What is Integral?

Everything fits together.

During the last 30 years, we have witnessed a historical first: all of the world’s cultures are now available to us. In the past, if you were born, say, a Chinese, you likely spent your entire life in one culture, often in one province, sometimes in one house, living and loving and dying on one small plot of land. But today, not only are people geographically mobile, we can study, and have studied, virtually every known culture on the planet. In the global village, all cultures are exposed to each other.

Knowledge itself is now global. This means that, also for the first time, the sum total of human knowledge is available to us—the knowledge, experience, wisdom and reflection of all major human civilizations—premodern, modern, and postmodern—are open to study by anyone.

What if we took literally everything that all the various cultures have to tell us about human potential—about spiritual growth, psychological growth, social growth—and put it all on the table? What if we attempted to find the critically essential keys to human growth, based on the sum total of human knowledge now open to us? What if we attempted, based on extensive cross-cultural study, to use all of the world’s great traditions to create a composite map, a comprehensive map, an all-inclusive or integral map that included the best elements from all of them?

Sound complicated, complex, daunting? In a sense, it is. But in another sense, the results turn out to be surprisingly simple and elegant. Over the last several decades, there has indeed been an extensive search for a comprehensive map of human potentials. This map uses all the known systems and models of human growth—from the ancient shamans and sages to today’s breakthroughs in cognitive science—and distills their major components into 5 simple factors, factors that are the essential elements or keys to unlocking and facilitating human evolution.

What are these 5 elements? We call them quadrants, levels, lines, states, and types. As you will see, all of these elements are, right now, available in your own awareness. These 5 elements are not merely theoretical concepts; they are aspects of your own experience, contours of your own consciousness, as you can easily verify for yourself as we proceed.

Welcome to the Integral Model.

What is the point of using this Integral Map or Model? First, whether you are working in business, medicine, psychotherapy, law, ecology, or simply everyday living and learning, the Integral Map helps make sure that you are “touching all the bases.” If you are trying to fly over the Rocky Mountains, the more accurate a map you have, the less likely you will crash. An Integral Approach insures that you are utilizing the full range of resources for any situation, with the greater likelihood of success.

Second, if you learn to spot these 5 elements in your own awareness—and because they are there in any event—then you can more easily appreciate them, exercise them, use them… and thereby vastly accelerate your own growth and development to higher, wider, deeper ways of being. A simple familiarity with the 5 elements in the Integral Model will help you orient yourself more easily and fully in this exciting journey of discovery and awakening.

In short, the Integral Approach helps you see both yourself and the world around you in more comprehensive and effective ways. But one thing is important to realize from the start. The Integral Map is just a map. It is not the territory. We certainly don’t want to confuse the map with the territory, but neither do we want to be working with an inaccurate or faulty map. The Integral Map is just a map, but it is the most complete and accurate map we have at this time.

What is the “Integral Operating System”?

In an information network, an operating system is the infrastructure that allows various software programs to operate. We use Integral Operating System or IOS as another phrase for the Integral Map. The point is simply that, if you are running any “software” in your life—such as your business, work, play, or relationships—you want the best operating system you can find, and IOS fits that bill. In touching all the bases, it allows the most effective programs to be used. This is just another way of talking about the comprehensive and inclusive nature of the Integral Model.