Return to site

Shift Your Thinking

10 Things I think I know about Integral Consciousness

· Conciousness,evolution,shift thinking

Experience a shift in your thinking

Futurist and thought leader, Gihan Perera, in his recently published ebook, The Future of Conferences, (download at says that one of the things that successful conference organisers do differently is to go beyond giving participants new skills to learn to giving them opportunities to make a shift in their thinking.

There are now multiple avenues on and off-line to learn new skills: shifting our thinking about how these skills might be applied and what new possibilities they open up is a more challenging and less explored area of thought.

When I think about my intention to meet and converse with interesting people at the forthcoming IEC Integral Consciousness Conference in Budapest, I realise that it is this interaction with others that I hope will create a shift in my thinking.

But logically, if my thinking is to shift, there is a ‘before’ and ‘after’ point of comparison. I need to know what I think now about Integral Consciousness - and more specifically about how we can be Allies in Evolution - and then compare this with what I think about how this works after the conference.

Before and after

This post, therefore, is my attempt to articulate ten things I know, or think I know, about Integral Consciousness and the specific theme of this conference, Allies in Evolution. Will there be a shift in my thinking around one of these items or around something else entirely? Or no shift? Or will I achieve greater clarity? I am curious.

  1. We are all embedded in a vast and complex ongoing process of change. 
  2. In the context of contemporary Western thought, this process of change embodies a framework of beliefs that is referred to as Evolution. The term Evolution implies a progression from less to more, from simpler to more complex: e.g. an embryo evolves into a foetus, into a child, into an adult, before death returns the physical component parts to the earth. Evolution is one way of thinking about how the world works. In earlier Western thought people believed that the world was created by a divine being. Indigenous people have other beliefs, e.g. that simultaneously with what we are immediately aware of exists a Dreamtime that is closely intertwined with this immediate existence. Linear time is one way of looking at the world which, on closer inspection, is subsumed under a more inclusive understanding of Dreamtime. One reality is subsumed in an expanded understanding, perhaps much like the development of the infant who believes that the parent ceases to exist when out of sight before coming to an understanding that the parent continues to exist even when the infant can’t see him or her.
  3. The aspect of this process of change that is most significant for humans is that individually and collectively we are becoming more consciously aware of the process and awareness of the process leads to greater understanding and control of the process. As the NLP saying goes, ‘Awareness if the beginning of change’. And as Quantum thinking tells us, to observe something is to cause a change in that thing. 
  4. As part of our expanding conscious awareness, we are becoming more aware of and understanding of our collective evolution. 
  5. As we collectively evolve, we explore how natural systems work. We go from being embedded unconsciously in the world to being increasingly aware of our embedded state. Different systems relate to each other; systems are subsumed within systems; all the parts within a given system have a role to play in the optimal functioning of that system; what happens in one system affects all the others. Popularly expressed, we are all in this together! 
  6. From a holistic understanding of the world, we are moving to an integral understanding. What is the difference? How does an integral understanding build on and differ from an integral understanding? A holistic understanding recognises the relatedness and connectedness of all systems and that each system affects the others. E.g.A holistic understanding of health presupposes that mind and body form a unified whole, each aspect of which affects the other aspects. An integral understanding takes this a step further. Integral understanding looks at the function of each of the parts of a system and the unique role each part plays in optimising the total functioning of that system. The focus shifts from understanding that my mind affects my body and vice versa to acknowledging this and recognising the complexity of it. This complexity means, for example, that at any given moment, body and mind may be going their different ways and creating conflict rather than harmony because at some moment in the past, something happened and this has gone into a part of the mind or the body’s unconscious systems. The integral approach means that we strive to acknowledge and bring these unconscious parts into the light of current awareness so that they may become integrated into the whole that we want to be today. The goal is to promote integrated action rather than just holistic understanding. 
  7. The study of Integral consciousness is the study of how our individual and collective consciousness creates for us an integrated understanding of ‘what’s going on’ (top down) and how the individual elements function to create an integrated whole (bottom up). 
  8. Embedded in this view are frequently certain assumptions that are hard or impossible to prove but which provide hope and motivation for us to keep on with the business of life. These assumptions include:
    • That healing ability is present in all of us
    • That the universe is friendly
    • That things are moving in a positive direction despite appearances that everything runs down eventually. (The old order changes, yielding place to new, lest one good order should corrupt the world. Tennyson)
    • That we each have a unique part to play in bringing forward this integral view of the universe. 
  9. Part of the process of evolution is moving from a narrower view of scarcity that pits my interests against yours to a more expanded view of possibility that recognises all of us as worthy of respect as human beings with a greater or lesser capacity for conscious awareness and that we need to collaborate to work towards broader outcomes that include both collective long-term benefits to all as well as satisfaction of immediate individual needs. Hence the interest in our seeing ourselves as Allies in Evolution. 
  10. My current thinking about the conference theme, Allies in Evolution, is that a common understanding of evolution will be assumed but not necessarily articulated (so may be different for different participants) and attention will focus on our individual and collective role as allies in moving forward towards this common goal. 

Questions for Reflection

  • How do we reconcile the implications of entropy with the idea of evolution?
  • Does the concept of evolution currently provide the optimal way for humans to move forward individually and collectively?
  • Given that our concepts of evolution and how it applies may differ vastly, how can we be allies in practical terms to work collaboratively towards a common good? Choose a political, social or community issue with which you are familiar and find three ways in which you might collaborate with someone who holds opposite views to your own on this issue. 
  • Are there situations in which the concept of being an ally is contra-indicated? What are they? 
  • How might we educate our children to understand and apply the concept of being an ally in evolution?