Category:Integral Theory

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Material about various integrative/integral, i.e. non-reductionist approaches, such as "Integral Theory" proper, metamodernism, transmodernism, macrohistory, etc ...

Here is a useful framing of the various sub-categories: Jennifer Gidley on Comparing Macro-Integral, Meso-Integral, Micro-Integral, Participatory-Integral, and Transversal-lntegral

Examples of integral theory:

  • Steiner’s integrative spiritual-science,
  • Gebser’s integral-aperspectival cultural phenomenology, and
  • Wilber’s integral-AQAL theoretic framework

P2P Foundation Context

The P2P Theory approach was initially conceived as a further specialized development within the tradition of integral theory, and while I have never pushed this part of our intellectual identity, it was always present in the background, if only by using the non-reductionist AQAL (all quadrants, all levels, the hermeneutic approach proposed by Ken Wilber).

I explain what lies behind our heuristic approach here:

And also how we relate broadly to other subcurrents within the broad contemporary integral approaches, see:

This being said, there are a lot of the members of our research network that do not focus on this, but would instead using participatory forms of actor-network theory for example.

The full gamut of our theoretical inspirations is outlined in this overview of

To conclude, in my understanding, an integral approach is one that;

- respects the relative autonomy of the different fields, and looks for field specific laws,

- affirms that new levels of complexity cause the emergence of new properties and thus rejects reductionisms that try to explain the highly complex from the less complex,

- tries to formulate level-specific laws that relate the objective and subjective aspects, refusing to see any one aspect as a mere epiphenomena of the other,

- is subjective-objective in that it always relates the understanding of the objective, through the prism of a recognised individual perspective in general,

- and attempts to correlate explanations emanating from the various fields, in order to arrive at an integrative understanding; in this sense it is a hermeneutic discipline focusing on creating meaning.

Personally (Michel Bauwens), I feel the closest to Critical Realism as it attempts to blend both the objective approaches of modernity, but integrating the valid concerns of postmodern critics. My approach would be transmodern in that it attempts to salvage and integrate the best of indigenous, traditional, modern and postmodern approaches; the two first may be lacking in CR but are present in the participatory epistemologies of John Heron and Jorge Ferrer.

General Context

1. Michel Bauwens:

We do not restrict 'integral theory' to the approaches of Ken Wilber and the ulterior developments of this school of thought, but pay attention to full gamut of integral thinkers, before, during, and after this reconfiguration of the integral approach. So we would include names like Sorokin, Sarkar, Aurobindo, but especially Jean Gebser, and the further integration of Jean Gebser's thought by Peter Pogany for example. We also include Transmodernism (Irene Ateljevic) and Metamodernism (Hanzi Freinacht) based approaches. Macrohistory and macrohistorians would also be included, as would partipatory and integrative futures methododologies as those developed by Sohail Inayatullah or Jose Ramos.

2. According to Joseph Dillard:

"According to Sean Esbjörn-Hargens, there are at least two other meta-theories with a different focus but a similar level of complexity as Wilber's,

  • Bhaskar's Critical Realism and
  • Morin's Complexity Theory.

Morin is a contemporary French philosopher and sociologist and his Complexity Theory is spelled out in a 5-volume work titled “The Method.” Esbjörn-Hargens views Wilber's Integral Theory as focusing on the interior of the individual (psychology and spirituality - upper-left quadrant), Bhaskar's on intersubjectivity and culture (lower-left quadrant), and Morin's on systems and processes (lower-right quadrant)."


3. Roland Benedikter and Marcus Molz

... recognize different 'generations' in integrative thinking [1]:

"We have to consider integrative emancipatory frameworks originating from different cultures, contexts and disciplines. We divide these into three categories:

  • first, those stemming from the first half of the twentieth century;
  • second, those of the phase of transition between the 1960s and the twenty-first century; and
  • third, twenty-first century approaches.

