[Integral theory is Ken Wilber’s attempt to place a wide diversity of theories and thinkers into one single framework. It is portrayed as a “theory of everything”, trying “to draw together an already existing number of separate paradigms into an interrelated network of approaches that are mutually enriching.”
The American thinker Ken Wilber is well known in some circles, such as transpersonal psychology, yet despite being the author of 25 books he is barely mentioned in academia. His unconventional approach, which tries to integrate opposites such as science and spirituality has made him difficult to classify and has brought him into conflict with mainstream thinking.
In his work A Theory of Everything (2000) he proposes an “Integral Theory”, a theory which he developed by analysing and synthesising many different models of reality in a wide range of fields, from medicine and psychology to politics and theology. It is a way of looking at things from a variety of angles, while remaining open to adding new dimensions or changing one’s theory in order to improve it.]
|Last month, John introduced us to Ken Wilber’s model of spiritual and personal development. John and I were first introduced to this model at the CAC’s Conspire conference in 2018. It is founded in knowledge gained over the last century in psychology and other social sciences, along with Wilber’s extensive study of all religions.
All models seek only to help us understand something and Wilber’s model helps us understand how we grow emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. It does not seek to “measure our performance” and we should be careful to not fall into this trap. The model’s four streams are Waking Up, Cleaning Up, Growing Up and Showing Up.
Waking up is a process that can occur instantaneously or slowly over a long time; it refers to a realisation that the way in which we have viewed our world has been an illusion, that reality is something different and we want to understand what that is. While this may be a profound experience, it is still only a starting point to a process that requires reflection and personal growth. The insights we gain must be integrated and consolidated in our new, emerging worldview. As our worldview changes, we undergo a process of continuing integration and transcendence towards new levels of understanding.
Cleaning up is necessary when we realise that our previous unconscious behaviour is not in accord with our new vision for ourselves. It is likely that this process is unpleasant as we realise what we have done in the past is now discomforting, but it requires self-acceptance and recognition that this is part of our journey. The psychologist, Carl Jung, identified this process as addressing our “shadow self”. A meditation practice is helpful. Sometimes this requires spiritual direction or, possibly, professional assistance.
Growing up is the process of development of personal maturity as described by a number of different behavioural models. As we develop our view of the world, the manner of our relationships with other people changes. In simple terms, we progress through egocentric, ethnocentric, world-centric and cosmic-centric outlooks and we can stop at any of these levels. These concepts of developmental stages and behavioural outlook can also be applied to organisations.
Finally, showing up represents the fourth pathway that requires bringing our heart and mind into how we live our lives, to how we address the actual suffering and problems of the world. It means engagement, social presence, and a sincere concern for justice and peace for others beyond ourselves (Rohr 1 June 2021).
These are not four processes we engage in sequentially; we cannot seek to measure our “performance”. However, as we participate in waking up, cleaning up, growing up and showing up we evolve, repeatedly participating in each of the streams. This journey is different for each of us. It requires reflection, asking questions and living with those questions until we discover our own answers.
The material and references for John’s introduction of Wilber’s model are included on our Facebook page. Further episodes of the Butterfly Series will explore each of these concepts in more depth.