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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

Meanings of "integral"

Frank Visser

Since the use of the label "integral" has caught on like wildfire in recent years, resulting in an Integral Institute, Integral Psychology, Integral Research, Integral Developent, Spiral Dynamics Integral, Integral Coaching, etcetera, etcetera, it's high time to focus on this key concept.

I have come across many different interpretations of this term, an enourmous source of confusion:

Who can come up with more meanings of "integral"?

  • the integration of the transpersonal and the personal - the earliest "spectrum of consciousness" view
  • the integration of the individual and the social - seeing the socio-cultural context of individual phenomena
  • the integration of lines of development - cf. integral yoga, which is a synthesis of jnana, bhakti and karma yoga
  • the integration of theory and practice - studying and practicing spirituality, or politics, or medicine, or art
  • the integration of different theories within a field - cf. integral psychology, where does every school of thought fit in?
  • the integration of inner and outer life - acknowledging biochemical correlates of consciousness, even of spirituality
  • the no-differentiation approach - no differentiation, let alone hierarchy, but "integration"1
  • the integration of all quadrants - at whatever level you are at.*
  • the integration of states with stages in one's own being.*
  • the integration of emptiness and form - in One Taste.*
  • the integration of being and becoming - in sahaj.*
  • and to save the best for last - the integration of all of the above !

* provided by Ken Wilber

1) This item might need some explanation. By definition, human development is a twin process of differentiation and (hierarchic) integration -- meaning: the emergence of something new, and the rearrangement of the psyche under this new element. Without the concept of differentiation, the idea of integration can easily be misunderstood.
Without differentiation, integration is just the integration of "what is". Integration by itelf does not discover new levels or realms. Only by differentiation we transcend "what is". After every step of differentiation, integration is called for, but it is never a goal in itself.

February 2003

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