The Integral Map

Note: There is an updated version of this page at The Integral Map.

The Integral Map encompasses several key elements. The essentials of this map are a matrix referred to as “AQAL, which stands for all Quadrants, all Levels, all Lines, all States, and all Types. Together these essentials give us a comprehensive way to be sure we are adequately covering aspects of whatever area of application we are working in. Each of these elements is briefly described below. You can find more comprehensive information from experts in an Overview of Integral Theory by Sean Esbjorn-Hargens and also in The Integral Operating System by Ken Wilber.

Quadrants: A Map of Reality

Integral philosopher Ken Wilber has created a matrix, conceptual map, or “theory of everything” which could be considered to cover all the most essential aspects of being human. For our purposes let’s just emphasize that it helps us map out all the aspects of our lives in terms of four quadrants.

The top two quadrants apply to the individual and the bottom two apply to the collective, or groups.

The left two quadrants apply to our internal subjective sense of self and relationships, and the right two apply to the external, objective aspects of being human. The matrix below shows a very abbreviated view of some of the kinds of things that show up in each quadrant.

Interior Individual (I)Emotions, thoughts, ideas, self-identity, intentions, motivations, and so on.These drive our intentions.
The subjective aspects of ourselves that are discovered through indirect means, self-reflection, and self-report.
Exterior Individual (It)Body, nervous system, motor system, brain, behaviors.These drive some of our behaviors regardless of our intentions.
The objective aspects of ourselves that can be observed and measured.
Interior Collective (We)Relationships, such as couples, parent-child, boss-subordinate, teams, groups, cultures.The intersubjective unwritten norms or rules we operate on and informal roles we play, often without naming them. Exterior Collective (Its)Exterior surroundings and social systems, such as governments, legal systems, organization hierarchies, laws.The objective formal rules and roles, as well as physical settings.


Development: Lines and Levels

Each quadrant has different lines or areas of development. For example, the lines of development in the upper left quadrant (UL or ‘I’) encompass aspects such as self, emotional, cognitive, relational, spiritual, and so on. Each of this ‘lines’ or aspects can develop horizontally or vertically. Horizontal development is when we get more skilled and increase our repertoire of functioning along the same level. Vertical development is development that is transformative. It moves from one level to higher functioning one, and is qualitatively different from stage to stage. Each stage is characterized by have a typical perspective or view of the world. Each stage transcends and includes the previous levels with an increase in complexity. At each stage we are able to take the perspectives of earlier stages.

Cultural themes have developed over time based on the problems needing to be solved and the resources (and technology) available at the time. These themes have been identified by several philosophers and scientists including Clare Graves and Ken Wilber, and are described as “stages of development.” Since the cultures in which we live influence the expression of our types and individuality, it is useful to have maps for understanding development in cultures.

Developmental models provide us with maps for looking at stages of development. Individuals develop along different lines of development such as emotional, cognitive, spiritual, physical, and ego development to name a few. Ego development theories provide us with a map of how we tend to make meaning of and interpret events. An integral approach to type recognizes that each type pattern exists at all levels of development. Some of the developmental themes are similar to different type themes, so we need to know if what we are seeing is development or type. As with culture, the type will express differently at different levels of development. Sometimes these differences produce more conflict than type differences.


States are temporary forms of awareness such as awake, asleep, meditative, or peak experiences. A defining characteristic of states is that they come and go. One moment I’m overjoyed; the next I’m bored or dejected. One moment I’m dreaming; the next I’m opening my eyes, wide awake. While states are not addressed directly in the Integral Type approach, they are important aspects of the Integral Map. It is often through different states—especially through cultivating states of flow, inner clarity, or penetrating focus—that individuals can achieve their goals and increase their sense of peace and well-being.


Types are a deep feature of the Integral Map. There are many kinds of types and types occur in all quadrants. Types explain aspects of our being that the other elements do not. The Integral Map does not focus on any one typology as universal, but some typologies seem more congruent with an Integral perspective. The Integral view of types is that they give us ways to look at horizontal development. However, the Integral Type view is that certain ways of approaching and describing types can also lead to vertical/transformative development.

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