Big Time: Integral Historiography and You

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“All history is the study of an Other in space-time.”Ken Wilber
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Ken unpacks his own approach to integral historiography, helping us to better understand our own place in history — and history’s place in us.


love history. I always have. And that love seems to move in a couple different directions.

I love being able to have a sort of birds-eye view of history, being able to see the major universal themes and patterns and challenges faced by humanity at every era of human unfolding, noticing how history never truly repeats but sure likes to rhyme with itself. It helps me understand my own place in this evolutionary unfolding, and deepens my appreciation for the many everyday realities I take for granted that support my own consciousness right now. All of this helps to enrich my enjoyment and appreciation for being alive, right here in my own skin. That’s my love from 50,000 feet, which helps me understand my own place in history just a little bit better.

But I also like to really zoom in and lose myself in the details, in the history of minor players and everyday objects — to step outside of my own knowledge and context and experience and leave those things behind while trying to inhabit the perspectives of different people in different cultures living in different historical periods. People who were just living their lives, blissfully unaware of how their actions would shape subsequent historical events, or how future historians would eventually regard them. People with the same basic drives and desires and emotions as I have, but who live in cultures and contexts that seem alien to me. Ordinary people who were making the moment-to-moment decisions that would later become frozen in time on a museum wall.

So there are the two ways I tend to relate to history — it helps me better understand myself, and it helps me better understand the Other. It helps deepen my appreciation for the person I am, and all of the accumulated karma that led to my own existence, and it shows me the person I easily could have been had the circumstances of my birth been even just a little bit different.

And whichever direction the current happens to be taking me at any moment, both leave me with this strange feeling that all of history is somehow happening at once — or is at the very least is still happening.

As Ken has said, “all history is the study of an Other in space-time”. For me, an integral enactment of history brings me to the thinnest edge of that infinitely tapered boundary between “self” and “other”.

Which is why I was so excited to talk to Ken about his essay, “Who Ate Captain Cook? Integral Historiography in a Postmodern Age”. It’s one of the big reasons people so enjoy Ken Wilber’s work — because he takes us on a journey that helps align our inner experience with our outer perceptions of the world, of history, and of evolution at large, where consciousness itself becomes the integrating principle across all time and all space.

So watch as Ken unpacks his own approach to integral historiography, where the AQAL model helps illuminate both the facts and the most salient interpretations of human history.

—written by Corey deVos


This discussion examines Ken’s eBook, Who Ate Captain Cook: Integral Historiography in a Postmodern Age, available to download for free.

Download Your Free eBook

“When we talk about an integral historiography, what do we really mean? The technical short answer is: an ‘all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, all types’ approach to the study of history. Of course, such an integral approach would, if done in a fairly complete fashion, involve dozens, hundreds, thousands of variables. But less extensive integral-historical studies can still be done, using the general outline, that would advance our understanding of history in substantial and significant ways.” —Ken Wilber

“The study of history [is] first and foremost the study of the Other. Either the Other in (cultural) space or the Other in (historical) time. Or both. When we study other groups, they are usually Other at least in space, separated from us by some sort of distance; and they are often Other in time, separated from us by history. When we study our own history, we are also studying an Other in time: namely, ourselves as we were yesterday; and the actual space has also changed to some degree, hasn’t it? But then, time and space are two parts of the same curved universe, wouldn’t Mr. E say? So here it is: All history is the study of an Other in spacetime. And in order to understand any Other in spacetime, we need the four quadrants.“ —Ken Wilber

Music by Stuart Davis

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Ken Wilber

About Ken Wilber

Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.

Corey deVos

About Corey deVos

Corey W. deVos is editor and producer of Integral Life. He has worked for Integral Institute/Integal Life since Spring of 2003, and has been a student of integral theory and practice since 1996. Corey is also a professional woodworker, and many of his artworks can be found in his VisionLogix art gallery.