For a very long time, the world has witnessed a stark difference in the way the eastern and the western countries have viewed human development. While the western pioneers have focused more on human mind and its development, the eastern thinkers have talked about soul and spirituality. One segment talks about external factors impacting quality of human life, the other talks about internal.
However, in early 1970s Ken Wilber made an attempt to bring these different theories under a common framework. He called this framework the integral theory or approach inspired by Sri Aurobindo. However, the term “integral psychology” was coined by Indra Sen, a psychologist who studied Sri Aurobindo’s writings on divine transformation of the entire being and not just one aspect only.
What is Integral Psychology
Integral psychology is a roadmap to develop the entire human being which involves matter, body, mind, soul, and spirit. So instead of focusing on development of only one aspect like emotion or intellect, the discipline of integral psychology focuses on developing “everything”. This is why it is also referred to as the “theory of everything”.
According to the theory, we can transform our society and culture if we experience wholeness and interconnectedness between body, mind, and spirit. If we engage in self inquiry, we can improve our condition and experience intimacy with self, others, and the nature.
Concept of Quadrants in Integral Psychology
Ken Wilber proposed the concept of AQAL to trace the path of evolution of human development and thought process. AQAL – an abbreviation for “all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, and all types” are the five crucial elements that have impacted the development process.
The four quadrants essentially offer us a foundation to understand how we experience the world. The quadrants are derived by making two primary distinctions:
- Interior and exterior
- Individual and collective
Interior experiences are the ones that are intangible and non-physical. These include thoughts and emotions. The exterior experiences are the ones that can be touched and include body and physical actions.
- The first quadrant or the upper left quadrant is the I space where experiences are individual and are intangible.
- The second quadrant also known as the upper right quadrant or It space is the one where experiences are still at individual level but in tangible form.
- The third quadrant is the lower left quadrant which is also known as We space. Here the experiences are collective but in intangible or non-physical form.
- The fourth quadrant is the lower right quadrant known as its space. Here the experiences are collective and tangible or exterior.
According to Wilber, all these four quadrants are always present in every single moment of our life. Each of these quadrants is a powerful manifestation and is never a subordinate to the other. This is why all the four rise simultaneously to give us an idea of reality. This phenomenon is technically termed as tetra arise where tetra stands for four.