An Integral View of Ecosynomic Agreements

Luz Maria Puente responded to my post “What questions do you have?“, suggesting “I think a good question would be to talk about the differences between integral model (Ken Wilber) and Ecosynomics, what do you think?”

An integral view of Ecosynomic agreements
Many of the followers of this blog might be familiar with the “integral” perspective of the American philosopher Ken Wilber. For those readers, there might be some confusion between the five primary relationships in the Ecosynomics framework and the four perspectives in Wilber’s Integral framework. This brief overview attempts to clarify differences in the two approaches and how the “integral” approach provides an additional tool with which to understand the experience of the five primary relationships.

To start with, I consider myself a student of Wilber’s brilliant work, and use it to deepen my understanding of what we are learning in Ecosynomics. In essence, Wilber has developed a perspective on the human experience, which shows that what may seem like divergent, conflicting perspectives of an experience are actually convergent, complementing perspectives. He does this through an “integral” framework that interweaves different perspectives and developmental levels in one framework, which has now provided deep insights in many fields of study.[1]

Relationships and perspectives
You experience vibrancy in your relationship to your own self, to others, to the group, to nature, and to spirit. To understand more deeply the experience we have of these relationships, we need a very brief, slightly technical detour. We approach our experience of the five primary relationships we have to our self, the other, the group, nature, and spirit, from two very different angles.

These two angles, known as relationship and perspective, seem very similar, yet they are not. For simplicity, we will distinguish between what we feel in the experience of our heart, body, and awareness and how we think about that experience. We experience with relationship and we think with perspectives. While this is an oversimplification of the rich ways we make sense of our world, it is useful to distinguish relationships from perspectives. Relationships allow us to see that we experience, directly, our self, the other, the group, nature, and spirit. We are born with this capacity of direct experience; everyone has it, and everyone can tell us what he or she is experiencing in each of these relationships.

There are also multiple perspectives one can take on how to understand our experiences in each of these relationships. For example, we can start with the experience of the relationship you have to your own self. Let us look at the four overall perspectives on that relationship. First, we can look at your own inner, subjective experience—what you inwardly see that nobody else can see. This is the realm of your beliefs about your own potential and your ability to step into your own gifts. Next, we can also look at your behaviors: what is outwardly, objectively observable about you and your relationship to your self. This is the realm of seeing how you actually treat your self. These first two perspectives are those you have of your self, as an individual.

These perspectives are also interwoven with the group’s perspectives. There is a cultural perspective, which is the inner, subjective perspective of how the group supports your relationship to your self. In this realm, the culture might be supportive of your continuous exploration of your own potential. Or perhaps, the culture might suggest that paying attention to your own self is a waste of time, and you should focus on others. And finally, there is an outwardly oriented, objective perspective of the structures and processes in the group that support or influence your relationship to your own self. In some groups, there exists a culture of developing your own potential that is supported by observable structures and processes, such as mentoring programs and training. However, in other groups, the structures and processes give incentives only to “get to work” and stop wasting time on frivolous navel-gazing. These are four perspectives, or four ways of making sense of your experience of the relationship you have to your self. We will now take an integral look at the agreements in all of the five primary relationships. We will start from an all-quadrants perspective, and then take a developmental, all-levels lens.

An “all-quadrants” view
There are multiple ways we tend to relate to our experiences of harmonic vibrancy, in general, and through the five relationships described above. Integral theory shows us that what may seem to be completely different experiences of each of the five relationships are indeed four different perspectives of the same experience. Here we use the word “perspective” to mean a way of seeing something. Ken Wilber suggests that we can look at human experience from: (1) either the individual’s or group’s perspective; and (2) either the inner, subjective or outer, objective perspective. By putting these two dimensions on two axes, he created the four quadrant model of perspectives.

Integral 012615 Fig 1

Each of these four perspectives (ways of seeing or understanding an experience) has a long and well-developed field of inquiry supporting its practice; and thus we can learn from these perspectives, by showing what each brings individually and collectively to more richly describe the experience of each of the five relationships, as shown in the table below.

In the first row, the inner-individual perspective sees the five relationships as different manifestations of the self: self-in-self, self-in-other, self-in-group, self-in-nature, and self-in-spirit. The outer-individual perspective, in the second row, is how an individual inwardly experiences the outer “it” of the five relationships: from one’s own body/head-mind for the self; to the heart-mind for the other; the gut and group-will for the group; life-force-awareness, the sense of balance and movement for nature; and finally to the subtle to causal energies for spirit. The inner-group perspective, often referred to as culture, expresses the support for: liberty for the self; equality and pluralism for the other; solidarity for the group; eco-balance for nature; and transcendence for spirit. The outer-group perspective, where the social systems and processes in place are a reflection of the group’s inner awareness, expresses itself as: free markets of creativity for the self; justice and rule of law for the other; cooperatives and central control for the group; ecosystems for nature; and religion-as-narrative for spirit.[2]

Table 1 012615 Table 1

This integral perspective of the five relationships shows us that there are different perspectives or ways of studying each relationship. Each of these perspectives comes from a very different discipline and brings very different insights. What is interesting for us, right now, is to start to see how they show us different perspectives on the same experience. For example, when different expert perspectives describe the relationship to one self, they highlight different aspects. Psychologists and spiritual teachers might focus on the self-in-self, while doctors and physical therapists might focus more on one’s own body, the mind as head, and specific behaviors. Sociologists might describe the same relationship from the culture of freedom that supports it, while economists might focus on the social structures and processes of free markets. These are all simply different ways of seeing, describing, and supporting the same phenomenon.

