Integral Thought from A to Z
This glossary features some of the most frequently used terms in Integral Theory. Given the extensiveness of Integral Theory, each definition is one of several valid definitions. Also, please keep in mind that is a representative list, not exhaustive.
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Agape: One of the four main drives of an individual holon, along with Eros, agency, and communion. The vertical drive of the higher to embrace, enfold, or “love” the lower; self- immanence. Also refers to the involutionary force that pulls evolution from above. Its complementary opposite is Eros. Its pathological expression is Thanatos.
agency: One of the four main drives of an individual holon, along with communion, Eros, and Agape. The horizontal drive for self-preservation, autonomy, and wholeness. The drive to be a whole and not a part. Its complementary opposite is communion. Its pathological expression is alienation, repression, rigid autonomy, and hyperagency.
altered states: Also known as “nonordinary” states of consciousness. There are at least two major types of altered states: exogenous or “externally created” (e.g., drug induced, or near-death experiences) and endogenous or “self-created” (including trained states such as meditative states).
altitude: A general degree of development (i.e., degree of consciousness or degree of complexity), applicable to any given line.
anterior self: One of the three major aspects of the overall self, along with the proximate and distal self. The anterior self is a person’s sense of the Witness, the pure Self, or “I-I,” shining through the proximate self at whatever stage of self-development. See I-I.
AQAL: Pronounced “ah-qwul.” Short for “all-quadrants, all-levels,” which itself is short for “all- quadrants, all-levels, all-lines, all-states, and all-types.” Developed by philosopher and author, Ken Wilber, AQAL appears to be the most comprehensive approach to reality to date. It is a supertheory or metatheory that attempts to explain how the most time-tested methodologies, and the experiences those methodologies bring forth, fit together in a coherent fashion. AQAL theory’s pragmatic correlate is a series of social practices called Integral Methodological Pluralism (IMP). The personal application of AQAL is called Integral Life Practice (ILP). “AQAL” is often used interchangeably with Integral Theory, the Integral approach, the Integral map, the Integral model, and Integral Operating System (IOS).
AQAL matrix: The configuration of all quadrants, levels, lines, states, and types at any given time in any given occasion.
artifact: Any product made by an individual or social holon. A bird's nest, an anthill, an automobile, a house, a piece of clothing, an airplane, the internet—these are all artifacts. An artifact's defining pattern does not come from itself, but rather is imposed or imprinted on it by an individual or social holon.
autopoiesis: Proposed by biologist Humberto Maturana and cognitive scientist Francisco Varela, autopoiesis refers to the “self-production” or “self-making” of an organism. In Integral Theory, it is derived by looking at the biological phenomenology of an organism. A first- person approach to a third-person singular reality. The inside view of the exterior of an individual (i.e., the inside view of a holon in the Upper-Right quadrant). Exemplary of a zone-#5 methodology in Integral Methodological Pluralism, along with other approaches like cognitive science, etc.
Basic Moral Intuition (BMI): A person’s intuition to protect and promote the greatest depth for the greatest span. Also summarized as the depth of “I,” extended to the span of “We,” embodied in an “It” objective state of affairs.
basic structures of consciousness: 1. “Empty” levels of consciousness used as a general measure of vertical development. A measure of the degree or “altitude” of awareness in any particular stream. These altitudes are often described using the colors of the natural rainbow: Infrared, Magenta, Red, Amber, Orange, Green, Teal, Turquoise, Indigo, Violet, Ultraviolet, and Clear Light. 2. Enduring structures that are actually laid down along these markers of altitude and thus are roughly synonymous with basic levels of consciousness. These are the rungs in any developmental ladder. Cognitive development, for instance, is often used since it is necessary but not sufficient for development in other lines.
boomeritis: A dysfunction whose name originates from its first and most famous victim: the Boomer generation (those born roughly between 1940-1960). The pathological combination of Green and Red altitude in any of the self-related lines of development. Also known as the “Mean Green Meme” (MGM) when used in reference to the Spiral Dynamics model of value memes.
causal body: The mass-energy support (or “body”) for such states of consciousness as formless meditation, nirvikalpa samadhi, the chikhai bardo, and the deep, dreamless sleep state. The term “causal” technically refers only to this mass-energy but is sometimes broadly used to refer to states of consciousness supported by the causal body. See gross body and subtle body.
center of gravity: A phrase used to describe an individual or group’s central point of development. An individual’s center of gravity typically hovers around their level of proximate-self development in the self-identity stream. In groups, it usually "resides" in the dominant mode of discourse.
communion: One of the four main drives of an individual holon, along with agency, Eros, and Agape. The horizontal drive for self-adaptation, partness, and joining with others. The drive to be part of a larger whole. Its complementary opposite is agency. Its pathological expression is fusion, herd mentality, and hypercommunion.
cultural anthropology: Traditionally refers to the study of cultural similarities and differences. In Integral Theory, it is exemplified in the study of worldviews and their patterns and regularities, as conducted by researchers as diverse as Jean Gebser and Michel Foucault. A third-person approach to first-person plural realities. An outside view of the interior of a collective (i.e., the outside view of a holon in the Lower-Left quadrant). Exemplary of a zone-#4 methodology in Integral Methodological Pluralism, along with other approaches like semiotics and ethnomethodology.
dark night: A passing through or letting go of attachment to a particular realm (gross, subtle, or causal), as well as the pain and sense of loss that often arise after peak experiencing a higher state/realm. Dark nights generally occur during the transition phases between states.
