Illuminating the Integral Vision: A Metatheory for Understanding Self, Life, and the World

Corey deVos is at the heart and center of Integral Life, an organization that revolves around the work of Ken Wilber. Corey became passionate about Integral Theory at the age of 19, and in this lively conversation, he is clearly every bit as passionate about the actuality and the promise of Integral today. Here, Corey gives a terrifically lucid explanation of what the term Integral encompasses: a stage of psychological development, a description of Ken Wilber’s life’s work, and a comprehensive map that comes alive for people, guiding their way and making sense out of enormously complex issues. Corey also describes Integral as a gateway between two massive phases in human history — the “adolescent” phase of collective development now starting to fall behind us, and an integrated phase quite possibly ahead.

Corey infuses the complex topics under discussion — the Integral metatheory, social issues that never seem to get resolved, human evolution itself — with optimism and enthusiasm, clarity and light, a testament to his own embodiment of Integral consciousness. At Integral Life, Corey co-hosts The Ken Show (with Ken Wilber), applies Integral to social issues like racism, gun violence, and justice in his podcast series, and excels at finding creative ways of translating the complexities of Integral Theory into easy-to-understand nuggets of information. This conversation is a brilliant, beautiful illumination of the Integral vision, covering how Integral has evolved and describing what it can do for our future.

Recorded on November 10, 2022.
Podcast produced by Vanessa Santos and Show Notes by Heidi Mitchell

Topics & Timestamps: Part 1

  • Introducing Corey deVos, Executive Producer of Integral Life, the organization that revolves around Ken Wilber and his work (00:57)
  • The ordinary and the extraordinary about Integral: Corey gives a superb explanation of just what is meant by the term “Integral” (02:41)
  • Global challenges now are so huge, complicated, and urgent, they are forcing developmental movement—a new evolution—and necessitating the kind of comprehensive solutions that Integral offers (07:14)
  • How the spiral of development is now at war with itself—like a global auto-immune disease, we are attacking ourself; Integral can supply the “medicine” (08:27)
  • What distinguishes the Integral stage from all the previous stages and how does Integral fit into history? (11:08)
  • The fragmentation of knowledge and how Integral is able to hold it all in a meaningful framework (14:46)
  • Integral is also a call to transform (18:39)
  • Every new stage coming into being involves a revolution; Integral’s revolution is from the inside out rather than the outside in, and it demands we do our inner work (19:53)
  • The problem with reductionism and how Integral holds our basic polarities: interior/exterior, subjective/objective, individual/collective, offering a way out of our conflicts (22:34)
  • How can people start to get involved with the Integral project? (27:29)
  • Corey’s catastrophic first spiritual experience and love at first read of Ken Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything (30:38)

Topics & Timestamps: Part 2

  • In appreciation of Ken Wilber’s kindness and generosity (00:48)
  • The Integral vision, the concept of “vision-logic,” and the geometry of consciousness (02:23)
  • Corey’s creativity using mainstream movie clips to communicate the complexity of each Integral stage of development in a nutshell (05:18)
  • How Corey applies Integral to the major social issues of our time (09:21)
  • The Integral Justice Warrior series, co-hosted by Mark Fischler and Corey deVos (10:38)
  • The Ken Show with Ken Wilber and Corey deVos (13:18)
  • The Integral map’s four quadrants explained (14:47)
  • The Integral heart is an empathetic heart (18:14)
  • The 8 zones of racism: can we create a frame in which both a “woke” person and a traditional person can find themselves? (20:28)
  • How can we talk about systemic racism (or any other issue) from different developmental perspectives and find common ground? (23:22)
  • Stumbling our way towards Integral and finding out that the territory is actually real (26:21)
  • The evolution of Integral, symbol of wholeness (32:47)
  • How Corey came to be knocking on Ken’s door and his intention to create a way for people to become transformed by Integral yet not feel alone in this (34:41)

Topics & Timestamps: Part 3

  • The early days of Integral after the end of its “dark ages” (01:50)
  • What was Integral Naked exactly? (03:18)
  • Robb Smith takes over the leadership of Integral Life (06:16)
  • The early days conversations are as relevant today as when they were recorded (08:57)
  • The evolution of Integral Life, what’s going on now: political sensemaking, intra personal development, live community practice groups, and much more (10:08)
  • Corey’s development of trust and confidence doing the work: from instrument to symphony (15:50)
  • Carrying on the flame that was ignited by Ken Wilber (20:30)
  • The curse of Ken Wilber is being born ahead of his time (22:04)
  • What is most exciting to Corey right now? Taking Integral ideas and expressing them artistically with woodwork (24:41)
  • Where is Integral headed? As the framework is applied in the world, it’s going to start generating real impact (28:25)
  • Integralists are growing up, cleaning up, and now is the time for a collective “showing up” (30:51)
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Thanks @corey-devos I listened to all 3 parts and it was quite inspiring. I have only been involved with Integral for 4 years now so it is great to hear the deeper history and the stories of people who have been involved for many years and decades.

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Thanks for the kind words Brandon, so glad you enjoyed the talk! It’s absolutely insane to me that it’s been 20 years for me, as of this month. I don’t feel as old as I should, and I don’t feel as young as I’d like.

