Kheper Home | Integral Approach Home | Topics Index | New | Search

An Informal Integral Canon

Selected books on Integral Science, Philosophy and the Intregral Transformation



It may seem a bit presumptious to suggest an Integral Canon, especially since there is no agreement on what "Integral" is. I have my esoteric/gnostic definition, Wilberians (Integral Institute) have their exoteric definition, others have their own defintions again. In the meantime, here is a very informal, incomplete, and opinionated, Integral Canon. With the exception of works by Sri Aurobindo, I have tried to select only one book from each author, and also given a wide cross-section of authors

The Life Divine The Life Divine by Sri Aurobindo is perhaps the greatest single work of philosophy ever written, a vast and often repetitative work that provides a powerful alternative to both materialism and asceticism: a world affirming evolutionary spirituality culminating in the Divinsation of the physical world. It is a shame that the turgid 19th century style puts off many, for lighter reading I would suggest Letters on Yoga (reprinted as The Integral Yoga), or just read the last four chapters. This book, together with Mother's Agenda and more recently Synthesis of Yoga, defined my own worldview and spirituality, and strill does, although now I am less of an Aurobindo-fundamentalist and am incorporating other perspectives. Nevertheless, if there is one book alone that I would suggest you read to appreciate the Integral Paradigm, this is the one.

Integral level: Transmutation of matter


Synthesis of YogaThe Synthesis of Yoga by Sri Aurobindo - companion volume to Life Divine, it presents the practical as opposed to the theoretical. The primary textbook of Integral Yoga, and imho the work that lies at the foundation of the Integral approach. With the Agenda this is the most profound treatise on the mystical path I have ever read. This book cannot be read from cover to cover; it is too dense, too heavy, and too repetitious. Instead, open at random, or at whatever paragraph or page grabs your interest, and read from there.

Integral level: Transmutation of matter


The Phenomenon of ManLink to Amazon com The Phenomenon of Man by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Teilhard's opus, a sort of Christian plaeontological counterpart to The Life Divine, written a little later but totally independently. A poetic work which integrates Darwinian science with Catholic Christianity in a pantheistic evolutionary worldview. This has strong parallels to both Sri Aurobindo (Integral Yoga) on the one hand and Alfred North Whitheead (Process philosophy) on the other. Not nearly as profound as Sri Aurobindo, but far more profound then later popularizers, interpreters, and misinterpreters. My own love of paleontology and of tracing Palaeos com the history of life on Earth means that I have always felt a sort of kinnship with Teilhard, even if I totally disagree with his religious/humanistic anthropocentrism (indeed, I hold a diametrically opposite strongly sentientist worldview and ethic). But this remains an iimportant contribution to an Integral worldview, especially with its emphasis on divinisation, even if Teilhard is more commonly considered in terms of process philosophy or pop culture.



Integral level: Evolutionary

The Ever-Present Origin Link to Amazon com The Ever-Present Origin by Wikipedia link Jean Gebser. Gebser is not as profound as Sri Aurobindo, but far more profound and subtle than modern exponents of Integralism. A rich, dense, and multi-disciplinary work, which describes progressive structures or mutations of human collective consciousness. As with Wilber, there are some intriguing parallels with Rudolf Steiner's cultural epoches and root races. Being concerned only with human cultures, this work is not as universal as others such as Haskell, Jantsch and Wilber, who consider all the levels of physical evolution. On the other hand, he is good at explaining successive stages of psycho-social consciousness. Typically for "integralists", there is a very poor grasp of science, as shown by the association of dimensions with mutations of consciousness (as indicated by the table at the back of the book, the "mythic" is two dimensional (two spatial dimensions), the "magical" only one dimensional), and it is necessary to ignore these shortcomings, in order to gain benefit from the more authentic insights in the work.

