Integral Movement

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The integral movement (also called the integral paradigm, integral philosophy, the integral worldview, or the integral approach) is a movement that seeks a comprehensive understanding of humans and the universe by combining, among other things, scientific and spiritual insights.

Integral(ism) might be said to have both a broad and a narrow meaning. In the larger, generic sense, Integral means whole, complete and holistic, such as body-mind-spirit and East-West. In the narrow or more specific sense it refers to the Integral Yoga and the Integral psychology and philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, as well as the Integral Psychology (the term coined by Indra Sen) and Psychotherapy that emerges from it. (Integral Psychology: Yoga, Growth, and Opening the Heart, SUNY, 2007 ISBN 0791470717). Although the basic ideas were first articulated in the early twentieth century, the movement originates with the California Institute of Integral Studies founded in 1968 by Haridas Chaudhuri, a disciple of Sri Aurobindo, who was the first to fully define the idea.

The word Integral is also associated with the work of Ken Wilber, himself influenced by Sri Aurobindo, and the movement centered around him (for example the Integral Institute, and so on). In the Wilber movement "Integral" when capitalized is given a further definition, being made synonymous with Wilber's AQAL theory AQAL Glossary

Integral thought is claimed to provide "a new understanding of how evolution affects the development of consciousness and culture". (Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution, Paragon House, St Paul Minnesota, 2007, ISBN 978-1-55778-867-2) It includes areas such as business, education, medicine, spirituality, sports, psychology, and psychotherapy. The theme of the evolution of consciousness has also become a central theme in much of integral theory The Evolution of Consciousness as a Planetary Imperative: An Integration of Integral Views . According to the Integral Transformative Practice website, integral means "dealing with the body, mind, heart, and soul."ITP International Welcome

Integral thought is seen by proponents as going beyond rationalism and materialism. It attempts to introduce a more universal and holistic perspective or approach, which incorporates other points of view in a larger synthesis. Proponents view rationalism as subordinating, ignoring, and/or denying spirituality. Wilber begins by acknowledging and validating mystical experience, rather than denying its reality. As these experiences have occurred to humans in all cultures in all eras, integral theorists accept them as valuable and not pathological. According to Sri Aurobindo, while both materialistic Science and Yogic asceticism have much to offer, each is still lacking on its own, and a "larger and completer affirmation" is required that can include both.


The adjective "integral" was first used in a spiritual context by Sri Aurobindo from 1914 onward to describe his own yoga, which he referred to as Purna (Skt: "Full") Yoga. It appeared in The Synthesis of Yoga, a book that first published in serial form in the journal Arya and was revised several times since.

However, it has recently been noted that Rudolf Steiner used the term integral in a similar way to Sri Aurobindo and Gebser very early on, by 1906 comparing "integral evolution" with "Darwinian evolution." Jennifer Gidley points to Steiner’s earliest use of the term integral, in reference to integral evolution in a lecture in Paris on the 26th May, 1906.

The grandeur of Darwinian thought is not disputed, but it does not explain the integral evolution of man… So it is with all purely physical explanations, which do not recognise the spiritual essence of man's being.

The word "integral" was independently suggested by Jean Gebser in 1939 to describe his own intuition regarding the next state of human consciousness. Gebser only afterwards discovered the similarity with Sri Aurobindo.

Haridas Chaudhuri, a student of Sri Aurobindo and philosophy in his own right, developed his own perspective and philosophy. He established the California Institute of Integral Studies (originally the "California Institute of Asian Studies"), in 1968 in San Francisco (it became an independent organisation in 1974), and presented his own form of Integral psychology in the early 1970s.

In Spiral Dynamics, Don Beck and Chris Cowan use the term "integral" for a developmental stage which sequentially follows the pluralistic stage. The essential characteristic of this stage is that it continues the inclusive nature of the pluralistic mentality, yet extends this inclusiveness to those outside of the pluralistic mentality. In doing so, it accepts the ideas of development and hierarchy, which the pluralistic mentality finds difficult. Other ideas of Beck and Cowan include the "first tier" and "second tier", which refer to major periods of human development.

