Integral Studies

Integral Studies Focus

The focus on Integral Studies is a specialization within the Transformative Studies doctoral program.

With roots dating back to the early 1950s, CIIS came into being in 1968 as the American Institute of Asian Studies. It was inspired by the integral philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, which was embodied in the life and work of its original director, Dr. Haridas Chaudhuri.

Today the integral insight is growing again, reflecting ideas seen in the lives and thought of many great thinkers and activists.

A sampling includes Ken Wilber, Jean Gebser, Jenny Wade, Richard Tarnas, Sally Goerner, and Edgar Morin, as well as activists such as Rudolph Bahro, Václav Havel, and Joanna Macy. Each combines first-, second-, and third-person knowledge with spiritual insight and an active engagement in the world.

In line with the above pioneers of integral thought, the Integral focus explores the deep nature of human consciousness, its evolution since the dawn of humankind, its growth and transformation in each human life, and its many expressions in art, science, and society.


The integral approach to scholarship and action is an emerging alternative to objective scientific approaches based narrowly on naturalistic “positivism” or the various forms of contemporary social science critical theory.

Modern integral approaches recognize and honor a wide range of perspectives. Their purview embraces the usefulness of the hypothetico-deductive method as well as critical theory and other modern, postmodern, and ancient approaches to understanding the human being and the human situation.

The focus on Integral Studies has the same TSD requirements, but also requires three specific courses designed to provide the conceptual foundation for an understanding of integral scholarship and action. These are easily taken as electives within the TSD degree.

  • TSD 6640 Integral Growth and Development: Individual Growth and the Evolution of Consciousness (3 units)
  • TSD 8003 The Grand Integral Vision: An Introduction to Integral  Thought and Action (3 units)
  • TSD 8015 Integral Methodology: Integral Methodological Pluralism (3 units)

The focus on Integral Studies also requires that the student’s dissertation be developed from an integral perspective. This requirement is flexible, but in general terms it means that dissertation research and scholarship takes some account of first-, second-, and third-person perspectives.

Electives are offered regularly; though not required, these enrich the student’s experience. Examples include the following:

  • TSD 6302 Art as a Mirror of Evolving Consciousness (3 units)
  • TSD 7047 Integral Sustainability: Personal and Social Transformation in a World on the Brink (3 units)
  • TSD 8225 Evolution of Consciousness (3 units)

Focus on Integral Studies Course Descriptions

  • TSD 6302: Art as a Mirror of Evolving Consciousness (3 units)

    Art tells us what we were, what we are, and what we are becoming. Explore the superstructure of expanding consciousness through the lens of art and artifacts shaped by the magical, mystical, modern, and postmodern mind. Wilber, Combs, Gebser, and others create compelling frameworks from which to interpret the meaning of mankind’s works of art.

    Students will use these frameworks to arrive at a deep understandingof the consciousness of the artisans that created these works and the times in which they lived.

    Utilizing the learning domains of both cognitive understanding and affective feeling the class will enter the worldview of other stages of consciousness to develop a new sense of appreciation and wonderment for what has gone before, and a hopeful anticipation for where the path of expanding consciousness is leading.

  • TSD 6640: Integral Growth and Development: Individual Growth and the Evolution of Consciousness (3 units)

    This course explores basic ideas about spiritual and psychological growth and development from childhood through advanced stages of adult maturation. It will give special attention to personal growth beyond the ordinary (“conventional”) level of adult functioning. The course will be centered in, but not limited to, the integral philosophies of Sri Aurobindo and Ken Wilber.

  • TSD 7047: Integral Sustainability: Personal and Social Transformation in a World on the Brink (3 units)

    Students will engage in readings and dialogue about sustainability while engaging in personal and community projects that promote sustainability at personal, social, and global levels.

    At the same time, through readings and discussions, students will be introduced to ecophilosophy and green psychology while exploring lifestyles that integrate body, mind, and spirit in a sustainable whole.

  • TSD 8003: The Grand Integral Vision: An Introduction to Integral Thought and Action (3 units)

    Integral visionaries and practitioners from Sri Aurobindo to Ken Wilber have provided the most comprehensive, relevant, controversial, and practical attempts to synthesize ancient, modern, and even postmodern understandings of the kosmos.

    This course examines the deep thought and practices of the most important of these with an emphasis on coming to a full appreciation of the radically new kosmos disclosed by the Grand Integral Vision. We examine this great vision while at the same time exploring its implications for spiritually informed personal growth and effective action in the world.

  • TSD 8015: Integral Methodology: Integral Methodological Pluralism (3 units)

    This course begins with a survey of the wide range of research methodologies, or approaches to knowledge, suggested by Wilber’s AQAL model.

    In particular, it will examine methodologies from all four quadrants and in each case from both inner and outer perspectives. For example, the upper left (UL) quadrant concerns the inner life and can be seen from its own inner perspective (heuristic inquiry, phenomenology), or it can be seen objectively from an outer perspective (“structural” approaches such as Piaget’s developmental psychology, and Loevinger’s ego development).

    Likewise, the lower left (LL) quadrant can be studied in its own interior (Socratic dialogue, Buber’s “I and thou,” hermeneutics) or objectively from outside (Spiral Dynamics’ “value memes,” linguistics, European structuralism).

    Similarly, a range of different methodologies appears in the right two quadrants, including systems theory and objective behavioristic observation.

  • TSD 8225: Evolution of Consciousness (3 units)

    Through art, literature, archaeology, and history, this course explores the evolution of human consciousness from its pre-human origins through the Neolithic and Paleolithic periods, through ancient history, and on down through the Renaissance to modernity and postmodernity.

    It will begin with the origins of the human mind as depicted in the writings of Merlin Donald and David Lewis-Williams, and continue with an inquiry into cultural and historical structures of consciousness with Jean Gebser, Ken Wilber, and Allan Combs. The course will be based in an ongoing dialogue and exploration of these topics on the web, as well as requiring midterm and end-of-term papers.

Total units for the Focus on Integral Studies: 36