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The Integral Vision
Themes | What is Integral? | What is Holistic? | Everything is Interconnected | Everything is Interdependent
Religion | Spirituality | Science | Politics | Engineering

What is Integral?
Vimala Thackar | Ken Wilber | William Keepin

"Humanity urgently needs a comprehensive, unifying perspective in order to navigate our way through the challenging waters ahead, and begin building a new civilization of love and harmony. This is not a dreamy mystical vision. It is our destiny as the human family, and it is our birthright to bring this destiny into concrete manifestation." - William Keepin - Song of the Earth, The Emerging Worldview of Oneness, p. 3


Arising all over the world, influenced by many interrelated factors, a new vision of world civilization and "oneness" is arising. Its core ideas emerge from religion and spirituality and traditional ancient wisdom, and are refined by new ideas in science and psychology and ecology. One powerful influence is a rising instinct for community, for a sense of unity among people everywhere, regardless of cultural background. In part a reaction to weaknesses of traditional instutitions and a sense of global crisis, this movement draws together the best ideas from many sources, combining them into a new vision of enlightened world community - a world based on balance, wholeness, harmony and optimal health.

There are any number of visionary writers and organizations helping to clarify and enact these ideas. A new activism is emerging, involving connectivity, universal spirituality, and new ways to interconnect and understand the experience of being human. In our framework here, we propose a broadly inclusive body of emerging new philosophical and spiriritual ideas, arising from many sources, which we link together into an integral unity and describe as The Integral Hypothesis. These ideas come from many fields, sometimes in ways that might seem scattered or inconsistent, including science and religion, and the many divisions and categories within these major areas of thought.

It makes sense to understand this emerging new vision as a hypothesis, because its exact meaning and specifics are not yet entirely clear or resolved, because these new ideas must be tested and proven before they can stand as the foundation of a new civilization, and because the process of bringing so many factors together into one framework is a large undertaking, that can be best approached in the context of community and collective action. Our initial objective is to "put somethng on the table" -- to make a strong and informed guess, gathering the best from many sources and proposing a simple large-scale framework for understanding the relationship of "the big ideas" and how they fit together, in ways that are clear, simple, and can be discussed and considered through a process of cocreativity and dialogue.


To many of us, this convergence or conjunction seems powerful and persuasive and transforming, but it is also complex and often controversial, and demands of us new ways to conceptualize and understand.

This process of convergence can be psychologically overwhelming. Every facet of human thinking, every specialization, seems to be bringing its special insight into a single integrated body of understanding, in a graceful and natural way. The philosopher Ken Wilber has constructed an "integral map" of these relationships that many people find helpful. Yet no one human being can be master of this entire process; no one can be expert in all these fields. These converging evolutionary pressures are demanding of us that we conceive new ways to think, new ways to model our world, new ways to see the relationship between once-separate categories of thinking.

Some of the factors that influence this process:

  • Complexity: huge interdependence, thousands or millions of simultaneous factors in contexts where once we thought there were just a few...
  • Collapsing borders: national borders, boundaries between categories, boundaries between academic and scientific disciplines, all tending towards complex fluent new shape-shifting hybrid forms
  • Psychological overload: an individual human being can only handle so much, and then their minds go into overload. Defending against overload creates psychological narrowness, which can have negative side-effects. Responding constructively to overload may demand teamwork and cooperation, as individuals recognize their limits, and agree to work together to solve common problems that no one alone can handle.
  • Tribalism: people do tend to cluster in little pockets of "people like me" - and from the perspective of that small insular group, there is a tendency towards smugness and moral/self-righteous superiority. The best antidote to this chronic human weakness is the collapse of insularity. Once you meet your neighbors, you might decide you like them, even if they are not exactly like you...

