October 13, 2007

Sri Aurobindo Ghose (1914/1940) used the term Integral to describe a type of knowledge or yoga, as published in The Life Divine

INTEGRAL REVIEW 4, 2007 Hampson: Integral Re-Views Postmodernism ...postformal construct of conceptual ecology—a construct which not only enables the dialogical consciousness of holarchical conceptual space, but also local temporality and the metaphorical resonances of organicity and life. In the first of two sections, a genealogy is described which philosophically links the integral quest and the postmodern quest as two complementary branches. In the second section, a conceptual ecology is identified which contextualises different interpretations of integral. A particular relationship is then chosen to exemplify a pertinent contestability: that between the integrals of Wilber and Gebser.
Sharing Schelling: A Genealogy of Postmodernisms
A starting place to view a less adversarial relationship between integral and postmodern than that connoted by Wilber and some members of the integral community, is to consider their shared genealogy. Philosopher Arran Gare (2002) has done just that. He presents the following picture: As scientific materialism began to increase in societal power in late 18th Century Europe, a "postmodern" countertradition arose in the footsteps of Giambattista Vico and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Johann Herder led the way, identifying: suffering caused by abstractions; the need for self-realisation; an appreciation of cultural plurality; the importance of the particular, the sensory, the active; and a purposeful nature. This thread led—via Johann Wolfgang von Goethe—to Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling. Like Rudolf Steiner, Wilber (1995), and Jennifer Gidley (in press), Gare identifies Schelling as an inspiration, and a pivot in history. He highlights Schelling’s dialectical method and also his understanding of that, that we are: an "unprethinkable Being" which precedes all thought and is presupposed by it. Gare then identifies a historical bifurcation stemming from Schelling. One branch leads to the poststructuralists ("poststructuralist postmodernism"), the other to a high-order quest for coherence ("cosmological postmodernism").27
In addition to the dialectical nature of the philosophy that lies at the root of the two branches, the branches themselves can be seen as a dialectic between Schelling’s alignment with Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel on the one hand, and his critique of Hegel, on the other. The branch that proceeds from Schelling’s critique of Hegel includes Friedrich Wilhelm Neitzsche, Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault (largely influenced by Neitzsche), Jacques Derrida (largely influenced by Heidegger) and Gilles Deleuze (who retains more influence from Schelling than the others). Somewhat resonant with Roland Benedikter’s (2005) seminal work on postmodern spirituality, Gare proffers that, "poststructuralists require Schelling’s earlier philosophy or developments of it to sustain their arguments" (Gare, 2002).
The branch which is more aligned to Hegel leads to Henri Bergson and Alfred North Whitehead via Charles Peirce and also via Karl Ernst Von Baer’s evolutionary theory of nature. Gare identifies this thread as a high-order quest for coherence. Such a quest for coherence is surely central for any integral theory. But surely a greater integral quest would be to attempt to respectfully honour both branches? Although the branches may seem somewhat incommensurable from a formal perspective, a postformal perspective on integral might better facilitate such a quest. But what is integral? A postformal approach to answering that question might well address the conceptual ecology among different (connected and contested) uses and
interpretations of the word.
An Ecology of Integrals 28
Integral—meaning, "of or pertaining to a whole"—entered the English vocabulary from the Latin, integer (via the French, intégral) in 1471. In terms of integral theory and correspondent developments, Sri Aurobindo Ghose (1914/1960) used the term to describe a type of knowledge or yoga, as published in The Life Divine. Unaware of Aurobindo’s usage, Jean Gebser (1949/1985, p. xxix) began using the term (as a conjunct to aperspectival) in 1940, culminating in its usage in The Ever-Present Origin in 1949. 29 Meanwhile, Haridas Chaudhuri carried the term through from Aurobindo and founded the California Institute of Integral Studies (C.I.I.S) (n.d.) in 1968. Michael Murphy also brought through Aurobindo’s integral theory when he cofounded the Esalen Institute 30 (2005) in 1962. He has since adopted the term integral with George Leonard, in their Integral Transformative Practice (2007).
The most popular(ist) integral theorist—Ken Wilber (1997, 2000a, 2000c)—had started using the term by 1997 to describe both his own writing, 31 and thence his institutional frameworks, such as the Integral Institute (2007) including Integral Naked. 32 Global-outreach tertiary institute, Pacific Integral (n.d.), was founded in reference to this genealogical branch, as well as to William Torbert’s work. 33 Wilber’s genealogical branch entered futures studies via Richard Slaughter (1998). Ervin László (2004) started foregrounding the term in relation to integral science in 2003, competitively using with the same turn of phrase as Wilber—An Integral Theory of Everything—in 2004. Global philosopher Ashok Gangadean (2006a) incorporates László’s work among others, to form his own dialogical integral approach. Gidley acknowledges Gangadean as part of her quest to "integrate the integrals," notably an exploration of connections between Gebser, Wilber and Rudolf Steiner, the latter of whom she identifies as an integral pioneer (Gidley & Hampson, 2005).
