The following article is based on a presentation made during the
Second International Conference on Integral Psychology,
held at Pondicherry (India), 4-7 January 2001.
The text has been published in:
Cornelissen, Matthijs (Ed.) (2001) Consciousness and Its Transformation. Pondicherry: SAICE.
Metaphors and processes of personal integration
Bahman A.K. Shirazi
What is integral psychology?
Integral psychology is a psychological system concerned with exploring and understanding the totality of the human phenomenon. It is a framework that not only addresses the behavioural, affective and cognitive domains of the human experience within a singular system, but is concerned with the relationship among the above-mentioned domains in the context of human spiritual development. It is a system that, at its breadth, covers the entire body-mind-psyche-spirit spectrum, while at its depth dimension, encompasses the previously explored unconscious and the conscious dimensions of the psyche, as well as the supra-conscious dimension traditionally excluded from psychological inquiry.
As Western psychology is historically rooted in Western philosophy, so is integral psychology grounded in, and dependent upon, integral philosophy. At the philosophical level, integral psychology is devoted to addressing the essential issues of human spiritual, natural, social, and psychological alienation through a profound method of reconciliation of the ontological and the existential dimensions of being in the process of integral self-realization. It seeks to inspire, encourage, and assist humanity in the profound task of healing and evolution toward a future state of existence that is completely attuned to our state of embodied consciousness.
Integral psychology is inspired and informed by the great teachings of ancient wisdom traditions of the world, as well as the panorama of Western schools of psychological thought and practice. It takes into account the importance of self-knowledge, multidimensional nature of consciousness and human personality, as well as the multicultural world we live in.
One might expect that with thousands of years of living knowledge traditions, including hundreds of years of academic progress, such a psychological system would be well developed and advanced by now. Yet it is not an exaggeration to state that up until the present time no singular psychological system, Eastern, Western, or otherwise has been privileged to benefit from a vision of humanity so comprehensive as to be able to respond to the questions and challenges encountered in such a psychology.
The philosophical outlook required for such a complete vision of psychology is unlikely to be born out of the musings or discoveries of a single human being, or even a single thought system. As the human race proceeds on the path of evolution, new horizons of consciousness, new realities and new challenges arise. An integral approach to psychology, therefore, needs to have an inherent capability to absorb and benefit from the historical contributions, respond to contemporary issues, provide a vision for the foreseeable future and anticipate the upcoming challenges of each epoch of human evolution.
Fortunately, the dawn of the twenty-first century carries the promise of a new horizon of human experience and knowledge that, more than ever before, is capable of bringing together various strands of knowledge and other conditions necessary for an appropriate epistemology needed for a comprehensive vision of psychology. Some of the factors involved include the contributions of modern Western psychology, psychological dimensions of several Eastern spiritual traditions, and the rich cultural exchange between various parts of the world.
Foundations and sources
Psychology as an independent discipline is only a century and a quarter old. In this relatively short time numerous schools and systems have surfaced and developed. The second half of the twentieth century has been a time of tremendous growth and development for the field of psychology. Dominated by both scientific and psychodynamically oriented schools, psychology had previously been shut out of the influences of some of the most important schools of Western philosophy such as humanistic philosophy, existentialism and phenomenology on the one hand. On the other hand, Eastern spiritual traditions were yet to be further explored in depth by Western scholars.
After the second world war, an evolutionary explosion of philosophies and ideas seemed to influence the creation of new systems of psychology such as existential-phenomenological psychology, humanistic and transpersonal psychologies. In the 1960s and 1970s Eastern thought had either directly or indirectly through the works of early transpersonal psychologists such as Jung and Assagioli made its mark on psychological theory. There were suddenly dozens of schools of psychology like dozens of narrow spotlights aimed at a person on a stage, highlighting different parts of the person, yet failing to cover the entire person.
One of the ways in which the history of the development of Western psychology has been described is in terms of four “forces”. The first force is the empirically based experimental-behavioural psychology which originally developed from the adaptation of the scientific methodology of late 19th century natural sciences to philosophy of mind, to form the then new discipline of psychology. This school of thought has been very influential since the beginning of psychology. From Wundt, the founder of the first scientific school of psychology in Germany to development of behaviourism through Watson and Skinner in the U.S. and well into the present time, scientific psychology has had a strong presence in academia as well as in the social arena.
Despite many contributions, unfortunately this orientation has only focused on the outward aspect of human existence, i.e., that which is observable objectively—in short, behaviour and speech. In this approach, human beings are at best objectified as bio-psycho-social organisms and are studied much in the same way other natural phenomena such as plants and animals are studied. In the second half of the twentieth century cognitive psychology, a recent school of scientific psychology, included in its subject matter cognitive processes inferred from behaviour and speech. As Valle, King, & Halling (1989) have noted, “although there continues to be a strong behaviouristic emphasis in some texts, more typically [since the 1970s] there has been a shift toward a cognitive perspective” (p. 3). Since the positivist methodology adopted by this approach to psychology allows only what is observable, measurable (quantifiable), and testable, the “inner human being” and the subjective and experiential dimensions have been largely ignored or deemed unworthy of investigation due to methodological constraints.
