Integral Feminism: The soul of the Integral Feminine – Part I

by editor

What would feminism look like if it becomes Integral? Or, what would be the kind of feminism advocated by Integral feminists? This article will attempt to provide an answer to all these by analyzing the ideas of women who belong to the Integral Institute (founded by Ken Wilber) and the thoughts of feminists who base their theories on Integralism. So, now the question would be – what is Integral Feminism or as the theorists themselves put it, the nature and soul of the Integral Feminine? Read through this series to find answers.

There are several thoughts on how Integral Feminism should be or will be. As always, feminist perspectives differ from one another in several things. Ken Wilber himself has mentioned it, in a rather lighthearted manner, in his The Eye of Spirit, “the only thing they all agree on is that women exist.” In such a disparate-ideological environment, how do we arrive at a feminist theory or ideology that would befit the evolving Integral age? Many Integral women have given this due thought. This article will present such diverse opinions on the Integral Feminine.

Integral Feminism by Integralists: The Integral Institute founded by Ken Wilber has many women doing effective Integral feminist work in it. When three prominent women of Wilber’s Institute were questioned on what is Integral Feminism by EnlightenNext magazine, the women came up with their thoughts on the topic. Here’s an account of what Sofia Diaz, Diane Musho Hamilton and Willow Pearson (the Integralists of the Integral Institute) felt on the emergent Integral Feminist theory: The first thing to be noted about these three women is these women come from diverse cultural and professional backgrounds which in turn contribute to the Integral philosophy with their experience. Sofia Diaz is a yogini, a bharathanatyaram dancer and spiritual practitioner who teaches hatha yoga, sacred movement and south Indian art and culture. Diane Musho Hamilton is a Buddha-dharma practitioner who is also a mediator, a group facilitator, trainer in conflict resolution, a lawyer and a facilitator of the Big Mind, a process designed by Genpo Roshi. Willow Pearson is no different from the other two – she is a founding member of the Institute who is also a musician, composer and performing artist.

Sofia Diaz, Diane Hamilton and Willow Pearson have conducted several seminars on Integral Feminism and on women’s Integral practice. All these seminars were aimed toward a spiritual grounding for women which help them find the “feminine face of the Divine” in themselves and bring forth a new Integral expression to the feminine that will balance “the masculine tilt to our culture.” Integral Feminism, according to these women, will be an Integral approach to the entire world or in other words, a life of Integral Practice. Since it is basically to create a balance in the masculine and feminist principles in life, Integral Practice will allow women to gain the spiritual grounding that would help them find their place within and beyond religious traditions. These women help women find the Feminine Divine in themselves and thereby anchor their souls in the Kosmos. As Willow Pearson puts it, “The Integral Feminine is—She can’t be created; She can’t be destroyed. Women can be marginalized, women can be oppressed, women can be put down, but the Feminine herself is present in every situation. There would be no phenomena without Her.”

Sofia Diaz – The Feminist Principle: Sofia Diaz calls the feminine principle to be the “receptive principle” and the masculine principle to be the “penetrative principle”. She opines that, to analyze the masculine principle, even the language that we use is “masculine” – highly “penetrative, functional” and “Do something about it” type. But the feminine principle is all about “being itself”. It never demands, or acts vigorously. It just is, the receptive, the existential principle that operates all by itself like existence. As Diaz says, the “feminine principle is everything that appears and everything that is noticed, even the noticer himself or herself.” She goes further and adds that even the woman’s body is an embodiment of the feminine principle – the receptive principle.

Diane Hamilton – The Integral Feminine: According to Diane Hamilton, the Integral Feminine is a woman who is basically an Integral practitioner, aware of her evolution and expression in all the four quadrants of the Integral model. She takes on different perspectives to find out who and what she is, and sees her growth in the all quadrants – the individual interior, the collective interior, the individual exterior and the collective exterior.

In the individual interior quadrant, she is aware of herself as an individual shaped by her memories, her conditioning and  beliefs with respect to her experience of gender. Yet, she bothers about such gender issues lightly, “fluidly” as Diane puts it, and surpasses everything to achieve “the unconditioned space, the bliss and openness, that is her fundamental nature.” In Diane’s opinion, the Integral Feminine is “fearless” to explore her dark shadow or the part of her self that is blocked from awareness or that which has been ignored by her down the ages. These may include issues related to gender or discrimination or inequality. All the elements of the “shadow” world are  brought out and reconciled with her position, identity and Integral place in the world.

In the collective interior quadrant, the Integral Feminine is an active participant of communities, in relationships and culture. She communicates well, takes interest in human history, understands all schools of feminism, accepts them as partial truths and integrates and unifies them for the benefit of her community. Diane adds, “Moreover, her loyalty is to both sexes and to supporting men and women in manifesting more beautifully who they are. And sometimes she has the distinct experience that what she offers to others is uniquely feminine.”

In her individual exterior experience, the Integral Feminine is fully conscious of her physical body. She is no more ashamed of her curves and accepts her sexuality (straight/lesbian) completely. She becomes a source of energy which she circulates and cultivates for the benefit of her body. She practices dance, yoga or other body-related exercises or art to know her body better. There is no shame or confusion – just plain, happy acceptance of her physical, subtle and causal self.

The Integral Feminine’s collective exterior experience is one that is more social than all her previous roles. “Whether it is in her own local community and/or on a global scale, she advocates for laws, structures, and processes that are fair and just, treating women and men as equal players in the unfolding of human evolution and culture.”

Willow Pearson – The Integral Feminine: Willow Pearson’s view of the Integral Feminine is different from that of the others. She explains the concept through the phrase – “I am Love. I am Lovable. I Love.” Attributing the phrases – “I am Love. I am Lovable” to the individual interior, Pearson argues that the Integral Feminine understands herself and her position in the Kosmos. In other words, she understands that she is the receptive principle, the existence that IS and hence, she is Love herself. In much the same way, her relationship to the Kosmos is such that she is “Lovable”. In Pearson’s words, “A woman is worthy of love from the start – in all of her confusion, all of her delusion, all of her magnificence, and all of her radiance.” This again, establishes her awareness of her position with regard to the Upper Left quadrant. The next, “I am Loved” – the mutual love that is shared between her and her community. “I Love” – identification and recognition of her position in the world at large. On how she is a source of healing, connecting and spiritual force that integrates everything in one compassionate embrace. Such an Integral Feminine in action is an exemplar of Integral feminism.

To use Pearson’s words, “The Integral theorists recognize that the Integral Feminine-in-action is inseparable from integral feminism. If the second-wave feminist understanding is the radical notion that women are people, integral feminism furthers this understanding by acknowledging that women are people, women are God, and women are nothing—no thing at all.”

More on what is Integral Feminine and how to achieve higher levels of the Integral Feminist principle in  Part II.

Reference Links

1. Integral Feminism with Sofia Diaz, Diane Musho Hamilton and Willow Pearson

2. Feminist Fission or Fusion? Ken Wilber Meets Feminist Theory by Joyce McCarl Nielsen

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