Philosophy (literally, “love of wisdom”) might well be the oldest human pursuit. For as long as human beings have existed, we have questioned our existence. And whereas our close evolutionary relatives have demonstrated the ability to create tools and…
Philosophy (literally, “love of wisdom”) might well be the oldest human pursuit. For as long as human beings have existed, we have questioned our existence. And whereas our close evolutionary relatives have demonstrated the ability to create tools and perhaps even display a sense of humor—traditional criteria for what makes us unique as humans—we have not yet observed in them the capacity to make meaning. Perhaps it is meaning itself, and the search for it, that sets us apart.
Every human age has its priceless contributions, its startling insights. Premodernity discerned, beneath the myriad forms of manifestation, “the Great Chain of Being,” a majestic progression from matter to body to mind to spirit. Modernity informs this view considerably; it tells us that we live in a universe that has evolved over roughly 14 billion years. Matter evolved to the point at which life emerged; life evolved to the point at which consciousness emerged. And postmodernity points out that each of us is embedded in a context, largely invisible to ourselves, from which we interpret our experience. Rather than a pregiven world, we enact a worldspace, the product of the phenomena we observe and the viewpoint from which we make the observation. We are, quite literally, viewing manifestation through a set of lenses, lenses that we never knew we were wearing. And in the process of development, we swap those lenses for new ones, viewing phenomena in increasingly more precise, nuanced, and sophisticated ways.
At the leading edge, most developmental theories posit a stage that might be called “integral,” for its hallmark attempt to make sense of everything, to find the pattern that connects. One such theory is “AQAL,” short for “all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, all types.” The AQAL model, proposed by American philosopher Ken Wilber, is perhaps the most comprehensive view ever taken of how all manifestation, all matter, all life, all thought, and all experience can fit together in a coherent whole. AQAL itself is content-less, which makes it infinitely applicable to any particular area of inquiry. Any field (e.g. business, medicine, politics) can be viewed through an AQAL lens. And this view can vastly enrich our understanding of the contours, limits, and possibilities of that field. Touching in on the five aspects of the model ensures that we have covered all of our bases. We can be sure that we are viewing a given situation from every conceivable angle, and can proceed with the best information possible.
But what if AQAL was applied to spirituality itself? What if we were to view the ancient pursuit of spirit from the highest viewpoint we can possibly take at this time? What would we learn from the journeys of those who have gone before, and what implications would there be for the road ahead? Remembering that there is no pregiven world, but rather, worldspaces that arise when a new perspective is taken from a new altitude, what is the worldspace that arises when spirituality is viewed from integral?
Integral Spirituality is a description of precisely that. It is a depiction of the view, from 50,000 feet, of spirituality, described by one of the great thinkers of our time. The book yields extraordinary theoretical insights, such as the fact that states of consciousness (which religious traditions guide us through) are always interpreted from stages of consciousness. And it provides practices that help us to navigate these states and stages in a breathtakingly conscious manner, ensuring that we are living as freely and fully as we can. It makes the bold proposition that religion—far from being obsolete—is the conveyor belt that will enable humanity to progress safely through the stages in its evolutionary past, and with great hope into its evolutionary future.