Psychoanalysis comprises the second force in the history of psychology. From the discovery of the unconscious mind and the innovative contributions of Freud, to all the depth psychologists who in some way criticized and tried to improve Freud's work (Jung, Adler, Horney, Reich to name a few), this movement in psychology has been greatly influential in the development of both theoretical and clinical psychology. Part philosophical speculation and part clinical observation, the psychoanalytic movement and its later descendants have done much to reveal the dynamics of the human psyche in much of its complexity and to alleviate human suffering and to reveal the nature of psychopathology. Yet, this approach to psychology, being primarily concerned with the dynamics of the conscious and the unconscious mind, has not overtly dealt with the higher realms or super-conscious dimensions of the human psyche and the spiritual domains of human life in its theoretical framework.
The middle of the twentieth century witnessed radical and profound shifts in the direction of Western psychology. With scientific psychology disregarding the inner dimension of human life, and with psychodynamic models' over-emphasis on the importance of the unconscious forces, neither school in isolation nor in combination seemed to provide a satisfactory framework for understanding the whole human being. The third force, or humanistic psychology, grew in part in reaction to the shortcomings of the hitherto mentioned systems, as well as, a beginning response to the influence of Eastern psychospiritual traditions in the newly evolving interface between East and West in the United States. In the 1950s and 60s, Maslow and others began to shift the attention of psychology from a pathologistic and reductionistic focus to that of an exploration of the higher reaches of the human mind and the undiscovered human potentials and their actualization.
In the mid 1960s yet another force began to grow out of the Humanistic movement. This fourth force, or the transpersonal movement, was a direct result of the influence of Eastern spiritual traditions such as Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism, and Hinduism on the humanistic psychology movement. Although transpersonal psychology can be traced back to Carl Jung and Roberto Assagioli's work some three decades earlier, it was not until the late 1960s that this movement became popular in parts of the U.S. and Europe and slowly began to spread to certain other parts of the world. It should be noted that despite the popularity of the third and fourth forces among certain circles of psychologists, psychodynamic and experimental psychology still remain as dominant forces in most areas of the academic world. Transpersonal psychology has undergone substantial developments and changes since its earlier days, yet despite attempts on the part of Ken Wilber to create a comprehensive system (“master template”), it still remains as a body of diverse developments without a unified underlying philosophical vision.
The cardinal contribution of transpersonal psychology has been the inclusion of the spiritual dimension of human life into the larger picture of psychological inquiry primarily through importing and borrowing from mystical and spiritual traditions, both Eastern and Western as well as indigenous traditions around the world. Despite the emphasis on higher values and human potentials, and self-actualization process by humanistic psychologists, issues of ego-transcendence and higher states of consciousness did not occupy as prominent a place in humanistic psychology as it has with transpersonal psychologists.
On the one hand, transpersonal psychology is rooted in the humanistic tradition and inspired by existential / phenomenological psychology, and to some extent depth psychologies such as analytical psychology and psychosynthesis. On the other hand, it derives inspirations and insights from Eastern spiritual traditions. Most transpersonal psychologists have adopted at least one Eastern tradition (mostly Buddhism) and have incorporated or fused their teachings with those of Western psychological disciplines in which they have been trained.
One important weakness of transpersonal psychology is its relative disregard for cross-cultural issues. Pedersen (1998) has suggested that cross-cultural psychology is so significant a factor in the future developments of psychology that it should have been called the fourth force. It must be noted here that transpersonal psychology despite its openness to Eastern esoteric teachings and international appeal still largely remains a Western phenomenon best suited to Westerners or others with a Western mindset. It is most appealing to Westerners alienated from other schools of psychology and interested in integrating psychology with one or more Eastern psychospiritual disciplines.
Integral psychology is arguably the next, and if defined carefully, the final wave of development in the current history of psychology. Although it may not be simply possible to have a system of psychology that would be able to unveil all the mysteries of the human phenomenon at once, it is only common sense that psychology should cover all the known dimensions of the human phenomenon within a singular framework. This psychological framework for understanding the total human being is called integral psychology.
Herman (1983, p. 95) described integral psychology as
.. an emergent East-West study of the human psyche. It draws upon the findings of both Western depth psychology, and ancient Eastern teachings and yogas, to express a whole, unfragmented view of human functions to resolve human conflicts and open the way toward activating high levels of potential.
According to Herman:
Integral psychology concerns itself with all phases of human existence, in its multidimensional fullness, which includes physical, emotional, instinctual, mental, moral, social, and spiritual aspects. (op. cit., p. 97)
Integral psychology seeks to be practical and applicable to the problems of daily life, yet at the same time to lead forward those individuals who are ready, to transpersonal dimensions of being where experiences of deep integration, meaningfulness, and fulfilment are possible. (op. cit., p. 98)
In short, integral psychology accepts the relative validity of other psychological systems, yet extends the general psychological scope of human development to encompass the full range of the psychospiritual continuum of human existence. Thus, integral psychology is concerned with the study of the human psyche in its potential fullness. Accordingly, integral psychology is inspired by and founded upon four general postulates essential to an integral world view : non-duality, multidimensionality, holism, and evolution . The principle of non-duality understands the human being as a continuum of body-mind-spirit; thus it avoids the traditional mind-body dilemma. It is in the integral view that human beings can be best understood in terms of a spectrum of qualities, rather than as a set of discrete constituents. Although the three domains of body, mind and spirit are essentially unified, they manifest as a multidimensional array of distinct qualities and characteristics.
