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An Other View of Integral Futures:

De/reconstructing the IF Brand

Jennifer M Gidley*

Global Cities Research Institute, RMIT University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Email address: jennifer.gidley@rmit.edu.au

Abstract

This paper points to some limitations of the narrow version of integral futures (IF) as

represented in the recent special issue of Futures (2008, Vol 40, Issue 2). I also propose several

ways that the IF brand could be refreshed through a broader and deeper approach to integral

futures by way of a scholarly engagement with other kindred discourses. The main focus of this

paper is to open out beyond the “myth of the given” in relation to the notion of integral and in

this way broaden and deepen possibilities for integral futures.

1. Introduction

Open unity and complex plurality are not antagonistic [1, p. 5 of 11].

It would be difficult to find two academic fields with broader potential scope than

futures studies and integral studies. Consequently, when I first encountered the

integration of these two approaches via the composite term integral futures in 2003 I was

excited at the vast potential of such a manoeuvre. As a researcher who has been working

and publishing in the field of futures studies from an integrative perspective for over a

decade I was inspired by the notion of integral futures and began to integrate it into my

own writing. Having continued my research within what I see as the very broad terrain of

integral futures, I note with some disappointment that the recent special issue of the

journal Futures, edited by Richard Slaughter takes a decidedly narrow and shallow

approach to integral futures. This is an unfortunate turn, given Slaughter’s prior

contribution to broadening and pluralising the knowledge base of futures studies [2] [3]

[4]. The tendency in the special issue to privilege and promote a particular brand of

integral futures, i. e. via Wilber’s integral model—while not exploring other integral

approaches—is more akin in my view to a business/marketing approach than a scholarly

engagement. This may reflect an alignment with the “corporate turn” in Wilber’s

approach to promoting his own model over the last couple of years. However, such a one-

sided approach does not nurture the breadth and depth of potential of integral futures

(broadly defined)—nor indeed, even its current embodiment.

By contrast with my own integral futures research discussed below, the special

issue presents a selective sample of articles that primarily represent a particular

(Wilberian) brand of integral futures—which Slaughter refers to as IF [5, p. 120].

Slaughter claims these authors represent the “current ‘leading-edge’” [6, p. 105] and are

presumably also part of what he calls the “new generation of integrally informed futures

practitioners [that] has been emerging” (p. 104). If one did not know better, one could be

persuaded to believe that the particular—partial and uncontextualised—version of

Citation:

Gidley, J 2009, 'An other view of integral futures: de/reconstructing the IF brand', Futures: The Journal of Policy, Planning and

Futures Studies, vol. 42, no. 2, pp. 125-133.

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integral futures presented in this special issue was the new, and indeed only, “integral

futures canon.”

However, the broad notion of integral futures has a long and deep history, a

planetary geography and a complex genealogy. Having researched and published in the

field from a broadly based integral futures perspective I have a keen interest in how this

approach is being theorised [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19]

[20] [21] [22].

As a faculty1 member of the former Australian Foresight Institute (AFI) at

Swinburne University during the period when the notion of integral futures was being

developed there, I was one of the first futures researchers2 to publish on the notion of

integral futures [25] [23], along with Slaughter [26]. In a comprehensive, global literature

review of “futures in education” commissioned by Slaughter and written in 2003, I

referred to integral futures as an emerging framework and undertook a Wilberian integral

analysis of the “futures in education” discourse [25]. From this perspective I would like

to provide a brief potted history of the development of integral futures in Australia as I

have observed it, since this was not provided in the special issue.

It appears that the first written use of the term integral futures was in 2003, when

Slaughter and Joseph Voros, both faculty of the former AFI wrote unpublished3 papers on

integral futures to present at the World Futures Society Conference (WFS) [27] [28].

Prior to this, the first to combine the term integral with futures studies methodologies

appears to have been Voros who began to write about the potential integration of

Wilber’s integral theories with environmental scanning [29].4 In response to some

critique at the WFS Conference of the overly Wilberian bias of the papers by Slaughter

and Voros, I was invited in September 2003 to speak with the faculty of AFI (including

Slaughter, Voros and Peter Hayward) about my doctoral research involving a broader-

based integral futures approach. I discussed my research drawing on Rudolf Steiner, Jean

Gebser and Sri Aurobindo as well as Wilber, including disseminating to them a final draft

of a paper which was later published [16]. Given this history of exposure to a broader

potential framing of integral futures, it is particularly remiss that the special issue—

published five years after this event—is so limited in the scope of its interpretation of

integral futures.

