Ken Wilber is arguably the greatest integral thinker of our day, and possibly of all time (so far). He integrates wisdom from many ages, cultures, religions and philosophical systems to distill the commonalities or similarities. His books can be a bit of a slog, filled with multi-syllabic words such as ontology and epistemology (and he doesn’t define these terms for you, rather assumes you are literate) but they brought new light into unexplored corners of my thinking.
From his lifetime of studies of the work of many others, he has developed an integral psychology, which recognises developmental stages (relatively enduring worldviews and ways of making meaning), states (temporary, often fleeting tastes of levels beyond where we commonly dwell), and lines (independent areas of development, such as morality, aesthetics, cognitive capacity).
He sees personal development as being inseparable from the cultural or environmental development. Another post will look at the four quadrants of devlopment:
- individual objective (exterior: my body, my actions)
- individual subjective (interior: my beliefs, values, worldview)
- social interobjective (group exterior: our group behaviours, physical environment)
- cultural intersubjective (group interior: our group norms, relationships, culture)
His integral work tracks the development of the individual from matter to living body to mind to soul to spirit. In the world today, we have manifested the first 3 levels in the general world, so that is where most models stop. Leading edge personal development is transitioning us from the 3rd level (Mind) to the 4th and 5th levels (Soul and Spirit).
The developmental stages are based on earlier works of well-respected thinkers and researchers, but continue on where the older models stop, beyond the world of the rational, conventional stages to the post-conventional unitive stages that few human beings reach. That these stages are potentially achievable by human beings is demonstrated by the sages, mystics and saints who regularly experience them. For most of us, in this day and age, they are aspirational, but achievable through deliberate practices that promote consciousness development.
I’ll cover his stage definitions in another post.