In late 1990s and 2000 Ken Wilber, who was influenced by both Aurobindo and Gebser, among many others, adopted the term "Integral" to refer to the latest revision ("Wilber-IV") of his own philosophy, which he called Integral theory. He also established the Integral Institute as a think-tank for further development of these ideas. In his book Integral Psychology Wilber lists a number of pioneers of the integral approach, post hoc. These include Goethe, Schelling, Hegel, Gustav Fechner, William James, Rudolf Steiner, Alfred North Whitehead, James Mark Baldwin, Jurgen Habermas, Sri Aurobindo, and Abraham Maslow.

Daniel Gustav Anderson has suggested that Wilber's Integral Theory is derived from the writings of the Sri Aurobindo. However, his claims in this and other areas have been refuted by scholars of Sri Aurobindo's teachings (see the reviews of Anderson's thesis by Rich Carlson and Debashish Banerji.

According to John Bothwell and David Geier, among the top thinkers in the integral movement are Stanislav Grof, Fred Kofman, George Leonard, Michael Murphy, Jenny Wade, Roger Walsh, Ken Wilber, and Michael Zimmerman

In 2007, Steve McIntosh mentions Henri Bergson and Teilhard de Chardin along with many of the names mentioned by Wilber.

In the same year, the editors of 'What Is Enlightenment? listed as contemporary Integralists Don Beck, Allan Combs, Robert Godwin, Sally Goerner, George Leonard, Michael Murphy, William Irwin Thompson, and Ken Wilber.

Also in 2007, Gary Hampson suggested that there are six intertwined genealogical branches of Integral, based on those who first used the term: those aligned with Aurobindo, Gebser, Wilber, Gangadean, László and Steiner [Noting that the Steiner branch is via the conduit of Gidley [1].

Historical figures

Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) was a visionary yogi rather than a systematizer, and although he referred to "integral" only in the context of spiritual transformation, his writings influenced others who used the term "integral" in more philosophical or psychological contexts. The word "integral" was originally used by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to describe the yoga they taught. Their integral yoga involves an integral divine transformation of the entire being, rather than the liberation of only a single faculty such as the intellect or the emotions or the body. According to Sri Aurobindo,

(T)he Divine is in his essence infinite and his manifestation too is multitudinously infinite. If that is so, it is not likely that our true integral perfection in being and in nature can come by one kind of realisation alone; it must combine many different strands of divine experience. It cannot be reached by the exclusive pursuit of a single line of identity till that is raised to its absolute; it must harmonise many aspects of the Infinite. An integral consciousness with a multiform dynamic experience is essential for the complete transformation of our nature.

Mirra Alfassa aka The Mother (1878-1973) was Sri Aurobindo's co-worker. She continued Sri Aurobindo's work of Integral Yoga and spiritual transformation after his passing, and founded Auroville, an international community dedicated to human unity, and based on their teachings.

Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was an Austrian philosopher, scholar, educator, artist, playwright, social visionary, and esotericist who developed his own unique philosophy and cosmology based on what he called supersensible knowledge. He founded Anthroposophy, Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, anthroposophical medicine, and Eurythmy.

Pitirim Sorokin (1889-1968) was a Russian-born Harvard sociologist who advocated a cyclic view of history. He referred to the emergence of a future, spiritually-based integral society. Writing at the same time as Sri Aurobindo, but independently, he began using phrases like "integral philosophy" and "integralist".

Indra Sen (1903-1994) was a psychologist, author, educator, and devotee of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. He was the first to he coin the term "Integral psychology" to describe the psychological observations he found in Sri Aurobindo's writings (which he contrasted with those of Western Psychology), and developed themes of "Integral Culture" and "Integral Man".