In this paper, I first point to some limitations of the narrow version of integral

futures (IF) as represented in the special issue [6]. I then propose several ways that the IF

brand could be refreshed through a broader and deeper approach to integral futures

through engagement with other kindred discourses. The main focus of this paper is to

broaden and deepen understandings of the notion of integral as a pathway to broaden and

deepen the notion of integral futures.

1 I was responsible for co-designing, researching, developing and teaching the online component of the first

year of the Masters in Strategic Foresight (Graduate Certificate Online) from 2003-2006.

2 My second article referred to here [23] was co-authored by my friend and colleague Gary Hampson

whose recent research also seeks to broaden integral theory beyond the limitations of a Wilberian branding

[24]. See also Hampson in this issue.

3 Slaughter’s paper was published as a chapter in a book the following year [26].

4 Although Slaughter had previously written about the implications of Wilber’s theories for futures studies,

including environmental scanning [30] [31], he drew primarily on Wilber’s seminal text Sex, Ecology and

Spirituality [32]. Wilber himself did not begin to use the term integral until two years later [33].

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2. Mistaking the Part for the Whole: Deconstructing the IF Brand

Much could be said by way of critique of the version of integral futures that is

represented in the special issue of Futures on the theme of “Integral Futures

Methodologies”. However, I will limit this critique to what I consider to be the most

significant faults in such a branded approach, in order to spend more time/space on

pointing to ways to open the notion of integral futures to a fuller, richer potentiality.

There is a lack of substantial engagement by most of the authors in the special issue

with the complex genealogy and multiple contemporary uses of the term integral. For

example, Slaughter heads one of his subsections “What is meant by “integral”? [5, p.

121]. He then proceeds to summarise some of the features of Wilber’s integral theory

without any suggestion that this is merely one view of “integral.” He thus perpetuates the

“myth-of-the-given” of the Wilberian integral brand. Although Hayward [34] refers to

Gebser and Habermas as genealogical pointers towards Wilber’s integral—which

purportedly transcends and includes them—he also notes that “Three of the greatest

integral theorists of the twentieth century would be Jean Gebser, Siri (sic) Aribindo (sic)

and Rudolph (sic) Steiner” (p. 109). Yet Hayward does not engage with the integral

writings of Sri Aurobindo or Rudolf Steiner, nor does he refer to the substantial research

in the integral futures domain that explores the relationships between the integral

theoretic narratives of Steiner, Gebser and Wilber [16-18]. Throughout the special issue,

when the term integral is used it is consistently conflated with the Wilberian Integral

Operating System (IOS) or AQAL, with little acknowledgement of the other

contemporary uses of the term integral and minimal engagement with the broader

integral literature [16] [35] [36] [24] [37] [38] [39] [40] [41] [42] [43] [44] [45] [46] [47]

[48] [49] [50] [18] [51] [52] [53].

Even more disturbing is that most of the articles in the special issue reflect a

conceptually parochial approach to scholarship, even in relation to integral futures itself,

referring largely to a small pool of authors who all interpret integral futures through a

similar Wilberian integral lens [54] [27] [28]. None of the authors has indicated any

serious engagement with other academic research in the integral futures area [16] [25]

[23], notably research that includes and transcends a Wilberian perspective through an

integration of integral views [16] [17] [18] and/or an ecology of integral theories [24].

There is a formalist reductionism inherent in the contraction of the broad notion of

integral futures to the acronym “IF” [5], colonising the vast potential of “integral futures”

by a managerialist mindset. The use of managerialist metaphors is a form of sciolism,

giving an appearance of scientific scholarship, much like the neo-fundamentalist audit

culture dominating educational research [55] [56] [57]. Such a technicist approach is

evident in Slaughter’s [5] pseudo-empiricist quantitative application of Wilber’s four

quadrants to his own mythic idea of Inayatullah’s CLA. Furthermore, purporting to be

post-conventional, Slaughter’s technicist application of Wilber’s four quadrants as a tool

to evaluate Inayatullah’s causal layered analysis is rather a conventional scientistic

manoeuvre based on monologic thinking rather than the post-conventional dialogic

possibility of engaging in a postformal process such as hermeneutics or intersubjective

dialogue. Rather than an enriching of causal layered analysis through an integrative

dialogue of methodologies, the result is a slaughtering of the multifaceted potential of

causal layered analysis as a rich postconventional-integrative methodology [58] [59].

