Center for Spiritual Inquiry and Integral Education

R. Michael Fisher
Integral Movement: A Full Spectrum of Approaches
by R. Michael Fisher - Sunday, February 5, 2012, 05:13 AM

Defining what the "Integral Movement" is or isn't, and depending on one's biased perspective, and time and place in history, it is truly impossible not to acknowledge there will be a spectrum of different views. This shows up when one studies the literature on integral philosophy through time. For example, the following art image was constructed by me early in the development of CSIIE in 2011 with my fellow Associates:

This 24 X 36" canvas barely held all the integral philosophers we as Associates were interested in and influenced by, and thus this is our own CSIIE version of the Integral Movement, as it invisibly weaves through cultural evolution, across time and place (E and W). The blue colored names are those I chose to put on the map, and the red were those Zach chose, and the green were those Treesong chose. It's an image covering a few thousand years, and it could go back much further into the shamanistic and mystical teachings since the beginning of human history.

Point is, the Integral Movement is not limited to one philosopher, like say a Ken Wilber. In a certain sense, this image, now up in our CSIIE office in Gaia House Interfaith, Carbondale, IL, is merely a universal reflection of our local focus. I can envision such maps all over the world as CSIIE offices develop and each has its own people with their own interests, and yet always with a respect for the tradition of integral philosophy. Yet, clearly, what is "integral" that makes a particular philosophy or methodology is always controversial. Even to take the rather bounded definition and meaning of "Integral Movement" as defined by some people in Integral circles today, there are still some universal thinkers that would not be excluded, for example Ken Wilber. That said, not everyone in the current Integral Movement wave is willing to centralize Wilber as the major thinker of the movement.

That diversity of views is what keeps the movement very alive, and for me, it is why I feel I can be a member and co-creator and historian of the movement with all its excitement, hard work, and potential for really helping this world grow into an Integral Age. While, I say that, I am in no way suggesting that the whole world will, nor should, nor can, emerge into an Integral Age at the same time. The complexity of differential developmental realities in different parts of the globe, and in different parts of my neighborhood, presents integralists with great challenges. How do we communicate "integral" with people who are not ready for it, or despise it, or .... you name it, there are a hundred reasons for not communicating this well and for all the conflict there can be in trying to do so. Conflict goes also deeply into the heart of the contemporary Integral Movement, and even among Wilberians themselves. I can speak to that directly as a Wilberian who has had more than my share of conflict with other Wilberians.

The concept I had today comes out of integral theory, and particularly Wilber's earliest 1970s writings-- that of the "spectrum" model or metaphor. Wilber argued that a lot of the conflict in the field of psychology, with all the different schools of thought, could be better addresses as a whole (even with the diversity of views) if people would only embrace a spectrum (see Wilber, 1977) approach. He said there is one white light, and when run through a prism it creates all the different colors. Wilber said the different schools of psychology represented different interests and levels of consciousness, each with their own favorite ideologies, value systems, beliefs, and paradigms. I have always found that very useful, even if the metaphor is not exactly the same as the physics of light. So, my contention is that we'd better deal with our own conflicts within the Integral Movement if we embraced that there are different 'centers of gravity' of integral consciousness and application of integral thinking. I can see discourses (using Spiral Dynamics colors) like Integral-coral (e.g., Andrew Cohen and his followers), like Integral-turquoise (e.g., folks at IONS, at Pacific Integral), Integral-yellow (R. Michael Fisher), and Integral-green and Integral-orange (e.g., the folks at Integral Review) and even Integral-blue, as well as the culturalist's of Integral-red (e.g., folks at Beams and Struts), and I can think of some Integral-purple folks in CSIIE; these different communities are not homogeneous by any means, but they have a "tone" or "register" like in music, and you recognize their style, and meme set, even if it is merely an aesthetic one, it is real and has an impact on who is attracted to that sub-branch of the one Integral Movement. Of course, a lot more serious analysis ought to be done to do this justice, but it is something I am playing with of late.

Even though, I may put myself generally as an Integral-yellow there is a growing reality that my life is Integral-beige (I'm still on survival and victim mode in terms of many economic factors in this worldly world); yet, my real emergent interest is in Integral-blue, from a research point of view and from a lived activist point of view. Yes, I am really not happy with the Integral-green activist imaginary and trajectory (way too much Boomeritis, as Wilber would say)... so, there's my pursuit of the "radical" (if I be so blunt, yet use that term very cautiously)--  and Integral-blue interests me and others at CSIIE in recent conversations. In fact, I want to share with you as readers to check out my latest blog "Can Integral (Yellow) and Blue Meme Work?" (

So, I invite all those in the Integral Movement, as self-identified "integralists" and/or those studying this movement, to adopt the spectrum approach (that is and integral perspective) on the Integral Movement and all its current internicine wars and conflicts, as these conflicts are often very destructive to full-strength unification of the power that is sitting inside this movement. If we at CSIIE can help this unification, while giving full due out and up front to the conflict in a health way, I will lead that as best I can. And at the same time, I'll be up front about my biases in interpreting an integral approach, or what integral means. I don't have to be right, I am interested in being truthful. The co-inquiry we at CSIIE can provide I believe is unique in the Integral Movement at this time. Join us, if you will.


Wilber, K. (1977). Spectrum of consciousness. Wheaton, IL: The Theosophical Publishing House.