Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Brad ReynoldsBrad Reynolds did graduate work at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) before leaving to study under Ken Wilber for a decade, and published two books reviewing Wilber's work: Embracing Reality: The Integral Vision of Ken Wilber (Tarcher, 2004), Where's Wilber At?: Ken Wilber's Integral Vision in the New Millennium (Paragon House, 2006) and God's Great Tradition of Global Wisdom: Guru Yoga-Satsang in the Integral Age (Bright Alliance, 2021). Visit:


Part 1 | Part 2

This essay is based on a Keynote presentation given to
Integral+Life in late July 2023 where the graphics are excerpted from.

BEING Integral

Integral-Centaurs in Vision-Logic, Part 2

Brad Reynolds


he lower stages of development, which Western psychology excels at, represent the various phases in ego development from infancy to childhood up to and including adulthood, or what's called “Growing Up” in Ken Wilber's current Integral model. By putting attention on the Integral-Centaur stage, I want to emphasize the important transition between ego development or self-identity to ego-transcendence or the shift to the trans-personal domains of our evolutionary development. This is the Integral-Centaur stage of Teal-Turquoise (in Wilber's model) or being Integral—known as the Fourth Stage of Life (in Adi Da's model)—perhaps the most difficult of all stage transitions. It is difficult, a real test, because this stage of growth involves the loosening of the sense of being a separate ego-I—or our very notion of who we are—obviously not a simple task for anyone!

In other words, higher growth into transpersonal awareness or realizing our full human potential isn't merely about being an ego that “Wakes Up”; it's not simply about becoming a smarter mind that learns new ideas or models or meta-theories about everything, or even about an “I” having peak (or “peek”) experiences of ecstasy and bliss. It involves awakening the heart by surrendering the self and learning how to transform those higher “states into traits,” the difficult task of becoming fully human (that is, by adequately using all “Three Eyes of Knowing” [see Part 1]).

Again, the heart is the key to the genuine mystical path ahead, just like the mystics of East and West—found in the entire Great Wisdom Tradition of humankind[17]—have always taught. Seeing with the Heart, so to speak—or with the Eye of Spirit—is what makes us transparent to the previous stages and worldviews, as Gebser was saying earlier [see Part 1]. These lower stages (from archaic to magic to mythic to mental) always reside within us since we grew through them. The heart allows the mind to surrender and open to God (or Ultimate Reality)—so this is how we actually Awaken or become Enlightened, the pinnacle of “Waking Up,” for anyone can become a Buddha or “one who is Awake” or God-Realized (which is what “Buddha” means, “to be Awake”). None of this makes much sense to the mind alone, or science, since it involves “seeing” with the Eye of Spirit or exercising the Eye of Contemplation, a highly developed skill that takes practice and dedication.

As an example, let's listen to the Integral Christian mystic, Cynthia Bourgeault, an Episcopal priest and theologian, point out the importance of the “radiant intimacy of the heart”[18] in sparking our further evolutionary development to Nondual Enlightenment at a lecture during a SAND (Science And Non-Duality) conference held in December 2017, where she wonderfully explained:

Attention of the heart is not merely a metaphor; it denotes a whole new physiology of perception, without which permanent nondual attainment is impossible…. I want to make very clear that this awareness is not absent in the Asian traditions. I vividly recall the story of a Buddhist Master being asked how he had arrived at some spiritual insight. “My mind tells me,” he said, pointing to his heart. It may very well be that the Asian Masters would simply never have conceived of separating mind and heart in the first place. But in the Western traditions, and the Western translations of Asian texts, this nuance does not reliably come through.

[This has resulted] in many maps, such as Ken Wilber's influential Levels of Consciousness, which support the inference that the 3rd Tier or nondual consciousness… is merely an extension of the cognitive mind into higher realms of spiritual experience. The Western [mystical] maps, properly interpreted, make clear why this can never be so. Those maps… say if you're going to run the nondual program of perception, one of the basic physiological requirements is that the whole thing is entrained to the heart and to the specific mode of perception of the heart.[19]

It is true that Wilber's Integral theories have not emphasized the heart to a large degree but they certainly have not overlooked it either. It was a central theme relating to what he called “Centaur awareness” in his first two books (which carried through with his later books as well). For example, Ken confessed: “To find centauric meaning in life—fundamental meaning—is to find that the very processes of life itself generate joy. Meaning is found, not in outward actions or possessions, but in the inner radiant currents of your own being, and in the release and relationship of these currents to the world, to friends, to humanity at large, and to infinity itself.”[20] As I will continue to emphasize, this is a vital characteristic of entering the Fourth Stage of Life (as outlined in Adi Da's model).

Genuine “peak experiences” (as Abraham Maslow termed them), or mystical awakenings, are best facilitated via the heart or a devotional response to various higher states of awareness, as Ms. Bourgeault explained. These states reflect a spectrum pointing to our higher stage potentials—revealing a “hierarchy of religious experiences”—that can “Light Up” or “Open Up” our awareness, depending on the circumstances, the practices we are doing, the grace of the moment, proper use of entheogens, contact with an authentic Guru, and so on. Therefore, after the peak experience there is often a process of “downward causation” (as Wilber has explained) where the higher state can be interpreted by the lower stage or worldview where our self-system's “center of gravity” resides. This is what the Wilber-Combs Matrix attempts to portray—but not necessarily accurately, in my opinion—since that is not a state's true importance (i.e., its downward reinterpretation). Overall, it is best if there is a re-integration of the higher with the lower, a process where the ego is expanded to its transpersonal possibilities, which ultimately takes daily practice, not “weekend” excursions.

