A Brief History of Everything:
Understanding Integral Theory
Over the last several decades, we have witnessed a historical first: all of the world’s cultures are available to us. Increased globalization and the rise of the information age have placed the sum total of human knowledge is at our fingertips—the experience, wisdom, and reflection of all major human civilizations—premodern, modern, and postmodern—are open to study by basically anyone with an internet connection.
What if we took literally everything that all the various cultures, disciplines, and methods have to tell us about human potential—about spiritual growth, psychological growth, social growth—and put it all on the table? What if we attempted to find the critically essential keys to human growth, based on the sum total of human knowledge and experience? What if we attempted, based on extensive cross-cultural study, to use all of the world’s great traditions to create a composite map, a comprehensive map, an all-inclusive, or integral map, that included the best elements from all of them?
Over the last 30 years, Ken Wilber has created the detailed outlines of such a map. What he generally calls the Integral Approach has emerged as a truly 21st century world philosophy. Its core theoretical framework—called AQAL (ah-qwul)—integrates the fundamental truths of nearly every human intellectual endeavor—from science to spirituality and developmental studies to systems theory—into a cohesive and practical model of human experience, understanding, and growth.
While it may seem daunting and complex, the beauty of the Integral approach lies in its simplicity. AQAL is comprised of just a handful of fundamental distinctions about reality itself—called quadrants, levels, lines, states, and types. These distinctions are not just abstract notions; they can be located in your direct experience, and they concern the way you make sense of your life and world.
Also, AQAL is a neutral framework; it does not tell you what to think, or force any particular ideologies on you, or coerce your awareness in any fashion. Precisely because AQAL is neutral, it can bring more clarity to virtually any situation or topic, making success much more likely whether the goal be personal transformation, social change, excellence in business, care for others, or simply happiness in life.
Our central intent for this course is simple: To encourage a deep exploration of the Integral Approach. Our vision, however, is more lofty. We hope to guide you into a deep understanding of Integral framework’s five foundational elements, and to cultivate two related skills: the ability to recognize the theoretical distinctions, and the capacity to use them to gain greater insight into personal and professional areas of interest. If you can approach this endeavor in an engaged, compassionate, and critical way, we will co-create a learning community that is supportive, challenging, and fruitful.
— Learners will comprehend the five primary elements of the AQAL framework and the vision guiding the Integral Approach.
— Learners will gain a personal sense of why and how the integral approach is relevant for our times.
— Learners will experience the integral approach’s power to make sense of and situate diverse and competing truth claims, disciplines, belief systems and models of growth.
— Learners will be inspired to engage integral thinking and practice in their personal, professional and/or educational pursuits.
— Learners will experience the usefulness of theoretical maps and the important role of the mind in transformation.
Optional Course Readings
Wilber, K, (2007). The Integral Vision. Boston: Shambhala. (Amazon)
Wilber, K., & Fuhs, C. (2009). Course 01: Essential Integral [e-learning software]. Longmont, CO: Core Integral
- This e-learning course is available to Wisdom University students for $50 and public audit enrollees for $119.
- Information regarding how to purchase this required "text" at a discount will be sent prior to the start of the course.
A selection of articles from the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice. These will be provided as PDFs.
Wilber, K, (2001). A Brief History of Everything (2nd Edition). Boston: Shambhala. (Amazon)
Schedule & Curriculum
Free Preview Teleseminar - The Integral Vision - May 8th
The five elements of AQAL form an elegant map that describes the very contours of your being. They form the basis upon which the integral vision is built. By using these five elements as keys to unlock human evolution, the integral vision hopes to accelerate that evolution towards more comprehensive, more effective, and more compassionate ways of being human.
- Lesson 1: Introduction
The Integral Vision
- Chapters 1 thru 5
Week 1 - Quadrants - May 22nd
The quadrants are the four most fundamental dimensions of any occasion. In this week’s coursework, you’ll come to understand the quadrants, their role in our understanding of truth, how we can overemphasize one of them, and how they can be used as a tool to better understand and craft solutions for personal and professional problems.
- Lesson 2: Quadrants
Brief History of Everything (Optional)
- The Pattern That Connects (pp. 15–27)
- The Four Corners of Kosmos (pp.63–75 )
Week 2 - Lines & Levels - May 29th
Lines of development are capacities of the self such as cognition, emotions, morality, and faith. They are available to everyone, though each person differs in their degree of development in any given line. Levels are the qualitatively distinct stages or steps through which the capacities of each line unfold. Each level represents a deep, holistic pattern of the kosmos that has facets in each of the four quadrants. This week’s coursework introduces several foundational theoretical concepts including holons, tetra-emergence, synonyms for levels, and the content-neutral yardstick of developmental complexity called altitude.
- Lesson 3: Lines
- Lesson 4: Levels - Part One and Two
Brief History of Everything (Optional)
- The Secret Impulse: (pp. 28–36)
- The Evolution of Consciousness (pp. 125–136)
- On the Way to Global Part 1 & 2 (p143–178)
Week 3 - States - June 5th
“States” refer to temporary and fleeting aspects of all phenomena. This week’s coursework focuses on three types of individual-interior states: natural states, non-ordinary states, and phenomenal states, introducing as well the Wilber-Combs lattice and horizontal development through state-stages.
- Lesson 5: States
Brief History of Everything (Optional)
- Realms of the Superconscious - Part 1 & 2 (p179–186 & 191–193)
Week 4 - Types - June 12th
Types are categories of horizontal variance available at every level. They account for the similarities and differences among people that are not explained by variance in the other elements of the Integral map. They are best described by systems called “typologies.” This week’s coursework explores two typologies: masculine and feminine and quadrant orientation.
