Saturday, June 18, 2011

Is there an Integral community?

A few weeks ago I left my volunteer role at Bay Area Integral (BAI). As I was reflecting on this choice, it was clear that I had been on the fence for a while, if not from the beginning. I joined BAI but never wholeheartedly, and yet I staid for a year. So I wondered: how come?

I joined BAI to be more involved with the "Integral community", but I realized we all have different views of what these words mean. I think it's core to why we haven't seen a community develop around Integral Theory.

Integral theory has this particularity to be a meta-theory, a theory about theories. It doesn't have a real-life, concrete object of study. We are interested in Integral Theory (ITH), sure, but we're mostly interested in applying it to a specific field - e.g., "Integral Psychology", "Integral Ethics", "Integral Spirituality", etc.

In a nutshell, the problem is that Integral Theory (ITH) is not about a thing, it's about a perspective on things. Biologists are all into how the body works, Architects can contemplate buildings together, but unless your passion is Research itself, you're not likely to chat about ITH for hours on a Sunday potluck. And it makes sense. We are attracted to ITH because it's a new way of looking at our favorite thing. But ultimately, we're really interested in theorizing about our thing, more than ITH itself. Sharing an interest for an approach is not enough to create kinship.

Now, it's true, the Integral model is psychoactive - it brings your attention to the lens you're using to look at the world. That's one thing all Integral fans share: an interest in psycho-spirituality. No wonder it's the topic attracting the most people, it's inherent to the model itself.

Doesn't rallying around what's our most common denominator translate our need for community? ITH can talk about many other things than spirituality. And it will have to, if it wants to be taken seriously outside of the spiritual seekers of the Bay Area.