Inca Wisdom and Integral Theory

Learner Papers / October 2012

Giorgio Piacenza Cabrera

Part One: Inca Quadrants Similar to Those of Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory



Giorgio Piacenza Cabrera

The four dimensions that combine to form the quadrants in Integral Theory are the Individual, Plural, Interior and Exterior. These quadrants are similar to the main dimensions defining the Quechua-Andean quadrants. Like Integral Theory, these dimensions also complement each other vertically and horizontally. This is to be expected as external elements symmetrically placed above, below and on both sides naturally relate geometrically in this way. They represent conceptually similar concepts as those represented in Integral Theory. As such, could a pre-modern culture come up with an integral concept?

In the Andes, the areas or quadrants generated by the four directions and/or dimensions of Hanan, Urin/Uku, Allauca and Ichoq generate what are called suyus. Suyus are defined as regions to inhabit. The political division of the Inca Empire attempted to follow this model. These suyus are populated by elements of the Quechua mythical cosmos and its cosmovision, or worldview and are thought to relate diagonally. This is unlike the quadrant relationships in Integral Theory. We could find ways to relate our IT quadrants diagonally, however. The important idea is to relate complementary opposites that had mirror-like, complementary symmetry, or parity. Thus, a mirror-like relation is perceived between the Quechua quadrants or suyus.

The Andean people in general have a very old concept pertaining to the existence of Pachas – three worlds. These worlds refer more to experiential times than to permanent spaces and relate in a Tinkuy (tense encounter) through the present world of experience. These worlds exist simultaneously but are also potential to each other, unless directly experienced in our “present” experience. Complementary principles were paramount in the Andean cosmovision. The cosmovision emphasized relationships of reciprocity in which tensional encounters took place.

The higher world of abstract ideas, (often confused with the Catholic Heaven) Hanan Pacha, relates with the lower world of instinct, Uku Pacha, through the present world of experience Kay Pacha. Humans can creatively officiate in this relationship and participate in the order of worlds. While Urin or Uku Pacha is the future world to be, Hanan Pacha is usually conceived as the world that gave the higher abstract principles. Urin is related with the underground, the multiple, and the hidden, while Hanan is related with the sky, the unifying, the past, and the clear or luminous.

Social encounters and relations as well as personal and communal human relations with nature and the spirit worlds were often performed ritualistically under the concepts of Yanantin and Masintin. Yanantin refers to an ideal encounter of perfect reciprocity as among complementary opposites that cannot exist without each other nor exist without each other. This encounter is harmonious but retains differences, thus is tensional. It is said to generate not only four suyus but also be related by a fifth magical-spiritual center called Chaupi, a center that we may compare to the dual and complementary Greek elements of Fire/Water” and Earth/Air. It could relate with quintessence, a fifth point or direction from which the living energy, Kawsay, flows and vivifies everything. In Western and Indo-European mystical terms, we might say that it is related with an inexpressible Non Dual Source that not only relates but transcends and includes opposites. In other words, the central point where the quadrants converge is considered a source of life. This good source is sometimes called Allin Kawsay because all Life flowing from it, even within duality, is considered to be good. However, it is said that this central point can also invisibly generate the possibility of empowering a hidden enemy, adversary, or challenger because, under the idea of complementary opposites and of parity, everything that exists has its opposite. Nonetheless, in the natural order, the living energy itself is always good and refined in itself and at its source. Only humans are capable of turning it into a denser, although not necessarily evil kind of energy called Hucha.

Trans-level Principles

How can the Quechua quadrants possibly relate with Integral Theory if the Quechua people were not a post postmodern society? First, we must recognize that there were more learned, wise men than the bulk of society among the Quechua and that some universal truths may have emerged in a sui generis way among people whose rituals worked around with what we now call complementary opposites. Just thinking about complementarities may give rise to the same general quadratic ideas. It may be a cognitive level recognition; nevertheless, the manner in which the dimensions that form the quadrants are described as a universal, integral metaphysical realization combined with a particular cultural interpretation.

Perhaps there were concepts that came close to some from Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory; as well as some other unrecognized disclosures made by the Quechua. These concepts and disclosures could add to Integral Theory, as in their pre-modern style they may have also unveiled other universals, which current theorists may be overlooking. Here I’m focusing on the main structural element upon which the Integral Theory framework is built: The Quadrants. I’m not considering lines of development or stages, as it seems that concepts did not exist and really came to the world’s attention in modern Western cultures. In fact, the Quechua were known for their cyclical approach to life as many other pre-modern cultures. They may have developed a unique, intuitive and moderately conceptual (but living and applicable) perception of the Integral Quadrants  – the suyus –  and also of the four main dimensions of life recognized in Integral Theory.

Quechua Holon

The Quechua “holon” with its four “Suyus” looking out from its own perspective Contents of the “Suyos” and Parity Symmetries (following the arrows)

Quechua holon contents

These resulting quadrants/suyus are described under a divinatory significance in relation to the concepts of Hanan and Urin. While Hanan is considered “above” and “superior”,pertaining to an abstract world and its power, Urin is considered “below” and “inferior”, pertaining to an instinctive world and its power. Nevertheless, Urin is as necessary as Hanan as they need one another for each to be.