In integral psychology the human psyche is a multidimensional whole, with consciousness comprising its essential structure. However, it must be stressed that although there is an essential wholeness to the psychic structure of body-mind-spirit, this wholeness exists only as a potential. While integral psychology recognizes the urge toward wholeness as the primary motive in the human being, its goal is to actualize this potential wholeness through a process of harmonious self-realization.
Finally, integral psychology recognizes the importance of the evolutionary perspective of life on earth. Sri Aurobindo's insights into the process of life revealed that the human individual is a transitional being, not a final product of creation or evolution. Understood in this light, the goal of spiritual development is not to arrive at a static final state; rather human spiritual growth is a dynamic process without any preconceived limits. Thus an integrally self-realized being is thought of as an active key participant involved in the ongoing process of collective transformation of consciousness.
Different methodological approaches to integral psychology
Different approaches to integral psychology may be distinguished on the basis of philosophical underpinnings and epistemological and methodological orientations. So far three different main approaches to integral psychology have been attempted by Indra Sen,1 Ken Wilber and Haridas Chaudhuri. Here I will make a cursory reference to the work of Sen and Wilber since their main writings are already published. I will devote more space, however, to the integral psychology of Chaudhuri as his work in this area was never properly published due to his passing away.
The first approach taken by Indra Sen (1986) draws on the integral philosophy of Sri Aurobindo and extracts from it a psychological system that is implicit in his metaphysical teachings. Methodologically, this approach is similar to other attempts made by Western scholars to create a psychological system out of what is a much larger system of thought and practice not originally developed as an academic field. Buddhism or Sufism for instance, may be studied from the point of view of several academic disciplines such as philosophy, religious studies, anthropology, cultural studies etc. Each discipline would sort out through its disciplinary lenses and filters, those aspects that befit its disciplinary scope and limit. In order to create strictly a Buddhist or Sufi psychology, one would have to cull out those aspects of Buddhist or Sufi teachings that are considered traditional subject matter of academic psychology. Examples would thus include topics such as self, ego, personality and states of consciousness.
Indra Sen's integral psychology is completely based on Sri Aurobindo's system. Sen has extracted from the larger metaphysical outlook of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy, what is psychological subject matter. Paul Herman2 has used the term perennial psychology to denote “the psychospiritual component of a great religious tradition which is an authentic path to enlightenment”. In this sense integral psychology of Indra Sen is the perennial psychology inherent in integral yoga. One might also say that Sen's integral psychology is a form of yoga psychology, i.e., an integral yoga psychology.
According to Sen (1986),
Sri Aurobindo has not propounded a psychological system, as a separate body of knowledge in the Western sense, but his writings on yoga and philosophy do contain one in an interconnected and a unified treatment of the issues of life and existence, growth and evolution, in the Indian way. It is, however, a complete view of mind and personality.
Sen describes the standpoint of Sri Aurobindo's psychology as empirical, evolutional, and personal growth-oriented, utilizing introspection (self-observation) as its primary method which allows immediate knowledge of psychological data. Sen presents integral psychology as an empirical approach based on direct experiential knowledge, but which unlike Western empiricism, does not confine itself to sensation, perception, and cognition.
Needless to say, the greatest advantage of this approach is its groundedness in one of the most comprehensive world views set forth hitherto. The main methodological disadvantage of this approach is that it has no special creative aspect beyond what Sri Aurobindo has contributed already. This version of integral psychology is limited to the terminology of Sri Aurobindo's integral yoga and would not necessarily be inclusive of insights from other systems of psychology.
More recently Ken Wilber (1997, 2000) has introduced another approach to integral psychology. In short, Wilber's approach may be summarized as an attempt to put together almost all relevant psychological (and related) systems to create an all-inclusive outline of psychology. Like Chaudhuri, Wilber does not limit his model to any one worldview, but he tends to complexify as opposed to simplify—which characterizes Chaudhuri's approach.
This author's main criticism of Ken Wilber's approach to integral psychology is that Wilber in essence tries to (often modify and) juxtapose numerous psychological maps and models into one grand map—his own. The claim behind such a standpoint is that there is a place from which it is possible to see how various psychological theories as partial attempts at uncovering the reality of the human phenomenon are reconcilable into one grand scheme.
It is true that one might conceive of a state of consciousness from which all realities are visible as one interconnected reality. It is also conceivable that one might be able to develop a map inspired by such state of consciousness, that would translate that experience into a cognitive expression. However, this does not mean that such a map is derivable through superimposition of various psychological maps hitherto developed by various thinkers and practitioners. In a nutshell, Wilber's integral psychology is too complex to be useful in praxis. It remains, at best, a form of philosophical psychology.
Another approach to integral psychology is that of Haridas Chaudhuri which may be characterized as an attempt to build a system of psychology from the ground up using an integrative methodology that brings together some of the most powerful contributions of several systems of psychology both Eastern and Western. Chaudhuri's integral psychology consists of a triadic principle as well as the principal tenets of psychology, which will be discussed in further detail subsequently. Haridas Chaudhuri's system, like that of Wilber's, does not confine itself to the scope and terminology of Sri Aurobindo's integral yoga.