(1) The first half of the twentieth century gave birth to the pioneers of modern integrative worldviews, who laid the foundations for the basic idea of integrative worldviews within (and not against) evolving modernity.

(2) The second half of the twentieth century– and especially the period from the 1960s to the 1990s– can be considered a phase of transition, which brought about symptoms of the renewal of a renovated integrative intuition, manifested inter alia in the trend towards post-materialism in the 1980s and 1990s and in the ambiguous rise of a postmodern spirituality in the 1990s.

(3) Finally, the twenty-first century (presumably starting with the great political and cultural change of 1989/91) seems to be generating a new generation of integrative thought, which is still struggling to rise fully to the challenges of our time at the level of given problems and their comparatively increased complexity. Most representatives of this new generation of integrative thought and action seem to conceive themselves as part of a paradigm shift beyond classical modernity (including its latest stage of ‘postmodernity’), and as closely related with the emerging paradigm stage of a mature modernity."

First Generation

  1. Vladimir Solovyov (1853–1900),
  2. Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925),
  3. Aurobindo Ghose (1872–1950),
  4. Max Scheler (1874–1928),
  5. Jacques Maritain (1882–1973),
  6. Pitirim Sorokin (1889–1968),
  7. Thomé F. Fang(1899–1977),
  8. Jean Gebser (1905–73) and
  9. Herbert Witzenmann (1905–88)

The Second Generation

This 2nd generation refers to the deconstructive postmodern inter-regnum.

Third Generation

"Current leading thinkers" :

  1. Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar (1921–90),
  2. Enrique Dussel (1934–),
  3. Basarab Nicolescu (1942–),
  4. Johannes Heinrichs (1942–),
  5. Roy Bhaskar (1944–) and
  6. Ken Wilber (1949–).

Other representatives of neo-integrative thought from a de facto (much) larger sample include

  1. Fred Dallmayr (1928–),
  2. Paul Ehrlich (1932–),
  3. Kensei Hiwaki (1945–),
  4. Michael Opielka (1956–),
  5. Harald Walach (1957–),
  6. Jaap Sijmons (1959–),
  7. Niko Kohls (1972–) and
  8. Nikolaus von Stillfried (1976–).


"I outline, with the help especially but not exclusively of Bhaskar’s metacritique of western philosophy, from the Axial Age to today, four major biases in the West: analytical over dialectical, epistemology over ontology, presence over absence, and exterior over interior. After reading McGilchrist, it was clear how they corresponded to key characteristics of the left and right hemispheres: atomism over holism, representation over reality (or map over territory), explicit over implicit, and surface over depth – respectively."

- Paul Marshall, Metamodern Forum, April 2021

Hierarchizing in Integral Theory

" "I am not saying in this conception of adult behavior that a style of being, a form of human existence is inevitably and in all circumstances superior or better than another form of human existence, than another style of human existence. 'to be. What I am saying is that when a form of being is more in conformity with the realities of existence, then it is the best form of life for those realities. And what I'm saying is that when one form of existence ceases to be functional for the realities of existence, then another form, either higher or lower in the hierarchy, is the best form. of life. I suggest, however - and I deeply believe it is - that for the overall welfare of the entire existence of man in this world, in the long run, higher levels are better than higher levels. and that the main good of the rulers of any society should be to promote human movement up to the higher levels of human existence. "

- Clare Graves [2]

""Many integral adherents seem to be attracted to the “good news” aspects of the integral message. The idea that more of every kind is better pervades recent writings: more cognitive complexity, more beauty, more goodness, more truth. This overlooks the fact that access to more complexity and interpretive power has just as much potential for self delusion, ego inflation, and large-scale disregard for people as it has the potential for benefitting and uplifting humanity"

-Susan Cook-Greuter [3]

The missing bridge between Rationality and Meta-Rationality

"In the 1970s and 1980s, the best postmodern/poststructural thinkers presented meta-rational views, based on their thorough understanding of systematic rationality. This first generation of postmodern teachers had a complete “classical education” in the humanities; they mastered the Western intellectual tradition before coming to understand its limitations.