Most important, the transpersonal or “peak” state experience shows us what is possible for our future growth—thus becoming evolutionary “attractors” to the higher Stages of Life that are innate in our human developmental potential. This awakening process of the heart is also what best initiates our transition into becoming an Integral-Centaur, not merely engaging in mental comprehensions (or cognitive reading of maps) including overreliance on scientific data. In Adi Da's model, this is entering the Fourth Stage of Life (of devotional response to the Divine). As an integrated body-mind, the characteristic quality of the Centaur, this is when we then stand on the “brink of the transpersonal” (in Wilber's words) to potentially enter the real (and higher) stages, not just states, of Waking Up (until ultimate God-Realization or Enlightened Satori).

I believe this process of transpersonal development or spiritual growth is not adequately taught in today's Integral Theory, although Wilber had made it clearer in his earlier writings. Still, it was only pointed to, not elucidated with the depth necessary for life changes. Indeed, such a process of further growth goes beyond rational “theories” or discussions altogether because it involves authentic spiritual practice and ego transcendence. Waking Up needs the “Practicing School” (of discipline and sadhana), not just the “Talking School” (of theories and models or mapmaking). Thus, in a very real sense, we need to turn to the traditional yet mystical Great Traditions of Global Wisdom and their Enlightened Adepts to gain a greater and deeper understanding of this sacred process (I have written a book about this sacred inheritance[21]). And I do not simply mean traditional religions and dogmas, which are often cloaked in magical and mythic thinking, but to real Yoga grounded in meditation and serious spiritual (or esoteric) disciplines.

Overall, the processes of transpersonal developmental becomes the real goal of Integral Philosophy and Integral Psychology, as Wilber noted in The Eye of Spirit: “Integral philosophy thus mentally coordinates the Good, and the True, and the Beautiful, weaving a mandala of the many faces of Spirit, and then invites us to take up spiritual practice itself, and thus finally meet Spirit face to face [which is Satori].”[22] Or as the pandit noted in his book Integral Psychology, where he further explains: “What I have done is to take the results of that research, along with dozens of other modern theorists, and attempted to integrate it with the best of the Perennial Philosophers, to arrive at a master template of a full-spectrum developmental space, reaching from matter to body to mind to soul to spirit. As we have seen, these are the basic waves of Being and Knowing through which the various developmental streams will flow, all of which are balanced and (ideally) integrated by the self in its remarkable journey from subconscious to self-conscious to superconscious.”[23] Everyone is invited to take their own evolutionary journey to further transpersonal development and awakening. According to the world's mystics this is a universal message and necessity for all humanity. Indeed, many today believe it's vital for our future survival and the healing of the planet.

Integral Maps


o summarize, Wilber explains his mission of providing a metatheory based on Integral awareness: “This [full-spectrum] model easily incorporates not only most of the Great Wisdom Traditions, but also, and just as importantly, the essential features of modern developmental psychology, as well as dynamic system theories (chaos theories) and evolutionary theory in general.”[24] Later he would again confirm this thesis in The Eye of Spirit: “In short, modern-day integral studies have reconnected with the world's Great Wisdom Traditions, honoring and incorporating many of their essential and pioneering insights, while, at the same time, adding new methodologies and techniques previously unavailable. This is multiculturalism in its best and deepest sense, cherishing cultural differences, but set in a truly universal context.”[25] Overall, Wilber concedes: “The goal of the integral approach is thus a judicious blend of ancient wisdom and modern knowledge.”[26] From this truly advanced Integral perspective, we can begin to better understand what living in Integral awareness is actually about. It is the real integration of Eastern wisdom with Western knowledge, the true marriage of sense and soul, of the physical, mental, and spiritual, the inclusion of all that it is to be truly human.

With such an expanded Integral view of human development, we can better understand the overall Human Life Cycle, which each one of us is compelled to undertake. This chart above, from Wilber's earlier books, I believe helps clarify what is often muddled with an over-emphasis on the theoretical epistemology of the Four Quadrants or AQAL Metatheory. For me, what is most important is having maps that explain and guide us through the entire process of living life and realizing our highest evolutionary potentials, growing from a baby to a Buddha, from a child to Christ Consciousness, from a sperm to a Sage. That is our future, or at least potentially. Once more, as identified with the circle [see above], we recognize the critical transition stage of the Integral-Centaur. In transitioning to being Integral, and opening our heart, we begin to transcend the limitations imposed by the mental-rational ego on the way to realizing our higher human capabilities.

In addition, we can see an even fuller picture of our Complete Life Cycle by identifying what Wilber calls the “fulcrums,” or pivots of transition, from F-1 to F-10, and then by adding Adi Da's Seven Stages of Life which encompasses them all, as this chart shows [see above]. This way we are able to include the details of Wilber's model but also simplify it, perhaps making it easier for us to find our way home to Full Enlightenment and thus realizing our fullest human potentials. We have many maps at our disposal; the point, however, is to take the journey! This is being Integral.

