Integral Theory

Integral Theory is a comprehensive exploration into how human beings function. It unifies (integrates) the results of many different different researchers, both modern and ancient. Integral organizes around five concepts:

Stages of Development

Developmental psychologists have identified numerous features of an individual’s consciousness, such as cognition (what one is aware of), values (what one considers most important), and self-identity (what one identifies with). 1 These features of consciousness develop through recognizable stages, each stage revealing a markedly different understanding of the world. For more on Stages of Development, click here.

Lines of Development

According to Wilber, various domains or lines of development, or intelligences can be discerned. They include cognitive, ethical, aesthetic, spiritual, kinesthetic, affective, musical, spatial, logicalmathematical, karmic, etc. For example, one can be highly developed cognitively (cerebrally smart) without being highly developed morally (as in the case of Nazi doctors). For more on Lines of Development, click here.

States of Consciousness

States are temporary states of consciousness, such as waking, dreaming and sleeping, bodily sensations, and drug-induced and meditation-induced states. Some states are interpreted as temporary intimations of higher stages of development. Wilber’s formulation is: “States are free but structures are earned.” A person has to build or earn structure; it cannot be peak-experienced for free. What can be peak-experienced, however, are higher states of freedom from the stage a person is habituated to, so these deeper or higher states can be experienced at any level. For more on States of Consciousness, click here.


Wilber’s Quadrants is a powerful model that recognizes four modes of general approach for human beings. Two axes are used:
  • on one axis people tend towards individuality OR collectivity
  • and on the other, towards an interior view (subjectivity) OR an exterior view (objectivity).
The interaction of these two axes give us four personality types:
  • Upper Left (UL): Subjective or Interior Individual. This person will value truthfulness and operates inside terms of reference based on sincerity, integrity and trustworthiness.
  • Upper Right (UR): Objective or Exterior Individual. This person will value truth and operates inside terms of reference based on correspondance, representation and propositional communication.
  • Lower Right (LR): Interobjective or Exterior-Social. This person will value functional fit and operates inside terms of reference based on systems theory web, structural-functionalism and social systems mesh.
  • Lower Left (LL): Intersubjective or Interior Social (Cultural). This person will value justness and operates inside terms of reference based on cultural fit, mutual understanding and rightness.

An Example of the Quadrants in practice:

Health is all about fitness and diet – as long as I get those right I’ll be OK.” – Upper Right “No, no. What you need to do is get rid of those unhealthy emotions and say your affirmations – feel and think healthy and you’ll be healthy.” – Upper Left “Actually, all you need to do is to join a therapy group where you can share all of your problems and emotions and you’ll be fine.” – Lower Left “The real way to good health is to join BUPA because they have all of the latest technology – that’ll get you well.” – Lower Right Each of these perspectives has something to add to maintaining our Health but none of them will keep us healthy or get us well alone because each emphasises only one of the quadrants – in order, UR, UL, LL, LR. You can exercise and diet as much as you like (UR) but if you break your leg you’ll need a well-equipped surgery or hospital to help you (LR) but if as a society we don’t believe in the value of healthcare for all (LL) then the hospital will be run down and there will be no individuals willing and able to have the motivation (UL) to train as doctors and nurses but it doesn’t matter how much you believe in your own good health (UL) it won’t work unless you do something about your physical health and watch what you eat (UR) but however healthy you are as an individual that won’t make a difference if you live right in the centre of a polluted city (LR) … and so we go round the quadrants. For more on Quadrants, click here.


These are models and theories that don’t fit into Wilber’s other categorizations. Masculine/feminine, the nine Enneagram categories, and Jung‘s archetypes and typologies, among innumerable others, are all valid types in Wilber’s schema. Wilber makes types part of his model in order to point out that these distinctions are different from the already mentioned distinctions: quadrants, lines, levels and states. For more on Types, click here.

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