Deconstructive postmodernism, their critique of stage 4 modernism/systematicity/rationality, is the basis of the contemporary university humanities curriculum. This is a disaster. The critique is largely correct; but, as Kegan observed, to teach it to young adults is harmful. Few university students have consolidated rationality. Essentially none are ready to move beyond it. Pointing out its defects makes their developmental task more difficult.

You cannot understand what is wrong with rationalism until you are capable of being rational. You cannot go beyond rationality until after you can use it reliably. You cannot become meta to systems you do not appreciate and do not understand how to deploy. You cannot move from stage 3 to stage 5 without passing through stage 4."

- [4]

Lene Anderson distinguishes metamodernity from metamodernism:

"Metamodernity [ind-tra-mo-pomo] would say: traditional, hierarchic, authoritarian, feudal power structure appropriating modern narratives (communism & capitalism) using postmodern technology, i.e. power structure for smaller political entity applied on too large a society with global information access, which means that the power structure needs to apply massive amounts of violence to stay in control. Where power structure, group size, narratives, and communication technologies match each other i complexity, power can be distributed accordingly, and humans can enjoy freedom, responsibility, and overall an absence of violence."

Lene Anderson, intellectual-deep-web forum, June 2021

Jon Freeman on What To Think About Stages of Development?

""Our problems are not with stages, but with judgement and excess. Whatever the system, if the stages identified are real, then they exist because they have a contribution to make. They are not dispensable, so the error is to treat them as if they are. The error is in the judgement of a stage, not in the observance of its existence. Rejection is shadow-creation. Rejecting stages and stage theory wholesale does nothing to change their existence and expressions in reality. Such blanket rejection merely prevents people from understanding what is and thereby making better choices for themselves and society as a whole. At the same time, any stage can be expressed in a way that is unbalanced. Some people will behave in those ways. The solution is not to eliminate that stage (even assuming that were possible) or to exclude all people who are operating from that stage as if they are inferior or worthless. No competent system or model would work that way. Instead it would be seeking to help all stages to be expressed within healthy degrees of balance and to avoid extremes. In the same way any competent system or model and any sustainable way of living would recognise that since all stages reflect something that was needed by the system and none are dispensable, the task is to support a healthy balance of expression between the stages."

- Jon Freeman [5]

Daniel Christian Wahl on Evolutionary and Integrative Design

"If our design decisions are fundamentally worldview and value-system dependent, a dynamic map of the emergence of progressively more inclusive worldviews in human society and consciousness could help us in understanding past design decisions as well as provide a way for taking future design decisions from amore holistic perspective. Such a perspective would be more fitting to the complex dynamics of the wicked design problems of an interconnected and unpredictable complex world. A collective re-evaluation of human nature may help us to reframe the guiding intentionality behind all design. This may lead to a more conscious approach to designing, from within a participatory understanding of reality and guided by world-centric ethics. An integral perspective can access a whole range of value systems and discern adaptive and evolutionary priorities, as well as which needs are best met materially and which immaterially."

- Daniel Christian Wahl [6]

Raimon Panikkar on the Relation between Mythos and Logos

“Mythos and logos go together, but their relationship is neither dialectic nor mythic; it is rather a mutually constitutive relationship. If it were logical, the spirit would be drowned in the logos. Were it mythical, the logos would be reduced to the spirit. Put another way, there is no logos without mythos – of which the logos is language – and there is no mythos without logos – of which the myth is the foundation … Only the pratîtyasamutpâda, the radical relativity of all that is, can maintain the harmony without domination between the mythos and the logos” (Intellectual autobiography”).