At its best, the driving forces of globalization are leading responsive human beings toward a deep version of common ground - toward the fundamental underlying universals that are shared by all human beings, regardless of culture or context or background. We are tending to awaken a clearer sense of this common ground, and we hope to build this Alliance project around this energing new perspecive, which we believe can serve as the foundation of an inspired new global civilization.

Here in this internet-supported context of our emerging Alliance, we are exploring sophisticated new ways to understand and respond to these issues, informed by a substantial array of sources that have been brought together under the mantle of "Interspiritality". We want to accommodate many voices and many perspectives. Wherever it makes sense, we want to explore "both/and" models, rather than "either/or" models. We want to support unique individuality, and build our common ground on a resonant basis. We are looking for a kind of "Oneness" that fully supports and honors our differences, while insofar as possible maintaining a constructive resonance and harmony. We want to develop means to approach the most critical and divisive issues facing the human community, developing inspired new ways to face these issues that bring out the best in all our participants, recognizing the great collective creative force that we might convene here.

In the ivory tower laboratory context of internet engineering, we can design a highly ideal process, create the capacity to listen to everybody, and overcome many of the problems of overload through good organization and something like library science, where the vast array of relevant factors can be held together in tidy ways that maintain the wholeness and integrity of the entire project, and help maintain its comprehensive and "integral" completeness while helping prevent the problems of psychological overload


In an article republished in What is Enlightenment magazine entitled Awakening to Total Revolution, Indian lady guru and political activist Vimala Thackar makes a strong call for a new world view based on oneness and wholeness and the unity of all things.

A healthy life, she asserts, cannot be lived in the context of fragmentation. A healthy society cannot flourish without overcoming fragmentation.

We have to stop seeing the world in fragments. We have to stop compartmentalizing our knowledge in "silos". We have to overcome fragmentating specialization in the sciences and in academia. We have to overcome the separation of spirit and politics. These things are NOT unrelated, nor do they prejudice and distort one another by virtue of connection. In reality, they are absolutely interconnected and mutually influential in direct and significant ways. These connections should be clarified and understood as inherent and natural, and not seen as murky or suspicious or distorting.

"The call is not to one of the revolutionary formulas of the past; they have failed — why drag them out again even in new regalia? The challenge now is to create an entirely new, vital revolution that takes the whole of life into its sphere. We have never dared embrace the whole of life in all its awesome beauty; we've been content to perpetuate fragments, invent corners where we feel conceptually secure and emotionally safe. We could have our safe little nooks and niches were it not for the terrible mess we have made by attempting to break the cosmic wholeness into bite-size bits. It's an ugly chaos we have created, and we try to remedy the complicated situation with the most superficial of patched-together cures.

Today, with the scars of our past failures marring our existence and the fears of the future weighing heavily on our spirits, we can no longer go on with this dangerous game of fragmentation. We can no longer escape the fact that we are all bonded, equal in wholeness. Science and technology have brought each of us into intimate relationship with all others. We are truly a global human family. Yet as a family, we have not learned how to live together in peace, to live without violence and exploitation."

Awakening to Total Revolution


Ken Wilber is popularly regarded as "the world's leading integral philosopher", and has written many books on integral theory and vision. These quotes are taken from his book The Integral Vision.

During the last 30 years, we have witnessed a historical first: all of the world's cultures are now available to us. In the past, if you were born, say, a Chinese, you likely spent your entire life in one culture, often in one province, sometimes in one house, living and loving and dying on one small plot of land. But today, not only are people geographically mobile, but we can study, and have studied, virtually every known culture on the planet. In the global village, all cultures are exposed to each other.

Knowledge iself is now global. This mean that, also for the first time, the sum total of human knowlege is available to us -- the knowledge, experience, wisdom and reflection of all major human civiizations -- premodern, modern and postmodern -- are open to study by anyone.

What if we took literally everything that all the various cultures have to tell us about human potential -- about spiritual growth, psychological growth, socail growth -- and put it all on the table? What if we attempted to to find the critically esssential keys to human growth, based on the sum total of human knowledge now open to us? What if we attempted, based on extensive cross-cultural study, to use all of the world's great traditions to create a composite map, an all-inclusive or integral map that included the best elements from all of them?

