Assumptions about Organizational Hierarchies
The word “integral” evolved etymologically from the Latin root “tangere.” This same root is also the source of words like “tactile,” “tangible” and “tangent.” It means “touch.” The first syllable of the word Integral, “in” is a negation. So, etymologically, “Integral” at its root then, means “that which is untouched.”
Something can be untouched only if there’s nothing else to touch it. That which includes everything (so that there is nothing “else”) is that which is untouched. Thus, Integral means radical inclusivity. This is the essence of Integral – wholeness.
As used commonly, though, this word Integral appears has two aspects.
One aspect can be seen in related words like “integrated” or “integrating.” We use these words to describe what happens when some individual or group, some aspect, element, or idea, which has previously been excluded, is now included in a greater wholeness, and everything shifts, and all the parts then have a new and right relationship to each other. There is integration. It’s about parts coming together rightly and making a more perfect whole. They connote something like “including all the parts and rightly relating them to each other.”
Then there is another rather different category of related words, words like “integer” and “integrity” (in the sense of both structural integrity and personal integrity.) These words don’t have connotations that even acknowledge parts or their relationship to each other. They connote onlywholeness. In fact, they refer to a wholeness that is so strong, that what stands out to notice is wholeness instead of parts, right. Integrity means that because the parts are not in conflict, the wholeness stands forth and functions without contradiction or fragmentation.
Integral theory, Integral consciousness, and Integral Life Practice are essentially about a vision of inherent wholeness. They are all expressions of a way of seeing the world that sees inherent wholeness and at the same timeseeing all the parts, illuminating all the perspectives that focus on aspects of reality, but in the context of inherent wholeness.
This is the spirit of Integral consciousness – the capacity to be present to all the parts of reality while grokking their indivisibility from the inherent wholeness. The Integral spirit lets wholeness be appreciated always, and sometimes even in the context of larger wholes
You may have heard another simple definition of the spirit of Integral: “Every perspective is both true and partial.” This simple statement summarizes the spirit of Integral consciousness because it implicitly calls forth awareness of the greater wholeness that exceeds what can be seen from any single perspective, while appreciating those perspectives. (This reminds me of Adi Da’s teaching question: “Apart from every point-of-view, what is actually there in the mirror?” It’s a koan, calling forth various answers while confounding the mind. What is there in the mirror? All possible reflections from every possible vantage point, simultaneously? Light itself? An opening into the paradox of point-of-view? The question, like any good inquiry, is richer than any and all possible answers.)
Both of these summaries of the Integral spirit (etymological and perspectival) say the same thing in different ways. The simultaneous appreciation of the truth and partiality of every perspective is the essence of the Integral Spirit. This appreciation absolute reality and inherent wholeness doesn’t fall into a “spiritual bypass” of relative realities. It is present to radical prior Unity, and is still is able to appreciate relationships, learning, and change. This “integral” appreciation of the relative stuff of life is transformed because it’s framed in the conscious field of the overarching wholeness in which it all arises.
Having clarified the radical context, then, what will we do next? What will we have for dinner? Shall we meditate? Exercise? Surf the web? Read a book? This is where Integral Life Practice picks up the conversation.