Integral level: Evolutionary


Full Circle The Moral Force of Unified Science - Complete On-line Edition Full Circle - The Moral Force of Unified Science ed. by Edward Haskell, Gordon and Breach, New York, London & Paris, 1972. Long out of print, but available in a external link complete on-line edition, this book exerted a big influence on me back in the early 1980s. Along with Oliver Reiser's Cosmic Humanism, it was the first attempt at a universal synthesis of knowledge, long before Ken Wilber made "integral" into a brand name. Ironically, this work suffers from exactly the same problem Wilberian AQAL theory would face several decades later; an over-rigid typology according to which everything has to be slotted into some category or other, using only a very limited number of parameters. It is also much more limited than the Wilberian one, because it does not give sufficient consideration to "interiors" (consciousness or subjectivity). It also does not cover transpersonal states of realization, understandable given that these things were only very poorly known in the 1950s when the authors were developing their ideas. What is unique about this particular synthesis however is the dynamic rather than static mandala (the "co-action cardinoid" as it is called) based on the trilogy of positive, negative, and neutral (the same trilogy Gurdjieff used), and strong participatory ("co-action") worldview based on a natural law approach to ethics, emphasising a win win approach and the movement of greater organization (towards omega, a term inspired by Teilhard, but without the Divinisation element). The work of Haskell and his co-workers is now pretty much forgotten, and some of the book is quaint, dated, obsolete, and at times politically incorrect (such as the socio-cultural-racial determinism, with different human types occypying different strata). As with so many big picture synthesisers, there is the a tendency to create excessively rigid categories, a practice that is here taken to the extreme. Also the overall appliaction is in the field of intersubjectivity of collective physical realities (ecologies and societies, rather than individual organisms and sentient beings). But its central "co-action" thesis is an important element in my own work, and it is hoped that Haskell and his co-workers will one day be acknowledged for their important insights in this field.

Integral level: Exoteric Synthesis


Cosmic Humanism and World Unity by Oliver L. Reiser. Gordon & Breach, 1975. Here is another absolute classic, published at the same time and by the same company as Full Circle - The Moral Force of Unified Science. While the pantheistic interpretation of spirituality if interpreted literally is far too simplistic and New Agey for my tastes (and this is where I knowledge of metaphysics and esotericism comes in as absolutely essential), this remains a subtle, profound, and deeply thoughtful synthesis of arts and sciences, East and West, physical and spiritual, multiplicity and unity. The thesis of Eastern mysticism and Western science as two complementary lobes of the world brain, and each equally necessary for an evolving planetary society is reminscent of both Steiner's Goethean Science and Sri Aurobindo's integral philosophy. See external link Cosmic Humanism and World Unity by Oliver L. Reiser for a synopsis.

Integral level: Gnostic/holistic Synthesis


Nuclear Evolution Nuclear Evolution: Discovery of the Rainbow Body Christopher Hills (University of Trees Press, 1977). Yet another classic work of the 1970s that is now long out of print. Christopher Hills integrates science (such as optics and electromagnetism), radionic measurement of chakras, colour symbolism, psychological types, and much more, in an integral big picture synthesis. He even mentions Sri Aurobindo and appears to marginally influenced by him. This book, which is over-long and contains lots of very seventies-looking diagrams, was the first to present the idea of rainbow-chakras, and may or may not be resposible for its adoption by the new age movement (and Wilber's theory of altitude is in turn directly derived from New Age chakra theory). But as with so many visionaries, Hills' work was too advanced for his time (as well as not having the benefit of the internet), and his work slipped into oblivion. It would be great if someone could restore it, and integrate it into the current Integral Project. Indeed, I envisage an "Integral Institute" very different from Wilber's, one in which the ideas of all these inspiring visonaries, such as Christopher Hills, Oliver Reiser, Stan Gooch, and others, are presented alongside each other, without any monolithic emphasis on a single individual.

