Why Integral?

Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory underlies my work so in this first post I’ll explain why it is so important to me, generally. In subsequent posts I’ll discuss various aspects of spirituality from an integral perspective.

My journey towards “integral” began in graduate school in the mid 70s when I discovered that human beings have the potential to become so much more than we already are. As I absorbed information coming out of the human potential movement, I developed a fierce passion for human development. Ken Wilber was an important voice in that movement. His greatest contribution to the field of psychotherapy, and so to me, was the book No Boundary. He cut through the “my method is better than your method” ethos of the time, by simply and clearly showing that the various therapeutic models worked for people at different levels of consciousness/development. While it may seem like common sense today, in the 70s this was revolutionary. It helped me understand why my method, Gestalt therapy, did not work with everyone, and so paved the way for me to appreciate and learn additional methodologies so that I could serve a wider swath of people.

As I matured, the spiritual dimension of human development became much more important. The early 2000s found me back in school, studying the integration of spirituality and psychology. I’d found Wilber’s earlier work compelling, so I included his newer material in my theological/spiritual studies. I have to admit much to the consternation of a couple of my professors, I read much more Wilber than anyone else! By this time his amazing capacity to synthesize information from a wide variety of disciplines had resulted in a comprehensive map of human potential. A meta-theory that included the wisdom of the world’s great spiritual traditions, the modern research both individual and cultural and the insights of postmodernism that left nothing out and viewed each aspect with an eye towards both it’s value and it’s drawbacks.

More importantly than integrating my two beloved disciplines, the Integral framework gave me hope.  Hope because it maps the territory of a past I had traveled, and the territory of a future that I firmly believe possible. Hope because it tracks the territory that humanity has traversed over all these millions of years as well as our trajectory into the future. While humans admittedly meander rather than progress in a straight line, to paraphrase Michael Murphy, our trajectory is unmistakably forward.

And here’s the thing: with each move forward, our circle of care and concern gets wider. Conscious of this, we can see the value of the past and so bring its best elements forward. This is what it means to evolve. The research is there from a wide variety of disciplines. As we evolve we care more and more for the global community.

The Integral Framework isn’t an invention of Ken Wilber’s; it is a synthesis of the territory humans have traversed for centuries, a synthesis constructed by one whose big heart cares for the future of our world. And though the territory we’re living in right now is heartbreakingly challenging, Ken’s work points to our capacity to create a much different future. More and more people are developing beyond the ethnocentric worldview that keeps us separated from each other. I’m watching it happen. I’m working to help make it happen. This is why “integral” is my framework. It maps our capacity to love more deeply and widely. From this space we will change the world.




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