Frank Visser, CLIMBING THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN: Reflections on Ken Wilber's “The Religion of Tomorrow”
INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
Peter Collins is from Ireland. He retired recently from lecturing in Economics at the Dublin Institute of Technology. Over the past 50 years he has become increasingly convinced that a truly seismic shift in understanding with respect to Mathematics and its related sciences is now urgently required in our culture. In this context, these present articles convey a brief summary of some of his recent findings with respect to the utterly unexpected nature of the number system.
A New Perspective on Integral Perspectives
"The rock which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a quadrantless heap that stands in the way." William Blake (adapted for Wilberians)
I read Ken Wilber's piece "A Suggestion for Reading the Criticisms of My Work on Frank Visser's "World of Ken Wilber" Site" recently with growing disbelief due to two reasons which are interconnected.
Firstly Ken's fragmented position on holons - as revealed in his "dialectical exchange" - is quite untenable from a genuine integral perspective. Secondly his "suggestion" to critics represents a parody of what I believe proper integral dialogue should be about.
I will develop my first point at some length before saying a little on the second in the hope of furthering - as I see it - a more constructive integral approach.
As for Ken's current position of perspectives, I appreciate that we cannot read too much into any short conversation on such a complex matter. However as my observations really point to a more general issue (relating to the appropriate manner of dealing with such perspectives), perhaps they are worth relaying.
For example in reply to one question Ken states: "No, a rock is a heap, not a holon. So as a rock, it does not possess four quadrants."
I would respectfully disagree on this issue. The problem here is that Ken is attempting to make an asymmetric unambiguous distinction. This properly suits an analytic type treatment suited for differentiated interpretation of reality.
Such analysis is necessarily based on the arbitrary fixing of polar reference frames (e.g. individual and collective). So in this context Ken fixes his reference frame with the individual holon (where sentience is defined as being unambiguously located).
This inevitably leads to a merely reduced interpretation with respect to the corresponding collective aspect i.e. rock. So the rock is then viewed somewhat inelegantly as a "heap"(representing the aggregate of the separate individual holons). So in this context Ken would presumably argue - whereas the individual molecules that comprise the rock as holons are sentient beings "possessing" the four quadrants - that the (composite) rock as a heap is not sentient (and thereby does not itself “possess” the four quadrants).
However from a proper integral perspective this position makes little sense.
In dynamic interdependent terms, the individual aspect finds meaning in the context of the collective; likewise the collective finds meaning in the context of the individual. In other words the interactive relationship as between both aspects - relating to integral interpretation - is bi-directional and circular. Here the meaning - of what in dualistic terms is clearly separated - is now understood as being mutually contained in both aspects.
Though the pure realisation of this interdependence is ultimately experienced through pure nondual spiritual awareness, the paradoxical appreciation of such an interactive relationship (at a phenomenal level) is necessary as a means of freeing one from rigid attachment to (merely) dualistic interpretation. And this process works both ways. Clearer complementary appreciation enhances transformation in nondual awareness; equally such nondual awareness enhances complementary appreciation at the (reduced) level of form.
So from an integral perspective - where both physical and psychological aspects of experience are dynamically interrelated - the individual molecule holon (which Ken would identify as "possessing" sentience) only has meaning in the context of being a member of a collective heap.
Likewise the heap (which he would not recognise as "possessing" sentience) in dynamic terms only has meaning through being related to individual holons.
Once again - from a dynamic perspective - sentience arises in the context of the mysterious two-way interaction of holons and heaps. However Ken clearly gives a reduced fragmented interpretation. (Individual) holons "possess" sentience; (collective) heaps do not.
Problem with Holons
This raises a fundamental issue that is intrinsic to Ken's overall approach to development and relates to the very definition of a holon. Though a holon can be defined equally as whole/part or part/whole in practice it is associated with just one asymmetrical interpretation. In other words a holon (as sentient) is customarily defined as whole/part i.e. a whole which is also part of a higher whole. This in turn leads to the philosophy of holism and the holarchical interpretation of development, which typifies Ken Wilber's overall model.
However from a dynamic interactive perspective - and remember experience is necessarily interactive - this approach is very unbalanced. So a holon - or more correctly perhaps an onhol - can equally be defined as a part/whole where each part is also whole (in the context) of other lower parts. 1 This should likewise lead to a counterbalancing philosophy of partism and - what I refer to as - the onarchical approach.