The combination of Hanan (above) and Allauca (right) is considered a very positive “Hanan-Hanan” suyu. The combination of Hanan and Ichoq (left) is considered a positive “Hanan-Urin” suyu. The combination of Urin and Allauca is considered a negative “Urin-Hanan” suyu. The combination of Urin and Ichoq is considered a very negative “Urin-Urin” suyu. While much knowledge has been lost and we need further research to uncover further distinctions among the surviving Quechua who maintain the traditions, it would be interesting to consider whether assigning relatively positive and negative qualities to the quadrants/suyus would in some way be applicable to an interpretation of quadrants in Integral Theory.

Another detail to recall is that the quadrants/suyus relate diagonally in order to maintain a mirror-like symmetry of complementary opposites. If we could validly extrapolate this to Integral Theory the Subjective Quadrant (Interior-Individual) it would diagonally relate with the Inter-Objective Quadrant (Exterior-Plural) and the Objective Quadrant (Exterior-Individual) would relate with the Inter-subjective Quadrant (Interior-Plural). The symmetries are more readily perceivable by considering the dimensions that combine to form the quadrants. Perhaps the Quechua had an understanding that also applies to the quadrants as we know them but have not developed.

In a previous exploration of the possible Quechua-Andean “Integral Quadrant” (  I considered that Yanantin, or the relational identity of opposites, might represent the Individual Dimension. I also considered that Masintin, the similarity of that which is diverse, as a possible representative of the Plural Dimension. This would mean that Hanan is equivalent to Yanantin  – that the superior, the abstract, is equivalent to the ideal relation of the identity of opposites. It would also mean that Urin is equivalent to Masintin. That is, the lower, plural, chaotic and instinctive are equivalent to the similitude of the diverse, In spite of their emphasis upon relations and not upon the One, the Quechua thinkers of this model would have also considered, or at least intuited, that implied unity is superior to multiplicity even within a relational perspective of dualistic, living manifestation.

Relating the Four Suyus with the Quadrants”of Integral Theory

Although in the pre-modern, mythic Quechua-Andean worldview there is no radical sense of good and evil, and it is understood that opposites cannot exist without their complements, Hanan has connotations of that which is clear and superior and Urin of that which is lower, hidden and inferior. In fact, for some time, apparently, there were two ruling classes in the city of Cuzco: Those from the higher geographical area located in upper or “Hanan Q’osqo” and those from the lower geographical area located in “Urin Q’osqo.” According to chroniclers including Juan Diez de Betanzos, the first Inca rulers were from Urin families and later rulers from the Hanan families.

While the concepts of unity over diversity or of the Transcendental One was not stressed over that of relations in Quechua culture, it seems that it could not be altogether avoided, at least as an implicit principle. As mentioned, when joined to the word Pacha, the word Hanan also refers to a time and to a world of higher abstract principles that eventually connotes a simplification stemming from or leading to an origin that cannot be divided. This is the Quechua dimension that is placed above and seems to correspond with the integral dimension of that which is individual and without division. Contrarily, the word Urin, which relates often interchangeably, with the concept of Uku, the subterranean future time, is also related with the idea of a chaotic, instinctive, vital world that generates diversity and, in that sense, plurality.

The right side Allauca, where the rising Sun is situated inside the suyus, may conceptually relate with the word Yanan, which has the meanings of essence and that which is bright. Thus, Allauca reminds me of an interior source from which its correlated opposite is dependent. Its complementary opposite on the left side, or Ichoq. Where the Moon is situated inside the suyus would be Yana, which means dark, dependent, or in service and can be considered to be “in love” with Yanan , It is subtle distinction but if we consider that, in spite of simultaneous correlations observed in the world of contingency, relation or manifestation, exterior objects are fundamentally dependent upon the essence of interiorities. We could think of Yana as an exterior object that reflects light but which has no light of its own. At the left side of the Inca quadrants-holon seeing from inside the diagram, we can think of it as depending upon Yanan – self-effulgent and, ultimately, its own being.

Exploring Implications

In my view, Hanan would nearly correspond to the Individual dimension, Urin to the Plural dimension, Allaucca to the Interior dimension and Ichoq to the Exterior dimension. We must understand that the correlations are not clearly stated in the way Ken Wilber inductively found them before 1995, but they seem to be present in a different ways of intuiting them. This could mean that some integral level findings are not necessarily limited to a post postmodern cultural milieu and that the universality of the basics now appreciated in the Integral Model could have been perceived and surfaced in other, even pre-modern, cultures. This would also mean that cultural and developmental stages could be so sufficiently fluid  that particular universal elements of wisdom  can be disclosed, intuited and modeled. This might also mean that some other elements of a universal wisdom, perhaps encrypted within myths, already discovered by the Quechua and by other pre-modern cultures are perhaps not being recognized as they might be missed or misinterpreted under modern, post-modern and pseudo integral, Western biases.

A very interesting symbol that could be carefully studied by integral researchers and which encodes a deep wisdom is the so-called Tawa Chakana. Tawa means four and Chaka means bridge. In a way, it is a four-sided bridge that connects the three worlds. It depicts the source as an empty center. It has dual symmetry; four sides and each side with three stairs represents the three pachas or worlds also related to time. In it, different levels of reality as circles inscribe squares and levels of squares inscribe circles. Furthermore, I believe that it also relates quadrants with realms. It may connect in present day experience the Hanan ideal order with the Uku undifferentiated chaos of emerging possibilities. It can generate a fractal image and Andean traditions. Researcher and advocate Mr. Javier Lajo shows that it also represents an Andean way to “square the circle” or, rather, to relate circle and square through proportion. Mr. Lajo (author of Qhapaq Ñan: The Inka Path of Wisdom) made a very interesting study of this symbol whose origins not only relate to the pre-Incan Tiwanaku culture but also extends more than 5,000 years into the past.

