Though I haven’t yet written anything directly about it, one of my main focuses (in life, and in keeping this blog) is the exploration of Integral Philosophy.  Now, given that I don’t believe too many of this site’s visitor’s are very familiar with what is meant by Integral philosophy– and given that I think I have some worthwhile contributions to the field that I haven’t seen written elsewhere- I want to start paying some more attention to the matter.  Before I leap into some of my ideas (these especially concern political theory, as well as practical, everyday politics) I’m going to put together a series of posts explaining the basic ideas of Integral philosophy.  At the same time, I’ll be sure to point out where my own beliefs may differ; hopefully in doing so I can coax some interesting conversations out of folks.

 

And so we begin….

 

Right at the outset, I want to say a few words about Ken Wilber.  He will certainly come up plenty throughout this series, but for now this much should be said: Wilber is unquestionably the preeminent Integral philosopher and is largely credited as being the “founding father” of the entire school of thought; or, at least synthesizing various scattered ideas into a working Theory of Everything that Integral philosophy grows out of.  Without a doubt, he is a very high-minded thinker whose ideas and contributions to modern-thought shouldn’t be denied by anyone.  But importantly, there is a good deal of criticisms of Wilber out there.  The critiques made of Wilber by those seeking to entirely discredit or mutilate his ideas are almost entirely not worth engaging with; they are often transparently self-serving towards the critiquer’s own worldview that s/he doesn’t see as compatible with Wilber’s.  Integral Theory itself will soon explain for you exactly why these attacks aren’t worth engaging with.  But amongst self-identified Integral thinkers there also lays a certain amount of frustration with Wilber.  This frustration runs the gamut from minor disagreements with incredibly complex nuances to wholehearted repudiation of him as a narcissistic cult-figure.

 

For my part, I am a huge fan of Wilber’s ideas and writings.  When I first read some of his work for an Introduction to Transpersonal Psychology class in 1998 it was the opening of a strange and long journey that has, in various forms and ways, informed my entire life ever since.  That said, I do have my disagreements with some of his conclusions, and some of the critiques that I have read of him have been intriguing, if not entirely persuasive.  As well, he enjoys what often can seem like a cult-like following by many who know of him (and that is certainly a turn-off).  So I’ll be sure to include the ways in which I may disagree with him as I go through this series.  As well, I’ll try my best to bring up various critiques of his ideas (that I am aware of).  As with the conversational nature of blogs, I hope you put forth your disagreements as well.  But what follows draws heavily from Wilber.  I’ll put links or bibliographic citations as best I can, because much of this is going to not only draw heavily from him but will sometimes be straight from his works.

 

OK… so what is “Integral”?  At it’s most straight forward, it is meant to be about a wholeistic, integrated Theory of Everything.  It seeks to bring into balance the typically off-balance ways in which we often find ourselves attempting to understand life for ourselves, our neighbors, and our universe.  It sets out to reconcile the myriad of ways in which people attempt to understand reality and our human condition (religion, psychology, physics, sociology, political science, etc).  Integral attempts to bring together all of the various facets of life (from the sub-atomic level to the individual to the social to the global and even out into the cosmos) and place each within their own appropriate context of “Truth”.  Now, on some level, Integral provides a space for us to understand every worldview as “right” from a certain place within evolutionary history.  At the same time, it does not do so in the service of saying “everybody’s right and nobody is wrong”.  It maps out a variety of (known) stages of development; these stages work when applied to an individual, or to societies throughout history, or to the physical world around us.  In the parlance of Integral philosophy (which I’ll probably shorten to IP from here on out) these is the three main “realities” which all of existence is typically broken-down into (namely, I, We, It).

 

Now, within each of these realms, we find that there are both healthy and unhealthy ways in which a person, peoples, or thing may exist.  IP is inherently spiritual, though I don’t want that to scare away those readers who don’t consider themselves to be so; it is not spiritual in a religious sense, and in no way does it rely on mythical, magical, or illogical (pre-logical, but we’ll come back to that) beliefs to justify itself.  We’ll spend more time exploring what we really mean by spiritual at a later date.  For now, I mentioned it because it is that spirituality which leads IP to view all of existence to be evolutionary by its nature (more precisely referred to as consciousness evolution).  Which is to say, the evolution of consciousness is constantly attempting to progress forward, or outward, to be exponentially more balanced, wholeistic (much different that holistic), and encompassing of reality- including what may seem to be contradictory or exclusive “realities”.  Whether we are speaking of a physical evolution, a cognitive or psychological evolution, or a social evolution, we nonetheless find that there are progressive, healthy forms of it as well as destructive, regressive forms of it.  In attempting to identify the differences, we can find greater enrichment in our lives, and ultimately, more genuine happiness and satisfaction (at all levels- not just individually).

 

This seems like a decent place to stop, for now.  Next time we’ll get more in-depth with these cursory ideas, and we’ll begin to explore these three levels of existence –I, We, It– along with the ways in which they have been mapped by Integral thinkers.

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