For example from the holarchical perspective, the higher stages of development are seen as leading to a more universal collective notion of wholeness (where ultimately all the parts are reflected spiritually through the higher whole). However from the corresponding onarchical perspective, the higher stages are seen as leading to a more unique individual notion of partness (where ultimately the whole is reflected spiritually through each lower part). Though we can view each of these approaches in (linear) asymmetrical terms, in interactive terms they are mutually interdependent. Thus without sufficient emphasis on onarchy, the holarchical approach inevitably leads to a reduced notion of wholeness; likewise without corresponding emphasis on holarchy, the onarchical leads to a reduced notion of partness.
Furthermore - and this is a vitally important point - development takes place for each aspect in - relatively - opposite directions. Thus in the context of mystical development where the dynamic interactive nature of experience is greatly refined, progression always implies regression (as for example in the alternation between illuminative and purgative stages). 2
Now one might contend that the relationship between the two sentient holons (as for example in holarchy) is of a different order than the relationship between a (sentient) holon and a heap. Though this may appear to be the case at the (reduced) level of linear analytic understanding (because of the arbitrary fixing of polar reference frames), it ceases to be so at "higher" stages of development. Here in interactive terms we cannot divorce (exterior) relationships between holons and heaps from the (interior) psychological structures we use to view them. So the manner by which we recognise both holons and heaps (as sentient) requires a transformation to “higher” stages of spiritual consciousness (where both the physical and psychological aspects of phenomena are understood as interdependent). 3
The problem with holarchy (in isolation) is that we must pre-define the whole (before we can establish asymmetrical connections). However the very meaning of the whole is dependent on the onarchical context. So for example with respect to the rock, each (individual) molecule can only assume its whole identity through its relationship to other molecules i.e. each part is also whole (in the context) of other lower parts. Put another way the very quality of "moleculeness" that constitutes the whole identity of each molecule only emerges through being shared collectively with other molecules.
Likewise the problem with onarchy (in isolation) is that we must pre-define the part. However again this arises in the context of the corresponding holarchical interpretation (where the whole is seen as a quantitative part of the higher holon). In this context each molecule is thereby seen as a (quantitative) part of the rock.
So once again all dynamic interactions necessarily entail two opposite poles, which behave in a bi-directional circular manner. This complementarity of opposites properly constitutes the integral aspect of understanding. Asymmetric (linear) interpretation requires the clear separation of poles (with only one used as the corresponding reference frame) and properly constitutes the differentiated aspect of understanding.
So returning to our example using the polarities of individual and collective, we can attempt to fix the reference frame (in isolation) with either the individual or collective aspect. This means in effect that we can always give two equally valid (reduced) asymmetrical interpretations for any interactive relationship.
Once again in his definition of the holon and heap, we can see that Ken Wilber fixes meaning unambiguously with the individual holon (as sentient). However sentience can properly arise only in the context of the holon's relationship with other holons (in the corresponding heap). Thus with reference to the rock, sentience therefore qualitatively emerges through each molecule's relationship with other molecules (in the corresponding heap).
So we alternatively can locate sentience with the collective rock (now as sentient holon). However equally in this context such (collective) sentience can only emerge in the context of the individual molecules (comprising the rock). So the two asymmetrical interpretations - though equally valid in analytic terms - are also equally limited with both leading to a reduced fragmented appreciation of the interactive relationship.
Thus when Ken fixes the reference frame with each individual molecule (as sentient being) he reaches the conclusion.
"No, a rock is a heap, not a holon. So as a rock, it does not possess four quadrants."
However when we choose the - equally valid - alternative reference frame by fixing it with the collective rock, we reach the diametrically opposite conclusion.
"No, a molecule (as it is dependent qualitatively for sentience on a heap) is not a (sentient) holon. So as a molecule, it does not possess four quadrants."
Therefore, by approaching analytic interpretation through the arbitrary fixing of each reference frame (with just one independent aspect) we reach two equally valid - though also equally limited - conclusions.
However in dynamic terms - where opposite poles are now understood as interdependent - both interpretations are seen as paradoxical in terms of each other. Moreover this finding has a universal application to all development (which is necessarily conditioned by the interaction of opposite poles).
Thus the clear realisation of the limited nature of all asymmetric understanding is the very means by which we erode (rigid) attachment to any dualistic statement (in isolation). In this way we are better enabled to keep switching as between meanings (that are paradoxical in terms of each other) in an increasingly fluid fashion. We thereby become more experientially aware (in nondual fashion) of the true mystery of all interactive relationships.
