The Story So Far

A Brief History of Integral

Ken Wilber
June 8th, 2012
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In this free 20-minute clip, Ken Wilber chronicles the emergence of integral consciousness and culture in recent decades. Ken describes this emergence as the latest in a historic series of transformations stretching all the way back to the birth of humanity, bringing humanity through several distinct stages of consciousness—namely archaic, magic, mythic, rational, pluralistic, and integral stages. These major transformations have successively redefined our understanding of the human condition each and every step of the way. bringing more consciousness, more complexity, and more compassion to just about every dimension of human knowledge and activity. And this one is no different....

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Written by Corey W. deVos

So, if we are seeing an entirely new wave of culture and consciousness coming forth, what does it look like? What sets the integral stage apart from previous stages of development?

  • A "Big Picture" View: Integral Theory is often referred to as a "theory of everything", in that it allows us to see the patters that connect all the various dimensions of our lives, offering the most comprehensive and fully integrated view of reality that we have ever seen. Which is important now more than ever—as our planet gets smaller, our problems get bigger and demand a new level of thinking and problem solving... or else we risk making things even worse.
  • A Greater Capacity for Perspective: One of the core insights that comes alive with integral consciousness is just how fundamental perspective is to our universe. It is literally the stuff dreams are made out of—not to mention thoughts, relationships, behaviors, interactions, and everything else that has ever existed. Folks at an integral stage of development are able to better understand, navigate, and participate with all different kinds of perspective, allowing us to truly see ourselves, each other, and our world with more wisdom, openness, and inquisitiveness than ever before.
  • True But Partial: Due to the power of perspective, the integral stage is the very first to honor and include the values from all other stages that come before it. This is something altogether new—if there is one thing these previous stages all had in common, it’s the belief that their stage represents the "correct" way of behaving and seeing the world, and all the others are completely false. We can see this playing itself out every day in our various culture wars as the religious fundamentalists, the rational materialists, and the pluralistic postmodernists all continue to insist that their values are the only "true" values, and everyone else’s values are either delusional or straight-up demonic. Integral awareness offers us the cognitive and communicative tools we need to begin relieving the extraordinary tension and even violent antagonism that exists between these often conflicting sets of values, allowing us to see wholeness where we may once have only seen brokenness.
  • It’s Evolution, Baby! Evolution is not done with us yet. On the contrary, it is still very much alive in humanity's tireless quest for greater meaning, greater purpose, and greater sophistication. It is this evolutionary impulse that keeps us moving forward, allowing modern science to emerge from magic and superstition, modern medicine from leeching and bloodletting, chemistry from alchemy, psychology from phrenology, astronomy from astrology, democracy from theocracy, and the list goes on. Every field of human inquiry continues to move through wave upon wave of increasing accuracy, fidelity, and applicability. Integral is the next wave, and is already dramatically enhancing each of these fields—art, medicine, psychology, spirituality, sustainability, leadership, and many more—while also showing how they all fit together in a seamless totality of knowledge and understanding.
  • The Rebirth of Spirit: One of the greatest contributions integral consciousness is making to the world is the reclamation of the spiritual. As we just mentioned, we have allowed almost every other field of human inquiry to mature out of the magic and mythic backwaters. But why not spirituality? To this day, spirituality seems to belong mostly to the zealots, the fanatics, and the charlatans, and is largely dismissed by the modern rational world (to the detriment of us all). But spirituality is not the product of superstition, magic, and mythology—it just simply has not been allowed to evolve beyond superstitious, magical, and mythological interpretations. And it is these interpretations—not spirituality itself—that make easy targets for writers like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris.

    Because spirituality has not been given an opportunity to shift from belief to direct experience and truly thrive in the rational and postmodern world, we have been a bit too eager to eliminate the dogma, the myths, and the "us vs. them" ethnocentricity, and as a result have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Luckily, integral spirituality saves the baby. Not only does an integral approach to spirituality offer a way to evolve each of the major spiritual traditions (e.g. Integral Christianity, Integral Buddhism, Integral Judaism, Integral Sufism, etc.), but it also allows for the most inspiring and fruitful interfaith dialogues we have ever seen, as we continue to explore how the experiences of awakening, enlightenment, and atonement have been interpreted from person to person, culture to culture, all across the ages—and then reinterpreting these experiences to not just survive today’s 21st-century world, but to deeply enrich it as well. These are without a doubt the most intelligent and insightful discussions of spirituality you will find anywhere on the planet.

    Most importantly, integral spirituality helps to distill the wisdom, transmission, and transformative potential contained within these ancient traditions, bringing more freedom, consciousness, and compassion to your life than you ever thought possible.

