Even Theories Can Do Shadow Work

By: sean@metaintegral.com

Our vision of Integral Theory is of a metatheory that becomes more integral through the engagement of other integrative metatheories and their proponents. Hence this year’s conference theme of Connecting the Integral Kosmopolitian, where our keynote presenters are two academic giants of integrative and transdisciplinary scholarship: Roy Bhaskar, founder of Critical Realism; and Edgar Morin, founder of Complex Thought.

I believe this year’s conference is a historic moment for Integral Theory. How could it not be – this is the first time that many scholar-practitioners associated with Integral Theory will be exposed to the integral thought of two major international figures, both of whom have a lot to bring to the integral metatheory discussion.

This is important for the health and growth of Integral Theory for a number of reasons:

  • First, Integral Theory is not as integral as it could be – there will always be things it leaves out, marginalizes, overemphasizes, and so on.
  • Second, while there is no Integral Omega point – where everything is finally integrated in a big Kosmic embrace (unless we are talking about the Pristine Moment of Now) – Integral Theory like any theory can evolve and become more integral over time.
  • Third, one way for Integral Theory to become more reflective as a theory is to have its proponents engage practitioners of other integral metatheories, whereby it will – through critical engagement and exploratory dialogue – come to see what it currently can’t see. I like to think of this as “theoretical shadow work.”

In short, we envision an integral approach to the development of Integral Theory. Our approach recognizes that Integral Theory is not as integral as it could be, and so we continually strive to make Integral Theory more integral through respectful inquiry and debate with other streams of integrative thought. By placing Integral Theory in direct dialogue with Critical Realism and Complex Thought we can come to appreciate the strengths and limits of all three metatheories. This in fact will be the focus of my opening keynote on Thursday, July 18th entitled “The Meta-Praxis of Defining and Developing Integral Theory.”


Just When You Had Finally Finished Reading All of Wilber’s Books…

Ever since we announced our ITC 2013 Call for Papers, which named Roy Bhaskar and Edgar Morin as our keynotes, I’ve been asked by many people for more information about them. A typical question is, “What is the best book for me to read to learn more about Critical Realism?” We decided that it would serve our conference participants, as well as the general integral community, for me to post a blog for both Critical Realism and Complex Thought – a primer that contains articles, videos, and audio clips so that you can begin to learn more about each one. After all, Roy and Edgar have each published as many books as Ken Wilber – it's an integral jungle out there, and my hope is to give you some solid entry points into the amazing work of both of our keynotes. Tomorrow's blog post will focus on Critical Realism, and in May I will post on Complex Thought.


Submitted by Giorgio Piacenza on

I praise you for calling for a need to move beyond orthodox Integral Theory approaches; for recognizing that some important issues have been de-emphasized while others have been over-emphasized. However there's much more that has to be considered as worth integrating by the "integral" community leaders. Those sustaining the official Integral Theory community standards are good people but also a reflection of specific views operating within circumstantial limits to free thinking and within an ethos which guides them as part of a local cultural history intended to be "alternative" but more academically appraised. Much which is of importance is being avoided and de-emphasized in order to function within the embrace and expected acceptance of regular academia. While this can be a long-term strategy it is not a sincerely integral procedure from the perspective of being able to freely and integrally inquire about all possible ideas that matter for cultural transformation and which could improve and extend the Integral Model. While the emphasis is upon psychology, self-development, social applications and kosher non-dual approaches, where are possible Integral Thoery contributions to the mysteries of quantum physics, to the role of consciousness embedded in diferent realms and enactring differently in them, to the interactive relations among the realms (which could be understood both as "actual" and as "potential") and not just as existing when enacted as kosmic addresses and as presented under a limited understanding of "Metaphysics" under Integral Post Metaphysics?  Unless IT thinkers get acquainted with and have a say toward phenomena that standard academics tend to avoid but which are unavoidably becoming more undeniable, Integral Theory will be more like a series of wonderful recommendations still incapable of being used to move science to its next level which seems to recognize the role of information, of the Mind and of the Subtle Realm. Furthermore, many non-academic citizens are making progress in areas of potentially great scientific and cultural repercussion like Exopolitics, the official Disclosure of the ET presence and the many life-changing varieties of what is popularly termed "paranormal research."  How many "integral" theorists work with this research for promoting the cultural implications of evience on these issues? I think that there are many "wild cards" brewing around and these card can serve to advance culture into a truly inclusive "second tier" understanding which includes the three realms of being but which are being avoided with a non-integral or "integrally-pretentious" attitude. This may not be the clearest way to proceed as participants with all the elements which can be integrated as parts of the "Second Tier" revolution/evolution and, besides opening up to the very interesting contributions of Roy Bakshar and Edgard Morin, there's much more to do to integrate many other (less academically "safe") integrative and integral ideas, methods and discoveries. For instance, besides survival research, besides the work of physicists proposing quantum holographic models, besides the great (perhaps soon to be revealed) implications of Exopolitical research and the Disclosure Movement (for which inter-realm scientific understandings will be demanded), thinkers like Fritjoff Schuon and Archie J. Bahm could be studied to develop an ecumenical and rational metaphysics (not a metaphysics of simple "speculations about other worlds" as some have said). All of this and more can also contribute to a greater, intelligent and truly inclusive Integral magnificence.

Submitted by tgbrophy@gmail.com on

A humble suggestion ... to some perspectives the (decades long now) "Disclosure Movement" appears like a millennialist metaphysical view, that similarly to other differing methaphysical camps, caries a lot of validation to the views of adherents, and may continually be circumscribed from encompassing whole Kosmos/MetaReality.

Submitted by Cortlandt Wilson on

Regarding having "Integral Theory ... proponents engage practitioners of other integral metatheories" and "we continually strive to make Integral Theory more integral through respectful inquiry and debate with other streams of integrative thought".

I see no reason to limit this inquiry and debate to only those streams of thought that we might label as "integral".  The integral theory of transending while including would seem to encourage us to use a integral/non-integral/pre-integral distinction with great care.

  For instance, in my experience and observation more conventional wisdom about productive dialog is important for those  attempting integral politics.   There is lot of insight for  "shadow work"  in existing wisdom about civil dialog, critical thinking, constructive criticism, transparency, demonization and polarizing speach, and models of effective communication (Chris Argyris).