Lajo image

Figure 1: Javier Lajo’s Image borrowed from

Quechua cosmovision

Figure 2: A Semi-quadratic Representation of Quechua “Cosmovision” drawn by XVII Century native American Peruvian chronicler Joan Santa Cruz Pachacuti Yamqui Salcamayhua

A large version of this drawing is found in a modern exhibit inside the popularly known “Temple of the Sun,” or the “Coricancha”, which is located in the City of Cuzco. This temple is the central site with sacred power of the Inca Empire, the Tawantinsuyu, a site from which the four suyus as well as many radiating Ceques originate.

This representation possesses upper, lower, right and left sides. The source of unspoken unity within diversity is suggested in the upper side where the supreme, and perhaps non-dual, deity called Illa Teqsi Wiracocha Pachayachachi is depicted as an ovoid shape in touch with a five-pointed cross. It was most likely originated by a Yanantin, an ideal or perfect complementary relation/identity between opposites.

The right side would correspond to Integral Theory’s left quadrants; the left side to its left quadrants but the upper side and lower sides would correlate well in both systems. Although pairs of complementary sides are depicted I think that a certain dependence of the Moon upon Sun and of implicit converging unity over multiplicity is suggested. The right side, Allauca, has the visible Sun, Inti, and the left side, –Ichoq, has the Moon, Killa. This suggests self-effulgence and dependence through reflection or the interior self-effulgent life and its dependent, object-like, exterior reflection. As shown in the Quechua ‘holon’ diagram before, there are other mythical, divinatory, cosmological elements of daily Quechua life inside the four sides/quadrants/suyus. Where the upper side suggests principles, and Wiracocha is depicted connected to a cross with quadrants, the lower side depicts the collca pata, which can be understood as a deposit of food and other products and as a network implying multiplicity.

Thinking in terms of complementary poles naturally leads to the recognition of the quadrants of existence, I investigate how else the best of traditional Andean wisdom complements Integral Theory.

Part Two: “El Buen Vivir,” Quechua Quadrants and Integral Theory


In the search for alternative voices to today’s dominant mode of global development some thinkers in Perú, Bolivia and Ecuador sought to find a regional idea that could contribute worldwide. The Buen Vivir idea is borrowed from Quechua, Aymara and Andean traditions. This idea is one of several which is being open-mindedly considered at Instituto Peruano del Pensamiento Complejo Edgar Morin (IPCEM), an institution which formed under Universidad Ricardo Palma, after Edgar Morin’s visits to Peru. The Institute is trying to reunite and integrate a wide range of non-reductionist perspectives, while incipiently becoming aware of Integral Theory.

Buen Vivir literally translates as “Good Living” but involves the practice of living virtuously or in a good relational harmony with all of Life. The words used in the Incan language, Quechua, are Sumaq Kawsay. Sumaq means beautiful and can also refer to an ideal prototype. The word Kawsay means life but including in its meaning Life as source, beauty, mystery, cycles, flowing, spirit force, complementarity and all of its manifestations. The original people in the Andes had worldviews and social organizations based largely upon respect and reciprocity as inspired by their interpretation of Kawsay. Dr. Jorge Ichizawa, a member of IPCEM, explains more in his essay “The Concept of Buen Vivir” published in the June 2012 issue of Development Dialogue.

Sumaq Kawsay (or, Sumaq Jakaña in the Aymara language) has been recently applied to the Ecuadorian and Bolivian constitutions. Some social scientists may think the idea is only applicable to small-scale, pre-modern economies. Others, as we notice in Bolivia and Ecuador, consider it compatible with current efforts to re-interpret Marxist socialism. I believe the concept is far-reaching enough to be part of a post postmodern worldview and accompanying social systems. As the current economic and dominant cultural systems become intolerable and unviable, the human needs of practical living will gradually turn collective awareness more receptive to an integral application of Buen Vivir. However, as of today it is generally more recognized by left-wing intellectuals. Nonetheless, many intellectuals who follow the proposals of Dr. Aníbal Quijano’s work in cultural colonization are also quite receptive to suppressed, distorted and still surviving original indigenous worldviews and practices. Other intellectuals dedicated to a broad exploration of ideas include sociologist José Martínez Llaque, of Ricardo Palma University’s Department of “America Latina y la Colonialidad del Poder”, systems engineer Jorge Ichizawa Oba,and physicist-mathematician Teresa Salinas Gamero, who also serves as IPCEM’s executive director.

There also is collaboration with the Latin American Sociological Association (ALAS) and there are working agreements with United Nations University, the Regional Centre on Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development, Edgar Morin’s Association pour la Pensée Complexe, and with the California Institute of Integral Studies.

Recent left-wing regimes like the ones currently governing in Ecuador and Bolivia find it easier to incorporate the concept of Buen Vivir in their social experimentation. Leaders in these governments may or may not be inclined to learn about Integral Theoretical perspectives. They may perceive them as an extension of Eurocentric cultural and economic domination and under Marxist influence as imperialism.