In this case, it is important to recognize the trail-blazing quality of Wilber's Integral Maps, particularly his advanced AQAL map with more details than any other at this time in history. And people do love making maps (and following them), for they broaden our perspectives and deepen out awareness of the territory of life in which we are already traversing. For example, some of these well-known AQAL maps illustrated by Steve Self of Formless Mountain (for purchase on Zazzle) [see below] provide stunning insights to the interconnected “morphogenetic developmental space” in which we all live and exist (until we die) in this vast and marvelous Kosmos.

How beautiful and complex they are for they attempt to map our interiors correlated with our exteriors “tetra-interacting” in the Kosmos (across all four quadrants), giving us guideposts on our evolutionary journey in the expanding growth of conscious awareness, from levels or waves to lines or streams, from types to quadrants, to states and stages, and so forth. Another one [see below] pictures a colorful map of such detail and precision—amazing!

Or have you seen [see below] this incredible artistic display (created by Steve Self) guiding us up the stages of in the Spiral of Development? Stunning, in my opinion! I can study them deeply for I see myself, my many past developments and future potentials, in their contours and outlines imagining endless possibilities and interactions. The tree of life continues to grow blossoming new branches of understanding and expanded perspectives reaching upward to the light of true God-Realization.

Yet, of course, real life is even more amazing and full of endless detail! For as it's often noted in Integral theory: “The map is not the territory!” Thus, this cinematic display [see below] traces just some of the countless images seen in the unfolding display of Spirit-In-Action generating a living, breathing Kosmos of Divine Existence and Life.

As perhaps only Ken Wilber himself can summarize: “The various attempts [at mapmaking] are rapidly converging on a 'master template' of the various stages, structures, and states of consciousness available to men and women. By comparing and contrasting various multicultural approaches—from Zen Buddhism to Western psychoanalysis, from Vedanta Hinduism to existential phenomenology, from Tundra Shamanism to altered states —these approaches are rapidly piecing together a master template—a Spectrum of Consciousness—using the various ?approaches to fill in any gaps left out by the others…. For the moment, we will simply note that this spectrum appears to range from instinctual to egoic to spiritual modes, from prepersonal to personal to transpersonal experiences, from subconscious to self-conscious to superconscious states, from body to mind to spirit itself.”[27] If you look at it correctly, you will see your own face in the mirror as well as your “Original Face” prior to the Big Bang. How encompassing; how integral!

Integral Mysticism


ext, I would like to highlight how Ken Wilber integrated the lower-to-middle stages outlined by modern developmental psychology (or Growing Up) with the higher stages uncovered by transpersonal mysticism (or Waking Up) discovered by the world's Perennial Philosophers or the Great Wisdom Tradition of humankind. Wilber basically accomplished this by adding together Jean Piaget's research (among other modern investigators) on individual childhood developmental, from sensorimotor operations to preoperational to concrete operations to formal operations, with Jean Gebser's work on collective historical structures (archaic, magic, mythic, mental, integral) then using Aurobindo's higher stages revealed by Integral Yoga (from Intuitive mind to Supermind, etc.). However, by writing in the late quarter of the 20th century (after over a century and a half of comparative religions research), and now in the early decades of the 21st century, Wilber has had a wider range of access to resources than any of those previous theorists. In other words, let me summarize:

  • Unlike Gebser, Wilber used a deep access to the “Perennial Philosophy” or the world's esoteric spiritual traditions to bring about a more profound analysis of humanity's future potentials and past revelations.
  • Notably, therefore, Wilber included the Transpersonal or Spiritual realms of development, even those going beyond the Integral structure, which were not specifically covered by Gebser's early 20th-century work. In other words, Wilber expanded upon (and exceeded) the notion that development peaked or ended with higher mental development (or with an Ego), a notion that would become a principal argument throughout his prolific career.
  • Importantly, Wilber was able to recognize that these higher stages of development had not yet been reached by the collective average-mode masses but only with a select advanced-tip few, people who are now humanity's most-honored personnel. Thus, he outlined a “Hierarchy of Religious Experiences” from Shamans and beginning Yogis (exercising Psychic or Nature Mysticism) to Saints and advanced Yogis (using Subtle Mysticism) to Awakened Sages (accessing Causal Mysticism) to completely Enlightened Siddhas (living in Nondual Mysticism), as we'll review next.

As Wilber explains: “In The Atman Project [and elsewhere], I presented evidence (based on Vajrayana, Zen, Adi Da, etc.) strongly suggesting that 'religious experience' actually consists of three [or four] broad but rather different classes, each with its own techniques, its own path, and its own characteristic visions and experiences.”[28] The pandit goes on to say: “The point is that not only is there a variety of religious experience, there is a hierarchy of religious experience, with each successive stage-state—psychic, subtle, causal, ultimate—being higher (by developmental, structural, and integrative standards) than its predecessor, and each correlative practice—Yogic, Saintly, and Sagely—being likewise more ultimately revelatory.”[29] I cannot not overstate how important these designations were in the first few decades of Wilber's career bringing him his fame as the so-called “Einstein of Consciousness research.”

