Introduction to Integral Institute
 Letter from the President
 The Integral Approach

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"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 approach.

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.

Upper-Left Quadrant



Upper-Right Quadrant



Lower-Left Quadrant



 Lower-Right Quadrant


Social (Systems)

Notice some of the major and extremely influential modes of inquiry that are based in each of the quadrants:

Upper Left: phenomenology, psychotherapy, meditation, emotional intelligence, personal transformation

Upper Right: empiricism, scientific analysis, quality control, behavioral modification

Lower Left: multiculturalism, postmodernism, worldviews, corporate culture, collective values

Lower Right: systems theory, social systems analysis, techno-economic modes, communication networks, systems analysis

Which of those approaches is right?  All of them, according to Integral theory.

The Integral approach simply points out that these dimensions of reality are present in all cultures, and therefore any truly comprehensive or integral approach would want to touch bases with all of those important dimensions, because they are in fact operating in people in any event, and if we do not include them in our analysis, we will have a partial, fragmented, and broken approach to any proposed solution.

Likewise with the other major aspects (levels, lines, states, and types).  Most natural organisms show a capacity for development�an acorn grows into an oak through various levels or stages of growth.  Human beings likewise show various stages of growth, which can occur in many of their innate capacities or functions: humans can evidence cognitive development, moral development, psychosexual development, interpersonal development, and so on.  In short, human beings seem to have many developmental lines (cognitive, moral, psychosexual, etc.) that unfold in various levels or stages of development�what we call levels and lines.

The Integral map simply includes as many of these levels and lines as possible, because they seem to be operating in people in any event, and taking them into account would thus appear crucial in any truly comprehensive or integral approach to the world's problems.

Finally, we have "states" and "types."  Types: there appear to be different types of awareness.  For example, one of the most commonly discussed is that of masculine and feminine ways of knowing (where the masculine type appears to be more autonomous and analytic, and the feminine type more relational and embodied). The important point is: are we acknowledging and taking into account the fact that there might be different types or ways of looking at a problem, or are we trying to take one way and force it on others?

The same with "states": Not only do human beings appear to have various types of consciousness and various stages of consciousness, they also seem to have many different states of consciousness. Many of the major states are well-known�waking, dreaming, and sleeping, for example�and once again, these major states are clearly potentials that are present in all human beings.

Thus, to briefly summarize: the Integral approach looks at any problem�personal, social, ecological, international�and attempts to identify all of the important variables that are contributing to the problem in each of the five major domains (quadrants, levels, lines, states, and types).  A truly Integral approach might draw equally on systems theory and meditation, technological innovations and emotional intelligence, corporate culture and behavioral modification�the full spectrum of potentials in all of the quadrants, all of the levels, all of the lines, all of the states, all of the types.

The Integral approach thus elicits solutions that acknowledge and incorporate all of these important factors, without excluding or denying any of them�because all of them are clearly affecting the present situation and the problems being generated, and anything less than a truly Integral approach might actually make matters worse, not better.

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