Snapshot of Integral Theory - an E-Book

1. Background and Foundations

The need for an integral theory is great today, as our world and its peoples have become fragmented and divided. This began with the Age of Enlightenment (about 300 years ago).

First let's look at the good news: Since the Enlightenment the modern worldview has flourished, leading to new freedoms and possibilities, and breakthroughs in diverse fields such as science, the arts and statecraft. The power of the modern worldview is that, by giving art, morals and science the freedom to pursue their own goals on their own terms, we have allowed all three to evolve more fully, leading to an increase in quality of life. That's the good news. But the bad news is that this differentiation has spun out of control into dissociation, and our central task today is to heal the wounds of a fragmented world.

Integral Theory addresses this by providing a framework that is as inclusive as possible. It does so by searching for the underlying principles that seem to at work everywhere all the time and building on those principles as its foundation.

Central to Integral Theory is a recognition of the importance of evolution, and the power of a developmental approach in general to understanding the world. This is perhaps its primary foundation.

Integral Theory studies the process of evolution itself to glean the underlying patterns that are at work. Many important thinkers have contributed to this over the years. Plotinus wrote about the "Great Chain of Being," which Schelling later temporalized. Hegel's dialectical theory explains how history progresses through cycles of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. Today many in the integral community simplify that by simply saying "transcend and include!" because this is exactly what healthy evolution does. It keeps the best of what came before, while rejecting only the parts that were overly partial or incorrect or otherwise incompatible with new conditions or understandings.

Systems theory provides another touchstone for integral theory because it integrates the formal and the empirical by identifying the underlying patterns in all systems, including social and cultural systems ecosystems, markets, what-have-you. In integral theory, systems theory is pressed in to the service of helping to define  evolution in the World.

Related to systems theory, but perhaps even more fundamental, is the concept of "holons," which are entities that contain other holons as parts and that are themselves contained within larger holons.