Generally speaking, philosophy and social theory intellectuals in this part of the world have been more attracted to French and Euro Continental thinkers than to English and American ones. For instance, Edgar Morin was well received in Perú, Brazil and other Latin American countries. In fact, there was mutual resonance and sympathy because he seemed to be plain and willing to learn as much as to share his ideas. Furthermore, he strongly suggested that a new kind of globally-influential model, called Pensamiento del Sur (Thinking of the South), could also be born in Latin America, and he was quite clear that ancient traditions in the Andes and the Amazon held keys for that development. I believe that he is not caught in the partial modern discovery of stage-like progressions and that, because of that, he is able to recognize more plausible contributions of the once forcefully suppressed original indigenous traditions.

What should also be understood by integral theorists trying to extend their reach outside of Anglo-American interpretations of reality and into the world is that Integral Theory itself can be understood as another possible cultural voice, opposed to reductionist, industrial, political-economic systems, paradigms and worldviews that are suffocating local wisdom traditions, harmonious living and ecological health upon the planet. As Edgar Morin (Complex Thinking), demonstrated integral theorists are suited to contribute more effectively if their attitudes evolve beyond their own cultural blinders. Indications suggest that there are intellectuals in Perú willing to learn more about Integral Theory, perhaps even as much as they were willing to listen to Edgar Morin.

I’m a “bird” of several worlds. I was born in Perú and studied many years in the U.S. Now, I’m spending some time again in Perú and recently found that the outstanding and publicly involved French philosopher of complexity, Edgar Morin, recently came here twice and inspired local intellectuals to create a sui generis socio-political-cultural movement. This was well received because something had already been gestating locally and regionally.

I recently attended a conference at the Universidad Ricardo Palma in Lima. It was given by the sociologist César Germaná. In this conference I became more aware that in today’s Perú there is a small but growing resurgence of the search for a worldview that incorporates modern Western values, which transcend them by re-identifying with values that are more germane to our historical context. This means that rationality is not rejected as in a post-modern re-evaluation. What is rejected are the limitations imposed by hegemonic cultural conditioning in the realms of theory, political thinking, ontology and epistemology. Perhaps the current weakening of European and American hegemony may be reawakening this historically suppressed intellectual search, which owes much to José Carlos Mariátegui, a non-formally and non-linearly self-educated seminal thinker, who also identified as a Marxist from the first half of the Twentieth Century. According to Professor Germaná, Mariátegui proposed that Western rationalism and empiricism couldn’t apply well to Peruvian reality since they were a product of another historical context.

I learned that, aside from being a Marxist, the main thing is that Mariátegui appealed for the creation of a sui generis cultural, economic, political model – not dominated by reductionist, modern Western ideas under the epistemology of instrumental reason but in which such reason would be integrated with the recognition of a greater degree of subjectivity, myth, fantasy and relational socio-cultural coherence. Perhaps with the retreating hegemony of the Euro-American models, the search for a different integrative Peruvian theoretical voice, with the flexibility to become an integral one, will gain ascendance. I believe that a similar search will take place in other countries that are former European colonies.

An exploration of El Buen Vivir applicable to today’s world was also presented at the 2012 Earth Summit in Rio. To a great extent it refers to living in harmony with nature and with fellow humans by practicing reciprocity, through culturally sanctioned mutual service not related to commercial transactions. Self-reliance and self-government are also part of this tradition and concept, and, in fact, has been effectively practiced by indigenous Andean and Amazonian communities for centuries. Under predominantly socialist governments, it has now been officially recognized as valuable in Ecuador and Bolivia, whose current governments, however, may still be excessively “colonized” by Marxist Western epistemology. Like Mariátegui’s search for a unique Peruvian voice, even while incorporating Marxism, both Descolonización and El Buen Vivir are non-reductionist but not anti-rational. Their proponents may find elements of Wilber’s Integral Theory quite compatible. In fact, perhaps understanding and applying Integral Theory in countries like Perú may not require going through clearly defined cultural stages and through a clearly defined Green stage. As previously suggested, we didn’t completely transcend one stage in order to incorporate another as might have been the case in the U.S.

That said I also recognize that inhabitants of pre-modern, shamanic cultures in general also strongly tend to have marked exclusivist, non-integral biases. What I propose is that integral level disclosures can now be incorporated into Second Tier integral models that also arose in pre-integral cultural stages. It’s a matter of refining our understanding and not being so caught into the modern Western idea of well-defined progress. If integral primarily refers to an awareness that all valid disclosures stem from deeper and shared universal patterns, then we need to pick and choose all valid disclosures about the nature of reality but much more carefully and with a much greater participating respect than what has so far been the case when interpreting not just shamanic but all other pre-integral knowledge, wisdom and cultures.

My interest is not to over idealize local Andean, Amazonian or shamanic cultures, or other pre-modern cultures in the world. I still find human and animal sacrifices distasteful, along with female suppression, ritual warfare and the idea that other people are less human than those in our nation or tribe. However, I am trying to refine the inquiry and to build a more integral and useful model that doesn’t continue unwittingly suppressing or colonizing the cultural lives of people’s from emerging countries. I’m proposing that in some aspects, pre-orthodoxly defined, integrally aware people can be more integral than many current integral theorists deeply associated with Ken Wilber’s magnificent productions.