As an independent thinker, Chaudhuri was little interested in merely reiterating the insights and terminology of Sri Aurobindo; rather he began to develop a system that employed an integrative methodology using insights from various schools of Eastern and Western psychology. Chaudhuri (1973a, p. 1) maintains that
...integral psychology is based upon experiences and insights affirming the multidimensional richness and indivisible wholeness of human personality. It is founded upon the concept of man's total self as integral unity of uniqueness, relatedness, and transcendence—as the indivisible unity of the existential and the transcendental.
Chaudhuri's attempt at integral psychology may be summarized in terms of his proposed tenets for an integral psychology as well as the triadic principle of uniqueness, relatedness and transcendence. The following section will briefly introduce and elaborate on this system.
Chaudhuri's principal tenets of integral psychology
Chaudhuri's approach to integral psychology is not concerned with extrapolation of psychological insights from Sri Aurobindo's overall teachings. Instead, it directly applies an integrative methodology to the existing domain of psychological knowledge in order to construct a system of psychology that is phenomenologically oriented in its methodological outlook, and that holds psychospiritual development as its central objective.
In his effort to explore the basic concepts of integral psychology with a minimum of metaphysical assumptions, Chaudhuri (1973a) proposed a number of “principal tenets” that form the basis for his approach to integral psychology. Unfortunately, his work in this area remained unfinished. The following is a brief list of selected principal tenets:
The wholeness of personality
The human being is an onto-psycho-somatic continuum, or a spirit-mind-body unity which in the ultimate analysis, is an indivisible whole.
Different levels of consciousness
Consciousness is the basic structure of the psyche according to integral psychology. Thus the various states below the waking consciousness, as well as higher meditative states are worthy of investigation as valid dimensions of human experience.
Importance of all phases and areas of experience
Not only is it important to make direct empirical observations of human experience, it is imperative that all areas of human experience be included in the process of inquiry. Not only wakeful, conscious experiences, but also dreams, non-dream sleep stages, altered states of consciousness, and creative imagination are important areas of research in integral psychology. Beside ordinary states of consciousness, pathological, paranormal, and peak experiences must be considered.
Need for personal integration
A full experience of wholeness presupposes the full integration of the diversified components and aspects of human personality. To this end it is essential to appreciate the role of understanding the self, because it is “only by following the inner light of one's own self that the human psyche can be comprehended in its fullness” ( op. cit. , p. 24).
The concept of integral self-realization
Integral psychology holds that integral self-realization is the profoundest potential for the human being. This achievement requires a thorough integration and harmonization of the personal, the social and the transcendental; of the existential and the ontological dimensions of existence.
The doctrine of transformation
In integral psychology the doctrine of transformation replaces the kind of transcendence which results from withdrawal from, or negation of, the world. The lower spheres of consciousness (instincts, drives etc.) are not escaped from or suppressed, but are transformed into desirable qualities. Psychological transformation is achieved through a process of purification and psychoethical discipline.
The doctrine of ontomotivation
“In the course of self-development ego drives are ultimately transcended and action becomes a spontaneous outpouring of the creative joy of union with Being as the ultimate ground of one's own existence”. (op. cit., p. 3)
The methodology of integral experientialism
Integral psychology is comprehensive in its survey of human experience. Critical, experiential investigation and evaluation is encouraged in studying a vast range of states of consciousness and modes and phases of experience. External observations as well as introspective approaches are equally valued in this methodology.
While the above foundational principles are useful in understanding the overall parameters, scope and vision of Chaudhuri's integral psychology, his triadic principle of uniqueness, relatedness, and transcendence provide another set of guidelines for understanding the overall process of psychospiritual development and transformation. Uniqueness , relatedness and transcendence correspond to the three domains of personal , interpersonal and transpersonal psychological inquiry. According to Chaudhuri (1977a, p. 74) “Broadly speaking, there are three inseparable aspects of human personality: uniqueness, or individuality, universality or relatedness, and transcendence. In different schools of philosophy we find that there has been a tendency to over-emphasize one aspect or another. It has not occurred to many people that all these are very essential and interrelated aspects of our being”.
The uniqueness principle may be best understood in terms of two ancient yogic principles of Svabhava and Svadharma. Svabhava refers to the fact that each individual human being is the resultant of a unique set of qualities and characteristics that are not replicable in their exact configuration. Indeed no two object or events are exactly the same in nature. Just as no two leaves of a tree or no two snowflakes are the same despite similarities, no two human beings can ever be identical in the exact configuration of genetic and physiological makeup, temperament, personality traits, cultural and historical conditions, context of personal experience and potential for spiritual development. In this author's view, the more one understands this profoundly meaningful fact, the harder it becomes to use psychological categories and typologies-including pathological categories.
Svadharma implies that there is a unique path of development, growth and unfoldment for each individual which must be understood in terms of that person's unique svabhava. Unlike some forms of perennial psychology, integral psychology, then, is extremely sensitive to issues of individuality and the path of individual psychological growth and psychospiritual evolution and embodiment. It is important to note here that most traditional spiritual disciplines, especially those of the East, have overlooked the individual and embodied dimensions of personal growth. Individuality has often been associated with egocentrism or selfishness, the antithesis of selflessness which is a basic tenet of spiritual practice.
