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This article is about integral thought in philosophy and psychology. It is unrelated to the concept of an integral in calculus.

Integral thought (also called the integral paradigm, the integral movement, the integral approach, or integralism) is comprised of those philosophies and teachings that seek a comprehensive understanding of humans and the universe by combining scientific and spiritual insights. According to the Integral Transformative Practice website, integral means "dealing with the body, mind, heart, and soul."

Integral thought is seen by proponents as going beyond rationalism and materialism. It attempts to introduce a more universal and holistic perspective or approach. Proponents view rationalism as subordinating, ignoring, and/or denying spirituality. Ken Wilber, one of the most prominent contemporary integral thinkers, begins by acknowledging and validating mystical experience, rather than denying its reality. As these experiences have occurred to humans in all cultures in all eras, integral theorists accept them as valuable and not pathological. Integral thinkers like Sri Aurobindo, Teilhard de Chardin, Wilber and others argue that both science and mysticism (or spirituality) are necessary for complete understanding of humans and the universe.

Problem of definition

Integral thought is a new and developing movement. Consequently, no list of integral thinkers or artists will be uncontroversial.

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother

Origin of the term "Integral"

The word "integral" was originally used by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to describe the yoga they taught. Their integral yoga involves an integral divine transformation of the entire being, rather than the liberation of only of only a single faculty such as the intellect or the emotions or the body.

  • Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) was a visionary yogi rather than a systematizer, and although he referred to "integral" only in the context of spiritual transformation, his writings influenced others who used the term "integral" in more philosophical or psychological contexts. Important teachings include: Evolution, Involution, the Integral psychology, the psychic being, Integral yoga, the Triple transformation, and the Supramental principle. Major works include: The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, and Savitri.
  • The Mother (1878-1973) was Sri Aurobindo's co-worker. She continued Sri Aurobindo's work of Integral Yoga and spiritual transformation after his passing, and founded Auroville, an international community dedicated to human unity, and based on their teachings. A record of some of her experiences have been collected by her disciple Satprem in a thirteen volume work called Mother's Agenda.

Integral thought - the Aurobindonian heritage

The following authors (listed in chronological order) trace their intellectual heritage back to, or have in some measure been influenced by, Sri Aurobindo (and sometimes also the Mother).

