Is the Integral Map Relative?

Hi everyone,

Is the Integral Map, including the 20 tenets and 4 quadrants, only meant to be taken as a relative map that only represents the structure of one reality out of an infinite number of realities, some of which the Integral Map might not apply?

At least the way I conceive it, the integral map should be truly comprehensive, without being completely totalizing. That is, any and every methodology that we can use to disclose some aspect of reality should be included in the larger map — and if there’s a methodology or a perceivable reality that does not currently fit into the model, then the model should be adjusted accordingly. At the same time, we try to be careful not to totalize – meaning that while the integral model helps us understand how multiple paradigms and methodologies can be “fit together” to reveal a deeper/higher integration, we try not to reduce all of those parts to some imagined whole at the end of the rainbow. It’s less about “one ring to rule them all”, and more about being able to wear the right ring at the right time for the right circumstance.

As for the notion of relativity in general, one of my big insights over the last year or so has been around just how deep that relativity goes. I’ve been playing a lot with the Giga-Glossary app I created in chatGPT, which helps demonstrate that there is no such thing as a “simple object” that exists some some absolute space somewhere, but rather that our perception of an object (or a subject) depends 100% on the perspective that we are enacting it from. A tree is never just a “tree”, but is something else entirely if you approach it from one perspective or another, one level of scale or another, one context or another.

For example, we can look at a tree in 3rd person, from the upper right quadrant, through our cognitive intelligence at the orange stage, focusing on its gross/physical properties.

Or we can look at it in 1st-person, from the lower left quadrant, through the aesthetic intelligence at the magenta altitude, focusing on its subtle/imaginal properties.

In fact, when we add up all of the various combinations of perspective a person can take (4 quadrants, 3 perspectives, 20 or so developmental lines, 8 stages, 5 states/realms) we end up with almost 10,000 views of a given phenomenon!

Which means that not only is a tree not just a “tree”, it is 10,000 things all at once — and that is only accounting for human perception, and says nothing about how, say, a termite might perceive it.

My metaphor here is that this is something like the theory of general relativity in physics, which tells us that the position of an object is 100% relative to the position of every other object. Here, we can see that the position of a subject is 100% relative to the position of every other subject, revealing a vastly complex, beautiful, and numinous reality that we find ourselves in.

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Thanks a lot for this response Corey. The extent of the relativity and the absence of an “object out there” responsible for causing our perceptions/perspectives has also been something I’ve been realizing deeper! Really cool.

To specify my question a bit more, the main aspects of the Integral Map that I’m wondering about are the 20 tenets (including the holonic nature of realities) and the Four Quadrants, as these seem to be the most fundamental organizing principles of everything else that we experience. Should we also not hold on to these as absolute truths? Should we stay open to the possibility that other realities might have different basic principles or frameworks organizing their content?

I’m wondering if there’s something I don’t realize that would demonstrate that these basic principles like the 20 tenets and four quadrants are the only way that a relative reality could be organised.

Oh, this is fun!

IMHO, Wilber’s AQAL meta-synthesis is the most complete possible – in this universe. It starts with the most fundamental possible dualities: self/other and single/plural. But there might well be a virtually infinite number of other universes that, um, “operate” from entirely different fundamentals. In that sense, the Integral Map would indeed be relative.

And there’s another sense in which the IMap is relative – the core Buddhist teaching of the Two Truths: relative and absolute. The Absolute is unmanifest. Trying to map it with any tools and ideas would be pointless. But in the manifested realms of relative truth, where we live and move and have our being, the quality of our mapmaking can be crucial.

And in our manifest universe of relative reality, maps can always be tinkered with, updated, upgraded. I think Ken Wilber would be the first to agree that his meta-synthesis, like all of us, is a work in progress.

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My thoughts exactly Karen. For all intents and purposes, it seems that the Integral Map is the most comprehensive map for the relative reality of THIS universe. But I want to leave my mind open, simply for the sake of openness of mind, that other relative universes with a different set of organizing tenets may be possible. Thanks for you reply!