The reunion between mythos and logos is one that must also take place between subjectivity and objectivity, between the heart and mind, between rational thought and the spirit that flies free. This reunion is necessary so as to avoid falling either into the ancient submission to myth or into the submission of myth to logos, namely, falling into the present day logo-monism: “Reality is not given to us as logos, but rather offers itself to us as mythos, as that horizon against which we place our own idea of the world… Our world is given to us in mythos, and that world, equally ours, is discovered by the logos” (Pensamiento científico y pensamiento cristiano, Madrid 1994). Panikkar describes this double faceted reality as follows:

“Myth is not the object of discourse, but the expression of a kind of sui generis awareness. Myth and knowledge go together... A living myth does not leave room for interpretation, inasmuch as there is no need for an intermediary. The hermeneutic of a myth is in no way myth, but rather its logos … The myth is transparent like light, and the mythic story is only the form, the covering with which the myth finds itself expressed, concealed, illuminated. This does not at all mean we have to disregard, much less belittle, the value of thinking and ignore the realm and inviolable rights of the logos. I simply mean that man cannot be reduced to the logos, nor can awareness be reduced to reflexive consciousness” (Myth, Faith and Hermeneutics).

The theme of myth and its place in relation to religion and human thinking in general has greatly occupied Panikkar and has given rise to the publication of numerous works of his. He himself came to say, “It is necessary to rediscover the place and function of myth in human life and to situate rationality in the total human context.” (Blessed Simplicity).

An open dialogue between myth and logos is the foundation of his dialogical dialogue as the force for opening oneself to the other and respectfully entering into his reality."

- Raimon Panikkar [7]

Key Resources

Understanding integral research methodologies, by Jennifer Gidley:

Stages of consciousness development according to Integral Theorists:

On specific civilizational moments:

On the evolution of consciousness modes:

Key Articles

This is probably the most important article that describes the civilizational impasse we have reached at the moment:

  • A vital read: The rise of Neo-Integrative Worldviews. Towards a rational spirituality for the coming planetary civilization? By Roland Benedikter and Markus Molz.


Also a very important read:

"A reconciliation of oral myth with literate reason will be the hallmark of a new epistemic settlement. The ordered path of technological evolution toward higher states of “inclusive consciousness” and “mythic integration,” along the lines of what McLuhan had envisioned, would be open once again".


See also:

Key Books

* The Ever-Present Origin. Jean Gebser.

It's not enough to understand the evolution of socio-economic structures, we must also understand the cultural intersubjective and subjective mentalities that co-evolve with them. This is 'the' book, to understand the evolution of consciousness, in its archaic, magic, mythological and rational forms. Gebser sees how each mode of apprehending the world, has its generative phase, but also its 'deficient' or degenerative phase. The rational mode of consciousness becomes deficient when calculations dominate everything, and the whole can no longer be seen. Civilizational changes are also 'mutations of consciousness'.

* Rethinking the World. Peter Pogany. 2006.

If you have read Karatani to understand the evolution of socio-economic systems and Gebser for the attendant 'modes of consciousness', then we still have the task to integrate them. No one has done this so far, but Peter Pogany, a Hungarian-American trans-disciplinary researcher, who has also connected socio-economic structures in their thermo-dynamic realities. So this is basically a three-level history of the world (thermo-dynamic reality, socio-economic system, mode of apprehending the world). His second book is focused more explicitly on the current transition and is called Havoc. How does the global system evolve to finally take into account the planetary boundaries that determine the survival of any form of civilization? I recommend reading Havoc first, it's about 60 pages, and if you are hooked, you can go for the real meat, i.e. his first, more theoretical book. Pogany's theory of change is a theory of pulsation: from stable system, via chaotic transition, to new stable systems, and so on, forever.


See also our recommended reading list on P2P and Commons-related topics: What You Should Read To Understand the Commons

Key People

  • Irene Ateljevic, for her work on synthesizing transmodern approaches, see our article on Transmodernism

Key Podcasts

Key Themes

Pages in category "Integral Theory"

The following 200 pages are in this category, out of 228 total.

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