What is and Why Integral Futures? by Terry Collins

What is and Why Integral Futures?

Integral Futures is an approach to Futures that uses Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory as its framework. Integral Theory contains a holistic, four-quadrant model that explores the interior (intentional) and the exterior (behavioral) of the individual and the interior (cultural) and the exterior (system or social) of the communal or collective. (Wilber, 1996)

Integral theory tells us that reality arises in the presence of and through the consciousness and experiences of individuals and collectives which can then be observed through behavior, science, nature, and social systems. What distinguishes Integral is that it considers the subjective experience and integrates it along with the objective, intersubjective, and the interobjective. The effects of one quadrant affect the others and a balance of all four quadrants will contribute to the health of the individual and or the collective. Because of the inclusiveness nature of this theory, practitioners have a framework that is meta- or at a higher level that will not reduce or collapse the interior experience of individuals and collectives into the exterior realm (reductionism). All perspectives are taken into consideration. This will not create integral but will guide and track integral attempts by its practitioners. (Esbjorn-Hargens, 2009)

Wilber, K. 1996, A Brief History of Everything, Shambala, Boston & London. Esbjorn-Hargens, 2009, p.3 http://integrallife.com/node/37539


Integral Futures and the ‘other’

One of the reasons why Integral is important to Futures is because with this perspective it makes inclusion of the ‘other’ a priority. In order to cover all the bases of the Integral map or framework, the ‘other’ must at least be considered. That does not mean the ‘other’ may have all the truth, but it may have some or parts of the truth which give a fuller, more comprehensive picture of whatever Futures angle is being explored.

The two main reasons why I respect the Integral framework is because it includes the subjective and also because it has a ‘shadow’ component to it that most models do not have. Carl Jung said that whenever an individual has an emotional charge either positive or negative to another individual’s behavior, it may be because of disowned parts of themselves that are projected on to others. An example of that would be when an individual who is clearly angry is denying their anger and accusing others of possessing the anger.

So not only does Integral make a Futures endeavor more (w)holistic, it also is attentive in making sure it is psychologically developmentally healthy, which is always something worthwhile in my opinion.


Terry Collins, Houston, 2011