In this post, I’ll start to explain the five aspects of the philosophical underpinnings of Integral Medicine:
- The Integral Worldview
- Broad science
- An expanded model of a human being
- A definition of health
- The education metaphor
The Integral World View
The Integral Worldview is based upon Ken Wilber’s work. He observed that our era is the first in Human history where we can have access to all the different world traditions at the same time. Not just all the branches of science and psychology but also religions, languages, music, art and literature. Each world tradition has its own view of the Truth. He asked, “What if we took literally everything that all the various cultures have to tell us about human potential – about spiritual growth, psychological growth, social growth – and put it all on the table? What if we attempted to find the critically essential keys to human growth, based on the sum total of human knowledge now open to us? What if we attempted, based upon extensive cross-cultural study, to use all of the world’s great traditions to create a composite map, a comprehensive map, an all-inclusive or integral map that included the best elements from all of them?” (The Integral Vision, page 16). Mr. Wilbur is also founder of the Integral Institute.
Without going into too much detail, he found that one could construct such a map with just five (relatively) simple elements: quadrants, lines, levels, states and types. Figure 1 shows some details of the four quadrants.
The right upper quadrant is the objective aspects of the singular or individual. The left upper quadrant is the subjective or inner experience of the singular or individual. The right lower quadrant is the objective or exterior of the collective and the left lower quadrant houses the inner or subjective aspects of the collective.
For example, if you wanted to know the chemical composition of wheat, that would be in the right upper quadrant (RUQ). If you wanted to know how much wheat Canada produced in a year, that would be in the right lower quadrant (RLQ). If you wanted to know what it felt like to be a Canadian, that would be in the left lower quadrant (LLQ) and if you wanted to know the beliefs, aspirations, personal and spiritual growth any particular Canadian, that would be left upper quadrant (LUQ).
Pick any experience you have and look at it closely. You’ll see that influences from all four quadrants are active in it all the time. This reminder is one strength of the Integral World View. It is very easy for us to hone in on the influences of one particular quadrant in any given experience and ignore the others.
Figure 2 shows that though most philosophers don’t ignore the other quadrants, they tend to emphasize one enough to be associated with it.
Real deep healing requires us to take all influences into account. How your insurance company treats you (RLQ) throughout the course of your illness and recovery has an impact on your health, just as surely as does the medicine or surgery (RUQ) you experience. Your inner strength and fortitude (LUQ) along with your social support systems (LLQ) play enormous roles in the path your healing takes.
The Integral World view leads directly to the development of a broad science. Most of what we think of as science in our culture confines itself to the RUQ. The science upon which Conventional Medicine is based is primarily RUQ. But science is taking place in the other quadrants as well. Sociology, archeology, geography, systems theory, psychological studies on individuals and groups, the list goes on. Science is the best methodology we have so far for knowing things. There is no logical reason that the scientific method could not be applied to the knowing in each quadrant.
But there is another concept that needs to be taken into account. Not only can we study Nature from the perspectives of all four quadrants, there are also three ways, for lack of a better descriptor, that Humans can know something.
We can know things objectively. I can measure your blood chemistries, your EEG, your EKG, I can CT your entire body. I can collect all kinds of objective information about you. (You ought to see the kind of information Target collects on you when you shop there…information they use to refine their marketing efforts toward you. (That is why they call their store “Target”: because you have one on your back as soon as you walk in the door.)) But all this kind of information only gives me one side of who you are. To learn all this about you, I don’t even have to talk to you. This is a monological way of knowing things. I can study the right two quadrants with monological science.
We can also know things subjectively. I can ask you questions and find out what you believe, what inspires you, what’s holding you back, etc. To learn this side of you, I have to have a conversation with you, a dialog. This is a dialogical way of knowing things. I can study the left two quadrants this way.
Then it turns out that if we just stew about something, if we pick something and contemplate it deeply, we can know things about it – often deep or fundamental things, like true natures and stuff like that. This is a very common way of knowing, taught in many Spiritual traditions around the world. This kind of knowing is transcendental, it transcends the other two, so is often called translogical. I can use transcendental knowing to learn about all four quadrants and the consciousness underlying them.
Broad science is based upon the idea that one can use the scientific method to find the valid ideas and concepts revealed by all three ways of knowing, not just the monological. Many monological RUQ scientists have difficulty accepting the validity claims of the other three quadrants (Figure 3).
The broad science of Integral Medicine accepts these validity claims, when they are adequately met.
A Proposed Model of a Human Being
As was already mentioned in Part One, Science needs to work with models of Nature, since Nature itself is currently too complex to study all at once. Since you are the “system of study” for the science underpinning medicine, we need a good model of you with which to work. The conventional medical model says that you are a skin-bag of biochemical reactions. For example, serious research is currently going on trying to figure out how the chemistry of your brain generates consciousness. I have not found this model robust enough to be of much help when working with real people having real problems in real life. Of all the models of a human being I’ve looked at over the years, I’ve found the Vedic model to be the most helpful, so far. (Figure 4.)