- Lesson 6: Types
- Lesson 7: Conclusion
Week 5 - Integral Life Practice - June 19th
Integral Life Practice (or ILP) is a composite practice generated by applying the Integral framework to personal growth and development. The result exercises your mind, body, spirit, and shadow to serve your development and personal transformation.
- Chapter 6
- Wilber, K, Patten, T, Leonard, A, & Morelli, M. (2008). Integral Life Practice: A 21st-Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening. Boston: Integral Books (Amazon)
Week 6 - Integral Applications - June 26th
Around the world, thousands of people are applying the AQAL model in dozens of different fields, from art to ecology, medicine to criminology, business to personal transformation. Because an Integral framework harnesses and includes more truth, and more potentials, than any other approach, it makes one’s work in any area less partial and more effective.
Articles - Read any two of the following:
- Brown - Communication to Different Worldviews about Sustainability
- Brown - Theory and Practice of Integral Sustainable Development - Part 2: Values, Developmental Levels and Natural Design.
- Combs - An Integral Tour of Consciousness Studies
- Fuhs - Towards a Vision of Integral Leadership: A Quadrivial Analysis of Eight Leadership Books
- Esbjorn-Hargens - Integral Ecology: A post-metaphysical approach to environmental phenomena
- Hochachka - An Overview of Integral International Development
- Landraitis - Jane: An Integral Psychotherapy Case Study - Depression, Identity and Intimacy in Young Adulthood
- Tissot - Integral Marine Ecology: Community-based Fishery Management in Hawaii
- Zeitler - An AQAL Case Study of Short-Term Psychotherapy and Transformation
6-Week Teleseries: Wednesdays
Dates: May 22 through June 26 (with additional free call on May 8)
Time: 11:00am–12:30pm PDT
Faculty: Ken Wilber, Clint Fuhs, Ph.D. Candidate, and Ali Akalin, MA
Registration Fee: $365
According to Tony Schwartz, author of What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America, Ken Wilber is “the most comprehensive philosophical thinker of our times.” He is the originator of Integral Theory, which incorporates cultural studies, anthropology, systems theory, developmental psychology, biology, and spirituality into a comprehensive philosophy. Integral Theory aims to enrich all disciplines by examining how each fits in relation to all the others. It has been applied in fields as diverse as ecology, sustainability, psychotherapy, psychiatry, education, business, medicine, politics, sports and art. With 25 books translated into some 30 foreign languages, Wilber is the most widely translated academic writer in America.
Among his books are The Spectrum of Consciousness (1973), which integrates different approaches to psychology; No Boundary: Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth (1979); The Atman Project: A Transpersonal View of Human Development (1980); Up From Eden: A Transpersonal View of Human Evolution (1981); A Sociable God: Toward a New Understanding of Religion (1983); Eye to Eye: The Quest for the New Paradigm (1983); and Grace and Grit (1991), a moving account of his now deceased wife’s battle with breast cancer. Wilber’s monumental Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution, which some consider his magnum opus, was published in 1995, followed by A Brief History of Everything (1996), which explains ideas of the previous volume in more popular format. Subsequent writings include The Eye of Spirit: An Integral Vision for a World Gone Slightly Mad (1997); A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science and Spirituality (2001); Boomeritis (2002), his only novel, and Integral Spirituality (2006). The Integral Vision (2007) provides an accessible introduction to the Wilber’s approach.
Ken Wilber is also founder of the Integral Institute and co-founder of Integral Life, a social media hub dedicated to sharing the integral vision with a worldwide community. He lives in Denver, Colorado.
Clint Fuhs is a leading authority in the field of Integral Theory and application and has been a senior student of its progenitor, Ken Wilber, for the past 10 years. He is the co-founder of Core Integral, Inc., which he created with Ken in early 2009 as a platform to expand the accessibility and ensure the integrity of a comprehensive understanding of the Integral approach. He is also the Executive Director of Integral Institute, Inc., which he has served in numerous capacities from operations to curriculum development since 2003. He holds adjunct faculty positions at both JFK University and Fielding Graduate University, and he works as an Analyst at Lectica, Inc. (formerly Developmental Testing Service), where he assist with the development of formative and diagnostic developmental assessments for adults.
Clint completed his MA in Organizational Management and Development at Fielding Graduate University and he’s currently completing a PhD in Human and Organizational Systems also at Fielding. His research focuses on the nature of human perspective-taking, its role in decision making and human development, along with the creation of methods to scaffold that growth toward higher levels of complexity. He was awarded best paper in Integral Theory at the first annual Integral Theory Conference hosted by JFK University and Integral Institute. In 2010, this paper was published as a chapter in Integral Theory in Action: Applied, Theoretical, and Constructive Perspectives on the AQAL model.
Clint also works as a workshop facilitator, consultant, and mentor focusing on the comprehension and application of an Integral approach in a diverse range of disciplines. He currently resides in Longmont, CO.
Ali Akalin was born in Turkey and grew up in Thailand and the Netherlands. Ali is a resident Integral Theory specialist and faculty at Core Integral. For the last six years, he has devoted himself to working closely with Ken Wilber and Clint Fuhs in developing up-to-date teachings in Integral Philosophy. Currently, Ali is also serving as an independent theory expert and mentor for various projects and publications related to the field. Ali holds an MA in Transpersonal Counselling Psychology from Naropa University, and is adjunct faculty at Fielding Graduate University where he teaches advanced Integral Theory.