deep structures: Typically a Chomskyan notion. Integral Theory, however, uses it to refer to structures or holistic patterns that are shared by a group, whether that group be a family, a tribe, a community, a nation, all humans, all species, or all beings. Thus, “deep” does not necessarily mean “universal”; it means “shared with others.” And research then determines how wide that group is—from a few people to genuine universals. Lastly, all deep structures have surface structures that are relevant and specific to the group.
deity mysticism: A peak experience of oneness with phenomena in the subtle state. Can also refer to any form of mysticism or experiential oneness with a deity form.
depth: The degree of development. In the Upper-Left quadrant, depth refers to degree of consciousness, and in the Upper-Right quadrant, it refers to degree of complexity. However, generally speaking, all four quadrants exhibit depth of increasing complexity.
dialogical: From the word “dialogue.” A descriptor of any approach that acknowledges the importance of culture and intersubjectivity in molding the individual’s perception of phenomena.
distal self: One of the three major aspects of the overall self, along with the anterior and proximate self. The distal self is the objective self, which is experienced as “me” or “mine,” in contrast to the proximate self (“I” or “I/me”) and the anterior self (“I-I”). See proximate self and anterior self.
egocentric: The general level(s) where one is identified exclusively with “me,” or with the bodily self and its impulses. See ethnocentric, worldcentric, planetcentric, and Kosmocentric.
empiricism: Empiricism typically means knowledge based on sensory experience. In Integral Theory, it generally means the study of the objective appearance and behavior of an organism. A third-person approach to a third-person singular reality. An outside view of the exterior of an individual (i.e., the outside view of a holon in the Upper-Right quadrant). Exemplary of a zone-#6 methodology in Integral Methodological Pluralism, along with other approaches like behaviorism, neurophysiology, etc.
endogenous states: See altered states.
enduring structure: A structure that remains in existence, fully functioning, yet is subsumed in higher structures (e.g., cognitive structures). See transitional structure.
(full) Enlightenment: Being one with all major states (horizontal enlightenment) and all major structure-stages (vertical enlightenment) that exist at any given historical time.
epistemology: Traditionally, the study of knowledge and its validity. In Integral Post-Metaphysics, epistemology is not a separate discipline or activity but that aspect of the AQAL matrix that is experienced as knowingness; the study of that aspect is epistemology. The term “epistemology” is sometimes used in this sense given the lack of alternatives.
Eros: One of the four main drives of an individual holon, along with Agape, agency, and communion. The vertical drive of the lower to “reach up” towards the higher; self- transcendence. The urge to find higher, deeper, and wider wholeness. Its complementary opposite is Agape. Its pathological expression is Phobos.
ethnocentric: The general level(s) where one is identified exclusively with “us,” or one’s family, group, tribe, or nation. See egocentric, worldcentric, planetcentric, and Kosmocentric.
evolution: The unfolding of greater and greater consciousness and complexity, with each higher dimension transcending and including its juniors.
evolutionary given(s): Inherited forms of past manifestation. Forms created in temporal unfolding and handed to the future. Also known as “Kosmic habits.” See involutionary givens.
exogenous states: See altered states.
extrinsic value: One of three main types of value that holons possess, along with intrinsic and Ground value. Refers to the partness of a holon in relation to its larger whole(s), or communion value. The more networks and wholes of which a holon is a part, then the greater its extrinsic value. Thus, the more extrinsic value a holon has, the more fundamental it is, since its existence is instrumental to the existence of so many other holons. See intrinsic value and Ground value.
first-person perspective: In human conversation, the perspective of the person speaking. First-person singular includes subjective “I,” objective “me,” and possessive “mine.” First-person plural includes “We,” “us,” and “ours.” More generally, a first person is any holon with agency or intentionality.
First Tier: A phrase used to summarize the first six major levels of values development according to Clare Graves and Spiral Dynamics: Survival Sense, Kin Spirits, Power Gods, Truth Force, Strive Drive, and Human Bond. First-Tier stages are characterized by a belief that “my values are the only correct values.” This lies in contrast to Second-Tier levels of development, wherein individuals recognize the importance of all value systems. Integral Theory uses First Tier to refer to the first six degrees or levels of developmental altitude (Infrared, Magenta, Red, Amber, Orange, and Green).
flatland: 1. When the interior quadrants (the Left-Hand path) are reduced to the exterior quadrants (the Right-Hand path). For example, scientific materialism. The dissociation of the value spheres Art, Morals, and Science, followed by the colonization of Art and Morals by Science. The “bad news” of Modernity. See gross reductionism and subtle reductionism. 2. Using any one level as the only level in existence.
formless mysticism: A peak experience of oneness with phenomena (or lack thereof) in the causal state. Can also refer to meditative formless absorption, nirvikalpa samadhi, jnana samadhi, the Void, the Abyss, Ayin, Urgrund, etc.
fulcrum: A developmental milestone within the self-identity stream, or the proximate-self line of development. Fulcrums follow a general 1-2-3 process: fusion or identification with one’s current level of self-development; differentiation or disidentification from that level; and integration of the new level with the previous level. AQAL theory, and Integral Psychology in specific, focus on anywhere from nine to ten developmental fulcrums.
functional fit: The validity claim of the Lower-Right quadrant. Functional fit determines whether an interobjective system works adequately or not. Is the system adaptive? Does it function efficiently or not?
future potentials: Aspects of reality that have yet to emerge and take on specific forms in the Kosmos. See past actuals and present occasions.