How to Think Integrally

Ken Wilber Cognitive, Conversations, Editor's Picks, Integrative Metatheory, Perspectives, The Ken Show, Video, What is Integral? 12 Comments

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We’ve heard a lot from Ken over the years about the Integral model (quadrants, levels, lines, states, and types). And we’ve all likely experienced for ourselves the enormous clarity and understanding integral thought can bring to our lives, our inner-worlds, and the many nested realities we find ourselves in.

But this conversation isn’t just about “integral thought”.

It’s also about integral thinking — that is, the kind of thinking that produces things like the Integral model in the first place.

Watch as Ken and Corey explore some of the major qualities of integral thinking at the “vision logic” or “construct aware” stages of development, as well as the three most important principles of integral thinking:

  • Everyone is right (nonexclusion)
  • Some are more right than others (enfoldment)
  • If you want to know this, do that (enactment)

In the final segment, Corey and Ken have a fun discussion about “generation theory” — a useful sort of cultural typology that can help us understand how the very same values (amber, orange, green, teal, etc.) can be expressed somewhat differently from generation to generation due to the ever-changing social pressures in the lower-right quadrant and shared cultural references in the lower-left quadrant that shape each of these generations.

Corey observes that we may be seeing a generational shift away from macroscopic visions (e.g. the view from 50,000 feet) and toward more micro-level applications. Might this shift may actually be placing a healthy pressure upon the integral project to begin turning its attention to these sorts of micro-level solutions and applications?

Fortunately, the integral model has it all covered, precisely because it is so holographic, and generates tremendous value at whatever scale it is being enacted. But this is also an wonderful invitation for all of us to think about some novel ways to explore the integral approach that may be more naturally appealing to younger generations.

Image: Supernumerary Indalo Shadow Banner by Todd Guess

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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-in-Chief of Integral Life, as well as Managing Editor of 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.

Notable Replies

  1. I’m really enjoying watching this interview. I got to the part where Ken is explaining that at the Mythic level there is a truth to the existence of some entities such as Santa Claus and Zeus.

    It occurred to me that we may want to make a distinction between a deliberate lie that is going unexposed in the popular culture and an entity that exists for someone as it is actually presented by people attempting to be honest at that level. For instance, Santa Claus may exist as say a set of cultural practices. However, he is being described as existing as an actual individual who performs certain acts by those who INTEND TO LIE. That lie may go unexposed until an individual reaches a different level of awareness about the fact that Santa Claus only really exists as a kind of collection of cultural practices.

    So you might ask, is someone simply repeating the lie they were told or are they having phenomenological experiences - outside of people deliberately fooling them - that make the phenomena seem real for them? Of course you might also want to make a distinction between phenomenological experiences that are motivated by deliberate lying and phenomenological experiences that are motivated by people being as honest and accurate as they can manage to be.

    Perhaps we could create a typology where we call these “Honest Experiences” and “Deception Experiences”. I would argue that we should approach these two types of experiences differently when attempting to help individuals advance through the stages of development.

    By the way, I would even call a child hallucinating a vision of Santa Claus after being lied to about the nature of Santa Claus a type of Deception Experience.

    It’s interesting to note that the occurrence of Deception Experiences may often be the product of some part of society deliberately attempting to keep other parts of a society from developing through the stages of development. So it could be a symptom of a hierarchy of domination. This would be in contrast to people honestly proposing approximations for a particular purpose where people are expected to eventually grow out of those approximations into a fuller perspective of the world. For instance Newtonian Physics is still taught but we expect physics students to continue to develop and we don’t deliberately deceive them into thinking it’s something that it is not. So observations that prove the usefulness of Newtonian physics for some purposes are Honest Experiences, although we know that it doesn’t exactly work for all purposes.

    Maybe we can help people to identify when they are the victim of Deception Experiences and domination hierarchies and when they are having Honest Experiences that are best thought of as useful approximations.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Avatar for frank frank says:

    It is unbelievable that Ken thinks that throwing around some famous names (Kauffman and Prigogine) settles the matter of Eros.

    As he himself acknowledged a decade ago, no scientist, not even Kauffman, believes in a spiritual Eros. You can’ t claim support from scientists who don’t share your point of view.

    Casually saying things like “self-organization, or whatever you want to call it”, hides the huge discrepancy between a naturalistic and a spiritual unpacking of that term.

    What, by the way, was the name of the researchers into abiogenesis Ken mentioned? It was impossible for ne to hear it correctly. They distinguished between individual cells and “collective cells” (instead of cell collectives?). This seems an incoherent notion unless clarified. Multicellularity came billions of years after the origion of life.

  3. Hi Frank,

    I often visit your site (IW) and share your concerns about IT. Your comment here and elsewhere reminds me of Dr Susan Cook Greuter’s 2013 paper titled Assumptions versus Assertions:Separating Hypotheses from Truth in the Integral Community,%20Assumptions%20versus%20Assertions.pdf …have you read it, Frank? If so, I’d be very interested in you thoughts on it.

    No doubt, she too is concerned about IT and I find her observations very thought provoking -as I often do at the IW forum. In this respect, Corey Devos posted in Time Square "Who is your dream guest for Integral Life?
    I’d like to see Dr. Greuter as guest to address the legitimate concerns she made in her paper but also those you have pointed out on your open letter to Wilber and especially about his take on evolution.
    Dr. Greuter may not offer much on that topic, but she does warn the IT community not to get too enamored with IT as a whole. Says she,

    “I wonder whether the integral movement actually lacks a basic perspective on its own American-flavored assumptions. It seems to privilege a linear, future-oriented, and anthropocentric view despite its claim of being multiperspectival, transdisciplinary, and inclusive. Is it possible that we are letting ourselves be hi-jacked by the integral evangelical promise? A positive bias seems to me just as potentially blinding as a negative one. Because most everyone in the current integral movement celebrates the benefits of an evolutionary view of realty, I feel I need to raise the issue of the possible costs and limitations of this view to invite more balance and reflection”

  4. Avatar for frank frank says:

    Thanks for this reference - i hadn’t seen this before but i do know Susans views on this well. She is very diplomatic but spot on. She also has the authority as a developmentalist. Definitely a more European voice in the US dominated integral community, even if Budapest may develop its own voice as well.

  5. Hi LaWanna,

    No, but I’d also be very interested in knowing if he did. Maybe our man Corey might know…he knows everything! lol…Hey, Corey! Are you reading this? I think he’s still mad at me because I dissed Witt’s book. Oh well…:grimacing:

    Aside from the above, and as you may know, Susan is coming out with a new book this fall and Ken is going to write the forward. It’s a given that she will be interviewed by Ken and I hope she addresses her concerns about IL as she did in her 2013 article. I really like Susan. As Frank said, she has a different voice. I also like her motherly demeanor coupled with her kick ass knowledge on ego development. lol… I hope her book will address, in greater detail, this article I read online.
    Is it Depression, or is it the Loss of the Affective Ego Leading to Spiritual Gain?
    Some of the observations resonate with my own experience, especially about the loss of affective ego mimicking depression. Though she might address it in her book, the real question is: where do you go from there? Integral theory is great but where is the psychotherapy that can help us rise above this loss of affective ego? If psychotherapy can’t do it, would meditation be the answer? If so, then I have a lot of meditation to do!.:grimacing:

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