Integral psychology recognizes the fact that misunderstanding of the uniqueness principle results in various forms of narcissistic personality disorders. Narcissistic individuals are likely to believe in their own uniqueness (specialness), but would not grant others such a privilege. Narcissism is indeed a strong impediment to any kind of real psychological and spiritual growth. Integral psychology promotes the idea of a balanced and healthy ego development and affirms the role of strong ego-development in the initial stages of psychospiritual growth. But the self must first be understood as the principle of embodiment . According to Sri Aurobindo the ego is only a temporary formation in the outer nature, required during the early stages of individualisation. The real center of the embodied being is the soul, or Psychic Being, which resides deep behind the heart. This Psychic being is seen as a delegate of the Atman, or eternal Self, who remains, immutably, beyond manifestation. This is quite different from the common definitions of the terms ego and self as defined technically within various schools of Western psychology.
As important as individuality may be, it is not possible to understand the human being only in terms of individuality alone. Relatedness, or the interpersonal dimension, is of equal importance in the triadic equation. Obviously human beings are contextualized within numerous holistically organized systems such as the families, societies, nations and ultimately the earth and the entire cosmos. Integral psychology holds the assumption that individuals are microcosmic expressions of the greater macrocosm with infinite potential for spiritual realization. Just as an individual needs to maintain harmonious intrapsychic dynamics, she or he needs to also maintain balance and harmony with others and with nature. Integral psychology maintains that unhealthy and lopsided growth in the interpersonal realm is likely to lead to enmeshment, codependency and borderline personality disorders.
In integral psychology the human being is understood in terms of both the historical (temporal) and the transcendental, formless/timeless (non-temporal) dimensions. Hitherto Western psychology has been concerned with the historical dimension of the human being which includes: a) the genetic/biological characteristics or the physical and vital aspects; b) the emotional aspects, and c) the mental aspects of human existence. In short psychology until the present has been concerned with what may be referred to as the body-mind configuration, or personality.
However, the transcendental (non-temporal) dimension is of equal importance in integral psychology which recognizes the importance of the urge toward transcendence and wholeness. Historically the notion of transcendence has been the cornerstone of Eastern psychologies and Western mysticism. Being so, the terminology often characteristic of these systems has been categorically unacceptable to formal Western psychology. On the other hand, traditional mysticism has had little or no concern with the conventional psychological growth and development of the human being. Integral psychology recognizes and emphasizes both of these areas without neglecting either of them.
According to Chaudhuri (1977a)
the essential significance of transcendence is that man in his inmost being is a child of immortality, an imperishable spark of the infinite. As a mode of manifestation of being, his ultimate goal is union with that ground of existence, transcending all other limitations.
The notion of transcendence, however, could be misleading if taken in an ultimate or absolute sense. In an article titled: Psychology: Humanistic and Transpersonal , Chaudhuri (1975) critiqued one of the early assumptions of transpersonal psychology—the notion of ultimate states, and that transpersonal psychology was concerned with recognition and realization of ultimate states.
Chaudhuri did not believe in characterization of mystical experiences in terms of ultimate states. Such characterization, he believed, creates the
dichotomy of the ultimate and the preparatory, the transcendental and the phenomenal... the dichotomy of the lower self and the higher self, the flesh and the spirit, relative knowledge and absolute knowledge, conditioned existence and unconditioned perfection”. (op. cit., p. 9)
This problem arises when the principle of transcendence is treated in isolation from the principles of uniqueness and relatedness.
Chaudhuri's integral psychology had anticipated the dilemma of spiritual by-passing, later introduced in the literature of transpersonal psychology. This tendency, especially common among individuals with schizoid personality traits, is characterized by a wish to transcend the physical and affective dimensions through suppression or denial of the body and emotions in order to attain transcendental states of consciousness. It is true that mystical experiences attained in this fashion may have their proper place in the process of psychospiritual development. But when taken to an extreme, asceticism and denial of the physical-vital energies problematically become the goal of spiritual practice.
It is by now well established that before attempting to reach higher transcendental states, one must first properly deal with issues of psychological growth and development as well as pathological tendencies and development of a relatively healthy ego and personality. Transcendence, in integral psychology, is replaced by the notion of psychospiritual transformation.
The process of personal integration
The concept of integral self-realization is a key concept in integral psychology which employs a number of key understandings unique to integral psychology. In order to explore the process of integral self-realization it is important to discuss the notion of self in integral psychology. The present author (1994) has previously developed a model for self which distinguishes three distinct spheres of self-consciousness. These are egocentric , psychocentric and cosmocentric spheres.
The egocentric sphere of consciousness has been the topic of traditional psychological study in the West. Three domains of behavioural, affective and cognitive comprise the basic dimensions of study in this sphere. Western psychology is particularly adept in this area with a vast number of theories and applications many of which are at odds with one another. Much of personality theory is concerned with day-to-day waking consciousness as well as what is termed the unconscious mind. Recent development such as transpersonal theories have also included the study of the higher unconscious mind. Transpersonal psychology has extended the boundaries of traditional Western systems by including that which is beyond the immediate ego-based experiences of the self.
In this author's opinion, transpersonal psychologists have not adequately, or at all, dealt with what lies beyond the ego by failing to adequately distinguish between the psychocentric and cosmocentric spheres of consciousness. For example, the archetype of self as proposed by Jung may be viewed as a psychocentric principle (the soul), or a cosmocentric principle (cosmic Christ).