Jean Gebser (1905-1973), was a Swiss phenomenologist and interdisciplinary scholar, and author of The Ever-Present Origin. He conceived of history as a series of mutations in consciousness.

Haridas Chaudhuri (1913-1975), a Bengali philosopher, was a correspondent with Sri Aurobindo and founded the California Institute of Integral Studies, and developed his own form of Integral Psychology.

Contemporary figures

George Burr Leonard (b. 1923), is the co-founder (with Michael Murphy) of Integral Transformative Practice, and author of numerous books on human possibilities and social change. He coined the term "human potential movement".

Michael Murphy (b. 1930), author of The Future of the Body, and with George Burr Leonard thee co-founders of the Human Potential Movement and of Integral Transformative Practice, and co-authors of The Life We Are Given. Murphy also co-founded the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, with Richard Price.

Ervin László (b. 1932) is a philosopher of science, systems theorist, and integral theorist who posits a field of information as the substance of the cosmos.

Ken Wilber (b. 1949) is an American writer and autodidact who popularized Integral thought or integral thinking in the current sense, to develop an all-encompassing, evolutionary theory that incorporates and honours all perspectives, while at the same time presenting a larger picture. Wilber, borrowing centrally from the writings of Adi Da, also built upon the ideas of previous integral thinkers like Sri Aurobindo and Jean Gebser in developing his own highly complex integral theory. Wilber's books include: Sex Ecology Spirituality, Integral Psychology, and Boomeritis. He is the founder of the Integral Institute. According to Wilber,

The word integral means comprehensive, inclusive, nonmarginalizing, embracing. Integral approaches to any field attempt to be exactly that—to include as many perspectives, styles, and methodologies as possible within a coherent view of the topic. In a certain sense, integral approaches are "meta-paradigms," or ways to draw together an already existing number of separate paradigms into an interrelated network of approaches that are mutually enriching." —Ken Wilber, "Foreword", in Frank Visser, Ken Wilber: Thought As Passion

Don Beck is a management consultant and proponent of Spiral Dynamics who has collaborated with Wilber and contributed to the development of Integral theory.

Susanne Cook-Greuter (b.1945), is an independent scholar in ego development and principal of Cook-Greuter and Associates, a research and leadership consulting firm. She is author of Postautonomous Ego Development, its Nature and Measurement (1999) and coauthor with Mel Miller of Transcendence and Mature Thought in Adulthood (1990). She is a founding member of the Integral Institute and a co-director of its Psychology center.

Michael E. Zimmerman (b. 1946) has written on various fields, including Martin Heidegger and Environmental philosophy, and is co-founder with Sean Esbjörn-Hargens of the field of Integral ecology.

Richard Tarnas (b. 1950), is a cultural historian and professor of philosophy and psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies. he is author of The Passion of the Western Mind (1991) and Cosmos and Psyche (2006)

Yasuhiko Kimura (b. 1954) is integral philosopher, writer, and lecturer.

Andrew Cohen (b. 1955) is an American guru and author of "evolutionary spirituality." He is founder and editor in chief of the quarterly magazine What Is Enlightenment?, which, beginning around 2000, has included articles related to the integral movement and related streams of thought, and includes interviews with Ken Wilber as a regular feature.

Frank Visser (b. 1958) is a Dutch author, Theosophist and webmaster of Integral World, a website that hosts a large number of articles about Wilber and Integral Theory.

Steve McIntosh (b. 1960) is an independent scholar, businessman, and Integral theorist. He is author of Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution, which builds upon the ideas of Wilber, Whitehead, Teilhard, and others.

Roland Benedikter (b. 1965) is a European academic and Professor for Cultural and Socio-Educational Sciences who has written on Postmodernism and Integral thought Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4,Part 5.

Sean Esbjörn-Hargens (b. 1973). one of the top integral theorists associated with Ken Wilber's Integral approach, is a professor of Integral Studies at John F. Kennedy University.