  • Shishir Kumar Maitra (1887-?) was an academic philosopher who wrote widely on Sri Aurobindo and Western philosophy. His 1958 essay, "Sri Aurobindo and Spengler: Comparison between the Integral and the Pluralistic philosophy of History" in the 1958 symposium compendium, 'The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo.'introduces the concept of "Integral philosophy of History."
  • Nolini Kanta Gupta (1889 - 1983) was one of Sri Aurobindo's senior disciples, and wrote extensively on philosophy, mysticism, and spiritual evolution in the light of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother's teachings.
  • Anilbaran Roy - Another Sri Aurobindo's senior disciple. In his 1940 book, 'Sri Aurobindo and The New Age' published by John M. Watkins, London, he spoke of the emergence of Integral Harmony, while reviewing the just published, 'The Life Divine.'
  • Indra Sen (1903-1994), another disciple of Sri Aurobindo who, although little-known in the West, was the first to articulate integral psychology and integral philosophy, in the 1940s and 1950s. A compilation of his papers came out under the title,'Integral Psychology' in 1986.
  • Ram Shankar Misra (dates?) was a scholar of Indian religious and philosophical thought and author of The Integral Advaitism of Sri Aurobindo (publ. 1957), a philosophical commentary on Sri Aurobindo's work.
  • Haridas Chaudhuri (1913-1975), a Bengali philosopher, was a correspondent with Sri Aurobindo and founded the California Institute of Integral Studies. In the Chapter IX captioned, "The Vedanta as Integral Non-dualism" of his 1951 book, 'Sri Aurobindo: The Prophet of Life Divine' he described Sri Aurobindo's philosophy as 'purnadvaita-vada.' Author of the book, 'Philosophy of Integralism,' he later developed his own theory of Integral psychology. Wrote the Title paper and edited the 1958 symposium compendium, 'The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo' along with Frederic Spiegelberg.
  • Satischandra Chatterjee - Wrote an essay, "Mind and Supermind in Sri Aurobindo's Integralism" in the 1958 symposium compendium, 'The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo.'
  • K. D. Sethna (Amal Kiran) - Wrote an essay, "The Poet of Integralism" in the 1958 symposium compendium, 'The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo.'
  • Arabinda Basu - Wrote an essay, "The Integration of Spiritual Experience" in the 1958 symposium compendium, 'The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo.'
  • J. N. Mohanty - Wrote an essay, "Integralism and the Modern Philosophical Anthropology" in the 1958 symposium compendium, 'The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo.'
  • R.S. Srivastava - Wrote an essay, "The Integralist Theory of Evolution" in the 1958 symposium compendium, 'The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo.'
  • Rishabhchand - Wrote an essay, "The Philosophical Basis of Integral Yoga" in the 1958 symposium compendium, 'The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo.'
  • Pitirim A. Sorokin - Wrote an essay, "The Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo" in the 1958 symposium compendium, 'The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo.'
  • Jay R. McCullough - Wrote an essay, "The Integral Approach in Sri Aurobindo and Jacob Boehme" in the 1958 symposium compendium, 'The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo.'
  • Judith M. Tyberg (Jyotipriya) - Wrote an essay, "The Drama of Integral Self-Realization" in the 1958 symposium compendium, 'The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo.'
  • Ruth Reyna - Wrote an essay, "Integralism: A Philosophie Perennis" in the 1958 symposium compendium, 'The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo.'
  • Ernest Wood - Wrote an essay, "The Concept of Integral Unity" in the 1958 symposium compendium, 'The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo.'
  • Raymond F. Piper - Wrote an essay, "Cosmic Integration" in the 1958 symposium compendium, 'The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo.'
  • Ninian Smart - Wrote an essay, "Integral Knowledge and the Four Theories of Existnce" in the 1958 symposium compendium, 'The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo.'
  • Richard P. Marsh - Wrote an essay, "The Organismic Psychology of Andras Angyal in relation to Sri Aurobindo's philosophy of Integral Nondualism" in the 1958 symposium compendium, 'The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo.'
  • Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet (b. 1938), is the founder of the Aeon Center for Cosmology and the author of Integral Cosmology and the The Gnostic Circle. She is considered by her followers to be a direct continuation of the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, although this claim is not recognized by any other followers of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.
  • M. Alan Kazlev (b. 1958) has created an integral philosophy based on the writings of Sri Aurobindo, The Mother, Ken Wilber, and Michel Bauwens.
  • Brant Cortright is a clinical psychologist and author who practices an integral psychotherapy based on a synthesis of western depth psychology with eastern spiritual wisdom.
  • Dennis Hargiss coined the term "Integral phenomenology" to refer to the use of integral psychology for the study of mysticism and the sacred.
  • Bahman Shirazi of the California Institute of Integral Studies has further developed Integral Psychology along the lines pioneered by Haridas Chaudhuri.
  • D.P. Chattopadhyaya (Jr.) - Professor and also a Minister for a while, he authored the 1976 book, 'Sri Aurobindo and Karl Marx: Integral Sociology and Dialectical Sociology' introducing the term, "Integral Sociology."
  • World Union - A non-profit, non-political organisation founded on the 26th November 1958 in Puducherry, fired by the Third Dream of Sri Aurobindo; also publishes a quarterly journal with the same title. A. B. Patel was the driving force and for many years, M. P. Pandit was the leading light.

Ken Wilber

The American philosopher and Buddhist Ken Wilber popularised Integral thought or integral thinking in the current sense, to develop an all-encompassing, evolutionary, theory that incorporates and honours all perspectives, while at the same time presenting a larger picture. Wilber built upon the ideas of previous integral thinkers like Sri Aurobindo and Jean Gebser in developing his own highly complex integral theory.

  • Ken Wilber (b. 1949) is the most popular integral thinker in the world today. Wilber's books include: Sex Ecology Spirituality, Integral Psychology, and Boomeritis. His major ideas include: AQAL, integral ecology, integral politics, and vision-logic. Founder of the Integral Institute, Integral Naked, and Integral University.

Integral thought - the Wilberian tradition

The following authors (listed in chronological order) are or have in the past been influenced by Wilber, but not by Aurobindo (except secondarily through Wilber's presentation of him).

  • Allan Combs is the author of The Radiance of Being: Understanding the Grand Integral Vision, Living the Integral Life. He has worked with Ken Wilber recently to create a theory which they call the "Wilber-Combs Lattice".
  • Elliot Benjamin is a mathematician, philosopher, and cult counseler who has developed his own version of Integral mathematics.
  • Frank Visser is a Dutch author and Theosophist who has incorporated Wilberian, Perennialist, and Theosophical concepts in an alternative to Wilber's Neo-perennialism. He is webmaster of Integral World, a website that hosts a large number of articles about Wilber and Integral Theory.

Integral thought - Sri Aurobindo and Ken Wilber

The following authors (listed in chronological order) have been influenced by or created a synthesis of the teachings of both Aurobindo and Wilber (and usually also other thinkers as well):

  • Joseph Vrinte (b. 1949) is an integral philosopher and psychologist who has written several books bringing together Sri Aurobindo's yoga and psychology, Abraham Maslow, transpersonal psychology, and Ken Wilber's Integral philosophy.
  • Andrew Cohen (b. 1955) is an American guru and author of "evolutionary spirituality." He has been influenced by a number of evolutionary thinkers, including Sri Aurobindo, and is a friend of and collaborater with Ken Wilber.