I’m praising all actors and trying to point out some perceived deficiencies. If we experience a strong integral awareness lifting us beyond the constraints of the predominant orthodox version of Integral Theory, we may be able to transcend the non-integral cultural biases still limiting otherwise more effective and transformative integral thinkers to unrecognized Modern and Green epistemologies. Following the advice of Brazilian education theorist Paulo Freire who proposed a “dialogue of wisdoms” among nations to overcome the long history of knowledge imposition, I believe that many U.S.-born and developed integral “movers and shakers” need to become aware of their unsuspected biases and to listen more attentively to other enriching and complementary forms of integral thinking emerging “south of the border.”

I find that without necessarily limiting their perspectives to Edgar Morin’s, there is an attitudinal openness towards all coherent sense-making discoveries, toward all ideas, models and truths, including Wilber’s, among the main organizers at IPCEM. This may be due to the fact that these people are, after all, Peruvians and since the arrival of the Spaniards there was the need to cultivate a certain amount of psychological adaptive flexibility without rigidly accepting acculturation or completely abandoning the previous culture.

I don’t deny the important elements in Integral Theory, such as stage-by-stage evolution, but suggest that integral theorists and practitioners should be careful not to dismiss some integral qualities and wisdoms still available in post-colonial nations whose people have undergone psychological adaptive processes. Adaptive psychological flexibility may be an integral characteristic of culturally colonized peoples and may not have been clearly recognized before. This characteristic may be why well-defined developmental stages do not equally apply for them as much as might be expected.

Although traditional ways and wisdoms were stereotyped as inferior both during the “amber” colonial period and the “orange” modern republican period, this integral quality of relating to receptivity and flexibility may exist expressed or latent not only amidst open-minded intellectuals like those at IPCEM but even amidst large collectives otherwise simplistically understood as “red”, “mythic” or “modern.” People with these characteristics may have less qualms living under modern systems, venerating under mythic-stage religion, learning about systems theory and then easily falling into red-stage illicit behavior as need be in the blink of an eye. They are able to thread across all the stages with greater ease as needed. I expect that, if properly exposed and supported by context and system, a great number of people in these societies will be able to recognize with great ease the importance of world-centric and Second Tier values. Unlike peoples in the U.S., who for the most part didn’t mingle with Native American societies, and the Middle East, who for the most part remained in their original lines of development, their self-identities do not seem to be too rigidly attached to any particular cultural stage.

Besides a general flexibility in relation to stages, in Peru it might be easier to accept and to retain the main discoveries and practices from every stage. Without a clearly defined identity people may enjoy multi-stage findings saving them for later inclusion in a genuinely all-inclusive post postmodern world culture. In spite of this, I’m trying not to over-idealize what is stirring up in Peru or in Latin America. An out-of-control, competitive commercial system fostering dehumanizing commercial values is also currently flattening perspectives and replacing community and life-supporting values. Furthermore, a general lack of mutual trust and uncertainty flourishes.

For the last 22 years Peruvian society in general has embarked upon a resolute pursuit of development and of personal wealth under larger depersonalizing free market rules. Sustained growth and an enthusiastic pursuit of modernity have increased the size of the middle class and attracted foreign investors. Amidst great levels of corruption in all institutions, including increased crime, state inefficiency and lack of adequate governance, there is a successful macro-economic stability prevailing. People in large cities suffer greatly under poorly structured health and deplorable educational and legal systems., However, I believe that a great percentage still retain an adaptive flexibility which may in itself be an integral quality and through which they may potentially be more capable of quickly adopting the ways and values of a more inclusive, integral cultural stage than might be normally suspected by Northern Hemisphere theoreticians. This integral flexibility may be a continuing subconscious remnant of the age-old relational openness toward all aspects of Life.

In “my people” a flexibility allowing them to assimilate Second Tier ways is still broadly present. However, I also fear that there is a danger that it might not last for another generation or two as multitudes of ill-educated, cynical youths now growing in neo-liberal, money-driven, chaotic, urban conditions extolling selfish, hedonist and commercial values are becoming a large majority. Mario Vargas Llosa (La Sociedad del Espectáculo), a modern liberal novelist and political activist, might agree that high culture is in danger of becoming irrelevant as throngs of superficially educated generations  are influencing all aspects of culture at large. Through them, flexibility around relational wisdom may easily turn into an “anything goes” mentality, which remains focused upon red values and – through their influential overflow – society might finally disconnect from any integral remnants of the original traditions. However, in order to counteract these degenerative tendencies with an expanded integral theory we must try to remember what those remnants once referred to more copiously.

Becoming Aware of Living or Experiential Flow both in the “Inca Quadrants” and in “Integral Theory”

As mentioned, the idea of El Buen Vivir (Sumaq Kawsay and/or Sumaq Jakaña) is now part of an alternative sociological and epistemological research and hermeneutical practice in some intellectual Latin American quarters. It is more often associated with ecological approaches being explored as a post-cultural “coloniality”  alternative to current Marxist intellectual and postmodern intellectual thinking. Both the living-practical idea of El Buen Vivir and what I’m incipiently exploring as the “Quechua (or Inca) Quadrants” coincide into an integrated and embodied knowledge. This knowledge requires feeling and relating with Life visible and invisible in all levels of manifestation.