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3. Reconstructing Integral Futures as Macrohistorical and Planetary

3.1 A Deep Time Genealogy of Integral

Integrality must by its nature be complex, many-sided and intricate; only some

main lines can be laid down in writing, for an excess of detail would confuse the

picture. (Aurobindo, 1997, para. 152, p. 359)

It is notable that although many contemporaries who use the term integral use it

in reference to Wilber, he has not divulged where his use of the term arose. The

genealogy of the term integral is somewhat contested among contemporary integral

theorists and researchers. In the middle of last century cultural philosopher Jean Gebser

[60] used the term integral to refer to a new, emergent, structure of consciousness.

However, unknown to Gebser when he published his first edition of The Ever-Present

Origin [60, p. xxix], Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo had begun in 1914 to use the

terms integral knowledge and integral consciousness, in a series of writings later

published as The Life Divine [61]. Sri Aurobindo refers to integral knowledge as “a Truth

that is self-revealed to a spiritual endeavour” [61, p. 661]. This is also aligned to Gebser’s

use of integral: “Integral reality is the world’s transparency, a perceiving of the world as

truth: a mutual perceiving and imparting of truth of the world and of man and all that

transluces both” [60, p. 7]. What has not yet been recognised in the integral literature, to

my knowledge, is that even before Sri Aurobindo began writing about integral

knowledge, Steiner was already using the term integral in a similar way. Steiner’s earliest

use of integral to my knowledge is the following comment he made on integral evolution

in a lecture in Paris on the 26th May 1906.

The grandeur of Darwinian thought is not disputed, but it does not explain the

integral evolution of man… So it is with all purely physical explanations, which

do not recognise the spiritual essence of man's being. [62, para. 5] [Italics added]

Steiner also used the term integral in a way that foreshadowed Gebser’s use.

Gebser [60] claimed that the integral structure of consciousness involves concretion of

previous structure of consciousness, whereby “the various structures of consciousness

that constitute him must have become transparent and conscious to him” (p. 99). Gebser

also used the term integral simultaneity (p. 143) to express this. This echoes Steiner’s

characterisation of “the stages on the way to higher powers of cognition … [where one

eventually reaches] a fundamental mood of soul determined by the simultaneous and

integral experience of the foregoing stages” [63, § 10, para. 5]. [Italics added] Recent

research has also been undertaken by Hampson in relation to even earlier, pre-twentieth

century notions of integral, specifically integral education in Russia and France [64].

The term integral has been popularised over the last decade by Wilber and to a

lesser extent by Ervin László with their respective integral theories of everything5 [42]

5 The integral approaches I consider here, including my own, need to be contextualised as post-positivist, in

contrast to the early 20th century strivings of the Vienna Circle to create a unified science through logical

positivism.

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[33] [65]. Much of the contemporary evolution of consciousness discourse that uses the

term integral to point to an emergent, holistic/integrative and spiritually-aware

consciousness—draws on the writings of Gebser and/or Sri Aurobindo, either directly, or

indirectly through reference to Wilber’s integral theory [47] [66] [46] [67] [49] [68] [33]

[69] [70] [71] [72]. However a careful scholarly analysis of the basic elements of

Wilber’s AQAL theory disclose that his theory consists primarily in piecing together into

one framework a number of theoretic components from earlier theorists—some of which

he appropriately attributes, while others he does not. Wilber’s highly prized four

quadrants model is a barely disguised and unattributed replication of Schumacher’s four

fields of knowledge6 [73] [18]; his holon theory is an insufficiently attributed adaptation

of Koestler’s holon theory (see Hampson in this issue); his levels are a complex and

sometimes inconsistent hybrid of Gebser’s cultural history and postformal psychology

research [74, p. 50-51]; and his integral hermeneutics [75] is remarkably similar, though

again without attribution, to Ricoeur’s earlier complex reconciliation of the

Gadamer/Habermas debates in hermeneutics theory [76].