Allan Combs is the author of The Radiance of Being: Understanding the Grand Integral Vision, Living the Integral Life. He has worked with Ken Wilber recently to create a theory which they call the "Wilber-Combs Lattice".

Jorge Ferrer is the author of Revisioning Transpersonal Theory: A Participatory Vision of Human Spirituality and a core faculty member in the East-West Psychology Program at the California Institute of Integral Studies.

Ashok Gangadean has written a number of books on the concept of a global consciousness. he is Co-Convenor of the World Commission on Global Consciousness and Spirituality. He started using the word "integral" in 2006, inspired by László’s and others.

Sally Goerner is an interdisciplinary scientist and author of a number of books, including After the Clockwork Universe: The Emerging Science and Culture of Integral Society. She is co-founder of the Integral Science Institute.

Robert Kegan is a Harvard developmental psychologist who is considered to be an integral theorist. He is a member of the Integral Institute.

Robert A. McDermott is professor of philosophy and religion at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and has studied the work of Rudolph Steiner and Sri Aurobindo.

Paul H. Ray is a sociologist and author who refers to the emergence of a new progressive society or culture beyond traditionalism and modernity, that, following Sorokin, Gebser, and Sri Aurobindo he calls "Integral culture"[1].

Integral psychology

Integral psychology is psychology that presents an all-encompassing holistic rather than an exclusivist or reductive approach. It includes both lower, ordinary, and spiritual or transcendent states of consciousness. It originally is based on the Yoga psychology of Sri Aurobindo. Other important writers in the field of Integral Psychology are Indra Sen, Haridas Chaudhuri, Ken Wilber, and Brant Cortright [2].

Integral theory

Integral theory is a term often used to describe the teachings and work of the American writer Ken Wilber, referring either to the synthesis of different perspectives and methodologies, or to his own "AQAL" theory. More recently, the term has been adopted by Hungarian systems theorist Ervin László in a scientific context.

Wilber's Integral theory

Although Wilber originally spoke of Integral theory in terms of a synthesis of different methodologies that can be used in the study of consciousness. Ken Wilber, An integral theory of consciousness, , "Integral theory" later came to be considered synonymous with "AQAL". AQAL refers to "All quadrants, all levels", and equally connotes "all lines, all states, all types".

Central to Wilber's methodology is the concept of vision-logic as a post-formal, but personal, level of cognitive development. A characteristic of vision-logic is the ability to conceptualize and compare different perspectives or points of view. In the book Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, Wilber describes vision-logic as a planetary awareness. He uses it to translate the term vernunft as used by the German idealists, which means something like "transcendental knowledge".

Specific aspects of Integral Theory such as Wilber's Four Quadrants and Don Beck's Integral Spiral Dynamics have been applied in the world of business and business leadership. Ron Cacioppe and Mark Edwards, "Seeking the Holy Grail of organisational development: A synthesis of integral theory, spiral dynamics, corporate transformation and action inquiry", Leadership and Organization Development Journal, Mar 2005 Vol 26, no.2 pp. 86 - 105 Nancy E. Landrum and Carolyn L. Gardner, "Using integral theory to effect strategic change",, International development Gail Hochachka, Developing Sustainability, Developing the Self: An Integral Approach to International and Community Development, Polis Publications, 2005, urban planning Marilyn Hamilton, Integral City - Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive New Society Publishers 2008, ISBN 9780865716292</ref>, ecology (see section of Integral Ecology, below) and even marine ecology[3].

László's Integral theory

According to Ervin László, a Theory of Everything would include not just mathematical formulas and quantum physics, but life, mind, and culture as well. He points out that although Wilber in A Theory of Everything refers to the "integral vision" of a genuine Theory of Everything, he does not present a science-based theory as such Ervin László, "Rationale for an Integral Theory of Everything", p.1, [ Integral Review, no.3]</ref>. László's 2004 book, Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything presents his own version of an Integral theory in terms of a fundamental energy and information-carrying field that informs not just the current universe, but all universes past and present. This is then used to explain physical, biological, evolutionary, cultural and psychological, and even paranormal and spiritual phenomena[4].