If we simplify Integral Theory’s quadrants into “The Good”, “The True”, and the first person, subjective, the “Beautiful”, as both Ken Wilber and Steve McIntosh often do, we’ll find that the Quechua people could have respectively called them Allin Kawsay good life, Yachay Kawsay, conceptual knowledge life and Munay Kawsay, feeling or sentiment-based life. In the embodied ways of El Buen Vivir, Life is present in every form of experience and Life, which ultimately cannot be defined, flows from the relation of complementary opposites. Author and wisdom teacher, Javier Lajo, (Capaq Ñan: Path of Wisdom) might say, in the Andean worldview or cosmovisión all that exists depends upon parity or a sacred relationship between pairs. The experiential, embodied emphasis is not upon static unity as in the West but upon dynamic relation. In my view, the quadrants of Integral Theory can be structurally understood as simultaneously arising, correlated and static, or, experientially speaking, in a relational, living flow between complementary pairs. The latter understanding (now also arising under Oleg Linetsky’s “Five Experiential Boundaries” and Gary Hawke’s “Integral Ontological Moment” is akin to an Andean understanding. Here, both the so-called mythic past and the so-called emerging integral future converge.

In all of these cases and proposals we are trying to re-cognize what could be called an experiential approach to integralism, and this approach involves relating subjectivity with objectivity on equal footing. Furthermore, decades before Ken Wilber, when Emeritus philosopher and Professor of Comparative Religions, Archie J. Bahm, was developing what I also consider to be a Second Tier, world philosophy called “Organicism,” he included in his deduced structural model experientially perceived or inductively detected complementary polar opposites. I think that – not unlike Bahm’s detection, recognizing the four elements which populate the quadrants is also derived from experiential recognition. While Bahm used “either-or” logic, I think that it was as a subset of a more inclusive form of dialectical “both-and” logic without which neither his model nor Wilber’s or the scantily structured “Inca Quadrants” would have been possible.

Among the “Five Elements of Integral Theory,” I believe that the Quadrants can both be inductively discovered and deductively discovered. Inductively, for instance by noticing that in a pile of books representing the major discoveries and methods of humanity we can distinguish four main categories; deductively, as Archie J. Bahm apparently did in his own way through dialectical polar analysis. However, the remaining four elements (lines, stages, states and types) which are harbored within these metaphysically fundamental quadrants are also inductively found and perhaps more will be added in the future if we are able to subjectively recognize others in a coherent way which serves to describe, relate or explain more crucial aspects of reality. In all of these cases – the Quechua, Wilber, Bahm, Linetsky and Hawke’s – there are living, subjectively-recognized, non-rigid, flowing aspects whose importance needs to be recovered in order to instill self-nourishing Life into the theory and to become aware of a more complete kind of integralism.

Because the Quechua recognized three levels of experiential and interactive worlds which they called Pachas and, because perhaps Ken Wilber chose not to explore the issue of the three main realms recognized in Indian Vedanta, I particularly like Oleg Linetsky’s theoretical inclusion of realms – Gross, Subtle, and Causal – in addition to the fundamental quadratic framework. Linetsky came up with the suggestion that our living involvement flows between the experienced boundaries defined by moments of choice between quadratic aspects and realm aspects. These are the “Exterior-Interior,” “Individual-Collective,” “Gross-Subtle,” “Subtle-Causal,” and “Causal-Non Dual” boundaries. In fact, I could argue that many Western, particularly Anglo-American, integral theorists have an unacknowledged bias against the recognition and exploration of other realms without which no current theory can truly be integral. Furthermore, these biases are compatible with elements of a preserved integral knowledge from pre-modern cultures. They don’t seem to want to recognize that experiential, and not simply speculative, exploration and disclosure of other realms is possible and that serious evidence is accumulating through exotic fields of inquiry such as ghost and survival research and even if “no-nonsense” physical scientists and cosmologists are slowly coming to the recognition that other levels of “reality” may actually exist and that a realm of “pure information” may give rise to and be subjacent to our physical universe. Regarding this issue I believe that, if quadrants consistently remain wherever there is duality, they should also express in the three main realms, which primordially correspond to three foundational principles and their logics. Furthermore, their metaphysical-ontological variances in relation to their Interior, Exterior, Single and Multiple quadratic expressions may allow us to discover scientifically useful differential forms of interaction between them; but that’s something to be explored more carefully in other essays.

Since the original Andeans and/or Quechua were pre-modern in the sense of not rigidly dividing Kawsay (Life) into well-defined and mutually exclusive categories and realms, such as the living vs. the non-living, spirit vs. nature or objective vs. subjective, they were also more capable of holding on to a state, which under modern either/or rational times would be one of insufferable ambiguity. Being able to live less strictly to definitions is one of Edgar Morin’s prescriptions for learning how to harmonize globally in a non-reductionist manner in today’s more fluid, uncertain and complex world. In this sense, we could say that the Andeans were capable of simultaneously processing existence in a certain pre-modern and post-postmodern kind of integral manner, which for Westerners was more transcended than embraced in relation to their own evolutionary processes.

We may recognize the validity today for Integral Theory if we consider that the Andeans generated relational quadrants through an embodied understanding which we are now recognizing as El Buen Vivir, and which utilized principles like Yanantin – ideal reciprocity between complementary pairs – and Masintin – the relation between equals); and, if we consider that this fluid understanding adequately sees Life in everything and not just fantastically or mythically as part of the needs a low technology oral culture . We would see that within this fluid understanding of the Life present in all realms, and potentially available to our experience, subjects are embedded in plurality and all our relations need to be actively embraced in order to embody a Non Dual path.

