What Does Perspective Have To Do With It?

There are varieties of ways to understand our perspective on the world and of course, Ultimate Reality. Over the past 35 years, Ken Wilber’s genius for understanding and synthesizing each of our systems of knowledge and experience has resulted in what is called the Integral Framework or the Integral Operating System. It is not enough, for instance, to know how our economic system operates if we want to make sound investment decisions, we need to have some sense of how human psychology works as well. His reason for including these vast and disparate systems is that each contains truth claims that are valid . . . but partial. Honoring each and incorporating them with other important systems gives a more comprehensive picture than any one system does on its own. The framework includes five aspects: quadrants, levels, line, states and types. Each aspect is available in your own experience or awareness. This is why I emphasized in my first post that Wilber is mapping already existing territory that we all are traversing, not simply making up an interesting theoretical framework. (For a short, clear and concise overview of the Integral Framework, complete with pictures, read Wilber’s The Integral Vision)

I’ll discuss each aspect of our amazing journey as it relates to spirituality in future posts. We begin the tour with quadrants. The story goes that quadrants were included in the framework as Wilber attempted to see how the 200+ developmental maps available in the world today went together. He spent most of a three year time period alone, studying and puzzling but could not find the key. Finally just as he was about to give up, he realized that the systems couldn’t map together because they mapped different perspectives. Once he saw the four areas or quadrants, each developmental map fit easily into its appropriate quadrant, giving a comprehensive view of development.

Since the Integral Framework is mapping the territory of your own experience, it’s no surprise that the four quadrants are simply an “I” or first person perspective: the inside of an individual; an “It” or third person perspective: the exterior; and a “We” or second person perspective: the inside of a collective. If you’re counting, that makes three and they correspond beautifully to the Good, the True and the Beautiful or self, culture and nature. But Wilber found that it was useful to split the “it” into the individual “it” and the collective “it,” because individuals develop along certain lines, that are in turn influenced by the way society develops politically, or economically. Thus we have quadrants – four areas of human development.

There are a great many implications to the observation that humans evolve in these interrelated ways. The co-founders of Integral Coaching Canada, where I received my training as a coach, have noticed that each individual seems to be oriented towards one perspective. So some of us see the world and make decisions about our own path by considering how it relates to our interior. Others are more concerned with how it fits in the social system we inhabit. But most interesting to me is how these perspectives influence our view of Ultimate Reality, which has come to be known as the Three Faces of Spirit. This is one of the most useful pieces of the map in my coaching and spiritual direction work with people and it will be the subject of my next few posts.


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