Next, I want to briefly review how Wilber's stage-structures perfectly align with Adi Da's Seven Stages of Life model, from his first books published in the late 1970s up to the recent The Religion of Tomorrow (2017). There is no competition here: these Teachers are simply trying to help us understand—and activate—our highest developmental potentials… to bring about a brighter future for all humanity.

  • First, there is the so-called Psychic Stage which correlates with Adi Da's Fourth Stage of Life or the awakening of Spiritual and devotional awareness, the stage beginning with the Integral-Centaur.
  • Next, there is the Subtle Stage which reflects the Fifth Stage of Life that involves the yogic ascent of kundalini and inner samadhis (or ecstasies and visions) generating profound spiritual insights, the domain of advanced yoga and esoteric religion (or mysticism).
  • Then comes the so-called Causal Realm or the Sixth Stage of Life which is awakening to the Transcendent Witness Consciousness or Atman, our True Self, yet this is a paradox because it can't be described, thus the Buddhists call it “Emptiness” or “the Empty Field of Bliss-Void Awareness.”
  • Then finally, but not least, is the ultimate state-structure known as the Seventh Stage of Life or what Adi Da calls “Whole Body Enlightenment.” This “open eye” (sahaj samadhi) awareness of our Divine Condition (with no sense of separation between self, the universe, and God) is when the Enlightened Sage or Awakened Siddha goes “back into the marketplace” or into the world to serve all beings in their own Enlightenment or Realization of our Divine Condition.

Naturally, these designations line up with the various titles of mysticism that Wilber has wisely termed “Nature Mysticism (Fourth Stage), Deity Mysticism (Fifth Stage), Formless Mysticism (Sixth Stage), and Nondual Mysticism (Seventh Stage),” as we can see [above].

Therefore, in this chart outlining the “Developmental Correlates” [see above], we recognize all of these stages—or state-stages, if you will, in the Spectrum of Consciousness Development as pictured in all of Ken Wilber's books—best outlined in the Appendix to Integral Psychology. Once again we see the transpersonal stages of Nature Mysticism, Deity or Subtle Mysticism, Causal or Formless Mysticism, and Nondual Enlightenment depicting the “higher” stages the developmental process [in the bottom section of the chart].

Now I want to bring our attention [see above] back to the Integral-Centaur Stage of Vision-Logic (Fulcrum-6 or F-6) coming after Fulcrum-5 or the Mature Ego, and just preceding the higher transpersonal stages because this is the all-important transition stage to the transpersonal or yogic stages of real spiritual growth. This is the stage that most Integral practitioners tend to reside at: that is, being Integral; entering 2nd Tier Consciousness; living as a Centaur beginning to integrate body-mind-heart in a new transparency (as Gebser explained); or simply entering the Fourth Stage of Life.

This developmental process follows the recent scientific evidence of developmental growth into adulthood—in other words, this is not just theory or somebody's Big Idea but is based on evidence—as this chart [see below] from Terri O'Fallon, perhaps the most detailed researcher to date (who has built upon the work of Piaget, Kegan, and Cook-Greuter, for example) shows. Her outlining of “Person-Perspectives” or levels are pictured next to Wilber's stages in the AQAL Spectrum lining up in perfect correspondence. Here we see that the 4.5 and 5.0 levels of O'Fallon's model line up with Wilber's Teal and Turquoise stages, while both reflect the stage of the Integral-Centaur and 4th Stage of Life (or early phases of the Fourth Stage), as circled here [see below].

The cognitive development of Integral Awareness is what Wilber has defined as Vision-Logic or Network Logic because, as he explained in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: “[We] use Vision-Logic not just to reasonably decide the individual issues, but hold them all together at once in mind, and judge how they fit together as a truth-vision. In other words, Vision-Logic is a higher holon that operates upon (and thus transcends) its junior holons, such as simple rationality itself [or magical-mythic thinking]. As such, Vision-Logic can hold in mind contradictions, it can unify opposites, it is dialectical, non-linear, and it weaves together what otherwise appear to be incompatible notions, as long as they relate together in the new and higher holon, negated in their partiality but preserved in their positive contributions.”[30] Consequently, Wilber plainly proclaimed: “What rationality had put asunder, vision-logic will unite.”[31] This alone is the essential argument for being Integral: the healing of a dissociated rationality in the reintegration of mind and body, soul and nature, spirit and matter, holding in mind contradictions to create a more unified whole. Due to its encompassing integration of mind and body, the mythic symbol of the centaur, half human- half horse, has often been used by Wilber (and others, such as Benoit and Erikson) to represent this higher-older unity of ego, body, mind, and emotion.

Integral-Centaur in Vision-Logic

The more we are capable of resting in the Centaur, the more we are capable of founding our lives on, and giving our lives over to, this wider store of natural wisdom and freedom. — Ken Wilber, No Boundary[32]

Some astute observers have noted that maybe the centaur, sometimes portrayed as a violent and beastly man-horse in mythology, is not a good symbol for the more peaceful, integrated compound individual. The centaurs, who were compounded of a horse's body and legs with a man's torso, arms, and head, existed mostly in Greek mythology where they usually led a wild and violent life, being involved in raging battles, brawls, rapes, and riotous revelries. They often existed as a symbol of the dark, unruly forces of nature, not necessarily the most attractive image for a highly-developed structure of integral consciousness. However, the ancient symbol also showed the noble unification of human beings with one earth's finest creatures, the horse, since ancient people were extremely fond of the horse. In actuality, the centaur is the only compounded monster of antiquity (animal + human) to which any good traits are assigned—such as the treacherous sphinx, half lion + woman, of Egyptian mythology (also a ruthless killer)—thus ultimately transcending (yet including) their degraded, brutish form or reputation.