It is truly an extraordinary time to be alive. We are witnessing the emergence of something historic: the rise of integral consciousness. This is our very best shot to create a more peaceful and sustainable world, to awaken from the violent slumber of humanity’s adolescence, and to align ourselves with the future of evolution in this backward corner of the Milky Way. We know that we are only barely scratching the surface in terms of the contributions integral consciousness has to make to the world—but as the integral movement continues to gain momentum around the world, we can’t help but to feel a little more optimistic than we did even just a few years ago.

Integral Life is dedicated to serving and documenting this historic emergence however and wherever we can. And we are only just getting started.

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"I'd like to personally invite you to become a member of Integral Life, and join a world-wide net of dedicated, caring, idealistic, integral souls. This is truly an extraordinary period in human history—completely unprecedented in its depth, profundity, and significance. Won't you come and join us in a conscious membership in this radically integral transformation? We would love to have you as part of this rapidly growing network of conscious evolution. And I promise you, your life will truly never be the same in this community of friendship and super-abundance...." –Ken Wilber


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Why has Ken Wilber done what he has done for so many decades? I believe that he trusts that something very good will happen in the world when 10% of a population becomes integral.

When modern hit 10% some citizens got more rights and slavery ended.

When post-modern hit 10% there was a growth in civil rights, womens rights, and ecological rights.

What good will happen when integral hits 10%?

What are the integral values he was talking about?

I recently did a post in The Movement Forum considering the last question. I will repost a part of it below for anyone who missed it and might be interested.

I am hopeful for our new home. I was reflecting on the name of this forum; "The Movement". A few meaningful questions might be; what are we moving towards and who do we want to be as we are moving? Fortunately for us Ken Wilber and Robb Smith are both bright boys who have thought things out well and expressed them nicely in their post; "A Core Values-Driven Community of Practice". I highly recommend that we all read and consider following their ideas, especially in this particular forum. They have designeed a beautiful map but it takes a lot of dedication, hard work, and courage to actually build and then maintain the cathedral itself. Let's look at some of their ideas;

The very core of the integral institute, integral life, and the integral movement are good core values.

They pray that these values be held by all shareholders.

These values relate to how we agree to behave.

These values allow us to be with people we want to be with.

The mission of the integral movement is to help each other evolve in good and beautiful ways so we can contribute to something larger than ourselves.

It would be best to egage in "the highest leverage projects that alleviate suffering and where integration is a critical success factor".

Ken Wilber offers us a list of beautiful values which I would love to see as the core values of this forum;


I appreciate all of your hard work Ken. If you feel that I ever misrepresent you in anyway please let me know. I believe that good things will begin happening before we hit 10%. Am I being too impatient?


Dear Ken:

I have been reading your books for over 15 years now. Your work and writings have assisted me immensely in my evolution. I have forwarded this email to many people all ready. It is so well done.
My personal life challenge has been dealing with Type 1 diabetes since the age of 14. I just turned 50. Integral Theory, Application and Awareness has transformed both my willingness and ability to do what I need to (and it is not an easy task) to keep my physical vessel alive and feeling good. There are days that I am just flying through the normal blood sugar range. My number one objective in life is to heal my condition. I know I can. It feels like a complicated puzzle.
Type 1 Diabetes is an Auto-Immune Deficiency Disease. The immune system is strong and when it decides, for whatever reason, to attack, it does. I know to realize a healing I must resolve and reverse the immune response that decided that the islet cells in the pancreas were a threat.
My journey has lead me to many practices besides Integral including yoga, vipassana, acupuntcure, cranio sacral therapy, Kabbalah and recent bio-feedback technology to name a few. My path has guided me to the Thymus gland and the Heart Chakra.
I feel the shift humanity is about to experience may offer a portal for profound healing. I have deep feelings of fondness and appreciation for you Ken. I can say with absolute certainty that you have been a wise, compassionate, courageous and healing teacher for a soul who is constantly working to evolve to the Integral Stage, Me.
Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!


I've seen a few comments about money and charging for membership. Ken gives a very good defence of money in spiritual related matters here:

Thanks for bringing this issue up Oliness....I have a point or two to add....

1. It is no secret this is a "for profit site".

2. I do not work for "Integral Life" but I consider their yearly membership rate of $9.00/Mo. (I like "round" numbers) a "pittance".... and actually if they charged $9.00/Mo. that would be $108.00/Yr. - a really nice mandalic number that includes the table of elements.

3. The content and networking capacity of this site is presently and potentially phenomenal for $9.00/Mo....If you want to meet/connect with people and receive stimulating, intelligent content in "all 4 quadrants" then this is your site.

4. Are there people who actually think that "integral" does not include the capacity to make and distribute "money" which is simply a medium of valued exchange? If so, I would recommend further "study" for "them" whoever "they" are....