In integral psychology psychocentric consciousness is represented through Sri Aurobindo's “psychic being”. It is quite important to understand the role of psychocentric consciousness in the overall process of integral self realization. Many traditional forms of spiritual practice have either overlooked or totally by-passed this area in favour of direct union with the cosmocentric ground of existence—a non spatio-temporal principle known as God or Brahman among numerous other terms. Often viewing the body and affects as a hindrance to spiritual practice, they have attempted various forms of self-denial in exchange for transcendental or cosmic consciousness.
Integral yoga compensates for this problem by involving the psychic being in the process of self-realization which facilitates the development of a healthy ego (embodiment principle) and balanced personality. Through the dynamic process of integral self-realization a gradual shift from ego-based to psychocentric consciousness takes place. Initially ego-based personality obscures the subliminal psychic being. This condition is due primarily to the fragmented nature of ego-based personality, which creates a dualistic division between the I and not-I, or subject and object of experience. With experiences of self-opening that result from integral yogic and meditative insights occasionally the locus of consciousness shifts away from the ego and becomes centered in the psychic being. This transition is not possible without meditative and contemplative effort and is not necessarily a developmental consequence of healthy ego-development .
From the psychocentric sphere of consciousness the ego is not necessarily hidden or absent. In fact, from this point of view a deeper observation of the ego-structure becomes possible. Repeated insights into the ego-structure may bring about transformation of the ego which results in the development of a unified and healthy center of conscious activity.
Continued psychospiritual development makes it possible for the ego to integrate further unconscious contents of the mind. As the ego becomes fully conscious, the locus of consciousness moves to the next sphere and becomes permanently centered in the psychic being. This entire process requires the application of the will and continued effort. It is highly contingent upon psychoethical development of the individual.
Further development toward integral consciousness may require what Sri Aurobindo called “a descent of the higher consciousness.” This means that the self becomes receptive to the experience of Being, the cosmic ground of all existence. This is also a gradual process. Once the locus of consciousness becomes focused in the Self, occasional absorption in cosmic consciousness may occur. Eventually this experience becomes possible at will. Unlike traditional linear conceptualizations, this is not a final point in spiritual development . A human being may continue to exist and operate as a unique individual, but without an ego/drive-based will. Rather, this individual is ontomotivated.
In short, three levels of integration are involved in the process of integral self-realization: integration of personality, integration of the psychic being into conscious personality, and integration of the existential and cosmic (ontological) dimensions of being. Sri Aurobindo termed the first transition psychic transformation, and the second transition spiritual transformation. These two transformations are not linearly or developmentally connected and happen differently in different individuals. The third transformation is what Sri Aurobindo called the supramental transformation in which every part of the being becomes supramentalized in the Divine consciousness. This would result in a complete transformation of mind, life, and body.
Metaphors of personal integration
Finally I would like to conclude this presentation by sharing some of my findings in working with individuals in their process of personal integration. Over the past several years I have conducted integrative seminars for counselling psychology students as part of the conclusion of their education in the Integral Counselling Psychology program at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. This seminar encourages students to reflect upon and understand the processes of personal and academic integration by first identifying their key learnings. Then, personal significance of these learnings are explored in order to arrive at a creative integration of knowledge and experience. Students are asked to focus on the deeper meaning of their uniqueness as an individual and reflect on what integration means to them and what metaphors best represent their process. After studying about a couple of hundred responses I have been able to summarize the results in terms of the following themes and metaphors of personal psychospiritual integration:
Reconciliation of opposites
In line with Chaudhuri's classic definition of integration as reconciliation of what is seemingly dichotomous but truly complementary, many individuals have been able, through this work, to identify main dichotomies within their psyche or personality such as: spirit/body, rationality/intuition, unconsciousness/consciousness, femininity/masculinity etc.. Each person would search for the unique way in which such dichotomies manifest within him or her and find a way to facilitate the reconciliation of the dichotomy into a more harmonious union. Many have found classical psychospiritual disciplines such as yoga, meditation, T'ai chi and more to be useful tools. Others find writing journals, self narratives, and heuristic types of self-inquiry helpful, while still others find personal and group psychotherapy instrumental in this work.
For instance, an individual with tendency toward extremes might benefit from the practice of the middle-path, or use Chaudhuri's integral dialectics (Chaudhuri, 1977a) as a principal guideline. Yet others inspired by the principle of unity-in-diversity might use psychosynthesis as a way of bringing the various subpersonalities into harmony with one another by the unifying self.
Fragmentation to wholeness
This metaphor is also quite commonly used to describe the process of the integration of the psyche or personality from disparate parts and experiences into a more unified sense of self.
Unification of mind-body-spirit
This theme which is one the principal tenets of integral psychology is by now a quintessential theme used in various ways in transpersonal psychology as well as in new-age psychology. It is often described as opening to the spiritual experiences and using them to unify the mind-body which in most Western people's experience is initially seen as a duality.
Journey from unconsciousness
to self-consciousness to
This theme is used often in a developmental sense and is described in many different ways. Many use Jungian terminology to describe their growth process of integration of shadow into the ego to describe the first part of the journey. Many use meditative disciplines and other forms of psychospiritual practice to open up to the possibilities of the higher self and supraconsciousness.