In particular, the wise centaur named Chiron was unlike his beastly brothers, for he was noted for his wisdom and gentleness. Chiron, a friend to Apollo, was learned in the art of prophecy, music, hunting, warfare, and importantly, in medicine. It was Chiron who taught the master-physician Asclepius the fine arts of healing. The image of the caduceus, whose staff of intertwining snakes symbolizes the awakening of kundalini (in yoga, the life-forces which rise up the spinal column of the seven chakras), is clearly associated with Chiron, the healer centaur. Thus, it is this centaur that becomes an apt symbol for the consciously integrated body and mind, the first real steps into the transpersonal stages of human development. Not only does Chiron represent the transcendence of the beastly animal-body (typhon), represented by his unruly brothers, but also the deeper transcendence of the mind (via the awakening of kundalini and higher psycho-physical development). Therefore, the centaur can be rightly seen as an appropriate symbol representing the next major phase of consciousness that emerges after the mental-egoic, completing the integration/transcendence of the lower body-mind within the integral structure of consciousness.

Hubert Benoit, for example, in his excellent book The Supreme Doctrine (1955), refers to the centaur as a “formal symbol” for our “true nature” which is re-discovered in satori, or enlightenment; thus, he tells us, “I am in reality a centaur, and that all schooling which allows the illusory hiatus between horseman and horse to persist keeps me away from my true nature…. The horseman and the horse are united, but they unite in the in-formal All; so that there is no longer either horse or horseman, and the centaur is transcended as soon as he is reached.”[33] Wilber, too, agrees with this assessment, yet goes onto to suggest a number of different transpersonal levels beyond the pioneering work of Benoit.

In A Brief History of Everything (first published in 1996), Ken once again emphasized: “The highly integrative capacity of Vision-Logic supports an equally integrated self. Which is why I call the self of this stage the Centaur, representing an integration of the mind and the body, the noosphere and the biosphere, in a relatively autonomous self—which doesn't mean isolated self or atomistic self or egocentric self, but rather a self integrated in networks of responsibility and service.”[34] Therefore, back in his second book, No Boundary (published in 1979), Ken already explained: “A Centaur is a legendary animal, half human and half horse, and so it well represents a perfect union and harmony of mental and physical… a self-controlling, self-governing, psychosomatic unity.”[35] In other words, the Centaur or Integral person is re-integrating the body (or biosphere) and mind (or noosphere) since for most Westerners, especially those under the influence of a Judeo-Christian culture, the body (and the feminine) or Nature herself have been suppressed and separated from a healthy integration. This is a large part of what makes the Western mind neurotic—or psychotic—and unhealthy and unhappy, as you may have noticed. Therefore, Wilber clarifies: “'Centaur awareness': the awareness not of a horse-man ruling over his horse, but rather of a centaur, a total, self-governing organism.”[36] Whole-body whole-mind integration, via the heart, as we'll see, is the way to being Integral. The Centaur represents a holistic re-integration, a healing of the fractured dissociation of the mental-rational ego from the body and Nature, from the feminine and the etheric (or feeling) dimension of reality. Integral awareness, in other words, has the potential of healing (or transcending) the fractured dualism of Descartes's modern mind (res extensa from res cogitans) and wounded Western psyche. Ken further explains:

On the centaur level, you still have access to the ego, the body, the persona, and the shadow; but because you are no longer exclusively identified with one as against the others, all of these elements work in harmony. You have befriended them all and touched each with acceptance. There are no intractable boundaries between them and so no major battles.[37]

In general, all of the characteristics of the centaur (intentionality, vision-image, body-mind integration) represent or reflect higher-order unities, new and higher forms of Atman-telos. This is why most centauric therapists (humanistic and existential), are always talking about either a “higher-level unity” or an “underlying unity”—a unity of ego, body, mind, and emotion.[38]

And, as I've been emphasizing, this whole-body integration is done best by awakening the heart, our key to genuine wholeness (and ultimately, to Enlightenment). Of course, naturally, this is true for both men and women as one human species, regardless of culture or religion. Next, we can see how the Integral-Centaur appears in 4 Quadrants:

  • Vision-Logic is the new cognitive emergent in the Upper-Left quadrant;
  • an Existential Post-Conventional worldview emerges in the Lower-Left quadrant;
  • an integrated body-mind exhibiting health and equanimity is exercised in the Upper-Right quadrant;
  • while actions for creating a Worldcentric Planetary Global culture appears in the Lower-Right quadrant; that is, if all goes well (which it almost never does) because we Tetra-interact with the whole world—thus such real growth takes real practice.

