Wilber’s “Integral Theory”

Ken Wilber’s “Integral Theory” (2011) is a comprehensive view of life.  In his words, he was aiming for a comprehensive theory about the fullness of life:

“I sought a world philosophy—or an integral philosophy—that would believably weave together the many pluralistic contexts of science, morals, aesthetics, Eastern as well as Western philosophy, and the world’s great wisdom traditions. Not on the level of details—that is finitely impossible; but on the level of orienting generalizations: a way to suggest that the world really is one, undivided, whole, and related to itself in every way: a holistic philosophy for a holistic Kosmos, a plausible Theory of Everything.”

This Integral Theory, or Theory of Everything, is a four quadrant model.

  • Q1 [Upper Left]: Interior; Individual (“I”, intentions)
  • Q2 [Lower Left]: Interior; Collective (“We”, culture)
  • Q3 [Lower Right]: Exterior; Collective (“Its”, social)
  • Q4 [Upper Right]: Exterior; Individual (“It”, behavioural)

Wilber adds depth and richness to this model through the overlaying onto each of these quadrants succeeding waves and lines of development, as well states and types of consciousness.

This model’s  primary purpose is for developing multiples frame of reference. That is, this model is used as guide to understanding an issue from many orientations. A simple example is money. When viewed from the Upper Left Quadrant money is seen as an indicator of the relative value that an individual places on a good or service. When viewed from Lower Right Quadrant, money is seen as socially acceptable form of facilitating  the transfer of ownership of goods and services.

Whilst there are critics of Integral Theory, from my perspective the shortcomings of this model are around the biases, preconceptions and worldview that one would bring to using this for the purposes of analysis.

Despite the propensity for the influence of personal worldviews and preconceptions upon the operation and of this model, the value in using Integral Theory is that emerging issues are rigorously examined.

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Wilber, K. (2011).” A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science, and Spirituality”  Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.

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