Basic Integral Theory?
Integral Education can be characterized as the kind of education aimed to increase consciousness towards the second tier, which are the stages of holistic consciousness and integral thinking. For that, it goes ahead than the sole education. It's in that way because in Integral Education the evolution of consciousness is necessarily implied, alongside learning and development in diverse lines (as explains the BIT model).
Another consequence of the Basic Integral Theory model that impacts the Integral Education characterization, deals with the third tier of consciousness. Aligned with the theoretical developments made, the development of the third tier needs a metaphysical tradition. We argued that to reach this purpose there is more than one possibility. For that, Integral Education is compatible with diverse singular metaphysical traditions, in the moment of considering the evolution to the third tier. In that sense would be appropriate to ad the tradition alongside the concept 'Integral Education' (i.e. Christian Integral Education, Buddhist Integral Education, Wilberian Integral Education, and so on). More than one metaphysical perspective is possible in the context of the pluralism of our societies.
The advantage of having the Integral Education approach well characterized is to count about a common language between traditions, having a part of the evolution in common (second tier) and a part specific of each tradition (third tier). This aspect is a fundamental trait that has the potentiality to help in the clarification of holistic approaches to education.
The manifestation of integrality in Education
To explain in more detail the evolution of consciousness, and applying the definition of integral, it can be said that integrality is comprehensiveness, completeness, and balance between the following elements:
In that context to educate integrally is to produce educational acts that contribute to the 'elevation' of consciousness.
Consequences for the educational agenda
Integral Education can be understood as the emerging and evolving process of combining the following emergent trends in a comprehensive and well-rounded way. These trends can be understood as a description of each direction of the Basic Integral Theory model (Gallifa, 2019a):
Establishing a new relationship with knowledge. Educational systems, in Modernity and Enlightenment, focused on the transmission of knowledge from the empirical sciences. All the disciplines aspired to their scientific status and the model of specialization prevailed. These roles, together with the extension of industrial societies, led to the teacher-student relationship becoming more vertical and transmissive. Today, however, technology facilitates access to knowledge as well as horizontality and the possibility of collaboration in the construction of knowledge.
Creating a closer relationship between education and life. The dynamism of society and the world outside of the schools and universities will have to cross even more the walls of the classroom. One of the essential dimensions must be a greater approach to the diverse and changing professions. This is the dimension of the master-apprentice relationship and must be fully incorporated. This implies taking into account and privileging the field of human will, which pushes the motivation to improve and contribute to the human environment.
Paying more attention to the values of culture and organizations. The organizations where students learn (schools or universities) are a model of society and culture, where students are learning collective values ??and acquire world-views. The culture of the school or the university prepares the culture for the societies of the future. Education is also the training of future leaders and citizens. It will be necessary to promote schools or universities with more dialogical values, cooperative styles, and less vertical structures, which will be more evolved than the institutions inherited, too hierarchical and bureaucratic.
Giving a greater centrality to personal consciousness. It will be important also to recover the legacy of the pre-modern traditions that favored the Master-disciple relationship. This is the field of the evolution of subjective consciousness and the development of the inner dimensions. At this point the uniqueness of each person takes centrality. Personal happiness and fulfillment are at stake. The relationship or accompaniment is essential to achieve it.
As has been argued, each educational event is composed, more or less consciously, for each one of these logics, which are also dimensions of human evolution. We propose for the future Integral Education, which means a holistic educational approach where the previous dimensions have been taken into account in a conscious, balanced, and coherent way.
We developed the Basic IT by joining former developments in a comprehensive framework similar and equivalent to the Wilberian approach, which is slightly enhanced in some ways. The better adjustment to the reality of the traditions makes Basic IT a more appropriate approach to facilitate dialogue between traditions. This helps in the transit towards the needed global evolution of consciousness (to the second tier -of holistic/integral consciousness).
Unlike IT, the Basic IT is appropriately placed in the human endeavor as an Art (tekhne): An Art to facilitate the diverse Arts to evolve and become Integral Arts.
Integral Education is a framework to develop the educational tradition where a singular educational approach belongs, and at the same time to understand the commonality with other approaches. It's a framework to understand the diversity of traditions and to be able to cooperate at the diverse levels of the educational systems and from a common language. It's a wide common field that provides purpose to contribute to the elevation of consciousness, in the direction of humanization.
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