Integral artists

See main article Integral art

Integral art can be defined as art that reaches across multiple quadrants and levels, or simply as art that was created by someone who thinks or acts in an integral way. These artists may have been influenced by integral thinkers, or developed integral art independently.

  • Johannes Wallmann (b. 1952) is a composer and integral musician
  • Alex Grey (b. 1953) is a psychedelic visual artist whose works have been admired by Wilber and others.
  • Michel Montecrossa is a musician, film director, cyberartist, and follower of the Mother who established an Mirapuri, a New Age community in Northern Italy.
  • Matthew Dallman (b. 1974), is an artist, musician, and philosopher, who has developed his own unique approach to Integral art, called Polysemy.

Other integral thinkers

The following thinkers and teachers use the term "integral", but are not associated with or followers of either Sri Aurobindo or Ken Wilber.

  • Jean Gebser (1905-1973), Swiss phenomenologist, was the author of The Ever-Present Origin, which conceived of the history of consciousness as a series of mutations. Gebser saw in the momentous events of the 1930s and '40s a new mutation in consciousness which he identified as the transition to the integral stage.
  • Ervin László (b. 1932) is a philosopher of science, systems theorist, and integral theorist who posits a field of information as the substance of the cosmos.
  • George Burr Leonard, is the co-founder (with Michael Murphy) of Integral Transformative Practice, and author of numerous books on human possibilities and social change. He coined the term "human potential movement".
  • William Irwin Thompson (b. 1938) is a cultural historian influenced by Aurobindo and Jean Gebser. In his 1996 book Coming Into Being, he re-envisioned global cultural history as the continuing evolution of consciousness. He is the founder of the Lindisfarne Association. He has criticized Wilber's integral theory as being excessively objectifying and masculinist.
  • Yasuhiko Kimura (b. 1954) is integral philosopher, writer, and lecturer.
  • Thomas J. McFarlane (b. 1964) integrates physics, mathematics, philosophy, and mysticism in integral science.
  • Roland Benedikter (b. 1965) is a Member of the Institute for the History of Ideas and Research on Democracy, Innsbruck, Austria, and has written books and essays on a number of subjects including postmodernist spirituality and integral thought.

Other thinkers

Many writers and artists who did not use the word "integral" to refer to their theories nonetheless are considered by theorists to act, think or theorize in an integral way. These include contemporary thinkers like Jurgen Habermas and Rupert Sheldrake, and historical figures like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Gandhi.

The following writers contributed essential ideas to integral thought:

  • Edward Haskell (1906-1986), educator and author of Full Circle: The Moral Force of Unified Science
  • John Heron (b. 1928) is a pioneer in the creation of a participatory research method (co-operative inquiry) in the social sciences, which has been applied by practitioners in many fields of professional and personal development. He is committed to co-operative inquiry as a basic form of relational and participative spiritual practice.
  • David Spangler (b. 1945) is an American spiritual philosopher and "practical mystic". With William Irwin Thompson he helped found of the Lindisfarne Association. He is author of Incarnational spirituality; a holistic, pragmatic approach to spirituality which rejects the otherworldly focus of conventional contemplative mysticism in favour of spiritual action by the physical, everyday self, recognition of the sacredness of the world around us, and balance of the inner and outer being.
  • Georg Feuerstein (b. 1947) is the author of Wholeness or Transcendence: Ancient Lessons for the Emerging Global Civilization, Structures of Consciousness: The Genius of Jean Gebser, An Introduction and Critique, co-author of In Search of the Cradle of Civilization, and founder of the Yoga Research and Education Center and Traditional Yoga Studies.
  • Richard Tarnas (b. 1950) is the author of The Passion of the Western Mind and Cosmos and Psyche. He is also a founding director of the graduate program in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Tarnas is the originator of Participatory Epistemology.
  • Michael Bauwens (b. 1958) views peer-to-peer technology as an integral phenomenon. He is a contributor to the journal Integral Review. Although originally a follower of Wilber, he is now a proponent of the participatory spirituality of John Heron and Jorge Ferrer, and is critical of cultic and authoritarian aspects of Wilber and his organisation.
  • A. H. Almaas, developer of the Diamond Approach, an integration of mystical teachings and modern depth psychology. Almaas has written many scholarly works on these topics, including The Inner Journey Home: Soul's Realization Of The Unity Of Reality.
  • Jorge Ferrer is the author of Revisioning Transpersonal Theory: A Participatory Vision of Human Spirituality and a core faculty member of the California Institute of Integral Studies. His book is an attempt to go beyond both the influence of Ken Wilber in transpersonal psychology and the epistemological implications of postmodernism by means of Richard Tarnas' participatory epistemology.
  • Cornelis Slenters is the author of the LOTA philosophy of science; a unifying logical synthesis, through which relationships between evolution, creation, mind, matter, energy and consciousness become visible. First published in 1996 under the book title Breakthrough, the Origins of Mind, Space and Time