The Principle of Three

I believe that the Principle of Three is universal and should be included in Integral Theory. It derives from a sustaining relation with “that which is beyond description” after the appearance of duality has been generated.  Inspired by perennialist Fritjoff Schuon but following a slightly different concept, I temporarily name the “three” as “Absolute Beyond-Being,” “Being as Universal Intelligence” and “Being as Shakti, Light Spirit or Sustainer of Forms.” In Kabbalah, we have three supreme uncreated Ain, Ain Soph and Ain Soph Aur. In Catholic doctrine the uncreated Father, Son and Holy Spirit are recognized. In emanation Plotinian models we have the One, the Logos and the Nous. There are comparable representations in Sufi and Buddhist thinking but explaining them now would extend this discourse too much.

The three main realms, the three grammatical persons describing the quadrants and three main logical ways of making sense and of intelligently disclosing or interpreting reality each derive from a particular element of the Principle of Three. In Quechua cosmology there are “hree pachas, which can be understood in different ways but one of them is in relation to time. As previously explored, the present world of experience is Kay Pacha; the already-given or past-related abstract world of principles is Hanan Pacha and the future world of that which is emerging is the still semi-formed world of Uku Pacha. Kay Pacha” could correspond to the Gross Physical Realm of our present experience; “Hanan Pacha” to the Causal World of the highest beings from which organizing principles were given and “Uku Pacha” to the Realm of the Dead which can also relate with the Subtle Realm and with the realm of semi-formed, potential possibilities emerging into the Physical Realm. By traveling through the center  from where Life flows, a highly conscious person can relate or connect, converse with, influence or travel across all of the pachas which probably shows that  he or she can make them present in an experiential way through consciousness; however, they potentially may be time-wise in relation to his or her physical experience Thus, potential pasts and potential futures can be reached and actualized into our present.

Again, the Principle of Three expressed as four quadrants is linked to three main logics through which we can derive meaning from experience. Briefly, these logics are: The logic of mutual exclusion and interaction, the logic of interpenetration and relation and the logic of mutual immanence inspiring Non-Dual awareness. I believe that people in the Andes, and of other cultures, use all three logics but, while Western civilization emphasizes the “either/or” logic of mutual exclusion and seeks to find interactive relations between stable and clearly-defined exterior objects, Andean culture emphasizes the “both/and” logic in which subjectivity relates equally with exterior objects and becomes inseparable from them.

Using Thomas Berry’s terms, the first logic would focus upon the cosmic principles or universal tendencies of Differentiation, the second upon Communion and the third upon Subjectivity. Each logic is concomitant not only with the quadrants but with the realms. While emphasizing the first logic the quadrants would reveal as structured, simply correlated and static. While emphasizing the second logic they would reveal as experientially living and fluid and in equal measure subjective and objective. Finally, while emphasizing the third logic these would reveal as almost entirely subjective or as mutually immanent, as Archie J. Bahm might have understood them if related with the highest understanding of the Yin/Yang symbol. In fact, by recognizing Vedanta, Plotinian and Medieval philosophy we would understand that, ontologically-speaking, the Gross Realm would operate more intensely under the first logic, the Subtle Realm under the second logic and the Causal Realm under the third since, gradually, subjectivity would correlatively gain ascendancy in each subsequent more fundamental realm and simultaneously the experiential influence of quadratic exteriors would diminish. In other words, the Three Main Logics associated with the Principle of Three manifested both as the four quadrants and as the three realms can reveal an exterior prioritizing structural static, an equally exterior-interior fluid and a within-only prioritizing understanding.

When Andean people are thought of as pre-modern because of not being able to clearly distinguish things from subjects, we may be partially correct in thinking that they are in a previous cultural stage. Nonetheless, we may also have to understand that they are thinking in terms of a logic that is useful in the vital Subtle Realm and that, correspondingly, they may grasp a form of integral thinking which is extremely important to relate with the integral flow of Life. This logic and its full experiential implications has been greatly forgotten in modern Western tradition and although it may actually transcend and include the Aristotelian “either-or” logic, the priorities it implies in relation to the Subtle world do not appear to be clearly recognized by most Euro-American integral thinkers even if they are in the process of gradually including and transcending the reductionist, objectifying epistemologies of their more rigidly established tradition.

As more pristine Andeans originally know, and as researcher Jorge Ichizawa endorses in his essay Diálogo de Saberes, “A community from the high Andes or the high Amazon is an epistemic community that shares the idea that everyone knows, the mountains, the stones, the lakes, the rivers. Their difference with the techno scientific conventional community is that, in them, there’s no place for exclusion, either of entities or of concepts.” Ichizawa (who recognizes the importance of Gregory Bateson’s work) also writes that a “dialogue of wisdoms” between Western thinkers and Andean and Amazonia wisdom keepers is not just absolutely necessary but would require shared values. He mentions that some traditional communities are actually demanding what they call Iskay Yachay/Paya Yatiwi, meaning “two kinds of knowing.” They are radically demanding respect for their own knowledge and cultural diversity and showing great interest in learning from Western knowledge.

On a very personal note, in a conference recently given by Professor Julio Mejía on the current crisis of the nation-state, I learned that during the early stages of modernityutopians Thomas More and Tomasso Campanella had borrowed from indigenous people in America the concept of El Buen Vivir. I also learned that Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, an indigenous colonial author educated by a Spanish landlord, wrote in the 17th Century about this concept foreseeing that the new mode of life imposed in America lacked a healthy interest in the good of the community and that it also lacked interest in maintaining balance with nature.  After 20 years of traveling throughout Peru’s Viceroyalty Guaman Poma de Ayala wrote and illustrated an extensive letter to the King of Spain and to the Pope reporting on the many abuses indigenous peoples were being subjected to. Even if the El Buen Vivir concept was by some means retransmitted by Moore and Campanella, modernity continued with the idea of providing for individual wealth and freedom even at the expense of community and nature.