Sound complicated, cmplex, daunting? In a sense, it is. But in another sense, the results turn out to be surprisingly simple and elegant. Over the last several decades, there has indeed been an intensive search for a comprehensive map of human potentials. This map uses all the known systems and models of human growth -- the the ancient shamans and sages to today's breakthroughs in cognitive science - and distills their major components into 5 simple factors, factors that are the essential elements or keys to unlocking and facilitating human evolution.

The Ingtegral Vision, p. 17

The key to Brother Wayne’s success in introducing Interspirituality to the world lay in his bringing together deeply Realized beings from virtually every tradition, putting them together in one place, and allowing them to discover their truly fundamental and universal agreements. The key to Integral Theory was putting all the world’s Great Traditions on the table at once, and then creating a Composite Map that covered all the bases and dimensions in a human being, using each Tradition to fill in gaps left by the others. This Composite or World Map allowed each Tradition to see how they were all "true but partial" aspects of Humanity’s Great Spirituality, and thus gave them all a Grid they could easily hang their own Tradition’s spiritual Truths on, without denying or denigrating any others. Thus, embracing a truly Integral Interspirituality allowed each seeker to be a "dual citizen" — embracing both an Integral Map and their own Tradition’s version of that Map — thus being a member of all Traditions as well as one’s own.

As we said, few if any of the Great Traditions cover all these bases. For the Composite or World Map, each was used to fill in the gaps in the others (along with Western psychology and other disciplines). This is why "dual citizenship" is generally so important for any spiritual seeker — it’s important to understand where one is on each of those 5 major dimensions, which are fully compatible with the major tenets of one’s own background Faith. By filling out one’s Faith using the Integral Framework, one can immediately make their Faith "integral" or "comprehensive" or "holistic" or "interspiritual" — as well as bring it up to speed in the modern and postmodern world. Of course, any number of other dimensions and variables can be added to this Framework; it is simply a model of the minimum one needs to generate a World Spirituality.

But in creating a worldwide Integral Framework for spirituality, we have the (or at least a) foundational Framework for an Interspiritual approach to Spirit or ultimate Being. We can see 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-person perspectives on Spirit, and see each of those develop through various levels and lines. Further, we can approach that universal Spirit in direct experiential terms by developing through the various states of consciousness, with each deeper state coming "closer" to ever-present Spirit, and opening us to a deeper Presence in the timeless Now. Meanwhile, the spiritual intelligence structures of consciousness give us higher and wider and increasingly sophisticated and mature interpretations of the various spiritual states, moving from an archaic view to a magical view to a mythic-literal view to a rational view to a pluralistic view to an integral view — with each increasing view capable of taking more and more perspectives, resulting in increasing capacities of love, consciousness, compassion, care, gratitude, and service. Moreover, the Integral Framework allows us to see the many commonalities in the world’s Great Traditions, as well as act to fill in any gaps each of them might have missed. This is truly an Interspiritual approach to the Ground of Being, and one made available only recently in humankind’s history, making this a very exciting time to be alive! And a time to be very grateful to Brother Wayne (and so many other integral pioneers) for making us all more aware of the extraordinary possibilities — and responsibilities—that this entails.

Integral and Interspiritual


William Keepin is a PhD mathematical physicist who has worked with emerging new ideas for thirty years. He is a primary author of the eBook (and print book) Song of the Earth, from which these quotes are taken.