My research enacts an integration of integrals7 involving a deepening of integral

theory by honouring the significant yet undervalued theoretic components of

participation/enactment and aesthetics/artistry via Steiner and Gebser as a complement to

Wilber’s conceptual emphasis. I also introduce the notion of reverence as an

underappreciated feature of postformal-integral consciousness, which Steiner regarded as

fundamental to the healthy emergence of the new consciousness [77]. The significance of

reverence is also noted in some education literature [78] [79] [80] [81]. When brought

into hermeneutic dialogue with each other, Steiner’s integral spiritual science,8 Gebser’s

integral-aperspectival cultural phenomenology, and Wilber’s integral-AQAL theoretical

framework, demonstrate significant convergences in addition to their unique

particularities. My particular interests in using the term integral are to foreground the

concepts of inclusivity, holism, pluralism and reverence.

3.2 A Planetary View of Integral

Understanding requires holism… If the holism is to be taken into account then the

values of all the world’s cultures in all their diversity are salient initial conditions

to which sensitivity is essential, and this holds just as true for the moral and

ethical ideas of the west itself—they have all played their part in making the

6 Wilber’s four quadrants bear a remarkable similarity to the Four Fields of Knowledge put forward by

Ernst Friedrich Schumacher in his 1977 Guide for the Perplexed, summarized as 1. I – inner; 2. The world

(you) – inner; 3. I – outer; 4. The world (you) – outer. (Schumacher, 1977, p. 62) Although Wilber refers to

this book in his reference list at the end of SES, and in two endnotes, he does not cite Schumacher in

relation to his four quadrants. (Wilber, 2000d) Some clarification from Wilber on this issue would be

valuable, since this is the cornerstone of his AQAL theory.

7 My privileging of the term integral over holistic, or integrative, is not intended to contribute to any “turf

wars.” I seek to honour both the scholarship and spiritual depth given to the term integral last century by

Gebser and Sri Aurobindo. By using the phrase “integration of integrals” I distinguish my stance from any

one particular integral theory. My use of integrality also conceptually includes the notion of holistic, as

used by holistic theorists who honour a developmental and evolutionary perspective.

8 In his discussion of the potential interdisciplinary relationship between anthropology and

anthroposophy—also called spiritual science—Steiner refers to his spiritual science as a “systematic noetic

investigation” [82] .

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richness of the world… We have to accept a new equivalence between

perspectives… Through chaos and beyond, we have to emerge into a dynamic

new era of interrelationship. Zia Sardar [83]

A critique that could be made of some forms of integral theory is that they carry

an Anglo-American bias that is tantamount to another hegemonising grand narrative. I

became aware throughout my own research process that most of the contemporary

literature on integral theory is being written in the USA and most of the integral futures

writing draws primarily on Anglo-American integral theory. This bias needs to be

addressed and a first step is to explore what other similar integrative narratives might

exist in other cultural discourses. I have included two other significant integrative

discourses in my research, both of which are not limited to Anglo-American authors.

These include discourses that use the term planetary and discourses that use terms such

as transdisciplinary, transnational and transcultural [84] [85]. Furthermore, there is a

significant history of integral education theory in Europe, particularly 19th century France

and Russia that has been largely overlooked in contemporary Anglo discourse [64]. The

notion of integral foresight, drawing on the French prospective, is also utilised by

Fabienne Goux-Baudiment.9

The use of the term planetary has been increasing within evolution of

consciousness discourses. The semiotic pluralism of its contemporary usage provides a

counterbalance to the more politico-economic term, globalisation. Many researchers who

use the term planetary have been inspired by Teilhard de Chardin’s notion of the

planetization of mankind [86]. The phrase planetary consciousness is emerging as an

alternative to the terms postformal or integral to characterise emergent consciousness,

particularly in the light of our current planetary crisis. In addition to its popular use by

environmental activists it is used in academic contexts by a range of philosophers,

scientists, educators and sociologists [69] [39] [87] [37] [84] [38]. This critical use of

planetary has been emphasised in the philosophical writings of Edgar Morin who refers

to the present times as the Planetary Era, which he claims began around five hundred

years ago [84,88-90]. Several other contemporary writers have also been influenced by

Morin’s concept of planetary [91] [92] [93] [94] [37] [95]. My use of planetary is multi-

layered, foregrounding critical environmental (biosphere), transcultural (anthropo-socio-

sphere), philosophical (noosphere) and spiritual interests (pneumatosphere). These

complex concepts are discussed in more detail elsewhere [18] [19].

