Over the last couple of years, I have read many books and sat through many videos on Integral Theory, Spiral Dynamics, and Metamodernism so that you don’t have to.
Below are my best recommendations for further investigation, with some notes and cautions.
Note: Many of the resources below focus only on Spiral Dynamics. Spiral Dynamics is an (over)simplified version of Integral Theory that focuses on practical, real-world applications of the ideas and a general avoidance of any metaphysics (things that are outside of science, reason, and observation). Integral Theory is a much more spiritual and metaphysical view of the same phenomenon. Metamodernism believes that both Spiral Dynamics and Integral Theory are too simplistic and lays out a much more detailed and rigorous theory. But they all refer to the same main subject: adult development theory.
If you don’t have very much time, watch the video introduction. If you only have time to read one book, read the second half of The Listening Society: A Metamodern Guide to Politics, Book One. (The first half is an argument for a political program that I find less important to understand the ideas.
My written introductions (each 15mins read):
- Integral theory part 1, and introduction to the evolution of human consciousness
- Integral theory part 2, a diagnosis of our political world
- Integral Theory, MHC, and Metamodernism…how they all fit together
Short video introduction:
The Grand Model Of Psychological Evolution – Clare Graves & Spiral Dynamics – Please note that this is only 1.5 hours long. Trying to cram an introduction of this theory into such a small space necessarily ensures that it will be oversimplified. I hesitate to link this because in my experience it gives people just enough information to reject the ideas, but nonetheless here it is.
Longer video introductions on the later spiral dynamics stages:
- Blue – Blue is the premodern/traditionalist stage
- Orange – Orange is the modernist/scientific/enlightenment stage
- Green – Green is the postmodernist/social justice/progressive stage
- Yellow – Yellow is the first “integral” stage, integrating all of the previous stages, with an internal individualistic focus
- Turquoise – Turquoise is the second “integral” stage, integrating all of the previous stages, with an external, world-centric, systemic focus
Detailed written introductions
- Spiral Dynamics Intro – 20 page intro to the ideas
- Very detailed introductions on each of the stages. Perhaps more than you wanted to know:
- Hanzi Frienacht – Hanzi (pseudonym) is relatively new on the scene and has somewhat of a different take on the whole Integral/Spiral Dynamics field. He calls himself a Metamodernist, meaning post-postmodernism, and his theory is that a version of Integral Theory is breaking out in the real world in the Nordic countries.
The Listening Society: A Metamodern Guide to Politics, Book One – A walk-through of the political environment in the Nordic countries and how these countries are all moving toward an inevitable post-postmodern government based on Metamodern ideas. Also lays out a version of Spiral Dynamics stages that relies on a very well supported scientific field called the Model of Hierarchical Complexity. This is the most detailed discussion from this angle, though incomplete.
- Ken Wilber – Ken Wilber is known as the most prominent Integral philosopher in the world. As a first exposure to Integral, one has to be aware that Ken has no problem talking about spirituality, Freud and Jung, and general ideas outside of science and evidence. If this is something that might be a problem for you, you should start elsewhere, perhaps with Spiral Dynamics.
Trump and a Post-Truth World – Very short (161 pages) and very practical introduction to integral thinking using the real world example of the Trump election in 2015.
- A Theory of Everything – This is a relatively short book (196 pages) that will give you a somewhat dated but comprehensive summary of Ken Wilber’s Integral Philosophy.
- A Brief History of Everything – Ironically, not brief. More dense than “A Theory of Everything”. A good thorough summary of all of his ideas.
The Religion of Tomorrow: A Vision for the Future of the Great Traditions – Perhaps the greatest, most detailed, and most comprehensive integral book ever written. This book is not for the faint of heart, nor those looking for a casual introduction. It is very long, but wastes no space and is packed with epiphanies.
Steve McIntosh – Steve is an integral philosopher who came in as a second wave behind Ken Wilber. Steve is a slight critic of Ken, in that he thinks Ken is a little bit too comfortable in the spiritual realm. Steve is a better bet for people who want to be talked to like a philosopher.
Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution – A traditionally philosophical introduction to integral, focusing on the genealogy of the ideas and how the ideas are backed up by other modern research and philosophy.
Don Beck – Don Beck is the creator of Spiral Dynamics, when he came across the work of Clare Graves back in the 1980s. Spiral dynamics is a fork of integral philosophy, and focuses on practical, real-world, nonmetaphysical applications. He turned Spiral Dynamics into a consulting firm for companies.
- Spiral Dynamics – This is an old book and needs updating. Also not available on Kindle. It is still the most straightforward and readable of the introductions. I recommend this to my libertarian and conservative friends as a gentle introduction.
- John Mackey – John is not so much an integral philosopher but an integral practitioner. He has taken integral ideas and created Conscious Capitalism, an attempt to show a version of capitalism that can work as the world is changing. And he created a several billion dollar company using the same philosophy – Whole Foods.
- Conscious Capitalism – A walk-through of the ideas behind Conscious Capitalism, how it differs from corporate social responsibility, and how it solves the new challenges of the new economy