08/15 – Thinking About Integral

August 2011 / Feature Articles

Gary Hawke

Gary Hawke

As I have been developing the Integral Alive model, it appears that I am spending time feeling into the inquiry of —what does Integral mean. The more I have pursued this question, the more I began to realise that if I want to use the word Integral, then I better understand, not just what it means, but also in what circumstances I am using Integral.

In the past, I held with the idea that my Integral work sits in Second Tier and I work with people in First Tier (2-1) and Second Tier (2-2). However, this feels to be just a working methodology. I bring the tools that are created through a deeper abstract thinking that could be Unitive, Yellow, Teal, Second Tier, 4/5 Order of Consciousness or even Integral Stages and Structure of development. Then I use the tools with people who may be cognisant of the world at the same level of the tools or I customize the tools to help me support the development of people who are at less complex levels of abstractions.

I guess I am working Integrally and I include the term Integral as a prefix to my work “Integral Alive”. However, does adding the term Integral next to an application mean that it is Integral? We have Integral Leadership, Integral Art, Integral Parenting, Integral Education, and we say here is an application that is Second Tier, what then of Integral Cleaning or Integral Recruitment or Integral Alliance or Integral Kitchens? Does that mean that they are also operating at Second Tier?

See, my point is that we have taken Integral, we understand Ken Wilber’s map, and we have some terrific effective strategy maps like Spiral Dynamics, along with powerful metrics such as The Sentence Completion Test Integral, all described as Integral, but as a developmental descriptive term, which is without judgement, or values or moral, or ethics. In an excellent article, Zak Stein (Stein, 2010) addresses “Integral” as a Think Concept, considered by Bernard Williams as something that seems to indicate a fact and a value (Blomberg O, 2007), Stein suggests that unless we are clear about our Integral form, we are in danger of taking Integral fact and applying it to Integral value.

What about when we use the term Integral to apply to the community, or ourselves?

I read and hear about people wanting to set up an Integral Community, but what would an Integral Community be like. Well, it would not have anyone in the community that was “Integral”—(as a term for developmental altitude), because development is messy and we do not develop evenly. We may at times operate at Second Tier, but only honestly if we have the relevant scaffolding, and we do not operate at Second Tier in all lines at the same time. This means that we do not have a Centre of Gravity in which all our lines manifest at the same level. We have a Centre of Gravity for each developmental line and then we have to add the emotional blips in our development that have an inclination to stay with us as we grow, unless we ameliorate those by engaging in the relevant shadow work. So you see it is not possible to call someone Integral, if we use Integral as a description of development.

Maybe, one of the reasons we like Spiral Dynamics is that it puts a significant “You Are Here” arrow on our developmental line. This possibly leads us to make easy assessments of individuals, so we say things like “Oh yes, they are very Yellow”. Now my concern is are we using a developmental term as a value judgement. If we are making a personal assessment, which part of the personality are we evaluating, is it the distal self, the proximate self or True Self, then, which metric have we used to make the evaluation? After the assessment, do we fall into a moral judgement, which goes like this: “I am so sorry but our evaluation shows that you are not at the right altitude for this group”.

Is that Integral?  I do not think so.

What of Integral Cleaning and Integral Kitchens, well it might help if we investigate the dictionary; my favourite dictionary description from www.thefreedictionary.com, is – Integral – “Essential or necessary for completeness”

Ah, completeness—something we are all trying to strive for!

Let’s quickly go back to Integral Parenting and use this description, is Integral Parenting helping parents to meet the intent of being parents who see themselves as essential or necessary for the completeness of their child or, is Integral Parenting, an altitude view, taking as a fact that the Integral Model is supporting the thesis offered?

Now then when we look at Integral Cleaning or Integral Kitchens we have no difficulty in recognising that their service is essential or necessary for completeness—“The kitchen was complete when the cooker was installed”. I know that if I wanted a kitchen fitted I would want a company that understood the necessary for completeness to fit the kitchen, even if an investigation of the employees Life World shows that I possibly could expect them to behave in a certain manner that would not hold within an Integral Altitude. Notice, that I said, “I possibly could expect”. I am not evaluating them. I am exploring their Life World and the Kosmic Groves that light up in that Life World. Then I am speculating that I would expect a certain set of behaviours to manifest.

It is just not so clear anymore; we cannot just use the tag Integral. We need to appreciate it fully. Alternatively, Integral will become a meaningless term. Robert Augustus Masters (Masters R A 2007) points out that there is a serious danger of the term Integral going the way of Holistic, a term that the Human Potential Movement and the New Age Movement used so much and so often that it became worthless or at worst misunderstood – look at Kuhn and paradigm (Wilber K 2006).

I believe, deeply considering how we use the word Integral will assist in ensuring the proper contextual point of FACT and VALUE. To help with usage, I have suggested a straightforward checklist that we can follow to ensure proper usage is engaged:

  1. Integral Altitude—A descriptive for certain developmental milestones in lines of development. This points out that a person cannot “be Integral”. This does not fit with our understanding of development and what metric assessments are showing. (Stein 2010) (FACT)
  1. Integral Understanding/Cognition—Used when the Integral Map or Integral Methodological Pluralism (FACT) supports an application or theoretical perspective.
  1. Integral Attitude—Used when we work toward our own growth to what is necessary and essential for completeness and we work towards helping others to achieve completeness, through an integration of their parts. (VALUE)
  1. Integral Awareness—Used as we deepen and expand out view of the world as we hit developmental milestones (FACT) and we see more of what is necessary and essential for completeness. (VALUE)
  1. Integral Community—Used when Human Beings come together to share a deeper understand of the world (FACT), to explore ways in which this deeper understanding is articulated (FACT/VALUE) and to help each other in finding the tools (FACT) and the use of these tools to achieve the goal of essential completeness and freedom. (VALUE)

After all this, am I any clearer as to what Integral Alive is? I would say yes. I believe that for Integral Alive to completely realise Integral it must contain all the above points. Integral Alive must work towards a clear definition of the word Integral. Integral must be both an Altitude that supports an Attitude and it must be an Attitude that supports an Altitude. Above all, Integral Alive must work with people at whatever assessed development level in each line they are at to achieve what is necessary and essential for their completeness.


Blomberg, O. (2007). “Disentangling The Think Concept Argument”, www.edinburgh.academia.edu, retrieved 10/06/11, http://edinburgh.academia.edu/OlleBlomberg/Papers/165483/Disentangling_The_Thick_Concept_Argument

Roberts, M. (2007). “What Is Integral”, www.integralrising.org, retrieved 10/06/11, http://integralrising.org/documents/what_is_integral_masters.pdf

Stein, Z. (2010). “On the Term Integral”, www.integraltheoryconference.com, retrieved 10/06/11, http://integraltheoryconference.org/sites/default/files/itc-2010 papers/Stein_ITC2010.docx.pdf

Wilber, K. (2006). “Excerpt A: An Integral Age at the Leading Edge”, wilber.shambhala.com, retrieved 10/06/11, http://wilber.shambhala.com/html/books/kosmos/excerptA/part3-1.cfm

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