If we take a planetary perspective to the historical development of knowledge in

universities we need to take into account Indian, Chinese, Arab/Islamic and Israeli

streams of higher education—all of which arguably preceded the European academies

and universities. This early history of universities has been developed more fully by

Hampson [64].

Perhaps a relevant example given the current misunderstandings between the

dominant American worldview and Islamic perspectives is the court of Haroun al

Raschid in the late 8th century CE in Baghdad. Steiner described the cultural leader,

Haroun al Raschid as:

9 See website http://www.progective.com/en/progective/historique/

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The figure-head of a civilisation that had achieved great splendour… at the centre

of a wide circle of activity in the sciences and the arts… Profound philosophic

thought is applied to what had been founded by Mohammed with a kind of

religious furor; we see this becoming the object of intense study and being put to

splendid application by the scholars, poets, scientists and physicians living at this

Court in Baghdad. [96, § 10, para. 6-9]

This description characterises a type of integral culture that has not yet been

repeated in Europe or the Anglophone world.

If we look beyond Europe and the Anglophone world in relation to contemporary

integral approaches, we can find many examples. These include the Multiversidad in

Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico based on Morin’s complex planetary philosophy. This

university is hosting an international congress in October 2008 on complex thought and

education, with Morin, Nicolescu and Maturana as keynote speakers. There is the

“international UNIPAZ network inspired by Pierre Weil in Brazil deploying their holistic

peace education programme in various places” [74]. There is also an interesting integral

education project in China, initiated by Professor Fan Yihong, who previously studied in

collaboration with David Scott’s Community for Integrative Learning and Action (CILA)

in Amherst, Massachusetts [97] [98]. These are just some of the integral projects that

appear when one broadens the notion of integral beyond the limitations of the IF brand.

In summary, if one conceptualises integral futures with an eye to macrohistorical

as well as planetary perspectives one can find significant examples of integral

worldviews in a range of previous times and diverse contemporary places. It is on this

delicate and dialogic integral theoretic ground that my broadly based version of integral

futures stands.

3.3 An Integration of Integral Views

The dialectical challenge felt by many is to evolve a cultural vision possessed of a

certain intrinsic profundity or universality that, while not imposing any a priori

limits on the possible range of legitimate interpretations, would yet somehow

bring an authentic and fruitful coherence out of the present fragmentation, and

also provide a sustaining fertile ground for the generation of unanticipated new

perspectives and possibilities in the future. [99, p. 409]

These words of integral philosopher Richard Tarnas point to the challenge I have

felt and tried to meet in my work. I recently undertook the ambitious task to develop an

“integration of integral views.” A critique of this venture could surely be that this is an

egotistic, competitive attempt to enter the rivalrous fray between Wilber, László and the

Aurobindians.10 However, I believe a close reading of my text will reveal that my primary

intention is to try to introduce a more dialogic rather than rivalrous tone. My interests in

entering into what I consider to be a significant millennial conversation were to listen

carefully with critical reverence to what had already been said, to hear the silences and to

10 Although there are other integral theorists that could be considered these three streams are the dominant

threads operating within what could loosely be called integral theory today, particularly in the USA.

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see what may have been overlooked. My intention is not to introduce another competing

integral monologue (another theory of everything) but to begin a conversation that may

facilitate a healing within the integral fragments, so that the task at hand—to understand,

cohere and translate the breadth of the expanding noosphere—can more freely continue.

Before providing a brief overview of how I have cohered these approaches, I make two

prefatory points. Firstly, my interest in not so much in the literal use of the word integral

but in the meaning that it attempts to express. Secondly, a major contribution of my

research is to introduce into the integral conversation the significant contribution to

integral theory of Steiner—perhaps the most marginalised 20th century integral theorist,

given his application of integral thinking to so many fields (e. g., medicine, education,

agriculture, architecture and the arts, to name a few).