The Vedic model says that a human is composed of six aspects, six irreducible perspectives, so to speak, that the ancient sages saw as arranged like sheaths over sheaths, like the Russian nesting dolls. The outer most aspect is the physical body, with all of its biochemistry. Under this is energy they called Prana. It is the energy that allows the true self to be animated in the physical world. The next layer is the mind. (Note that in this model the brain would be part of the body, while the mind is its own separate and distinct perspective.) The mind processes the information from the physical senses and makes conscious sense out of it. It also is able to control the energy and the body. The next sheath is wisdom or intellect. I see it functioning in people as the collections of beliefs they’ve drawn during their lifetime that functions as their world view.
These outer four sheaths make sense to us in the West because if we were to make a robot, it would have these four aspects: it would have a body, a battery pack or power source of some kind, it would have a computer to process the information the robot detected and tell it what to do, and it would have software programmed into the computer. But, and this may come as a surprise to some followers of Conventional medicine, as humans we are more than robots. We have two more deeper aspects.
The fifth aspect is called “bliss.” This is not just feeling good, but is pure being, the inner peace that is not disturbed by any shenanigans in the body, mind, energy or beliefs. I see this aspect functioning in people as their inner observer. But it is not just any old cold scientific observer. It is wise, kind, understanding and deeply loving. The closest I’ve seen the West come to the concept of this is the Transcendentalists of the mid and late 19th century: Emerson, Thoreau and those guys. But I’ve found that learning how to touch into and communicate with this aspect of themselves is vital for my patients’ healing.
The deepest and sixth aspect of us is pure undifferentiated consciousness. This is that part of us that is outside the laws of physics. It was never born and will never die. People touch into this in Samadhi during deep meditation.
Just like all four quadrants are influencing every moment at all times, all six aspects of you are operating at the same time. Pragmatically, I see most of them operating like different arms of a mobile or, in more technical terms, correlates of each other. If you walk up to a mobile and bump one part of it, the whole mobile moves. Thus, if I add chemicals to your body and change the physical, that change will have analogous changes in your energy and in your mind. If I stick you appropriately with acupuncture needles and change your energy, that will initiate changes in your body and mind. If we do some cognitive behavioral therapy and change your mind, that will trigger changes in your biochemistry and energy. This explains the mind-body connection, which is a misnomer, actually. To be connected they must first be separated. They are not separated, they are really just different sides of the same coin, different ways to observe who we really are, which, as Spinoza describes it, is a divine mystery.
We are obviously also influenced by society and the environment. So the model of a human being that helps me deal with all four quadrants and the complexity of cause and effect with respect to disease looks like Figure 5.
Pure Consciousness: There is only one. It is outside the laws of physics and has causative influence on the physical. In the Vedic cosmology, this is called Brahman or Purusha. Our deepest inner core of it is often referred to as Atman. I think of it as pure potential. In quantum mechanics, infinity keeps popping up in the math of it and is always needing to be adjusted out so the equations make physical sense. Pure consciousness is the infinite. I think of pure consciousness as the “nothingness” (more rightly thought of as the “everythingness”) out of which the strings appear and into which they disappear in String Theory. In the Judeo-Christian cosmology, pure consciousness could be thought of as God transcendent.
The Inner Observer functions like pure consciousness’ right-hand man within the laws of physics. It has many of the same qualities Spirit has: wise, kind, loving, compassionate, understanding, forgiving. Imagine if we could continuously view ourselves and feel towards ourselves in these ways as we go through our lives.
Beliefs are next in line and not on the horizontal line because they are so fundamental to what we are able to create and how we experience the aspects of us that are on the horizontal line. It’s as if pure consciousness, also pure creativity, since consciousness creates the material, is like a pure white light shining in our cores. The inner observer surrounds that white light and fully transmits it, like clear glass. The next layer, our beliefs, functions like a layer of black plastic, opaque to the flow of creativity. Our beliefs are like pin-holes in the plastic, only letting through that light that is consistent with it. Like Henry Ford said, if we believe we can, we can, if we believe we can’t we’re right. Perhaps you’ve also heard the saying, “If you want to know what a person believes, just look at their life.” Changing your beliefs can totally change your biochemistry, your energy, what you think about, how people treat you and the choices you make in your life.
The items along the horizontal line are self-explanatory and function like the arms of the mobile.
I like this model because it explains so many observations. It says that conscious is primary. This is why we can have intuition, spontaneous creativity and volition. It explains why we can go inside and find wisdom. We can, but we don’t need to learn about wisdom by reading about it. It explains why we can know something intellectually yet it doesn’t change our biochemistry. We need to know it on a deeper level, the level of changing non-consciously held beliefs, to effect a physical change. It explains why basic human nature, underneath the wounding and confusion of life, is loving and kind. It explains a lot of other things as well, like Spiritual healing and the physical effects of meditation, too many things to go into here.
Broad science can then be used to flesh out the details of how these components interact and influence each other. This would give us a much deeper understanding of healing and how to responsibly use other modalities than just drugs and surgery. We would deepen our understanding and appropriate use of group therapy, community, meditation, exercise, body work, energy work, prayer and such.
If Medicine adopted a model such as this and used broad science to deepen our understanding of all of its facets, we would have a medicine that could make good use of all the data of human experience. It would be able to see you and treat you as a Whole Human Being. It would be Integral Medicine.
I’ll discuss a definition of health in Part Three.
Copyright 2012 Steven M. Hall, MD