Nonetheless, practically speaking, this means, as Wilber explains, “By the time of the Centaur, the observing self can witness or experience both the mind and the body, in a general sense, which means it is indeed beginning to transcend them in some important ways.”[39] But how does this actually appear in our lives? It involves the opening of the born being into its natural condition of relaxed equanimity, not a contracted, uptight one of paranoia and stress, but one of Flow and ease. Therefore, Wilber summarizes this Integral adaptation represented by the Centaur or centauric awareness as being a whole body-mind integration: “All in all, the centaur level is the home of 1) self-actualization, 2) meaning, and 3) existential or life-death concerns. And the resolution of all of these requires a whole-bodied full-minded awareness, a current of feeling-attention which floods the body-mind and utilizes the entire psychological being.”[40] As we'll see below, Wilber is referring to the conductivity of natural life-energy, which is more of a “feeling-awareness” than a cognitive process, for even at this early stage of his career the Teachings of Adi Da Samraj were making their mark (this is obvious by Wilber's use of the phrase “feeling-attention,” a common phrase of Adi Da's in the late 1970s).

Centaur Conductivity

Even in his first book, The Spectrum of Consciousness, Wilber was using the research of humanistic psychologists, such as with Alexander Lowen, to explain how the dissociated body-mind involves as a disruption of “feeling awareness” with chronic muscular-emotional tensions—or what Adi Da calls the “contracted body-mind.” But when the body-mind is integrated so there is an uninterrupted flow of feeling awareness —caused by an opening to the conductivity or circulation of life-energy by awakening the heart—the centaur becomes integral. This is, in other words, when the soul begins to enter the transpersonal possibilities of human existence (or the Fourth Stage of Life). Wilber thus accurately explains: “Centauric-integral awareness integrates the body and mind in a new transparency; the biosphere and the noosphere, once finally differentiated, can now be integrated in a new embrace.”[41] Thus Ken summarizes: “[to realize] the Centaur is to realize that mental and physical well-being already circulate within the total psychophysical organism… Centauirc awareness is a powerful antidote to the world of future shock.”[42] In other words, living with Integral awareness—or being Integral—is the most effective way to deal with our current fragmentation and alienation caused by the clash of civilizations or “culture wars” between the traditional religious and modern scientific worldviews.

This brings us to the important and fundamental practice of the Fourth Stage of Life, or how to be a healthy Integral-Centaur involving the whole-body circulation of Life-Energy, or what Adi Da calls the “Circle of Conductivity.” Once more, the Feeling-Heart is the key to the process of proper inhalation (reception) and exhalation (release) of the breath. First, a person concentrates (or meditates) on the descending current coming down the Frontal Line of the body to reaching the lower core (or “bodily battery”) before turning up the Spinal Line as the ascending current enters the brain (and higher chakras) to descend once again in the natural Circle of Conductivity… over and over, around and around for a lifetime of breathing and living. In Yoga, this is the practice of pranayama linking the head, the heart and the body. The Spiritual Master Adi Da Samraj, who heavily influenced Wilber's work (and mine), teaches about this conductivity of life energy in detail in his excellent book Conductivity Healing (2018), where he explains:

The secret of “conductivity”: Treat or relate to the phenomenal 'world' and 'self' (or the body-mind complex) as energy rather than mere matter. And treat or relate to every condition of the phenomenal “world” and “self”—positive or negative, high or low—as the same Ultimate and Total Energy (or Self-Radiance of Transcendental Spiritual Divine Being). Body and mind are the same energy. Use every condition or circumstance as an incident of transmission of energy, continuous with the Radiant Principle of Divine Being. Open to energy, contact it, and circulate it. And communicate it in all directions and relations through Love.[43]

People cannot afford to be without this type of whole-body wisdom, in my humble opinion. In this case, let's quickly summarize the developments of the Fourth Stage of Life or the Integral-Centaur stage with this brief list:

  • The Fourth Stage of Life involves the intentional, intelligent, willful feeling-surrender to the Divine via the heart or the Transcendental Spiritual Reality pervading and surrounding us.
  • It includes the beginning of genuine spiritual practices via an opening of the heart by transcending the contracted ego-self.
  • The Integral-Centaur uses the discriminative and higher mind to understand and transcend-yet-integrate the desires of the body-mind into a new integrated wholeness.
  • This practice thus attains a new level of maturity and equanimity setting the stage for Enlightenment or full God-Realization.
  • Being an Integral-Centaur is the beginning of the further development of transpersonal awareness.
  • An Integral-Centaur continues Growing Up by Cleaning Up and Showing Up based on profound “tastes” of Waking Up until satori or Divine Enlightenment.

Georg Feuerstein, one of our founding Integral Pioneers, further explains the unique development of Integral consciousness when he says: “Integral consciousness is based on a transformed and empowered mind, which renders us transparent to ourselves. We become able to calmly witness the play of the various structures of consciousness in our own life and in the human world around us. We can see the push and pull of the Archaic, Magical, Mythical, and Mental structures of consciousness through which our being seeks expression. In other words, we can see our personal and cultural conditioning and begin to take responsibility for it. When the Integral consciousness is active in us, we no longer merely react to stimuli from within or without but make conscious responses grounded in an encompassing comprehension that transcends all merely egoic programs…. This Integral awareness gives birth to a motivation that resolves around the ultimate happiness and freedom of all beings… In this way we can become conscious and responsible participants in the cosmic play.”[44] A better description of being Integral is hard to find.

