The Integral Approach
"Integral" means "inclusive, balanced,
comprehensive." The Integral approach may
be contrasted to other methods—mythic, rational-scientific,
pluralistic—which, as they themselves announce,
exclude other approaches as being inferior. They
are thus, by definition, partial and incomplete.
These latter methods, although widely accepted
and dominant in the world's cultures, tend to
generate partial analysis and incomplete solutions
to problems. As such, they appear less efficient,
less effective, and less balanced than the Integral
Like any truly fundamental advance, the Integral
approach initially seems complicated but eventually
is understood to be quite simple and even straightforward.
It's like using a word processor: at first it
is hard to learn, but eventually it becomes incredibly
simple to use.
The easiest way to understand the Integral approach
is to remember that it was created by a cross-cultural
comparison of most of the known forms of human
inquiry. The result was a type of comprehensive
map of human capacities. After this map was
created (by looking at all the available research
and evidence), it was discovered that this
integral map had five major aspects to it.
By learning to use these five major aspects, any
thinker can fairly easily adopt a more comprehensive,
effective, and integrally informed approach
to specific problems and their solutions—from
psychology to ecology, from business to politics,
from medicine to education.
What are these five aspects? Technically they
are referred to as "quadrants, levels, lines,
states, and types." Of course, unless one
has already learned the "word processing
system," as it were, then these aspects won't
make much sense. But they are indeed very simple
and easy to use once one gets the hang of it.
There is an important point about these five
aspects. Because the integral map that they were
drawn from was created by an extensive cross-cultural
comparison of human capacities, these five aspects
appear to be potentials available to all human
beings. (We will see examples of this in a
moment). Thus, the integral approach does not
ask a person to adopt anything that they do not
already have available to them. This is not some
"outside" philosophy that people are
asked to believe, but a pointer to potentials
that they already possess but perhaps are not
fully utilizing or expressing.
For example, one of the five aspects—called quadrants
—refers to the fact that all major human languages
have first-, second-, and third-person pronouns
(for example: I, you/we, and it). These three
dimensions of reality (I, we, and it) often show
up as art, morals, and science (or
the aesthetic expression of "I," the
morals of "we," and the objective "its"
of science)—the Beautiful, the Good, and the
True is another version of these dimensions.
If we realize that "it" can appear
in plural, or "its," then we have the
"four quadrants" or dimensions that
are present in all major human languages: I, we,
it, and its—or the intentional, cultural, behavioral,
and social dimensions of all human beings.