Integral art can be defined as art that reaches across multiple quadrants and levels, or simply as art that was created by someone who thinks or acts in an integral way. Such artists may have been influenced by integral thinkers, or developed integral art independently.

Integral ecology

Integral ecology is a multi-disciplinary approach pioneered by Michael E. Zimmerman and Sean Esbjörn-Hargens. It applies Ken Wilber's integral theory (especially the eight methodological perspectives) to the field of environmental studies and ecological research. World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution 61, nos. 1-2: 50 Esbjörn-Hargens, S. & Zimmerman, M. E. (2008). “Integral Ecology” Callicott, J. B. & Frodeman, R. (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy. New York: Macmillan Library Reference. Sean Esbjörn-Hargens and Michael_Zimmerman, Integral Ecology: Uniting Multiple Perspectives on the Natural World, Integral Books (2009) ISBN 1590304667

Online and print journals

A number of publications have developed around the theme of Integral thought, at the same time further helping to define it. One of the first of these, in 2000, was Kosmos journal, which has featured Don Beck, Ervin László, Ashok Gangadean, and others. The magazine What Is Enlightenment?, established earlier by Andrew Cohen and associates, began including articles related to the integral movement around 2000, and now regularly includes interviews with Ken Wilber. The Integral Leadership Review has its genesis in 2000 and has emerged as a full scale free online publication [2]. Its summary subscription publication, LeadingDigest, began in 2007.

In 2005, the first peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journals in the area were established (both are also on-line journals), Integral Review and Conscious Evolution. In 2006 the quarterly peer-reviewed Journal of Integral Theory and Practice was established by the Integral Institute.

External links


  • Integral World website and online resource maintained by Wilber student and critic Frank Visser; originally commentary and criticism of Wilber's work only, but since 2006 and especially 2007 has also featured a more diverse range of essays and interprations of Integral thought.
  • Open Source Integral Online forum and community, featuring a wide range of topics and discussion in relation to Integral thought
  • Gaia formerly known as Zaadz, on-line community originally affiliated with the Integral Institute, but much more diverse than just Wilber-supporters alone.
  • Integral Psychotherapy psychology clinic dedicated to Integral Psychology teaching and practice located in Minneapolis, MN.
  • Journal of Integral Theory and Practice a peer-reviewed academic journal founded in 2003 with its first issue appearing in 2006.
  • Integral Research Center a grant giving mixed-methods research center based on Integral Methodological Pluralism.
  • Integral Theory Conference the official site for the biennial Integral Theory Conference held at JFK University.
  • MA in Integral Theory an accredited online Master of Arts degree in Integral Theory.
  • Integral Review Journal, an online peer reviewed "transdisciplinary and transcultural journal for new thought, research, and praxis." Started in 2005, the journal is not directly affiliated with the Integral Institute.
  • Integral Leadership Review, the site of the online publications Integral Leadership Review (free) and Leading Digest (subscription), and books related to integral leadership. It is an independent publication not affiliated with the Integral Institute.
  • The French Integral University : Université Intégrale,


  • Integral Praxis Post-Wilberian blog by the Integral Research Group (IRG), provides a diverse range of essays and links to all apsects of the Integral Movement
  • Science, Culture and Integral Yoga (SCIY) Aurobindonian multi-authored blog based on the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in the context of diverse social commentary, founded by Rich Carlson
  1. Paul Ray, "The Rise of Integral Culture", Noetic Sciences Review: Spring 1996
  2. Integral Psychology: Yoga, Growth, and Opening the Heart, SUNY, 2007 ISBN 0791470717
  3. Brian N. Tissot - Integral Marine Ecology: Community-based fishery management in Hawaii, World Futures: the Journal of General Evolution, 2005 vol. 61 pp.79-96
  4. Ervin László, Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything, Inner Traditions, Rochester, Vermont, 2004