Integral Theory (Ken Wilber)

Integral Theory is a modern "theory of everything" that proposes to encapsulate many theories, philosophies, practices, and thinkers into a single framework. It is a self-proclaimed synthesis of all human knowledge and experience. (1)
Integral Theory is the product of Ken Wilber, a still-living American writer and mystic, who left his pre-med program at Duke University after finding interest in Eastern literature and philosophy, pursue his own studies and write his first of many books: "The Spectrum of Consciousness" (1973). Some of his most popular works of writing have been "The Holographic Paradigm and Other Paradoxes", "Grace and Grit", "A Brief History of Everything", "Boomeritis", and "A Theory of Everything".
Though integral theory has been widely ignored in academia, it has conjured a following within some cultures, especially within modern New Age circles, leadership training, and self-improvement education and publications. (2)
The central concept to Wilber's Integral Theory is "AQAL": All Quadrants, All Levels. In this model, the quadrants contain all human knowledge and experience. With one axis marking Interior/Exterior and the other marking Individual/Collective, Wilber claims it to be the most comprehensive approach to reality, and a coherent explanation of all academic disciplines and all human knowledge and perception. (3)

To take an example, there is the question "What is a human being?"

This gives a diversity not only in answers, but in perspectives of the question. Where psychology is concerned, for example, it begs the frameworks of Freud (intentions) to be considered alongside Skinner (behavior), Gadamer (cultural), and Marx (social).
Within these four quadrants, Wilber posits, all perspectives and occurences are encapsulated. The utility of this model is as an overview, giving us a means to understand development, guide our ethics and morality, inspire leadership, and propel social services.
Interestingly, Integral theory aligns itself with the "two truths" of Buddhism:
There is a conventional/provisional truth AND an "ultimate" truth which together constitute our reality. Furthermore, they assert that it is not logically justifiable to regard any metaphysical system as absolutely valid, and this does not necessarily lead to nihilism, but strikes a middle ground between naivete and excessive scepticism. (5)
Aside from humans, which are treated as a special case, the term "Holons" is used for any unit of a whole. There is the concept of the "great chain of being": any entity or concept is part of a larger whole. From quarks to galaxies, it is thought that anything that can be identified as a single 'thing' can also be consider a part of another thing.
Each and every Holon can be viewed from within or from the outside, and from an individual or collective perspective, any four quadrants.
Perhaps the primary thesis of Integral Theory is that under this model an approach from any of these quadrants has a valid perspective to offer. According to Wilber, all are needed for real appreciation of a matter. It is possible for all perspectives to be correct, and all are needed for a complete account of that thing.
Integral Theory puts a broad focus and contextualization on human psychology and sociology. Much of the focus of Integral Theory, as in Integral Life and Integral Leadership and more, is concerned with Developmental Stages, as in psychological stages.
This gives an individual and society at large a means of targeting and understanding progress toward a goal of optimal living, according to Wilber, and is thereby the primary contribution of his work.
This photo gives a general overview of Integral Theory's stages of development:
Taking this direction toward psychological and sociological development, Integral Theory is being applied to a diverse number of fields.
Here are just a few:
See how people are applying integral thinking to self-improvement and self-help. You'll find articles, courses, and premium covering the diverse field that is you.
Integral thinking applied to management, business, and inter-personal relations. You'll find many interesting thing here, including the most extensive list we've found of other sites connected to integral theory.
Integral thinking is being applied here to addiciton, alcoholism, and depression. You can learn about workshops and events, or read their blog about some of the phenomenal work being done.
There are so many available perspectives when it comes to ecology and our impact. It's no surprise that an inclusive and and comprehensive approach is beneficial to research and conservation. Find out more!
Like integral leadership, but specifically focused on business, roping in perspectives like emotional intelligence, products/services, corporate values, and systems theory.
An interesting look at an Integral-focused business consulting firm. They are helping people create mission-driven strategies and become successful entrepreneurs.
Now, Ken Wilber and his team offer a comprehensive development course. 
Integral Theory has been ignored in academia most likely because it is a speculative, non-empirical idea. This is excludes it from scientific fields, and though it may seem fitting for the field of philosophy, it has not been widely accepted there either. 
Frank Visser, a critic of Wilber's work states "Numerous critics cite problems with Wilber's interpretations and inaccurate citations of his wide ranging sources, as well as stylistic issues with gratuitous repetition, excessive book length, and hyperbole." (6)
Integral Theory's categorization may be viewed by other philosophers and academics as excessive and arbitrary. It has also been used by its creators to commercialize on spirituality, to a widely New Age audience.


