Where Is the Method to Our Integral Madness? An Outline for Integral Meta-Studies


by Mark Edwards

Integral metatheory does not currently employ any formal research method for developing or evaluating its frameworks, propositions, and knowledge claims. As is the case with almost all other metatheory, Ken Wilber’s AQAL framework has been developed according to a creative and idiosyncratic mix of personal insight and traditional scholarship. The AQAL conceptual lenses, their relationships, and the AQAL metatheoretical system, which they constitute, are largely the result of one man’s analysis of extant scientific and cultural knowledge. It may be expert analysis that is based on traditional methods of scholarship, but that informal approach needs to be augmented and evaluated by more rigorous and transparent methods of research. More importantly, those methods need to be developed and applied by communities of researchers, practitioners and scholars who are aware of, and competent in, the methods and techniques of metatheorising.

The purpose of this article is to show why this is an important issue in the future development of Integral metatheory and to contextualise the absence of a formal method within a general framework for describing an integral meta-studies. The importance of method is discussed within an integral cycle of learning model that shows why method plays such a crucial role in metatheory building and in scientific disciplines in general. An overview of integral meta-studies is presented to contextualise the discussion of method.


Excellent article. Resonates with other things i’ve been reading. Good additional references to find out more. This is graduate-level content for sure, academically focused, although with wider implications for the pursuit of the true, the good, and the beautiful.


Great article explaining the importance of rigorous methods for metatheory building. But I think the reason some metatheories like the AQAL are not taken seriously is because they are developed by non-academics rather than because they lack systematic methods per se. Metatheories are constantly constructed in academia, and even though they are rarely subjected to rigorous metamethodological standards, they aren’t rejected as “mere speculations.” I’ve heard Wilber was not taken seriously by academics when he proposed the AQAL, and such bias seems to remain strong in academia. I’ve once discussed his works with a professor and was told to prioritize the works of “real” developmental psychologists and scholars for citations in my work.

I suppose there are two ways non-academic metatheories could be taken seriously: (a) to wait until society develops to a new level and the rigid barrier between academia and non-academia is broken or (b) do what academia currently values the most (i.e., empirical research) in addition to metatheoretical stuff rather than doing only the latter. I think, overall, Integral Life does a better job at meta-theoretical stuff than academia, but for it to surpass academia, it has to do not only the transcend part (meta-theoretical stuff) but also the include part (empirical research).

Incidentally, I’ve noticed this article was written in 2008 and the author of this article mentioned he would go in detail about the methods in a subsequent article. Are there any follow-up articles?


Been thinking lately about Gebser’s “integral” vs “mental”. Trying to imagine how a wide-spread integral mutation in Gebser’s sense would re-arrange the goals, purpose, and methods of education. My current take is that integral provides considerable freedom vis-a-vis the mental. Will academic respectability for integral meta-studies transform the world? It seems more plausible that integral mutation of consciousness will transform the world, and academic institutions will rearrange themselves to suit the needs and interests of their now-integral clientele. Will those who view the world through an integral lense desire a more rigorous meta-theory? Maybe. Or maybe that sort of meta-theory will seem like the monumental architecture of a bygone era.