Integral level: Gnostic/holistic Synthesis

Mother's AgendaMother's Agenda of Mirra Alfassa (The Mother), edited by Satprem. New York : Institute for Evolutionary Research, 1979 onwards. (Translation of: L'agenda de Me`re Correspondence between the Mother and Satprem, amounting to 6,000 pages in 13 volumes The name is rather unfortunate, makes me think of 1950s domestic stereotypes about sewing and cooking and childrearing. So I just refer to it as The Agenda. The subtitle is better - Agenda of the supramental action upon earth. All I can say is that this book changed my life. It takes up where Sri Autrobindo leaves off. An inspiring, depressing, read - full of amazing experiences and trivial details - of Mirra's work to bring down the Supermind (Truth Consciousness) and Divinise the world, and how her biggest struggles were often with devotees in the ashram itself. Much against the wishes of the ashram trustees and elders, against whom he later would greatly struggle, Satprem wanted to publish everything directly, without censoring anything, although some of the tape recordings the Mother herself said should be destroyed (Satprem published them anyway). I was later very dissillusioned to hear (according to external link Luc Venet; however I feel that Venet is writing honestly, whereas the criticism has an ugly tone to it. Imho.) that Satprem did not publish material by the Mother which were critical of him. To me (assuming this allegation is true - external link criticism of Venet), it indicates pride and dishonesty, and was the one factor most responsible for my disillusionment with Satprem, who I had previously viewed as a heroic figure. So the Agenda is not so uncensored as Satprem pretended to claim. But for all this, it is still an epic work, and Satprem has done the world a great service by recording so much rare and unique information, and the Mother's own words. A condensed version, which includes many important experiences, is the anonymous Notebook on Evolution (pdf download) which is apparently compiled by Venet.

Integral level: Transmutation of matter


The Self-Organizing Universe - Scientific and Human Implications of the Emerging Paradigm of Evolution The Self-Organizing Universe - Scientific and Human Implications of the Emerging Paradigm of Evolution by Erich Jantsch, New York: Pergamon. 1980. Now considered dated because Systems Science and Complexity Theory has developed greatly since the late 70s, but that's not the point. What is important is that (at least in my opinion) this is the greatest work of integrative or integral (in a Wilberian sense of including all worldviews) science written. Others - Eric Chaisson, Brian Swimme, Peter Russell - have told the same story, but never with such magnificent attention to detail. Jantsch uses Ilya Prigogines' theory of dissaptive structures as a basic framework or unifying paradigm of self-organization by which a unified picture of the evolution of the entire cosmos and all its complex forms (and ultimately physical consciousness) can be placed. Prigogines' work is never allowed to become overbearing or cultic the way that Wilber's AQAL theory does in Esbjorn-Hargens' and Zimmerman's Integral Ecology, and for this reason the book is a delight to read. Comprehensively, massively researched, this work presents an overview of evolution from the cosmic to the biological to the sociocultural. There is even a little bit of pantheism at the end, although here Jantsch is influenced by Whitheead rather than Teilhard, which is surprising because for me this is a very Teilhardian work (but without Teilhard's overbearing anthropocentrism). If there ever was a classic text of Integral Science, or Integral Theory, this is it. A real tragedy that this book is out of print. It is hoped someone will upload it and make it available on the web. In the meantime, you could probably find a second copy floating around, unfortunately not cheap.