Yeah there are some of the threads and some of the subjects that are woven into Integral that I’ve been involved with for close to 20 years but I wasn’t aware that these all come together into a unified framework and map until relatively recently. I was interested in science since I was young and I learned about philosophy and phenomenology and hermeneutics about 20 years ago and then Eastern spirituality about 10 years ago but it was 4 years ago that I was introduced to Integral. I have this philosophy group in Sacramento and there was someone who had moved from the Bay Area and had previously been in Terry Patton’s community who first explained the basics of Ken’s work and right away I went out and got the books also started listening to podcasts and watching videos and getting to know the people who have been with Integral for a long time and learning the various practices and it really changed my life.

Thanks @corey-devos and others involved in this production. Autobiographical content like this is extremely valuable from both a “getting to know one another” standpoint and for a solid empirical basis for wider theorizing. (And by extension, meta-theorizing).

A few reactions -

  • Corey, it sounds like you had a spiritual emergency at 19. Love to have a side conversation with you or any others who have been through that sort of thing.

  • an alternative view on Integral from the Postmodern. Postmodern, among other things, scours the world for information on all cultures ever. At a certain point, you need to organize all that and do something with it. Enter Integral.

  • the details below are from my “integral thumbprint”

  • Momentus … catastrophic … Let me propose Door #3. Logical and necessary? My general sense of both how things work and how things ought to work is experience first, vocabulary later. My integral sensibilities started blossoming in the '80 when I started asking, is there an Eastern Civilization narrative to match the required (at that time) Western Civilization sequence? No awareness at all of Ken Wilber at that time. Became aware of Ken’s early work in the early 90’s while trying to set up alternative high school programs and hanging out with people who like alternative things. I had been reading dinosaur books since about the age of 4, so SES did not transform my space-time-metaphysical perspective much at all. Good book, but similar to many other good books on the history of everything.

  • The big hole in my educational donut was UL. I was all over the other 3 quadrants by college graduation at the latest. But, creature of public education that I was, neither the vocabulary nor the practices of introspection or interior development was on my cognitive radar. Mindfulness practices in school? No so much. So that leads to a lot blind stumbling, mishaps, collateral damage, and other not nice things. Had to learn UL on the street, so to speak. Not recommended.

  • why I am hanging out here now? Best web community. If Hanzi Freinacht launches “Metamodern Life” with similar production values, I’ll sign up for that one too. Likewise if someone wants to launch “Vervaeke World Online”. But IL is the leader in this space, so “best of breed” it is. An under-appreciated dimension of Ken Wilber. He knows how to delegate. So Ken being 30 years ahead of his time provides IL with certain first mover advantages. But without a Cory Devos to make IL happen on a creative level, leadership in the Integral space (construing that something like Integral is bound to happen one way or the other anyway) would soon pass to other players.

  • final thought - does urgency demand comprehensive solutions? Urgency is for real - not a lot of time to waste. Comprehensiveness is needed, yes. But is comprehensiveness critical path? Let me offer an alternative. We need to leverage all forms of partiality ASAP in order to navigate immediate threats and challenges, on the road to comprehensiveness. Everyone does not need to become AQAL and second tier to make vital contributions. Those who are AQAL and second tier already need to learn how to mobilize everybody else to do the right things. Everybody does not need to read SES and learn WHY they are doing the right things. Or to put a finer point on it - be like Ken Wilber. Learn how to delegate.


Hanzi Freinacht does have a forum and it’s now hosted by this new platform called weco I’m one of the moderators. The Metamodern Forum used to be hosted by Discourse (like this one) but they migrated. They don’t have premium subscription content so the production values are pretty simple. I’m also working with the Bay Area Integral people, which includes Terry Patton’s successor Masen Ewald and some others, and we want to embrace metamodernism in the community. We see the metamodern vibe as a way to introduce integral ideas to the younger generation and also as a way to bring in a more diverse cultural vibe while still pointing toward a unified and integral vision. Yeah also Vervaeke’s fans created a Discord server but that’s about it. Fortunately Nomali has been bringing in Vervaeke and Hanzi into her discussions.

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First of all - mad love for Nomali and what she is doing. Thanks to her, I was able to join the live Zoom with Daniel Görtz and many other outstanding presenters in other sessions.

Cool. I’m in.

Awesome. My project for the next few months or so - get something happening on the ground in the Seattle area. There are a few regional people in and around IL, but I’m not aware of an actually organized group. Also, I agree completely with you about leading with metamodernism to create buzz for Integral.

Let me clarify that last comment. This is not about hierarchy, pecking order, bragging rights, or who’s top of the charts in the consciousness hit parade. It’s a boring old education thing called “scope and sequence”. Let’s say you are writing a curriculum about what comes after postmodernism in the cultural history of the world. You gather a lot of cool information. Now … how do you sequence that in a way that makes the most sense to the most students? Understand, this is intro level. So all content will be presented in a necessarily superficial way, ideally to motivate people to dig deeper later for original sources and advanced practices.

In that framework, for that project, metamodernism seems like the thing to lead with. Then flash back to Ken Wilber, Gebser, Spiral Dynamics, and other precursors to metamodernism. Vervaeke comes last in the course. You need a lot of prerequisites for Vervaeke. But Vervaeke explains things a lot the other models leave implicit. So yes, Vervaeke as soon as the students are ready.

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