So far, in our ongoing exploration of an integral approach to spirituality, we have introduced the ideas of perspectives (first-, second-, and third-person perspectives, such as "I," "you/we," and "it") and">levels of development (such as archaic, magic, mythic, mental, integral, and higher). In this column, we will begin to pull these together into something of a coherent statement, so that the contours of the integral approach will start to become clear.

In future columns, we will introduce the remaining elements of the integral approach, including developmental lines, states of consciousness, and types. When we are finished, all five elements-perspectives, levels, lines, states, and types-will hopefully be integrated into a seamless whole, which gives us a truly integral framework with which to better understand human spirituality and perhaps Spirit itself. But one thing that we have found time and again is that if you leave out any of those elements in your account of spirituality, you end up with a decidedly less-than-integral approach-which is to say, a partial, fragmented, broken approach to God. And, generally speaking, a broken God is not high on anybody's gift list.

Let us begin by integrating perspectives and levels. How do they fit together? Please see Figure 1. Notice that it is divided into four squares or quadrants. These quadrants are just another name for perspectives. You can see four of these important perspectives listed in their respective quadrants-"I" (the Upper-Left quadrant), "we" (the Lower-Left quadrant), "it" (the Upper-Right quadrant) and "its" (the Lower-Right quadrant).

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Figure 1. The Four Quadrants (Click to enlarge image.)

Notice the contents of each of those quadrants. (Don't worry if all of the terms don't make sense; the diagram shows more details than we need, but the essential points should be obvious.) The Upper Right contains things like atoms, molecules, cells, organisms, triune brains, and so on. These are all things that can be seen "out there" in an objective fashion. Each of them is an "it" or third-person object. Science specializes in studying these types of objects.

The Upper Right is what an organism-e.g., your organism-looks like from an objective, detached, exterior, scientific approach. But notice that, unlike the Upper Right, the Upper Left cannot be seen "out there" in a scientific fashion, because the Upper Left contains things like feelings, ideas, wishes, interior states, even things like mathematics and logic, none of which can be seen running around out there in the sensory world, but can only be accessed by "looking within"-by introspection, awareness, contemplation, meditation, phenomenology, and so on. In figure 1, you can see a few representative items that you can be aware of if you introspect your own mind or awareness or experience-things like sensations, feelings, images, symbols, concepts, and so on, none of which can be see in the exterior world.

So the Upper Right is what your organism looks like from the outside in an objective stance, and the Upper Left is what your organism looks like from the inside, from within, in a subjective or introspective stance. The Upper Right is a third-person "it," but the Upper Left is a first-person "I"-hence, the outside and the inside views of your being. (Needless to say, an integral approach maintains that both of these are equally important for an overall picture. More about that later.)

So the two upper quadrants represent the inside and outside of an individual. But individuals always exist in collectives. There is no inside without an outside, and no singular without a plural. So the lower two quadrants represent the plural-the collectives or communities of individuals. And like individuals, these collectives, or societies, can be looked at from within and from without.

The Lower-Right quadrant is a collective looked at from the outside in a scientific, third-person perspective. Systems theory is the classic approach to this quadrant. Systems theory looks at all things as systems of dynamically interwoven "its" or third-person processes and systems. You can see many of these collective systems listed in the Lower-Right quadrant. Systems theory usually claims that it is covering ALL of reality, but its third-person-systems approach actually does not include or explain interior realities at all. Poetry, beauty, divinity, the sublime, aesthetics, morals-all of those get left out of systems theory, because all of those actually exist in the other quadrants and cannot be captured at all by systems theory. But systems theory does cover this one quadrant very well, and thus it can help to give us, not the whole story, but one-fourth of the story, so to speak.