Integral level: Exoteric Synthesis


Arut Perum Jyothi and Deathless Body - bookArut Perum Jyothi and Deathless Body - cdArut Perum Jyothi and Deathless Body by T.R.Thulasiram. University of Madras,India. This is a revolutionary book, although unfortunately in need of editing. T.R.Thulasiram was a Tamil devotee of Sri Aurobindo, the Mother, the siddha poet Swami Ramalingam (also known as Vallalar), and Swami Ramdas, and in this huge two volume 2000 plus page opus he analyses Ramalingam's poems from an Aurobiondonian point of view, and presents a persuasive argument that the Tamil siddha was describing the same Supramental realisations as Sri Aurobindo. He also argues that the earlier siddha Turumular (also spelled Thirumoolar) also achieved this state. The phrase Arut Perum Jyothi mean "Vast Grace Light", which Thulasiram identifies with the Aurobindonian Supermind. The author also presents the case that Swami Ramalingam's transformed deathless body was actually a Supramental body. A word of warning. If you download the pdf it is a bit over a 100 megabytes. This is because the pages are scanned in as images. The photos and some of the text at the front have very bad resolution; like a page or photo that has been photocopied a number of times, until it starts to become illegible. I wouldn't have known about this book at all if it were not for Rick Lipschutz, and although I've only read a tiny bit as yet, even connecting to Ramalingam via the website and photos online has affected me in a positive way. Not since I connected with Ramana Maharshi have I felt anything so powerful. Of course that's just me, others may respond differently. But this has been a turning point in my understanding of the Integral tradition, I now understand it to be primarily yogic and South indian (even Sri Aurobindo and the Mother moved to south India, and Ramana - although on the surface not an integral yogi - also is from there). As for how conventional followers of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and their Integral Yoga respond, I would be surprised if they are positive. Although Thulasiram stayed at the ashram, he seems to have been an outsider in a sense, and it is significant that his book wasn't published by the ashram press at Pondicherry. Certainly the book is much too technical and obscure for anyone who doesn't have a background in Sri Aurobindo's Integral Yoga philosophy, and it is my feeling that it would be useful to also have some knowledge of the Tamil Siddha tradition, Tamil Shaivism, Siddha poetry and symbolism, Siddha Tantra in general. So definitely not a book for beginners. As with the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in general, this is material that pertains to a very high order of Divinisation, and therefore would appear absurd to anyone too conditioned by materialism and scepticism or acosmism and world-negating non-duality (or both)

Integral level: Transmutation of matter


GaiasophyLink to Amazon com Gaiasophy by external link Kees Zoeteman (originally Gaiasofie 1989, translated into English as Gaia-Sophia (Floris Books, Edinburugh, 1991, Lindisfarne Press, Hudson, NY, 1991). This is a fascinating book, not only valuable in its own right, but with astonishing parallels to Esbjorn-Hargens and Zimmerman's Integral Ecology Both provide a revolutionary and integral approach to ecology, and both lean heavily on a single baroque thinker and hence perhaps too inflexible mental formulation and a poor ability to integrate the facts of hard science: for Zoeteman it is Rudolf Steiner, for Esbjorn-Hargens and Zimmerman Ken Wilber. This may be no coincidence, as there is a lot of similarity between the two. The difference is that Steiner was a practicing esotericist with living experiences, Wilber a buddhistic developmental psychology theorist who integrated things second-hand. For this reason, I find Steiner far more inspiring, but in both cases the intellectualisation is limiting. Perhaps in a sense one could even say that the northern European anthroposophy movement of Steiner and the American Integral movement of Wilber (as opposed to the Integral Yoga community of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother!), are two aspects - heart and head, self and ego (to use Stan Gooch's terminology), esoteric and exoteric, of the same larger Integral process. Ironically I've been attracted to the promise of each, but also somewhat dissillusioned with each.

Nevertheless, it is a great shame that Gaiasophy is out of print, because this book has a great deal to offer. Most especially, it offers the nurturing Heart element and spontaneous intuition that is so missing in the American Integral head-tripping. I've already written a longer review elsewhere on this site, so I'll just quote the essential thesis from there: Using the study of ancient myth and spiritual traditions (Plato, Kepler, Goethe, and especially anthroposophy) regarding the earth's origin, Kees argues that ecology needs to be supplemented by "gaiasophy," which he defines as "the knowledge and wisdom of the living earth."  He argues that until we fully understand the spiritual, as well as the physical, anatomy of the earth, we shall not be in a position to address the various environmental and social questions posted by the ecological crisis.  The earth is a mirror of humanity as human beings are a mirror of the earth, and a deeper understanding of Gaia can only arise from a deeper understanding of ourselves.

In the original review I relate Zoeteman's insights with the Gaia hypothesis of Dr James Lovelock (the idea that the Earth is a single interconnected superorganism). So what we have here is the foundation for a new postmaterialistic/holistic socio-cultural and even global transformative approach which is able to incorporate esoteric insights. Unfortuantely, these various insights remain unconnected, awaiting a new Integral synthesis. When that happens, Gaiasophy certainly deserves to be an important foundational text.

