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A New Integral Paradigm - Introduction

I originally tried writing up a metaphysical Theory of Everything as a series of rather technical pages. But this remained too heavy and difficult, and disjointed. Moreover, I was involved in my science fiction project Orion's Arm, so could not devote myself full time to the philosophical thesis. Recently, I have been dedicating myself more intensely to self-transformation, and in addition have been rethinking my Theory of Everything and the concept of an integral paradigm, and the role of integral (in the sense of the term used by Ken Wilber) philosophy and spirituality in contributing to a new civilization. The following therefore is a reworking of these various ideas. This essay itself has been transformed as it has been written, so that the current version is rather different to the original. Summing it up in a nutshell, the current thesis is concerned with the nature, dynamics, and evolution of Consciousness and Reality, which can be mapped according to a number of specific parameters. Upon this grand canvas, all the more specific details about the nature of the individual and the cosmos, and the various fields of human knowledge, can be painted.

The need for a Universal Paradigm

The paradigm being presented here differs in many, if not most, of its assumptions so radically from the currently accepted "consensus reality" that the reader coming from that background may be inclined to reject it out of hand.

However, as Charles T Tart (Tart 1975) points out, the current consensus paradigm (Tart uses the example of Western Psychology, but one might give very a similar illustration using Peer-Reviewed Science, Postmodernism, or any form of academia) there are a surprisingly large number of unquestioned assumptions or givens that are in the background and subtly influence the overall perspective. For example "We Can understand the physical universe without understanding ourselves" (p.69), "Each man is isolated from all others, locked within his nervous system" (p.74), "the physical body is the only body we have" (p.82), "reasoning is the highest skill possessed by man" (p.88) "Almost all important knowledge can be transmitted by the written word" (p.91) etc etc

Hence to adopt a secular scientistic/modernist/postmodernist perspective is to take an arbitrary perspective, which involves assumptions that are just as biased an irrational as any premodern worldview.

What is needed is a Universal Paradigm, one that includes everything, and excludes nothing. Such a Universal - or as Ken Wilber calls it, Integrative (2000b p.xv) or Integral (2000a pp.74ff) - approach can accommodate the physicalist paradigm without being limited by it; physicalism is just one part (or perspective) of a much larger whole. Only such an all-encompassing framework can unify the currently isolated fields of knowledge, and provide an answer to reductionist materialism on the one hand, and fundamentalist religion on the other.

What does "Integral" mean in this context?

The word "integral" was originally used by Sri Aurobindo to describe the Wikipedia link yoga he taught (integral or Purna ("Full") Yoga), which involves transformation of the entire being, rather than, as in most other teachings, a single faculty such as the head or the heart or the body. The term was adopted by Wikipedia link Jean Gebser who proposed that human consciousness evolves in a an ascending series from archaic through magical, mythical, mental, to the aperspective and finally the integral. These ideas were then incorporated by Ken Wilber, who also adopted Gebser's definition of "integral" to define his own philosophy. The current "integral movement" is very much the result of Wilber's tireless efforts at getting this larger paradigm accepted by the postmodernist and sceptical mainstream academia.

And, while identifying with the integral movement, I feel it is time for the next stage, a new metaphysic based on a more complete integration of phenomenological, esoteric, and scientific thought. The current essay is a proposal in that direction.

As a general reference point, Sri Aurobindo's yoga and philosophy is employed here. It is suggested that this as the most all encompassing (most integral) representative of the esoteric traditions.

The Changing Zeitgeist

Steven Guth suggests that we are in a phase where the old theories are seen to no longer work - even if you make them bigger and more complex. the parameters are changing. Ken Wilber's increasingly elaborate (with each successive phase) philosophy is an example of this.

A new language set is needed. But many find this disturbing; they access it because it lacks a thought form to find, connect and hold onto.

A few words about thought forms. Every philosophy and spiritual teaching is only comprehended by the established thought-form, the shared consensus understanding or consensus reality , which is defined in the canon of a particular writer or religion. Aurobindo works because he has established a thought form (in the form of his multi-volume collected writings, and his followers and their books and conversations and real and virtual community). Wilber works for the same reason (the Integral Instiutute, Integral Movement, his own voluminous literary output, and his followers). Steiner, Blavatsky, Harmonic Convergence, Western Science, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, they are each all the same (in Wilber's system this is the "worldspace" or Lower Left Quadrant)

If you don't have a thought form, words, and concepts, the mind cannot apprehend it.

And because a new thought form is needed, even this revision must utilise the thoughtforms of those who have gone before, as a foundation stone or launch platform so to speak. And if this current integral paradigm is of value, it is only because we "stand on the shoulders of giants", in Newton's famous phrase.

A note about these tables

In this essay you will find a lot of tables, along the manner of Wilber's tables at the back of several of his books (Wilber 1980, Wilber 2000a). The purpose of these is to show how everything fits together, and the same realities are being independently described and represented, albeit incompletely, and with various gaps and lacuna. It is very much like the situation of geological and paleontological stratigraphy. Of course care must be taken not to pigeon hole these other ideas so they fit to one's own preconceptions (e.g. Wilber's correlations of Kabbalah, Sri Aurobindo etc are completely off)

I first began drawing up these sort of tables when I was only about 21 or 22; I can't recall if it was after seeing similar tables in the back of Wilber 1977 or Wilber 1980; probably it was. I applied the tables to showing how different esoteric teachings all referred to the same ontological spectrum of being, and followed this premise for a long time. But more recently (especially when working on the current thesis) I have realised that there is not just a single parameter or axis, but a number, and that different esoteric, occult, and metaphysical teachings may be describing completely different realities and sequences. For this reason I have only tried to match up similar worldviews or theories, and not correlated completely unrelated ones.


note - Amazon links are top the current edition, the edition cited may be out of print

Tart, Charles T (1975) Some assumptions of orthodox, Western Psychology. In C. Tart (Ed.), Transpersonal Psychologies. New York: Harper & Row, pp. 61-111.

Wilber, Ken (1977) The Spectrum of Consciousness, Quest Books, Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton

_____ (1980)
The Atman Project : A Transpersonal View of Human Development
, Quest Books Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton

_____ (2000a) Integral Psychology: Consciousness, Spirit, Psychology, Therapy, 2000, Shambhala, Boston & London

_____ (2000b) A Brief History of Everything, Shambhala, Boston & London, 1996, 2nd edition 2000


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