I propose a simple frame through which to view the complementary nature of

several significant integral theorists.11 For the purposes of this schematic summary I have

chosen to focus on five integral theorists: Gebser, László, Sri Aurobindo, Steiner and

Wilber; and two transdisciplinary theorists: Morin and Nicolescu.12 I propose to view the

contributions from several metaphoric perspectives, introducing five—mostly new—

terms to integral theory: macro-integral, meso-integral, micro-integral, participatory-

integral, and transversal-integral.13 Based on this new framing I intend to demonstrate

how the various integral approaches need not be seen to be in competition with each

other but rather as complementary aspects of a broader articulation of noospheric breadth

that is seeking living expression. Without implying that any of these terms represent

closed, fixed categories or that any of the integral approaches could be contained

completely within any of these concepts, I suggest the following provisional mosaic of

integral theory as it stands today.

By macro-integral I am referring to the extent to which the integral theorist

includes all major fields of knowledge. I suggest that at this level of conceptual

integration, Wilber’s AQAL framework makes a highly significant contribution and this

is where his strength lies. The breadth of Steiner’s theoretic contribution to the

understanding and integration of knowledge is at least as vast as Wilber’s, however it has

been largely ignored by both the academy and integral theorists, perhaps to their

detriment. Gebser also made an impressive, but largely under-appreciated theoretic

contribution to articulating the emergence of integral consciousness in numerous

disciplines and fields in the early 20th century. In summary, I see Steiner, Gebser and

Wilber as the most significant macro-integral theorists of the 20th century with Wilber

perhaps being the most accessible.

By meso-integral I am referring to the extent to which the integral theorist

contributes significantly to theory building within particular fields or theories. I propose

that László’s [42] contribution is highly significant at this level. Having followed a rather

more formal, European, academic-scientific approach to theory building, László has

11 I am using the terms theorists and theory in this section broadly to cover philosophy, epistemology and

methodology.

12 The atypical nature of this list can be accounted for in two ways: My reasons for including

transdisciplinary theorists will become evident and other integral theorists who could be considered are

generally aligned to one or more of these major theorists. P.R.Sarkar could also be considered but his vast

theory is beyond the scope of my research to integrate in this paper.

13 I recognise that some of these terms have technical meanings in mathematics, engineering and computer

sciences, however, I am using them metaphorically in this context.

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taken a general systems approach to integral theory. Although it can be critiqued from a

Wilberian view as being partial, it appears more successful than most integral approaches

at being taking seriously from an academic perspective. Although Wilber and Steiner

have both made numerous theoretic contributions to various disciplines, their

contributions remain marginalised within mainstream approaches. Sri Aurobindo’s

integral approach could also be regarded as a significant contribution at this level—albeit

also a marginalised one—given that his philosophy provides a foundation for much of the

later integral theory development [47].

By micro-integral I am referring to the extent to which the integral theorist makes

detailed contributions to specific disciplines or fields through the application of their

theory. I propose that at this level of detailed application of integral theory to a wide

range of disciplines and professional fields, Steiner’s extraordinary contribution can no

longer continue to be ignored by integral theorists. Although it is beyond the scope of this

paper to consider all the fields of application of his theory, I have made extensive

reference elsewhere to the integral nature of his theory and particularly of its pedagogical

application [17] [19] [100]. By comparison, Gebser’s, Wilber’s and László’s theories are

largely conceptual, although Gebser enacts his integrality in the style of his writing and

Wilber is making moves towards the application of his theory in various fields. The

emphasis on applied theory in Sarkar’s approach can also be noted in this regard.