A seamless unity of human thought

At the cutting edge of science today, a powerful new awakening is taking place in many different disciplines. The key insight is this: beyond the physical realm, there exist invisible patterns and principles that somehow organize what we observe and experience in the physical world. Science is discovering that ‘something transpires behind that which appears’. This startling theme is emerging in field after field: including biology, physics, non linear dynamics, artificial life, brain physiology, complexity theory, transpersonal psychology, psycho-neuroimmunology, and ethnobotany – to name a few. This auspicious development points Western science in a remarkable direction toward the existence of a realm beyond the observable, material, empirical world. The stage is steadily being set for another major scientific revolution – one that will eventually weave science and spirituality – matter and spirit – together into a seamless unity.

A unity of spirit, wisdom and religion

At the same time, a parallel awakening is taking place across the world’s spiritual and religious traditions. As East meets West and North meets South, the oneness of all life is being revealed and manifest in unprecedented ways, and the essential unity of human spiritual consciousness is becoming increasingly recognized. The world’s wisdom traditions and religious disciplines are linking together, bringing a convergence and collaboration among previously disparate practices and teachings.

A revolution in consciousness

What is the meaning of these trends, and where are they headed? We are witnessing nothing less than a revolution of consciousness – the birth of a vast, integral worldview that unites and cross-fertilizes East and West, modern and indigenous, human and non-human, contemporary and ancient – all leading us toward a deep collective realization of the seamless oneness of existence. And this auspicious breakthrough is coming not a moment too late, because humanity urgently needs a comprehensive, unifying perspective in order to navigate our way through the challenging waters ahead, and begin building a new civilization of love and harmony. This is not a dreamy mystical vision. It is our destiny as the human family, and it is our birthright to bring this destiny into concrete manifestation.

A universal spirituality

Simultaneous with these discoveries at the frontiers of science, the spiritual and religious traditions of the world are moving slowly yet inexorably closer together – toward a kind of universal spirituality. Leading voices from diverse spiritual and religious traditions are proclaiming the fundamental unity of wisdom from all the traditions.

Human consciousness is becoming widely recognized to be one with the consciousness of the universe. This applies to every human being, and every person has the potential to access this universal consciousness. This is not a dreamy, mystical metaphor – it is a literal truth of consciousness, and has been known by mystics for ages. As Rumi put it in the 13th century, “Let the drop of water that is you become a hundred mighty seas. But do not think that the drop alone becomes the Ocean. The Ocean, too, becomes the drop.” It is every human being’s birthright to discover this inner net of the heart within themselves, and to live from that vast interior foundation of consciousness.

We are the instruments of social change

A key consequence of this worldview is that if we are connected to and led by this larger wisdom of universal consciousness, then our actions and work in the world can become profoundly transformative. Human beings can be used by this larger wisdom as instruments for its work in the world. This is what Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, and many other spiritual activists understood so deeply, as they implemented spiritual law in their work within the secular and political spheres. This is not to say that one has to become a Gandhi to make a difference, just as one doesn’t have to be an Einstein to be a good scientist. Indeed, the transformative principles for social change and cultural evolution that Gandhi and King applied are accessible to us all. By transforming our selves through inner disciplines of consciousness, we become the instruments for a larger wisdom working through us, and this in turn serves the transformation of the world.

The community as avatar

There is an amplified power that operates in groups or communities who work with consciousness practices together. Zen master Thich Nhat Hahn has said that the next Buddha will emerge not in the form of an individual, but rather in the form of a community of people living in loving kindness and mindful awareness. This is because such a community of people – working together with their hearts and minds in alignment around a shared intention of the highest integrity – creates a powerful field of intentionality that functions like a laser beam of coherent consciousness. Tremendous power can be harnessed in this way from deep within the implicate order which, if carried far enough, can tap into the core of creation itself. Thus rooted in the depths of the implicate order, a group of properly aligned human beings can work directly with the creative process of love itself, and thereby have powerful effects on the unfolding manifestations of consciousness. This is one of many ways that the power of community and the conscious alignment of spiritual groups are becoming increasingly important forces in the new emerging humanity, because they dramatically expand the potentialities and possibilities for human society.

Song of the Earth, p. 16

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