Integral Stages

Ken Wilber’s stages of Integral Theory is based on the idea common to so many developmental theorists, that people develop step by step, in stages, from one level of development into the next level of development up the spiral of consciousness. Spiral dynamics was initially developed by Don Edward Beck and Christopher Cowan based on the work of Clare Graves and a later collaboration between Beck and Wilber produced Spiral Dynamics Integral.

These 8 or so stages are not just a set of complicated speculations that someone says exists. As Ken Wilber says, “they are evidenced-based realities that are crashing into us every single moment of every day. They are happening whether we know it or not. “They aren’t things like deconstruction which is a theoretical conceptualisation which you can believe or not as you wish. They are actually existing territories which are genuine realities in our very own being fully present and fully active in each and every one of us.”

As we move up these 8 or so stages it’s like climbing a ladder with 8 rungs. We all start out at rung one and there we see the world from the view at that rung. Babies crying for milk, for example, are not likely to care whether mother is asleep or being disturbed by their crying. They can of course, only see the world from their radical food-centred reality.

We then step up to rung two, where we see the world from a higher perspective and are no longer identified with just the oral drive of the infant. We have transcended that view, are ready to let go of its limitations and move onwards. But even as you let go of the limited view you are always going to need food so you keep the rung itself, but with each step up you transcend and include all the lower stages.

So, as you develop and mature, because of changing life conditions and after an experience of disharmony, you will break through from one value system to another which you adopt as your primary worldview, until the next experience of disharmony occurs and you break through again to the next stage.

Integralist Bansi Butler says: “Those stages are definable, and everyone on the planet can be understood through the lens of what stage of development they are in. A great deal of conflict in the world is not about people wanting different things, but rather people misunderstanding what is happening from a different stage of development. We can communicate more effectively by framing communication in references and terms that matter to their worldview. This is the most useful and perhaps also the most potentially triggering part of Integral Theory; and hence it is important to understand that being at a later stage does not make someone better any more than a 60 year old is better than a 30 year old, or a 12th grader is better than a 3rd grader.”

I’d agree. It’s not actually about going to a ‘higher’ stage where you get to look down on people who are less clued up or enlightened. But the more complexity you can hold, the better equipped you’ll be for life in these troubled times. As we confront the many problems of our day amidst a cornucopia of conflicting perspectives, it seems impossible to make any kind of sense out of it without some kind of framework, global in vision, yet also anchored in the realities of every day life, that gives us the kind of collective solution building and sense making that Integral Theory does.

So now it’s over to us. When our present stage on the spiral is not providing the answers we need to grow and transform our consciousness into a more inclusive frame, do we stay put, in an old dualistic frame than can only provide the answers to very simplistic questions or we grow and expand into greater depth and breadth?

2 thoughts on “Integral Stages

  1. You mean the evidence for the stages themselves, or the evidence that they are actual existing territories that come crashing into us every day?

    If it’s the former, see Integral Psychology, where he integrates well over 100 established developmental theories in the field of consciousness including psychology, the meditative traditions, philosophy and sociology, and with corresponding charts correlating over a hundred psychological and spiritual schools from around the world, including Kabbalah, Vedanta, Plotinus, Teresa of Ávila, Aurobindo,Theosophy, and modern theorists such as Jean Piaget, Erik Erikson, Jane Loevinger, Lawrence Kohlberg, Carol Gilligan, Erich Neumann, and Jean Gebser to name a few.

    If it is the latter, the evidence is in the contemporary arena of the culture wars where the levels are being played out in front of our noses.
    See Trump and a Post Truth World.
    Granted, it is a very tricky area to pick up reliable data on. There is probably considerably more ambivalent and internally inconsistent attitudes than these broad stroke culture wars portray, but I think we can still talk reliably about broad tendencies within the stage, such as the tendency of Red to be self-referential, egocentric and instinctual. Doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see Trump in that for sure.
    For me the strength of Wilber’s stage theory is that it takes us out of binary ‘either- or’ thinking into a much broader perspective. We desperately need ‘a politics that transcends left and right, a new science that includes the interior and exterior domains, a new art that reclaims the beautiful and the sublime and even a new spirituality that recognises the universal nature of the spiritual experience’. (from an article by Stephen McIntosh Integral Politics and the Evolution of Consciousness and Culture)

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