To be better integral leaders, integral theorists and practitioners would do well to ground their proposals for the world in a more radical respect and interest in the wisdoms of pre-modern origin. In doing this, they may be able to be better accepted by the people they are trying to relate with and in the process also find keys to incorporate Subtle Realm experiences into an expanded version of their theory. Fluid, living experience connects Integral Theory’s otherwise incomplete and rigid quadratic structures and relates well with the less defined, less analytical, but uncomplicated and straightforward, participatory variety of “both-and” logic in the Andes. They may not only serve to extend a living, relational flow into quadrants but also onto Western taboo relations with other realms, a restriction delaying a comprehensive and integral human and theoretical evolvement.

There must be a dialogue of wisdoms with shared understandings because an excessive emphasis upon differentiation doesn’t recognize the interior life of things and an excessive emphasis upon non-differentiation precludes refining living experiences through an understanding of Life’s own projection onto exterior things.


Exhibits inside the “Coricancha” (“Temple of the Sun”) and in its site museum in Cuzco, Peru.
Literature Professor Aliza Yanez and her course on “The Andean Mythical Universe” illustrating me about the elements within the “suyus.”
Intip Megil Guaman Pacary,
Juan Nuñez del Prado,
Conversations with shamans at “The 2007 Heart of the Healer Foundation Seventh Annual International Gathering” in Pisaq, Peru.
Ceremonies and conversations with Quechua shaman Pedro Condori in Cuzco, Perú.

Structured Written Sources

Arévalo Merejildo, James. (1997). Camino Iniciático Inka: el Despertar del Puma. Centro Bartolomé de las Casa: Cuzco.
Bahm, Archie J. (1996). Organicism: Origin and Development. World Books: Albuquerque.
Calderón Quillatupa, Francisco. (2009). Diccionario Filosófico Runasimi. Pako: Huancayo.
Calero del Mar, Edmer. “Dualismo Estructural Andino y Espacio Novelesco Arguediano.”
Diez de Betanzos, Juan (1550, 2004). Suma y Narración de los Incas. Ediciones Polifemo: Madrid.
Huamán Mejía, Mario. (2010). Hacia una Filosofía Andina. Universidad Ricardo Palma: Lima.
Huamán Mejía, Mario. (2011) Teqse: La cosmovisión andina y las categorías quechuas como fundamento para una filosofía peruana y de América Latina. Universidad Ricardo Palma: Lima
Ichizawa, Jorge & Rengifo, Omar. (2012). “Diálogo de Saberes: una aproximación epistemológica.” AMC Editores SAC: Lima.
Lajo, Javier. (2007). Qhapaq Ñan: The Inka Path of Wisdom. Amaru Runa Ediciones: Lima.
Linetsky, Oleg (2012). “Open Letter to Ken Wilber and Integral Teachers”
Lira, Jorga A. & Huamán Mejía, Mario. (2008). Diccionario Quechua-Castellano Castellano-Quechua. Universidad Ricardo Palma: Lima.
Lozada, Blithz. (2007). Cosmovisión, historia y política en los Andes. Producciones Cima Editores: La Paz.
Milla Villena, Carlos. (2007). Ayni: Semiótica Andina de los Espacios Sagrados. Ediciones Amaru Wayra: Lima.
Parisi, Wilcox, Joan. (1999). Masters of the Living Energy: The Mystical World of the Q’uero of Peru. Inner Traditions: Rochester.
Piacenza, Giorgio. (2012). Inca Cosmovision Glossary.
Schuon, Fritjoff. (2000). Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism. World Wisdom Books: Bloomington.
Valdivia Ismodes, Juan Carlos. (2010). Hanaq Pacha: Mundo Celestial Inka. Editorial Kopygraph E.I.R.L: Cuzco.
Wilber, Ken. (1995). “Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution.” Boston: Shambhala.
Wilber, Ken. “The Kosmos Trilogy, Volume II: Excerpts A thru G”

Some suitable emails: IPCEM’s general email:  IPCEM’s executive director Teresa Salinas Dr. Jorge Ichizawa Oba:  Giorgio Piacenza

About the Author

Giorgio Piacenza Cabrera was born in Lima, Peru. From the age of 10, he began to question the nature of reality and what motivates human behavior. From the age of 12, he began to participate in Western esoteric and Oriental mystical groups, trying to synthesize knowledge while maintaining a critical perspective all along. In 1987 he earned a degree in Sociology from Georgetown University and, in 1990, two business certificates from John F. Kennedy University.

For several years, while working in a regular business, he researched the UFO phenomenon and offered lectures, and TV/radio interviews. Between 1999- 2000, he became one of the civilian founding members of OIFAA, the Peruvian Airforce Investigations Office on Anomalous Aerial Phenomena. Through the years, Giorgio has maintained a wide-ranging interest that impinges on various aspects of reality, aspects such as the mind-body problem, philosophy, cosmology and physics. He has been a life-long student of integrative theoretical models and, since 1981, of Ken Wilber’s. He has completed a Certificate in Integral Theory offered by John F. Kennedy University, plans to write articles and essays, to pursue a Masters degree in Integral Theory and also the analysis of Meta Theories.