Ken Wilber Wikipedia - it's fascinating to look at this overview of the mind producing Integral Theory.
Integral Life - The go-to on-line hub for people living with interest in Integral Theory.
Integral Leadership Review - the go-to spot for a community of people - coaches, practitioners, entrepreneurs - applying IT to Leadership.
Daily Evolver - its tagline "integral insight into current events" says it all. This is a general-use blog site for the integrally inclined.
Home Brewed Christianity on Integral Theory - an interesting overview of Integral Theory from the lens of Christianity. This may be useful for any religious person interested.
What are the four quadrants? - An article on integral life explaining the four quadrants, with an accompanying 8.5 min video.
An Overview of Integral Theory Resource Paper - a more in-depth explanation of what Integral Theory is.
Integral Development - a leadership-focused modern blog, offering courses, business coaching, and workshops.
Six Criticisms of Wilber's Integral Theory - a very deep read, for when you're already oriented. This is a philosophical debate and deconstruction of criticisms on the theory. Ready your brain for some flexing.


by Ken Wilber, "A very short introduction to the revolutionary Integral approach to Life, God, the Universe, and Everything"

by Sean Esbjorn-Hargens, "Applied, Theoretical, and Constructive Perspectives on the AQAL model."

by Ken Wilber, perhaps his most landmark integral book, it is presented in clear, nontechnical language how to integrate mind, body, soul, and spirit and apply the integral approach to politics, the environment, education, business, and more.

by Ken Wilber, apply Integral Theory to religion, this book is presented as an ushering of religion in the postmodern world into a new role.

by Ken Wilber, Integral thinking applied to psychology, providing new models for development, states of consciousness, the self, and therapy.

by Wilber, Terry Patten, Adam Leonard, Marco Morelli, "A 21st-century blueprint for physical health, emotional balance, mental clarity, and spiritual awakening.

The Next Half-Step, by John Forman, offers leaders a way to pinpoint what tools and approaches work best for their organizations.

by Ken Wilber, his most recent publication, as of August 2017. It is an explanation of the explosive cultural/political mix we are dealing with, and how to solve it.


A Brief History of Integral with Ken Wilber - from the man himself, a decently brief explanation of Integral Theory, especially fitting humanity and its cultures into an Integral context. 22.5 min
Intro to Integral Theory in 6 min - If you met an old friend from college, and he wanted to explain Integral Theory to you, it would sound like this.
Introduction to Integral Spirituality - incorporating the insights offered by the world's major religions, modern and postmodern thinking, and science, Ken Wilber gives a well-uttered recitation. 1 hr 46 min
Andrew Cohen and Ken Wilber: What is love? - Very interesting to hear love talked about in an integral context. 20 min
Four Quadrants of Ken Wilber's Integral Model - AQAL explored in more depth and length. 35 min
The Rise and Fall of Ken Wilber - a well-uttered critique of Wilber's work and philosophy, very insightful review of the contradictions facing his life and legacy. 22 min
Steve Cronin's Intro - Author of 'The Integral Vision' gives a concise intro to Integral Theory. 31min
Intro to Ken Wilber and Integral Theory for Christians - an interesting parallel look, and potential useful to the the practitioners of the world's most-shared religion. 15 min

  1. Wilber, Ken. "AQAL Glossary," "Introduction to Integral Theory and Practice: IOS Basic and the AQAL Map"
  2. Forman, Mark D. and Esbjörn-Hargens, Sean. "The Academic Emergence of Integral Theory," Integral World. Retrieved via on Jan. 7, 2010.
  3. Steve Paulson. "You are the river: An interview with Ken Wilber"
  4. Wilber, Ken. "AQAL Glossary," "Introduction to Integral Theory and Practice: IOS Basic and the AQAL Map"
  5. Matilal 2002, pp. 203-208
  6. Frank Visser, "A Spectrum of Wilber Critics"