Integral level: Esoteric/holistic Synthesis


Sex, Ecology, SpiritualityLink to Amazon com Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution by Ken Wilber, (1995, 2nd revised edition, 2000, 851 pages) is Wilber's most influential book, and certainly nothing he has written before or since has matched it in scope. This was the book that first introduced Wilber's AQAL or Integral theory, as well as marking a shift in his style from neutral to polemical and antogonistic towards other pluralistic and holistic academics and philosophies. For readers for whom 850 pages including dense but interesting footnotes is a bit much, try instead Link to Amazon com A Brief History of Everything, which is really SES lite, without footnotes, and written in pseudo-interview form (with Wilber as both interviewer and interviewee). I find errors in both Wilber's AQAL (post) metaphysics and his methodology, but I don't deny the importance of this book in kick-starting the modern integral movement

Integral level: Exoteric Synthesis


Spiral Dynamics Link to Amazon com Spiral Dynamics : Mastering Values, Leadership, and Change (Developmental Management) by Wikipedia link Don Edward Beck and Wikipedia link Christopher C. Cowan. the foundation text of the modern Spiral Dynamics movement. Essentially a business-management text, one of a series of such middle management theories that have developed from the very American corporate capitalist form of developmental integrationism (secular and exoteric "Integral" philosophy). Because of Wilber's Link to Amazon com flirtation with Spiral Dynamics, and the short-lived association between Wilber and Beck, and for no other reasons than that, this book became one of the central texts of Wilberian Integralism. It introduces concepts like socio-cultural; evolution, business management, and that famous (or infamous) vMEMES colour classification that has been so abused by Wilber and Beck and their less original followers as a way of putting down eco-spirituality, feminism and other important postmaterialistic contributions (the hated "green"). Beck and Cowan had a falling out over this antagonistic first generation integralism, with Cowan (external link part I part II) arguing against Beck and Wilber's "Mean Green Meme" and misinterprations of Wikipedia link Clare Graves original Spiral Dynamics. Wilber would in turn later split from Beck and reject the spiral in favour of a one-dimensional "altitude". As with Gebser, the book is limited solely to the human spehere, and hence cannot be truley "integral" or "integrative". Indeed, like Gebser, Beck and Cowan present social evolution in terms of a number of clearly deliminated stages, beginning with the most archaic and primitive and culminating in the "integral" stage. Nevertheless, this book, which dates to happier times, is still an important theoretical text in the Integral Community worldview.

Integral level: Exoteric Synthesis




The Evolution of Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo, Sri Ramakrishna, and Swami Vivekananda The Evolution of Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo, Sri Ramakrishna, and Swami Vivekananda by Kundan Singh, VDM Verlag (2008). Kundan Singh is an adjunct faculty at the California Institute of Integral Studies. I haven't read this rather expensicve (when I last checked) book, but I have read the author's well-argued thesis external link Sri Ramakrishna: The Initiator of Integral Yoga (Conscious Evolution Journal). From the Product Description of The Evolution of Integral Yoga:

"Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are regarded as the architects of Integral Yoga....The book argues that Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda laid the conceptual and practical foundations of Integral Yoga before Sri Aurobindo and the Mother took it to its fruition. To this end, a comprehensive comparison of the works of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda with the works of Sri Aurobindo is offered, including an examination of both convergences and divergences, specifically focused on some of the features of Integral Yoga. It shows how Sri Aurobindo's ideas can be understood as an extension of the thoughts of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda, and discusses the presence of the evolutionary thread of the progression of integral thought from Sri Ramakrishna to Swami Vivekananda to Sri Aurobindo..."

Because I heard about these ideas before I encountered T.R.Thulasiram's thesis, it seemed to me that Sri Aurobindo's yoga can be traced back to Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. But Thulasiram presents a very powerful case not so much for Sri Aurobindo's being influenced by Ramalingam, but rather for Ramalingam having attained the Supramental Consciousness independently. I have long considered that Teilhard de Chardin had tapped into the same inspiration totally independently. So we can see that the Integral project has been the result of a number of yogis, philosophers, mystics and visionaries independently attuning to the same reality. The Integral paradigm therefore represents at the very least the convergence of Ramalingam, Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Mirra, and Teilhard. SDoubtless others can be added to this list as well.