Thanks for the insightful introduction to integral. I'm just wondering why I'd need to pay to be part of this community, especially when you're talking about "abundance" as setting integral apart from the scarcity thinking of first-tier. Seems to me like asking for money still drags your center of gravity down a stage..
That was some authentic advertising ;) Did you see the glint in his eye?? Awesome. But truly, one of the most convincing and well articulated explanations of the who, what and most importantly WHY of integral. His language was geared PERFECTLY for anyone walking on that green line just waiting for something to jump forward onto. I feel confidant in sharing this with friends of whom I know "get" integral, they just don't realize it yet. Thanks integral life, ken and Integral Institute.

I am similarly feeling that his language, and his tone and cadence were nicely gauged, or just happened. His dryish tone of reading, distinct from how playfully animated and frisky he can be, seemed to me to be appropriate to his personal introduction to this 'movement'. I am thinking that this manner of speaking and perhaps not accidental absence of charisma, which is in his repertoire, can maybe be heard without eliciting extra resistance also by those who reside primarily in a modern rational space and maybe even those with one large foot in mythic. ambo

Ken, your books were a key component during my post-awakening integration process. So happy to see such a succinct summary of Integral, perhaps the best I’ve come across yet. Ditto to a YouTube version to share online. I don’t post frequently on my Facebook wall, but this is certainly worth sharing!
This is a great overview video. Can we get a YouTube version up and make it go viral?? Let me know. Michael
I am so thankful to have have 'coincidentally' stumbled into your books. Your contributions continue to clarify in surround sound what each one of us is guided to do. I love you Ken Simon
Although I myself am very idealistic, I beg to differ as far as integratation is concerned, not because I have been deeply embedded in pluralism, but for other reasons. First and foremost it smells a bit of the NWO although I do not in the least suspect Ken of such intentions. Besides, whereas 10% might have been the tipping point (I do not know where Ken has taken these data from) considering the transformation stages that took place in the past, it won't be valid for this suggested integration stage for the simple reason that it aspires to integrate all different tendencies. It may be feasible but only in a micro scale, not embracing the whole world. Personally I am dubious if 60 per cent of adherence will be enough to cause such a shift in consciousness. Even if it were sufficient, it would be bogus or at best an apparent integration only and it would very soon give rise to disintegration. In order for the integral consciousness to arise even at a European level only is far-fetched, let alone the integral culture, unless a high tech of mind control is heavily used to erase our different cultural identities. When everything goes OK, we apparently live in the European Union, but when the chips are down, what sort of Union is it? It is a sham. Every country defends its own interests. And we are talking here about only economic and cultural integration in a relatively micro scale. You, Americans will never understand this phenomenon, because America has been a melting-pot, but you will understand it only partially once America becomes a Spanglish country, say in 40 years' time. I said "partially", because Europe's history has nothing to do with a melting-pot. It is just the opposite. And Europe is not the world... And what about Chinese, Japanese, Russians, Indians just to name a few nationalities without entering into deeper religious splits. Integral culture may function at a certain educational level of the people involved. And it is the basic level of integration but the aspirations of the "integralists" are much too much higher. The idea is well below of what we call wishful thinking.
I have been reading your books since the early 1990's. This is a beautiful summary which I can't wait to share with some folks. In my own personal search to God, with God and in God - a search to Truth, Love and Life - your insights have been an enriching and enlivening aspect of that journey. Thank you. Maureen Glavin, rscj
I have had my life as a Christian minister transformed these last dozen or so years by your articulation of integral theory, Ken. I can't tell you how grateful I am. This stuff works!. I am so glad to be a part of this integral community of friends. Thanks for the journey. Love, Paul Smith

I have a feeling sense of 'traveling' with you since 1984 and for me, there seems to be a kind of poetically licensed connection here, relating to George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World"; at least in the evolutionary potential of what could arise from the "ashes" of such a world - an "Integral" world....

I first saw your name as an endorsement on the back of the book "Scientific Proof of The existence of God Will Soon Be Announced By the White House", (which began another "chapter" in my experiential story) in of all places - the Mesa, Arizona public library and then I began reading some of your available works in the next few following years, continuing to this day....

Regardless, I am happy to be a part of this Integral Transformation and I want to express my deep appreciation to you for the most difficult work you have performed and dedicated yourself too.

It's been a long, though from my present perspective, very short ride, and I have known the gut wrenching, strange, terrifyingly beautiful, and ultimately mysterious nature of this "creative advance into novelty". In many ways you have been one of my "companions" on this journey.... Thanks for your help along the way.

May you live a long and deeply expressive life - even as you already have....

Love to you Ken,