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June 1, 2023

Integral Methodological Pluralism

Ken WilberSquareAn Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Ken Wilber’s groundbreaking book Integral Spirituality – A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World

We start with the simple observation that the “metaphysics” of the spiritual traditions have been thoroughly critiqued—“trashed” is probably the better word—by both modernist and postmodernist epistemologies, and there has as yet arisen nothing compelling to take their place.

So this chapter begins with an overview of the methodologies available that can be used to reconstruct the spiritual systems of the great wisdom traditions but with none of their metaphysical baggage.

Integral Methodological Pluralism (IMP) involves, among other things, at least 8 fundamental and apparently irreducible methodologies, injunctions, or paradigms for gaining reproducible knowledge (or verifiably repeatable experiences). The fundamental claim of AQAL Integral Theory is that any approach that leaves out any of these 8 paradigms is a less-thanadequate approach according to available and reliable human knowledge at this time.

The easiest way to understand IMP is to start with what are known as the quadrants, which suggest that any occasion possesses an inside and an outside, as well as an individual and a collective, dimension. Taken together, this gives us the inside and the outside of the individual and the collective. These are often represented as I, you/we, it, and its (a variation on first-, second-, and third-person pronouns; another variation is the Good, the True, and the Beautiful; or art, morals, and science, and so on—namely, the objective truth of exterior science, or it/its; the subjective truth of aesthetics, or I; and the collective truth of ethics, or thou/we).

Figure from the book Integral Spirituality by Ken Wilber

Figure 1.1. Some Details of the Quadrants

Figure 1.1 is a schematic of some of the phenomena found in the quadrants according to reliable knowledge communities working with them. (Don’t worry if some of the terms are unfamiliar; we will cover the important ones later.)*

We often refer to any event as a holon—a “whole/part,” or a whole that is a part of other wholes—and thus each of the items labeled in the various quadrants can also be referred to as a holon (e.g., in the UR quadrant, a molecule is a holon that contains whole atoms and is contained by whole cells; in the UL, a concept is a holon that contains whole symbols and is contained by whole rules, and so on). Now here, as they say, is where it gets interesting. If you imagine any of the phenomena (or holons) in the various quadrants, you can look at them from their own inside or outside. This gives you 8 primordial perspectives—the inside and the outside view of a holon in any of the 4 quadrants. perspectives—

* As introductory statements we say things like, “The quadrants are the inside and the outside view (or perspective) of the individual and the collective.” More technically, with reference to these perspectives, we differentiate between the “view through” and the “view from.” All individual (or sentient) holons HAVE or POSSESS four perspectives through which or with which they view or touch the world, and those are the quadrants (the view through). But anything can be looked at FROM those four perspectives—or there is a view of anything from those perspectives—and that is technically called a quadrivium. For example, a chair, as an artifact, does not possess four quadrants, but it can be looked at from those four quadrants or perspectives, which is then a quadrivium of views of or about the chair. An individual holon (like you or me) has an I, we, it, and its dimension-perspective (and hence a view through); an artifact does not, but I can look at the artifact from each of those perspectives or each quadrivium. Likewise, the 8 zones are “8 quadrants,” and the 8 methodologies are “8 quadrivia.” See appendix II.

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