Integral level: Historical Development


Integral EcologyLink to Amazon com Integral Ecology: Uniting Multiple Perspectives on the Natural World by Sean Esbjorn-Hargens and Michael E. Zimmerman (Integral Books, Boston and London, 2009). With an introduction by Marc Bekoff (which I enjoyed reading more than the rest of the book). This is a comprehensively researched book and the first real attempt by Wilberians to embark into a sphere they are traditionally very weak at, which is real science and academia (as opposed to wannabe academia). As with any seminal work, it has both strengths and weaknesses. The book, written by two Wilberians with impeccable credentials, argues the very admirable thesis of the neccessity of a multi-perspectival approach to ecology; indeed multiperspectivism is one area where the Wilberians do have a good (if rather inflexible) understanding. There is a huge amount of detail, and an inclusive sensitivity to all perspectives. For me the most important and valuable element in this book is the emphasise on the interior life (i.e. consciousness) of animals, which is part of the panpsychic (everything is conscious, or has a conscious aspect) approach of Wilberian philosophy. This is in opposition to the dehumanising attitude of mainstream science, for which animals are objects to be experiemented upon, tortured and murdered in the interest of empirical knowledge (the thing I despise most about science, an endeavour I otherwise love and value). And while the book does not actually go into sentientism, indeed there is nothing in the book that indicates animal liberation or vegan diet and lifestyle, it certainly lays the foundation for a justification of a sentientist ethic, and for this reason is a very important counterbalance to mainstream dehumanisation of animals. But for all these good things there are also a number of shortcomings: an almost embarrassing wilbercentric tone (fine if you belong to a cultic organization, not so good for a serious academic work); an overbalance of theory to practice (always a problem with theory-heavy paradigms), in which no attempot at discrimination is made between Wilber's genuine insights (such as multiple perspectives pp.62-64) and his rather absurd errors (such as his claim that "the religion of Gaia, the worship of nature" is one of the main religions of the industrial world!!! I kid ye not! Anyway it's quoted without any comment or criticism from the authors on p.29) oor performance when it comes to hard science, such as discussing Darwinian evolution. As with Gebser, all one can do in cases like this is be gracious regarding such shortcomings, recognizing the need for suppplementing works such as these with others weher the author has a good grasp of hard science (e.g. Erich Jantsch). A bigger shortcoming would be the apparent inability to go beyond a sole reliance on Wilber's theories. Even if Wilber is fine as a general synthesis or big picture writer (some are much better than him, others less), that doesn't mean that his name has to appear on every second page. It's like reading a book on, let's say, psychology, and discovering the whole book goes along the lines of Freud says this and Freud shows this... Now even if you're a freudian, I expect that would be claustrophobic. And if you're interested in Jung, Maslow, Fromm, Assagioli, etc etc as well, then it becomes absurd. Even so, I would recommend this book as an important contribution to pluralistic/holistic postmaterialistic, non-gnostic, integralism. See also Adobe Acrobat file Integral Ecology - Review by Jan Inglis (Integral Review, June 2009, Vol. 5, No. 1). I have also written a long critique of the book at Amazon com

Integral level: Exoteric Synthesis



Kheper index page
Topics index page
Gnostic Metaphysics index page
Integral Approach main page

Kheper Home | Integral Approach Home | Topics Index | New | Search




Creative Commons License
Unless otherwise attributed or quoted, all original text material on this page authored by myself is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license version 1.0, 2.0, and 2.5.
This license does not cover images or quoted material by others




images not loading? | error messages? | broken links? | suggestions? | criticism?
contact me

page by M.Alan Kazlev.
page uploaded 1 Aug 2009 (material from old Integral index page dated 25 June 2004 to 26 July 2009), last modified 26 November 2009