Complex Thought 101


In my first year of graduate studies I took a course co-taught by Sean Kelly and Alfonso Montuori, which focused on the evolution of consciousness, planetary culture, and complexity. Ken Wilber’s writings were among the required readings. It was in this course that I encountered the work of French philosopher and sociologist Edgar Morin. We read his Homeland Earth, which had been translated by Sean and in many ways occupies a place in Morin’s corpus similar to Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything.

I was immediately engaged and excited by the integrative approach of Morin, which echoed Wilber’s in important ways and complemented it in others. What made the course really stand out was that both Sean and Alfonso were long-time students of his work and had a personal relationship with Morin. As a result they were able to provide a very rich context for engaging Morin’s writings. This was especially noteworthy in that the vast majority of Morin’s work – including his 6-volume magnum opus La Méthode – has yet to be fully translated into English.

So imagine my frustration to discover a powerful integral thinker whose work was largely inaccessible to me due to being unavailable in English. Thus, over the years, as additional books of Morin have been translated into English I have picked them up immediately. One of the things that I have consistently appreciated about reading Morin’s writings is the way it transports me into forms of complex thinking that feel uniquely integral and at the same time are distinct from the integral thinking that occurs for me in reading Wilber’s work. Morin’s Complex Thought provides me with the experience of a similar but different form of integral consciousness than the one I’m used to via Integral Theory.

As a result, for years I’ve wanted to find a way to introduce Morin to the larger integral community; thereby enriching the integral landscape of discourse and practice. This year’s Integral Theory Conference felt like the perfect moment. So it is with real excitement that Morin will deliver our Saturday keynote. I feel this is a watershed moment for the development of Integral Theory as it begins to engage other streams of integral thought.

To support members of the integral community to become more familiar with Morin, I asked Alfonso Montuori to author an overview of Morin. So enjoy this great introduction to an important contemporary integral figure:

Complex Thought: An Overview of Edgar Morin’s Intellectual Journey

I hope to see you at ITC.

To register click here.


Submitted by Giorgio Piacenza on

Both Ken Wilber and Edgar Morin and other emerging integral scholars, scientists and visionaries (including some perennialists, exopoliticians, systems thinkers, holists, holographic paradigm promoters, religious ecumenists, critical thinkers, some survival of bodily death researchers, parasychologists and others) appear to respond to a partial understanding inspoired by the rediscovery and privileging of RELATIONS in a way that not only questions modern objectivism and reductionism to restore qualitative aspects of the human experience (for instance qualitative self-determination or non-dual, mystical spirituality) but each in their own field of interest intuit deeper patterns that make those relations possible. In their search for post-formal thinking and ways of being all seem to use some expression of a BOTH-AND relational logic of mutual definitions in which the logic opposites are complementary and equally necessary.  I think that all of these efforts (if sustained by critical thinking, evidence, harmony or coherence and empirical evidence) may offer to an emerging Integral Civilization different aspects that need to be integrated.  In fact, I think that the next stage of the Integral Movement and conscious awaeking to an integral existence is the convergence of all valid discoveries being made by the aforementioned integralists.  It is an integration of integralist truths.  Even individuals associated with AQAL which probably is the most complete basic integral model thus far are in a sense "integralists" since as Edgar Morin would perhaps also suggest (unbeknownst to them) they could be prone to "idealization," "rationalization" and "normalization."  Let's not forget that a rational third person recognition of the AQAL Model only is one type of recognition. Furthermore, it is a distant type of recognition; less involving, less risky. A more advanced recognition would be when the Integral call or awareness is recognized without fanaticism as an open-ended, cognitive, ethical and personal experience that subsumes and balances the experience of truth, Beauty and the Good. Indeed that would be a rare realization at this point in integral consciousness rising. While, recognition of a form of post-formal thinking and being is a sign of some degree of integral consciousness it is not a sign that that consciousness is willing to (or capable) of recognizing other integralist's discoveries. Personal preferences and their cultural context may have impinged strong pre conceptions on their psyche or personality and their incipient degree of overall integral awareness may not be sufficient or really inclusive enough (even if engaging in meditation and contemplation practices) to recognize other integralists' findings or the validity of their work. The result can be not just hubris but the authoritarian delay or suppression of the coming together of many other adequately balanced good, beautiful and true integralist developments.  Morin's embrace of the "chaosmos" is open ended. He seems to seek this embrace because he probably senses a higher order; the source of his transdisciplinarity.  The chaos seems to relate to our limited and feeble "rational" attempts to try to reduce every human experience to a hard, excluded middle "either-or" logic or related metaphysics but the order that lies on a deeper level (at least as an experiential embrace for Morin) may exist in the logical and energetic Life realm that coordinates the correlated simultaneity of irreducibly arising quadrants.  This would be what is almost reated as the taboo realm of the Subtle with its different unknown causal rules, lack of space and time for the manifestation of its exteriors and operating under a more inclusive logic: the relational both-and logic in which the "dimensions" that connect in two pairs to give rise to the quadrants exist: two pairs as equal and mutually necessary to each other (the Interior-Exterior/Singular-Plural).   These pairs combine to generate DISTINCT correlated, simultaneously arising, but independent (either-or) quadrants that may relate inside through the "dimensions" ruling the Subtle. In fact, as Lexi Neale and I agree, the autopietic and non-local insides of the quadrants represent the connection with the Subtle. Furthermore, these deeper level "dimensional relations" between quadrants (that Mortuori says Morin tries to make and which may be of "particular interest for integral theorists") may take place in a MIRROR-LIKE manner as the "enclosed spaces" or "CANCHAS" of the (not just pre-modern) Quechua Andean people who also developed a system based on complementary dualities and a way to relate (yes, I admit without making clear modern distinctions) with nature, spirits and men "RELATIONALLY" and under the concept of "RECIPROCITY." Their "quadrants" (Canchas) relate DIAGONALLY (Interior-Singular or "subjective" relating diagonally with Exterior-Plural or "systemic"  AND  Interior-Plural or "cultural" relating diagonally with Exterior-Individual or "objective singular") and this might also be useful to advance Integral Theory.  Not recognizing that quadrants may be coordinated by a deeper realm in which the BOTH-AND logic of dimensions rules may be a silly mistake, delay, name it.  Not exploring why the insides of quadrants may behave non-locally (even if statistically regulated under a specified pattern) would not allow Integral Theory to be more meanigful for quantum mechanics and modern science. Considering ideas that do not SEEM to agree with Ken's in some issues may be the more integral path to take in some instances. This integral community should have been a place to really converse with openness about all these issues but I have seldom find any receptivity. Holding on to the belief that since Ken developed the more general basic model he may be so integrally develped as to be always able to overcome his personal preferences and recognize the partial truths of other integrative approaches (which may or may not necessarily use that AQAL model) is problematic and a hidden danger. It may be used to simply dismiss other people's findings way too much because they were in many other aspects "pre-modern" while forgetting that they may not have necessarily been so in all aspects. The next stage beyond Morin Wilber and all the other integralists may have to do with how REALMS relate in three ways (mutually inside each other overcoming exteriors, interdependently including exteriors and interactively (following three different causal principles)...but that is another issue to expand upon later on. By the way, I'm happy that Edgar Morin and Roy Bakshar are being included in the "discussion" of this integral(ist) community.