Integral Theory Primer: A Reader's Guide to Ken Wilber by Ali Akalin

Ali Akalin was born in Turkey, and grew up in Thailand and the Netherlands. Ali is a writer, editor, and teacher at Core Integral. He works closely with Clint Fuhs and Ken Wilber in developing in-depth courses on Integral Theory. Ali currently holds an MA in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology from Naropa University. He would like to invite anyone interested in learning Integral Theory to check out for a curriculum specifically structured to the Integral Approach.

In his own words...

What is the Integral Approach?

When introducing the Integral Approach, Ken Wilber writes, “What if we took literally everything that all the various cultures have to tell us about the human potential—about spiritual growth, psychological growth, social growth—and put it all on the table?” And “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 of all of them?” This is the goal of the Integral Approach.

Ultimately, the Integral Approach isn’t just interested in a theoretical map, but also in the coordination of all the different methods and practices used to bring forth different experiences available to human beings. In other words, the Integral Approach is experiential and psychoactive. It is a series of cutting-edge practices designed to acquaint us with the many dimensions of our own Being.

Sex, Ecology, Spirituality

The Spirit of Evolution

Wilber divides his work into four main phases and describes his fourth phase as being his first “truly comprehensive or integral” model. Books from this phase are ideal starting points for understanding Wilber’s current thought, in addition to being excellent reviews of his earlier material.

Phase-4 was first presented in detail in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality. Popularized versions of this work can be found in A Brief History of Everything and later in A Theory of Everything. These versions are succinct yet comprehensive introductions to the Integral Approach.

The Integral Vision

A Very Short Introduction to the Revolutionary Integral Approach to Life, God, the Universe, and Everything

Nonetheless, the most accessible and up-to-date, albeit condensed, presentation of the essentials of the Integral Approach, can be found in The Integral Vision. The presentation of The Integral Vision is intended to allow readers to traverse the core of Integral Theory and, in less than an hour, discern whether they are interested in pursuing it further. It’s also a great review for those already familiar with Wilber’s work.

Integral Spirituality

A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World

Integral Spirituality, which according to some critics is an example of a “fifth phase” in Wilber’s writings, represents his most up-to-date thinking. Although sections of this book contain complex theory, the general content is still highly relevant for those new to Wilber’s work. For instance, in light of the contemporary developments in philosophy, critical theory, and psychology, where does spirituality fit? And, if meditation can both accelerate and entrench development, what supplementary practices are needed? In answering these questions, Integral Spirituality offers the most comprehensive definition of enlightenment available today, as well as provides tools for building an integral life practice and working with personal shadow.

The Eye of Spirit

An Integral Vision for a World Gone Slightly Mad

The detailed application of the Integral model—in cultural studies, psychology, feminism, art, science, and spirituality—was first presented in The Eye of Spirit. This book also contains Integral Art and Literary Theory, which Wilber once referred to as his “own single favorite piece of writing".  It also offers an excellent overview of Wilber’s psychological model, the in-depth version of which can be found in Integral Psychology. In addition to extensive technical discussions in the endnotes, The Eye of Spirit contains what is in my opinion one of the most illuminating pointing-out instructions that Wilber has ever written. It is a must-read for every genuine seeker. (Editor’s note: This title is available in eBook format and is also included in The Collected Works of Ken Wilber: Volume Seven).

One Taste

Daily Reflections on Integral Spirituality

A great first-person accompaniment to the usual third-person discussions of theoretical concepts is One Taste. Written as a series of journal entries by Ken Wilber when he was publishing The Marriage of Sense and Soul, One Taste is the day-to-day, candid and uncensored reflections of Ken Wilber. This book’s first-person descriptions facilitate an intimate grasping of theoretical concepts by pointing out their experiential correlates in the reader’s own awareness. Around the time of its publication, Wilber had stated, “I think One Taste is probably the best short introduction to my work now available.” I would add that it is also one of the most entertaining presentations of Integral Theory.

Eye to Eye

The Quest for the New Paradigm

Finally, I would like to recommend Eye to Eye. It was written prior to the phase-4 model, but nevertheless encompasses issues that are central to all of Wilber’s subsequent works. It fleshes out a full-spectrum empiricism grounding sensory, mental, and spiritual experiences. Eye to Eye also introduces a framework that allows us to discern genuine spirituality from psychopathology and regression. This book unpacks one of the most sophisticated taxonomies of the different types of unconscious and explains their role in psychological as well as spiritual development.

These are just a brief sampling of the works that I believe fully embody and communicate Wilber’s endeavor in the world—an endeavor that I think is relevant to anyone serious about their personal development, and the development of the world, in the twenty-first century.