An “all-levels” view
The five relationships find very different expressions at different stages of ego-consciousness (see Table 2).[3] It remains an open question whether or not there is a direct correlation between a person’s predominant stage of ego consciousness and the level of harmonic vibrancy they experience in a group. Observation suggests there are many people with access to later stages who reside stably in scarcity-based worldviews, and that there are many people who act from earlier stages who reside in stable forms of abundance. What seems to be clear is that actively and stably accessing later stages allows for the choice and subtlety of what can be observed. Nonetheless, this remains an open question for research. I thank Susanne Cook-Greuter for a multi-year, continuing dialog that has helped me explore this question of whether access to later stages of ego consciousness ensures the ability to express higher levels of harmonic vibrancy for oneself and in one’s group, or whether it merely nurtures the possibility.


Level of Agreement Unitive BasedIronist(6th P) ConstructBasedAlchemist(5th P) ContextBasedStrategist(4th P) EconomicBasedAchiever(3rd P) RulesBasedDiplomat(2nd P)
Relationship to Self •Icontribute by seeing the beauty of all opposing and interdependent poles and accepting things as they are• I create original maps of time/space• I embrace paradox • Icontribute by making fluidheretofore inflexible boundaries/ definitions• I create integrated maps for action • Icontribute from my creative self, my highest gifts to all sentience as deeply as I can see them now• I create integrated maps for action• I contribute by seeing the beauty of poles and accepting things as they are • I do my best by working efficiently and effectively• I learn from practice/study• Icontribute from what I know and can do• I plan and receive feedback • I give from what I have• I will be given what I need to do my work• I work hard
Relationship to the Other • I see how you are me, I am you, and how we create each other, despite the uniqueness of our individual selves. We flow together in relationship• I am aware instantaneously of the ground for community that arises between us • I see the paradoxes and projections in our relationship and I learn about who I am by seeing you in me and me in you• I am aware of how together, we construct community • I accept and support your authentic expression in the world and expect you to grow and develop• I am aware of how I, you, and we benefit when we are healthy as a community• You and I grow through each other • You also need to work effectively and efficiently according to the plan, bringing the skills and capacities you have developed• I support you in your growth, and to contributing what you know and can do • You need to give of your best, according to what you have been given• You need to meet your obligations• I support you in working hard
Relationship to the Group • I see the perfection of the whole as it is, even in those parts that some might call imperfect,• The success of the whole and consciousness will occur in its own way as each being finds their own way home in the company of others • I see the limitations of the whole as a rigid entity and work towards a whole of one interconnected, though complex community on this earth• The success of the whole depends on the integration of disparate parts of the human family. • I believe the group is healthiest when you and Icontribute from our best expression• Our sustainable relationships generate sustainable value for our community • Our group success depends on everyone contributing their part effectively and efficiently• Our successis a function of how well weperform• We can create the world • We each do our part• If we each take on a part,thentherecan be enough for all of us• I trustthatthe whole will take care of all of us• We will work hard together 
Relationship to Nature Nature is the expression of consciousness and comes in many forms; the natural beauty of a forest, cities, the ocean, tsunamis, and every part of the Kosmos Nature is an expression of the paradoxical, complex and unpredictable; we can use it as a model for the whole, a great teacher Humans are an integral part of nature, treating it with love and respect, protecting and restoring it for future generations Nature is our servant, and as a resource, serves humanity’s needs to improve our future Nature is here to use up for our purposes and use is defined by my group
Relationship to Spirit I witness internal and external all- time/space and become the simple fluidity of life and the Kosmos as a free functioning human being I witness the fluidity and complexity of self and Kosmos in the moment, as it relates to immanence I witness my internal voices which lead me to my authentic deeper self • I reflect on my internal self, and become aware of my patterns• I choose the codes I live by I follow the moral code of action of my identified community


[1] The development and application of Ken Wilber’s framework can be found in his many books (I recommend that you start with Wilber, 2000) and the Integral Institute that he founded (

[2] Through the four quadrant framework of perspectives, Wilber shows how the nature-nurture debate simply points at the nature (neurological, outer-individual) and the nurture (cultural, inner-collective) perspectives of the same experience (Wilber, 1998).

[3] These descriptions have emerged in work with Alain Gauthier, Terri O’Fallon, and Beena Sharma, to all of whom I am very grateful.


2 thoughts on “An Integral View of Ecosynomic Agreements

  1. Thank you for this post. Specifically the evaluation of how each level of development (or perspective) interacts with the relationships and also the research question about how people at different levels see and relate to abundance and scarcity.


  2. Pingback: Effortless Knowing from Experience and Effortful Thinking in the Abstract « Jim Ritchie-Dunham

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