A Brief History of Integral: The Story So Far

Ken WilberCognitive, Free, Integral Basics, Perspectives, Presentations, Video, What is Integral?, Worldviews Leave a Comment

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.

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 patterns 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.

But we need your help!

By becoming a Premium Member of Integral Life you are directly supporting the integral movement as a whole, as well as helping us to bring this big, beautiful vision more fully into the world. We have a whole range of exciting projects that we will be working on over the next couple years—but in order to make them happen, we need your ongoing support!

So please consider helping us fulfill our mission to bring more consciousness, love, and understanding to the world by becoming a Premium Member today!

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”.