Being Integral

I have tried to review in this essay the basic essence of Wilber's Integral Vision of being a Centaur exhibiting world-centric vision-logic—which is, in my opinion, even more important than the brilliant cognitive theories of the Four Quadrants. This is because it teaches us how to live a more holistic human life, how being Integral serves our happiness and the further transpersonal development for everyone. Thus, Ken ideally summarizes: “The great quest of [post-]postmodernity, I will argue, is for the body mind integration of the Centaur anchored in world-centric vision-logic, and there are signs everywhere that this is in fact occurring. But most important, from within and beyond the Centaur are now emerging glimpses of the Over-Soul as the World Soul…. And so there we stand now, at rationality, poised on the edge of trans-rational perception, a scientia visionis that is bringing here and there, but ever and ever more clearly, to all sorts of people in all sorts of places, powerful glimpses of a true Descent of the all-pervading World Soul.”[45] This is Spirit-In-Action, our Evolutionary Story… you are already caught up in its currents so might as well participate in its emergence consciously and with intention.

Once more, Feuerstein summarizes the Integral View as supported by both his teachers (and friends): “Today, according to both Gebser and Wilber, we must make a conscious effort to actualize the Integral consciousness, which is seeking to crystallize in us…. Each structure of consciousness has its own projections that paint for us a particular image of the world. We must become aware of these projections and learn to withdraw (transcend) them, so as to relate to the world more directly…. We can actualize the emerging Integral consciousness only to the degree that we can overcome the rational consciousness and its projections…. For Gebser, work on oneself ought to lead to trust in life and death, so that Integral consciousness can bloom and disclose the ever-present Origin, which is our spiritual home.”[46] “Work on oneself” is the key; in other words, being Integral can't just be talking theories but must engage real practice and further evolutionary development.

Gebser affirms how vitally important it is to “work on ourselves” in order to assist Integral Consciousness when he says: “One condition for this [Integral awareness] is that we become so well-acquainted with ourselves that we become 'self-transparent'—that we accept the active roles of the Archaic, Magical, and Mythical Structures which help to constitute us, and do not attribute exclusive validity to the Mental-Rational Structure. In order to achieve clear-sightedness whereby we can recognize the efficacy of all these structures without either falling back into magical superstition, or sinking into mythical dreaming or irrationality what is required of us is just that which no one is particularly willing to undertake—to work on oneself. The world and its humanity will under no circumstances be changed by preaching a better world; would-be 'reformers,' in their efforts to achieve a better world, often demand of others what they have not required of themselves.”[47] This should make the process—the universal march of Spirit-in-action—even clearer, as Wilber summarizes: “As for the Centauric-Integral dimension being a fully worldcentric vision, Gebser refers to it as 'universal-integral' and 'world open,' 'world transparent'—which Feuerstein, correctly I believe, equates with the rising Global or Planetary Culture. In Gebser's words, the perspectives of the egoic-rational world are 'replaced by the open expanse of the open world,' the 'aperspectival world'—the culmination of the worldcentric vision started by rationality and completed by vision-logic.”[48] Truly, how Beautiful, Good, and True is this Integral Vision? Do you see it? Are you opening and accessing all Three Eyes of Knowing? Are you part of this Evolution Revolution?

In Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, Wilber's magnum opus on the Integral Vision, he clarified the potentials for the new emerging centauric Integral awareness to lay the foundation for a possible “Planetary Transformation.” He explains the possibilities, and difficulties, ahead:

It will take a vision-logic movement of tremendous integrative power (integral-aperspectival as universal-integral) in order to unite world citizens on the centauric basis that we all share matter and bodies and minds in common (not to mention a Spirit and a Self prior to all that)…. As for the coming transformation itself, it is being built, as have all past transformations, in the hearts and minds of those individuals who themselves evolve to centauric planetary vision. For these individuals create a “cognitive potential” in the form of new worldviews (in this case, centauric-planetary) [Lower-Left quadrant] that in turn feed back into the ongoing mainstream of social institutions [Lower-Right quadrant], until the previously “marginalized” worldview becomes anchored in institutional forms which then catapult a collective consciousness to a new and higher release…. But any way we slice the evolutionary pie, there is where we stand today: on the verge of a planetary transformation, struggling to be secured by rationality and completed by vision-logic, and embedded in global-planetary social institutions.[49]

In my opinion, yes, there is in fact the possibility of a Bright New Age in our future, without being trite, if we become Integral. One of the first people I can find who eloquently and accurately talks about a real “New Age” is the Reverend Dr. Martin Lither King, Jr. back in 1956 in Montgomery, Alabama, who said:

The tensions which we witness in the world today are indicative of the fact that a new world order is being born and an old order is passing away…. We are witnessing in our day the birth of a New Age, with a new structure of freedom and justice. Now as we face the fact of this new, emerging world, we must face the responsibilities that come along with it. A New Age brings with it new challenges…. We have before us the glorious opportunity?to inject a new dimension of love into the veins of our civilization…. This love might well be the salvation of our civilization…. It is this type of ?understanding good will that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the New Age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of humanity.[50]

In other words, to be Integral we must also be Love. We must awaken the heart, not just the mind. This to me is a vision (and truth) worth fighting for, for speaking up about, even dying for… certainly worth living for!