Meanwhile, others have furthered representations of C.I.I.S.’s mission, including Robert McDermott, Richard Tarnas (see, for example, 1991), and Jorge Ferrer, the latter of whom has identified a participatory integral approach along with Marina Romero and Ramon Albareda(Ferrer et al., 2005), directors of Estel, a centre for personal growth and integral studies in Barcelona (Albareda, n.d.). In addition, William Irwin Thompson (2003)—whilst acknowledging Aurobindo and Steiner—has, for some decades, been running with Gebser’s interpretation to foreground a certain artistry: integral performances that seek to generate new horizons; such alignment with creativity parallels both Bernie Neville’s (1989) Gebserian and archetypal educational approach, and, substantively, Alfonso Montuori’s (1997) interpretation of integral asa form of disciplined improvisation, via the generative metaphor of jazz.34
From this particular ecological perspective,35 there are six intertwined genealogical branches of integral: those aligned with Aurobindo, Gebser, Wilber, Gangadean, László and Steiner (in respective chronological order of first usage 36), among which there are varying degrees of commonality and contestation in various dimensions. 37 As such, we may regard the above as an outline of some "semiotic attractors" within a (necessarily complex and dynamic) hermeneutic ecosystem. 38 Picking up one such inter-branch contestation, let’s turn to the relationship between the integrals of Wilber and Gebser. Thompson (1996) foregrounds a difference between the two in relation to Gebser’s "grand" European sensibility and loving attention to detail.
27 Consideration might be given here regarding the nature of the relationship between Gare’s genealogy and Wilber’s (1995) bifurcation of post-Enlightenment as "Ego" and "Eco."
28 As integral can be contextualised within "an ecology of integrals," so an ecology of integrals can itself be contextualized within "an ecology of related terms."
29 Alan Combs (2005) comments that it remains unclear as to the degree of influence Aurobindo had on Gebser, remarking, "the whole affaire of Eastern influences in Gebser’s thought would be an excellent topic for an investigation" (§ The Inner and The Outer, ¶ 8).
30 Beck and Cowan (1996) address Esalen as Green vMeme.
31 The original edition of Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (1995) does not have an entry for "integral" or "integral …" in its 33-page index, whilst the second edition (1995/2000) does.
32 To date, the nascent Integral University (2007) has not yet emerged.
33 Also see below regarding Cook-Greuter’s ego developmental model.
34 Further—in addition to the integrally-oriented ReVision (co-founded by Wilber)—there has recently been an upsurge in integral journals—including Kosmos (2001), The Journal of Conscious Evolution (2005), Integral Review (2005), and AQAL (2006); there has also been the Gebser Society’s Integrative Explorations Journal (currently not in print).
35 Different perspectives are, of course, possible. For instance, although he doesn’t mention Gebser or Steiner, Daniel Gustav Anderson (2006) gives an alternate perspective that, "integral theory…remains Aurobindian from tip to toe inclusive of thinkers as diverse as Wilber and Thompson" (p. 63, n. 3). This can be seen to signify an ecology stemming from one root. Other perspectives might dispute inclusion and/or exclusion of various branches for various reasons (see following footnote, for example). Furthermore, I am not claiming this sketch is comprehensive, but rather, a reasonable point of departure. Every framework inevitably comes with a bias, and I apologise to any authors who may feel underrepresented by identifying / constructing this particular genealogy.
36 Noting that the Steiner branch is via the conduit of Gidley.
37 Most contestations occur in relation to Wilber’s genealogical branch. Possible causes for this include (a) the power base of each branch (see Appendix C), and (b) Wilber’s competitiveness over the term, integral. For example, the website for Wilber’s Integral University (2007) advertises itself with the tagline, "the world’s first integral learning community." Apart from the tense-related misnomer regarding the fact that it is not yet in operation, such a claim has the quality of being decidedly competitive with regard to the term, integral, in relation to the ecology of interpretative uses of the term as described in this article. Specifically, Sri Aurobindo’s thread was established first, Gebser’s second and Wilber’s third. C.I.I.S was founded in relation to Sri Aurobindo’s integral (and this relationship has been in continual—if varying—reference to this thread ever since (Wexler, 2005). It would also be difficult not to interpret C.I.I.S., at least in part, as a "learning community." In this way, it could readily be argued that C.I.I.S. was the world’s first integral learning community. Two questions arise here: (a) In what specific ways has Wilber (or The Integral University) honoured this understanding concerning C.I.I.S.’s Aurobindian—and thus integral—heritage? and, (b) Given the central utilisation of Aurobindo by AQAL, in what specific ways has Wilber (or The Integral University) detailed a differentiation between C.I.I.S.’s interpretive use of Aurobindo and his own interpretive use of Aurobindo to the extent that he can justify unilateral interpretative usage of the term, integral, in the manner described here? Also—although associated primarily with Wilber’s integral thread with regard to interpretive usage of integral—a further question could be asked with regard to the already-existent integral learning community at Pacific Integral: namely, Would they regard themselves primarily as being part of Integral University’s learning community to the extent that I.U.’s claim is understood as congruent with their own sense of identity? Such are some of the power relations (AQAL lower right quadrant identifications) regarding the term or meme, integral. For further discussion on the current status of integral, I would recommend Cowan and Todorovic (2006).
38 I note that, through publication of this article, I myself am participating in this ecosystem.

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