19 Aug An Integral Vision
Adapted from the Preface to Consciousness & Healing: Integral Approaches to Mind-Body Medicine
While science has contributed to our understanding and treatment of disease, it has also served to limit the development of a model in which personal relationships, emotions, meaning, and belief systems are viewed as fundamental points of connection between body, mind, spirit, society, and nature. For increasing numbers of health-care consumers and professionals alike, the biomedical model fails to offer a system for understanding the fullness of lived experiences—minimizing or negating completely the possibility for human transcendence in the face of illness and disease.
A significant barrier to the integration of inner and outer approaches to reality is the seeming incongruity between, on the one hand, the ontology and epistemology of physical science and, on the other hand, those of the spiritual traditions. As they are commonly conceived, religion and science are indeed incompatible. But if properly understood and properly enlarged, these two realms may be incorporated within a framework that is at once true to their distinctions and yet comprehensive of both. It is an inclusiveness that is called for in this book.
The emergence of such an integral perspective in medicine can be traced to the work of Indian mystic and political leader, Shri Aurobindo (1951). It is based on an intuitive understanding of life and ultimate reality as undivided wholeness. The greatest aspiration of Indian Yoga is to realize the ultimate ground of existence (Brahman) in which Nature and Spirit are unified. Integral thinking is based on unity-in-diversity. Franklin Merrell-Wolf (1994) captured the essence of this integral impulse in his conviction that “science, in the sense of knowing fully, cannot be restricted to objective material, but must, as well, be open to other possibilities of awareness.”
Recognition that the scientific quest is incomplete without data from many domains of inquiry, and without various kinds of knowing, has grown since the teachings of Aurobindo. Through the writings of such scholars as Haridas Chaudhari (1977), Indra Sen (1986), Michael Murphy (1992), and Ken Wilber (1995), integral philosophy today represents a dynamic integration of the scientific, phenomenological, and dialectical methods of the West and the self-analytical, psycho-integrative, non-dual value disciplines of the East. Integralism speaks to its very own evolution occurring on individual and collective levels.
British philosopher C.D. Broad (1953) set a high standard for non-exclusive science when he insisted that the quest for genuine knowledge involves two closely connected intellectual activities: synopsis and synthesis.
Synopsis is the deliberate viewing together of aspects of human experience which, for one reason or another, are generally kept apart…The object of synopsis is to try to find out how these various aspects are interrelated. Synthesis is the attempt to apply a coherent set of concepts and principles which cover satisfactorily all the regions of fact which have been viewed synoptically.
Broad’s framework goes beyond merely making it possible to view together disparate realms of experience. It becomes clear that our capacity to comprehend new possibilities for human advance indeed depends on a willingness to deliberately view together our physiological, emotional, cognitive, social, ecological, and spiritual processes—and more, a willingness to formulate comprehensive theories sufficiently robust to ask crucial questions about the relationship between consciousness and the physical world.
For essays on this topic by Deepak Chopra, Larry Dossyey, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dean Ornish, Candace Pert, Rachel Naomi Remen, Ken Wilber and more, see Consciousness & Healing: Integral Approaches to Mind-Body Medicine book and companion DVD.