Understanding Integral Theory: An Introduction
Ken Wilber weaves an elegant vision of a coming wave of cultural emergence; a wave of integral emergence that heralds an increase of consciousness and compassion, along with the developmentally-earned capacity to better address increasingly complex global challenges.
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In this 1.5 hour recording, Ken weaves an elegant vision of a coming wave of cultural emergence; a wave of integral emergence that heralds an increase of consciousness and compassion, along with the developmentally-earned capacity to better address increasingly complex global challenges. You've likely encountered this vision before, so I won't rehash the details, but let me connect it to why you might want deepen your understanding of the integral, or AQAL (all-quadrants, all-levels), approach.
It's quite unlikely that this integral wave will be characterized or defined by AQAL, which, after all, is simply a set of maps and theories. This somewhat common assumption tends to confuse the map with the territory, and it fails to fully honor the transformation of practices (not theories) that actually fuel evolution's forward progress. In a sense, the only justification we have for such predictions of our developmental future is the fact that folks like you have already been engaging integral practices for several decades. These practices aren't like meditation or weightlifting. They're social practices powered by your heart, and by your mind. Let's consider two of them.
First is the commitment to discovering how everybody is right, or, as Ken likes to joke, that no mind is capable of being a 100% wrong. Beyond just acknowledging this notion, the practice concerns the active weaving together of seemingly conflicting perspectives into ever more inclusive truth-tapestries. This practice is embodied, for example, in the refusal to choose a side in the fight between science and religion or between democrat and republican but to instead seek a perspective that lies beyond both, integrating their essential elements in a wider, deeper embrace.
The second practice concerns the reason why everybody is right. Every perspective, every viewpoint, and every approach is both true and partial, and, as a practice, this is engaged when we seek to decipher how some approaches are more true, or more inclusive, than others. It's defined by the active and participatory practice of honoring of the spiral of evolution; a spiral that sees less adequate and less compassionate approaches transcended by ones that are more adequate and more compassionate—even when the approach or perspective being transcended is your own. Such practices, along with a handful of others, define the coming integral wave. They're what has given it life, momentum, and energy—and they drive it continued emergence. They've generated the shared experiences and values that ground our solidarity as a community.
If this integral wave is not defined by AQAL, why should you bother to learn it? Why can't you just continue to engage these practices, instead? Well, you certainly can, but it would be a lot like climbing an unclimbed Himalayan peak without a map—a foolhardy endeavor, indeed.
Pioneering a new wave of development is difficult. Integrating conflicting truths is difficult. So why not use a map to help you navigate? Considered in this manner, we're invited to reframe our relationship to learning AQAL and to recalibrate the manner in which we gauge our progress. Instead of learning AQAL for the sake of learning a theory of everything, do it so that you have an easier time living the integral life that you're already living. Do it not as a way to get smart about a bunch of maps, but as a way to live a more embodied life of integral practice. And judge your progress on this path not by the number of terms and concepts you've memorized, but by the degree to which the maps have helped you bring more truth, more love, and more compassion to your every next action.
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Ken Wilber is the founder of Integral Institute and the co-founder of Integral Life. He is an internationally acknowledged leader and the preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. His many books, all of which are still in print, can be found at Amazon.com. Some of his more popular books include Integral Spirituality; No Boundary; Grace and Grit; Sex, Ecology, Spirituality; and the "everything" books: A Brief History of Everything (one of his largest selling books) and A Theory of Everything (probably the shortest introduction to his work).