This is a favourite theme for many, especially those aware of the importance of the role of the body as well as feminine energies and qualities in the process of personal integration. This theme is a unique contribution of the integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother and is consciously used by those practising integral yoga. This theme or metaphor, in one form or another, surfaces in many individuals' process of psychospiritual integration.
Many use the term synthesis to describe their process of integration. It simply means bringing together various pieces and elements of the psyche or personality in a unique way to discover and actualize one's svadharma. Some use a more sophisticated form that includes both processes of synthesis and analysis, or breaking down into components, as well as putting pieces together, in a analytico-synthetic spiral of development.
Many use various ways to describe their growth and integration process in terms of gradual but continuous cycles of letting go/deconditioning and reconditioning into more adaptive ways.
The self as a psychological metaphor is also used often. Self-discovery, self-knowledge, creative self-fulfilment and creative self-unfoldment and becoming oneself are major themes in this metaphor by which the integration process is described.
Honouring all spiritual traditions
Some individuals describe their process using metaphors and terminology of selected world spiritual traditions such as Buddhism, Sufism, Taoism and Shamanism to name a few. The distinctive feature here, however, is that such individuals honour all authentic spiritual traditions while being grounded in one or more specific practices.
Alchemy is sometimes used by those familiar with Jung's work or alchemy in general. Though rarely used, this orientation provides some of the richest metaphors I have encountered.
Eclecticism is often used to describe the personal integration process. Often integration is tacitly confused with some kind of eclectic configuration of pieces from the vast array of psychospiritual practices available today.
These metaphors, as well as others not mentioned here, are extremely helpful in shaping the individual self-inquiry and articulation of the ultimately unique process of personal integration. Integral psychology recognizes the divine nature of the human being and the different ways in which this divine potential is actualized in every single human being. It has been a most pleasurable opportunity for this author to be a witness and facilitator in this process.
Appendix: Literature in integral psychology
Herman (1983) noted that the term integral psychology was first used in a seminar given by Indra Sen at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, India in the 1950s. Without prior knowledge of this usage, Herman broadly defined and introduced this area in his classes at The California Institute of Asian (presently Integral) Studies in 1970. Perhaps the earliest published reference to the term integral psychology appeared in a brief chapter in The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo (Chaudhuri, H. & Spiegelberg, F., 1960, pp. 184-191) “The Indian Approach to Psychology” by Indra Sen. In that chapter arguing that psychological interest essentially determined the standpoint of philosophy and religion in India, Sen concluded by stating that “... integration is thus characteristic of all Indian psychology. However, at the hands of Sri Aurobindo, it receives an elaborate treatment, which enables Indian psychology to take the form of a well-developed integral psychology” (p. 191). Sen who called his treatment no more than a broad characterization of the background of the psychological system of Sri Aurobindo, later published a more complete account of the psychological insights of Sri Aurobindo's writing (Sen, Integral Psychology , 1986).
Another Aurobindonian scholar, Reddy (1973), while making several references to Sen's 1960 essay on Indian psychology, re-emphasized the need for a system of integral psychology. In a brief but substantive critical evaluation of the psychoanalytic school he asserted that “modern psychology is on trial; it has no vision of the future. Its field of activity is confined only to man's conscious and the subconscious; it tries to explain the former in terms of the latter” (p. 157). While arguing that the most fundamental urge of human nature cannot be sexual drive, reflex action, will to power, or purposiveness as postulated by some Western schools of thought, Reddy praises the work of C.G. Jung for emphasizing the spiritual elements of human development. Reddy asserts that while instinctual forces or will toward greater power are powerful forces in the human psyche, the urge toward wholeness plays a far more important role in the overall psychospiritual development of human beings. Accordingly, Reddy favours a psychological system that pays attention not only to the unconscious, subconscious, and the conscious mind, but keeps perspective of the future potentialities of mental development, e.g. superconscious mental experiences such as those explored by Sri Aurobindo.
During the same year Chaudhuri (1973a), wrote an unpublished paper titled “Integral Psychology; Its Outlook, Scope and Methodology”. An abridged version of this paper was later published in Chaudhuri's posthumous work, The Evolution of Integral Consciousness , as a chapter titled “Psychology”.
Paul E. Herman's article (1983), as well as unpublished course outlines and reading materials, have been essential to the present investigation. Herman (1983, p. 95) described integral psychology as “... an emergent East-West study of the human psyche. It draws upon the findings of both Western depth psychology, and ancient Eastern teachings and yogas, to express a whole, unfragmented view of human functions to resolve human conflicts and open the way toward activating high levels of potential”.
According to Herman: “integral psychology concerns itself with all phases of human existence, in its multidimensional fullness, which includes physical, emotional, instinctual, mental, moral, social, and spiritual aspects” (p. 97). “Integral psychology seeks to be practical and applicable to the problems of daily life, yet at the same time to lead forward those individuals who are ready, to transpersonal dimensions of being where experiences of deep integration, meaningfulness, and fulfillment are possible” (p. 98). Herman emphasizes the importance of the fact that as human beings “we are always in relationship to the whole of reality” and that “ the spirit of the whole is dynamically present at the center of our being”. By harmonizing the diverse elements of our nature within ourselves, with others, and ultimately with the greater whole we can experience our embeddedness in the greater whole of cosmic reality. The dawn of cosmic or integral consciousness transforms the egocentricity and identification with one's body or mind, social roles and established patterns of psychosocial conditioning that result from the ego experience of separateness. Herman brings to attention the importance of self-knowledge as a key element in this transformative process. “By gaining self-knowledge human beings can come to direct experience of all levels of their consciousness, or being. Such self-knowledge can be accumulated along many lines: through self-observation, meditation, practice of spiritual disciplines, participation in facilitative relationships such as counseling and psychotherapy” (p. 101).