The notion of participatory-integral is based on the integral transformative

education theory of Ferrer, Romero and Albareda [48] [101]. Their participatory

approach14 is inspired by Sri Aurobindo’s integration of the three yogas of knowledge,

love and action, which is in turn aligned to Steiner’s thinking/head, feeling/heart and

willing/hands. Ferrer et al. emphasise the importance of the participation of the whole

human being (body, vital, heart, mind and consciousness) and claim that most integral

education theories are either too cognicentric or too eclectic. They provide an alternative

framing, based on Wexler’s notion of horizontal integration, as “the way we integrate

knowledge” and vertical integration, as “the way we integrate multiple ways of

knowing” [101, p. 309]. Based on this framing Ferrer et al. place most integral, holistic

and even transdisciplinary approaches within horizontal integration. My interpretation is

that this framing is too simplistic: firstly, because there are other unacknowledged ways

that the terms vertical and horizontal are used in integral theory and other theories; and

secondly, much depends on how the approach to integrating knowledge is applied.

I also propose a new concept via the term transversal-integral that refers to

integral approaches that include and cut across these vertical and horizontal

levels/dimensions. While it could be argued that all the integral theorists mentioned cut

across these different dimensions to a greater or lesser degree—particularly Steiner and

Wilber—I acknowledge two other significant integral thinkers who enact transversal15

reasoning and relationships through their transdisciplinarity. Morin and Nicolescu do not

tend to use the term integral, nor are they cited as integral theorists in much of the

14 The term participatory in relation to integral theory is also used in a different way to refer to self-

reflective enactment [24]. See also [18, pp. 13, 110, 124].

15 Professor of science and theology, J. Wenzel Van Huyssteen draws attention to the role of transversality

in postfoundational approaches to interdisciplinarity: “Transversality in this sense justifies and urges an

acknowledgment of multiple patterns of interpretation as one moves across the borders and boundaries of

different disciplines” [102].

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integral literature.16 I suggest the latter is an unfortunate oversight based on semantic and

cultural misunderstanding, rather than philosophical understanding. From my planetary

scanning of the research it is apparent that the term integral is much more widely used in

North America today than in Europe though this was not the case in the 19th century [64].

By contrast the term transdisciplinary17 appears to be used in Europe, particularly by

Nicolescu and Morin, with similar integral intent. A special feature of both Nicolescu’s

and Morin’s transdisciplinary philosophies is their attention to transversal relationships.18

See also the special issue on transciplinarity (Futures, Vol. 36, Issue 4).

In summary, my position is that integral theory creation to date has been seriously

hampered by internal rivalry, factionalism and, ironically, lack of integration of kindred

theories. My interest here is in offering a means for perceiving the interrelationships

among significant integrative approaches that have been operating in relative isolation

from each other. This points towards the possibility of new liaisons between approaches

that are: inclusive of the vastness of noospheric breadth (macro-integral); that provide

rigorous theoretic means for cohering it (meso-integral); that attend to the concrete

details required for applying the theories (micro-integral); that encourage the

participation of all aspects of the human being throughout this process (participatory-

integral); and that are able to traverse and converse across these multiple dimensions

(transversal-integral).

4. Postformal-integral-planetary Openings: Integral Education Futures

Thinking begins when conflicting perceptions arise. Plato’s Republic, VII, 523

(cited in [103, p. 8]

As a way of countering the tendency among contemporary integral theoretic

narratives towards a particular brand of integral—such as Wilber, Gebser, Sri Aurobindo,

László or any other—my style of integral futures research involves deliberately, actively

and frequently pointing to theoretic openings rather than premature theoretic closure. By

consistently attending to the kindred theories that rub up against our cherished theories

and methodologies, we keep them soft and alive, rather than hard, rigid and mechanistic.

I call this delicate theorising19 [19]. There are two major strategies that I have used to

enact this process of delicate theorising with regard to integral futures. The first strategy

is developed in my broad philosophical research and involves conceptually linking the

16 However, integral theorists from the Califormia Institute of Integral Studies, Alfonso Montuori and Sean

Kelly, have been translating Morin’s writing over the last decade and clearly appreciate its significance for

integral theory.

17 A lack of clarity on these matters within integral theory may result from a conflation by some American

integral theorists of transdisciplinarity with the concept interdisciplinarity, which is more widely used in

the US. From my reading of these terms, Nicolescu’s transdisciplinarity is closer in meaning to integral

than it is to interdisciplinarity.