Yet, to be clear, Integral means opening to the transpersonal domains of awareness, awakening our higher evolutionary potentials. Thus, as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama wisely points out: “In order to save the world, we must have a plan. But no plan will work unless we meditate!”[51]

Ken Wilber agrees: “The revolution, as always, will come from the within and be embedded in the without…. As always, we have to make the future that is given to us.”[52]

Won't you join this Integral Evolution Revolution? For this, my dear friends, is being Integral… and being wise and compassionate! Everybody is called to this higher evolutionary process of Spirit-In-Action. Let's give the final word to Dr. Feuerstein, a personal friend and inspiration of mine (before he died in 2012), who invites us all to the Evolution Revolution by saying: “With his formulation of an emerging Integral consciousness, Gebser [and Wilber] gave us a new means of self-understanding and self-determination. However, [they are] very clear that this Integral consciousness is no more than a tender shoot, requiring much nurturing care to grow into healthy maturity.… He saw merely emergent possibilities, which demand our mature participation to blossom into full activity.”[53]

As I have suggested, it's up to all of us to become Integralists, to be Integral thinkers, exercising feeling-awareness, awakening to our Divine Condition, to be Integral practitioners, not just scholars and philosophers and theoreticians or endless integral analysists dissecting the Kosmos into quadrants, waves, and streams. We need to work together: Please co-evolve as we together Grow Up! Wake Up! Clean Up! Show Up! so we may all, everybody-all-at-once, Light Up a better future for All-and all… before it's too late. That is the Evolution Revolution-in-action. Get on board by being Integral.

JON ANDERSON -- NEW NEW WORLD (from 'Survival & Other Stories')


  1. See: Brad Reynolds, God's Great Tradition of Global Wisdom: Guru Yoga-Satsang in the Integral Age (2021, Bright Alliance).
  2. Cynthia Bourgeault, “Radiant Intimacy of the Heart—Exploring an ancient spiritual practice” in Parabola, Spring 2020.
  3. Cynthia Bourgeault, Science and NonDuality (SAND) talk December 17, 2017 [on YouTube].
  4. Ken Wilber, No Boundary (1979, Center Publications), pp. 119-120.
  5. See: Brad Reynolds, God's Great Tradition of Global Wisdom: Guru Yoga-Satsang in the Integral Age (2021, Bright Alliance).
  6. Ken Wilber, The Eye of Spirit (1997, Shambhala Publications), pp. 94-95.
  7. Ken Wilber, Integral Psychology (2000, Shambhala Publications), p. 89.
  8. Ken Wilber, “Two Patterns of Transcendence: A Reply to Washburn,” Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Summer 1990, Vol. 30, No. 3, p. 118 [reprinted as “A Unified Theory of Development” in CW4, 1999].
  9. Ken Wilber, The Eye of Spirit (1997, Shambhala Publications), p. 35.
  10. Ken Wilber, The Eye of Spirit (1997, Shambhala Publications), p. 38.
  11. Ken Wilber, The Eye of Spirit (1997, Shambhala Publications), pp. 30; 37-38
  12. Ken Wilber, Up From Eden (Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday), p. 78.
  13. Ken Wilber, A Sociable God (1983, McGraw-Hill), p. 32.
  14. Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (1995, Shambhala Publications), p. 185.
  15. Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (1995, Shambhala Publications), p. 393.
  16. Ken Wilber, No Boundary (1979, Center Publications), p. 117.
  17. Hubert Benoit, The Supreme Doctrine (1955, Viking Press), p. 160.
  18. Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything (1996, Shambhala Publications), p. 191.
  19. Ken Wilber, No Boundary (1979, Center Publications), p. 80
  20. Ken Wilber, The Spectrum of Consciousness (1977, A Quest Book, Theosophical Publishing House), p. 130.
  21. Ken Wilber, No Boundary (1979, Center Publications), p. 133.
  22. Ken Wilber, The Atman Project (1980, A Quest Book, Theosophical Publishing House), p. 142.
  23. Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything (1997, Shambhala Publications), p. 197.
  24. Ken Wilber, No Boundary (1979, Center Publications), p. 120.
  25. Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (1995, Shambhala Publications), p.
  26. Ken Wilber, No Boundary (1979, Center Publications), p. 118.
  27. Adi Da Samraj, Conductivity Healing (2018, The Dawn Horse Press), pp. 63-64.
  28. Georg Feuerstein, “The Millennium Effect” in Parabola (Spring 1998).
  29. Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (1995, Shambhala Publications), last pages.
  30. Georg Feuerstein, , “Jean Gebser's Structures of Consciousness and Ken Wilber's Spectrum Model” (unpublished essay intended for Kindred Visions edited by Ken Wilber), p. 9.
  31. Jean Gebser, “The Integral Consciousness” in Main Currents in Modern Thought, Vol. 30, No. 3, January-February 1974, p. 108.
  32. Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology Spirituality (1995, Shambhala Publications), p. 191.
  33. Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology Spirituality (1995, Shambhala Publications), pp. 196-197, 199.
  34. Martin Luther King, Jr., Montgomery, Alabama, Dec. 1956, A Testament of Hope (1986, Harper & Row), pp. 138-140.
  35. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, quoted in A Politics of Live (2019, HarperOne), p. 85.
  36. Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology Spirituality (1995, Shambhala Publications), p. 197, 191.
  37. Georg Feuerstein, “The Millennium Effect” in Parabola (Spring 1998).

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