See also


"An integral method and an integral result. First, an integral realisation of Divine Being; not only a realisation of the One in its indistinguishable unity, but also in its multitude of aspects which are also necessary to the complete knowledge of it by the relative consciousness; not only realisation of unity in the Self, but of unity in the infinite diversity of activities, worlds and creatures.
Therefore, also, an integral liberation. Not only the freedom born of unbroken contact of the individual being in all its parts with the Divine, sayujyamukti, by which it becomes free even in its separation, even in the duality; not only the salokyalmukti by which the whole conscious existence dwells in the same status of being as the Divine, in the state of Sachchidananda; but also the acquisition of the divine nature by the transformation of this lower being into the human image of the divine, sadharmyamukti, and the complete and final release of all, the liberation of the consciousness from the transitory mould of the ego and its unification with the One Being, universal both in the world and the individual and transcendentally one both in the world and beyond all universe."
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, pp.47-48
  • "The word integral means comprehensive, inclusive, nonmarginalizing, embracing. Integral approaches to any field attempt to be exactly that—to include as many perspectives, styles, and methodologies as possible within a coherent view of the topic. In a certain sense, integral approaches are "meta-paradigms," or ways to draw together an already existing number of separate paradigms into an interrelated network of approaches that are mutually enriching." —Ken Wilber, "Foreword", in Frank Visser, Ken Wilber: Thought As Passion
  • This means that the chief activity of integral cognition is not looking at all of the available theories—whether premodern, modern, or postmodern—and then asking, "Which one of those is the most accurate or acceptable?," but rather consists in asking, "How can all of those be right?" The fact is, all of the various theories, practices, and established paradigms—in the sciences, arts, and humanities—are already being practiced: they are already arising in a Kosmos that clearly allows them to arise, and the question is not, which of those is the correct one, but what is the structure of the Kosmos such that it allows all of those to arise in the first place? What is the architecture of a universe that includes so many wonderful rooms? — Ken Wilber, "The Ways We Are in This Together: Intersubjectivity and Interobjectivity in the Holonic Kosmos" Excerpt C of draft of forthcoming book, Kosmic Karma and Creativity
  • "The remarkable modern capacity for differentiation and discernment that has been so painstakingly forged must be preserved, but our challenge now is to develop and subsume that discipline in a more encompassing, more magnanimous intellectual and spiritual engagement with the mystery of the universe. Such an engagement can happen only if we open ourselves to a range of epistemologies that together provide a more multidimensionally perceptive scope of knowledge. To encounter the depths and rich complexity of the cosmos, we require ways of knowing that fully integrate the imagination, the aesthetic sensibility, moral and spiritual intuition, revelatory experience, symbolic perception, somatic and sensuous modes of understanding, empathic knowing. Above all, we must awaken to and overcome the great hidden anthropocentric projection that has virtually defined the modern mind: the pervasive projection of soullessness onto the cosmos by the modern self’s own will to power." Richard Tarnas, "Cosmos and Psyche", pg.41

External links


Forums and Communities

  • Zaadz - the Zaadz community features a large number of people interested in Wilberian and other forms of integral thought
  • Integrative Sprituality - portal and on-line community based on a Wilberian and general integral worldview
  • Ken Wilber Forum - a large Wilberian forum
  • Open Integral - a multi-authored blog featuring post-wilberian and non-wilberian perspectives of Integral
  • HeartMind Community Forum - a new post-wilberian forum.
Integral Theory/Integral Thought
Integral theorists: Aurobindo Ghose, Jean Gebser, Haridas Chaudhuri, Clare Graves, Ervin László, Michael Murphy, Don Beck, Chris Cowan, Ken Wilber

Integral books: The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, Full Circle (book), Spiral Dynamics, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality
Integral themes: Evolution, Involution, Integral ecology, Integral politics, Integral psychology, Integral yoga
Influences on integral theory: James Mark Baldwin, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Arthur M. Young, Edward Haskell, Erich Jantsch, Stanislav Grof, Rupert Sheldrake, Francisco Varela
Integral artists: Alex Grey, Stuart Davis, Saul Williams
Integral organizations: California Institute of Integral Studies, Integral Institute

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