18 The Charter of Transdisciplinarity developed in 1994 by Nicolescu, Morin and others acknowledges the

horizontal integration of the exact sciences, humanities, social sciences, art, literature, poetry and

spirituality (p. 149); the vertical integration of intuition, imagination, sensibility, and the body in

transmission of knowledge (p. 150; and also the significance of broader, transversal integration through a

“transcultural, transreligious, transpolitical and transnational attitude” [85].

19 After Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s delicate empiricism [104] [105].

11

term integral with two other concepts, postformal and planetary—both of which are also

potentially very broad and deep [18,19]. The second strategy is developed more fully in

my educational research and involves creating ongoing dialogue—rather than debate20—

with kindred theoretic approaches [74,100]. While it is beyond the scope of this paper to

discuss these strategies in detail, I will include here some brief pointers to these

approaches. They have been discussed in detail elsewhere [18] [19] [100].

In constructing my term postformal-integral-planetary I use Edgar Morin’s

complexity-based linguistic method of hyphenating three or more concepts together to

demonstrate their interrelated meanings [88] [89]. My decision to conjoin these concepts

could be critiqued from several perspectives.

From a Wilberian perspective there may be no perceived need to conjoin the

terms postformal and planetary to integral in the belief that Wilber’s integral theoretic

framework already incorporates both postformal reasoning and planetary perspectives

[75] [106]. This perspective could be represented as in Figure 1b. However, it could also

be argued from the perspective of some adult developmental psychologists that the

concept of postformal also contains both integral and planetary perspectives, for example

through Michael Commons’ hierarchical complexity model [107] [108]. This perspective

could be represented as in Figure 1a below. Finally, those theorists of the new

consciousness who focus on the critical, planetary perspectives may consider that their

narratives incorporate postformal reasoning and integral theory, for example Edgar

Morin’s notion of the planetary era [88] [84]. This theoretic perspective may be

represented as in Figure 1c below.

20 From a developmental perspective the notion of debate is an expression of formal logic—the logic of the

excluded middle. The notion of dialogue, on the other hand, is an expression of postformal logics, such as

dialectics and paradoxical thinking—which enact the logic of the included middle. For more on the

significance of the logic of the included middle in transdisciplinarity and planetary consciousness, see

Nicolescu (2002).

Postformal

Integral

Planetary

Integral

Planetary

Planetary

Post

formal

Post

formal

Integral

Figure 1a: A Postformal

Perspective on Integral

and Planetary Discourses

Figure 1: Possible

Postformal Perspective on

Integral and Planetary

Discourses

Figure 1b: An Integral

Perspective on Planetary

and Postformal Discourses

Figure 1c: A Planetary

Perspective on Postformal

and Integral Discourses

12

These three major strands of research each have a stronger emphasis in a

particular area. The planetary consciousness literature tends to emphasise the urgency of

our planetary crisis; the integral literature—particularly Wilberian integral—tends to

emphasise the epistemological crisis and how this can be transformed by integral

consciousness; the postformal psychology literature tends to focus on empirical and

analytic articulation of higher stages of reasoning. My philosophical interest is in thinking

these threads together as facets of the one emerging consciousness movement and, in

particular, to pull through the educational imperatives of this emergence.

When I apply my integral futures approach—in concert with postformal and

planetary perspectives—to educational futures, I find that there is a plethora of

postformal pedagogies that tilt towards more integral, planetary futures. I have identified

over a dozen emerging pedagogical approaches that in some way, either directly or

indirectly, facilitate the evolution of postformal-integral-planetary consciousness. I have

begun the process of hermeneutic dialogue among them, but of course much more

research needs to be done. These include: aesthetic and artistic education; complexity in

education; critical and postcolonial pedagogies; environmental/ecological education;

futures education; holistic education; imagination and creativity in education; integral

education; neohumanist education; partnership education; planetary/global education;

postformality in education; postmodern and poststructuralist pedagogies; spirituality in

education; transformative education; wisdom in education.

In summary, the call for integral futures when applied to education is for both

integral education theory and integral futures theory to contextualise themselves

academically in the long history of integral philosophies, east and west, and to

contextualise themselves geographically within transnational, transcultural, planetary

discourses that go beyond the Anglo-American integral discourse. In my view, an

authentic approach to integral futures of education would embrace the rich diversity of

emergent pedagogical approaches that are out there, globally, in these urgent planetary

times.

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