In 1994 the present author published the first doctoral dissertation in the field of integral psychology titled: Self In Integral Psychology . The primary goal of this investigation was to explore the concepts of self and ego, and their relationship in the context of integral psychology. Inspired by Haridas Chaudhuri's triadic principles of uniqueness, relatedness, and transcendence in integral psychology, an extensive review of literature of the concept of self in Western psychology and several Eastern psychospiritual traditions was undertaken to establish universal, cross-cultural support for the experience of self in three distinct spheres of consciousness: egocentric, psychocentric and cosmocentric.
After establishing support for a tri-spheric understanding of self, the investigator proceeded to construct a parsimonious model for self in integral psychology . According to this model, the process of integral self-realization consists of a harmonious experience of self in all three spheres of consciousness, necessitating a balanced personality. This model stresses the uniqueness of individual constitution and an individualized approach to the process of integral self-realization , a dynamic and evolutionary interpretation of spiritual development and self-realization which advocates healthy ego development and reconciliation of the ego-Self dichotomy.
More recently Ken Wilber has shown active interest in the field of integral psychology. In The Eye of Spirit (Wilber, 1997) he included a chapter titled: The Spectrum of Consciousness: Integral Psychology and the Perennial Philosophy. Here Wilber begins with a reference to the “human consciousness project” involving a “series of multidisciplinary, multicultural, multimodal approaches that together promise an exhaustive mapping of the entire range of consciousness...” (p. 37). Wilber believes that it is becoming increasingly possible to create a “master template of the various stages, structures, and states of consciousness...” (p. 38). Wilber describes the goal of the integral approach as a “judicious blend of ancient wisdom and modern knowledge...” and thus grounds his integral psychology in a perennial philosophy emphasizing the universal, cross-cultural and ageless wisdom at the heart of the world's great spiritual traditions.
Wilber, however, offers very little new information here. After setting perennial philosophy's Great Chain of Being as the stage on which he constructs his integral psychology, he basically draws on the Vedantic notion of the five koshas (which has already been expounded in much further detail by Sri Aurobindo) and various states of consciousness (waking, dream, dreamless sleep and absolute consciousness—Turiya) as the foundation for his spectrum of consciousness. Wilber ends this chapter by referring to his earlier works: The Atman Project and Up From Eden and his theory of human development which he later modified in his later work: Integral Psychology (Wilber, 2000).
Wilber (2000) defines psychology as “the study of human consciousness and its manifestations in behavior” (p. 1) and proceeds to include functions (perception, will, desire, action, etc.), structures (body, mind, soul, spirit), states (normal: waking, dream, etc. / altered: non-ordinary, meditative, hypnosis etc.), and modes (aesthetic, moral etc.) of consciousness as part of the larger scope of his spectrum of development of consciousness from pre-personal to personal to transpersonal or from subconscious to self-conscious to super-conscious, contextualized in his famous four quadrant model. In this philosophical work Wilber covers various topics such as the self, modernism/post-modernism, spirit, developmental streams and lots of charts comprising his “master template”. Wilber's latest work has brought a new level of attention to integral psychology and has invoked new controversies about his approach in general and specifically to psychology.
Agha-Kazem-Shirazi, B. (1994). Self In Integral Psychology . Ann Harbor, MI: UMI
Chaudhuri, H. (1970). Integral Yoga: the Concept of Harmonious and Creative Living . San Francisco: California Institute of Asian Studies.
Chaudhuri, H. (1973a). Integral Psychology: Its Outlook, Scope, and Methodology . Unpublished Manuscript.
Chaudhuri, H. (1973b, c1951) Sri Aurobindo; The Prophet of Life Divine . Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust.
Chaudhuri, H. (1974). Being, Evolution, and Immortality; An Outline of Integral Philosophy . Wheaton, Il.: Theosophical Publishing House.
Chaudhuri, H. (1975). “Psychology: Humanistic and transpersonal”. Journal of Humanistic Psychology , 15 (1), 7-15.
Chaudhuri, H. (1977a). The Evolution of Integral Consciousness . Wheaton, Il.: Quest Books.
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Reddy, M. (1973). Values and Value Theories in the Light of Sri Aurobindo . Hyderabad, India: Institute of Human Study.
Sen, I. (1960). “The Indian Approach to Psychology”, in Chaudhuri, H. & Spiegelberg, F. (Eds.), The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo . San Francisco: Cultural Integration Fellowship.
Sen, I. (1986). Integral Psychology: The Psychological System of Sri Aurobindo . Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust.
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Valle, R. & Halling, S. (1989). Existential-Phenomenological Perspectives in Psychology: Exploring the breadth of human experience . NY: Plenum Press.
Wilber, K. (1997). The Eye of Spirit . Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications.
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