Integral - as opposed to differentiated interpretation - properly relates to the attempt to understand relationships in an inherently interactive (and thereby properly interdependent) fashion. This requires clearly demonstrating - in any developmental context - the complementary nature of asymmetric type appreciation.
Therefore we can only maintain a consistent approach to development by defining holons (and onhols) in an appropriate dynamic manner. In this interactive context it can then be successfully demonstrated (through incorporation of interior and exterior polarities) that the four quadrants apply equally to both rocks and molecules.
Properly speaking neither rocks nor molecules "possess" the four quadrants. Rather they mutually switch in a dynamic interactive fashion between the four quadrants in a complementary fashion.
Thus to posit the exterior aspect in one quadrant we must thereby negate the interior in the (complementary) opposite quadrant; in like manner to posit the interior we must negate the exterior.
And when we switch polar reference frames, what we formerly identified as interior and exterior switches. So the location of interior and exterior is purely relative depending on context.
In similar fashion to posit the individual aspect in any context we must dynamically negate the collective (in the complementary quadrant); in turn to posit the collective we must negate the individual (in the opposite quadrant).
And when we switch polar reference frames, once more what we formerly identified as individual and collective changes. So the location of individual and collective is also relative (in interactive terms) depending purely on context.
And the more we can successfully balance this continual dynamic positing and negating of phenomena in all quadrants (in a relative manner) all the unambiguous distinctions that we make at a dualistic level are rendered paradoxical. This better enables us to experience absolute nondual Spirit, which is inherent in all such phenomenal manifestations as their very essence.
Therefore in a dynamic interactive sense the four quadrants equally apply to all phenomena (irrespective of how they might be defined in a limited analytic framework). Moreover the identification of quadrant positions for each of the four aspects is arbitrary depending on context.
Thus it makes little sense for example from an integral perspective to attempt to identify personal mystical development as a UL phenomenon (even while admitting that it has important correlates in the other quadrants). Such development can - and should - be identified with all quadrants whose locations keep switching (though in specific circumstances the relative balance can vary considerably).
Interior spiritual development cannot successfully take place in isolation from the world. Therefore - in balanced development - as the (interior) self is transformed (in relation to the world), likewise the (exterior) world is transformed (in relation to the self). Thus a rock undergoes continual transformation when appreciated in the context of growing spiritual development. And this transformation represents the mutual exchange of shared perspectives.
Thus from one perspective as I change (with respect to the rock), the rock changes (with respect to me); from the opposite perspective as the rock changes (with respect to me), I too change (with respect to the rock). So interior and exterior aspects are mutually interdependent though development can be initially led though either aspect. Therefore the ultimate attainment of pure contemplative awareness applies equally to the (physical) world and the (psychological) self, representing the total transformation of both (in each other) as pure Spirit.
Likewise we cannot properly divorce the individual and social aspects of mystical development. This is true even for one living in a remote monastic community though once again initial development can be led by either aspect. When mystical development unfolds in a balanced manner, the individual and collective aspects of development increasingly interpenetrate. Thus the victory of one who attains to the most advanced level of awareness is equally a victory on behalf of all mankind. This perhaps explains why so often in the final phases of development the great spiritual adepts become willing servants on behalf of all sentient beings.
Put another way, in dynamic interactive terms, all holons (and onhols) keep switching in complementary fashion between on and off states (both horizontally, vertically and diagonally) with respect to the four quadrant designations (or alternatively the various perspectives to which these give rise). 4 This clearly suggests that all development processes are governed by a digital holistic (dynamically interactive) binary system. So this holistic system that is suited for the potential encoding of all transformation processes complements the corresponding analytic binary system (suited for encoding of information).
Ken maintains that though we can relate to the rock from the four perspectives, the rock cannot relate i.e. look at us from the same (four) perspectives. This very reduced thinking is experientially untenable and derives from the initial (arbitrary) fixing of reference frame with the individual molecule (as sentient holon). However to let the rock as it were look at us from its perspectives we need to alter the frame of reference so that it is fixed with the collective heap (as sentient).
Therefore in this dialogue of meaningful interaction, there is a continual switching of perspectives (that is brought about in turn by the continual switching of reference frames). Thus for every revealed preference there is a reverse perspective (which remains hidden). This shadow perspective - as it were - can only be revealed when the frame of reference (governing the original perspective) switches to the opposite aspect. This for example has very obvious implications for critical dialogue. If one insists that a person look at matters from one particular perspective, then this will prevent any other perspective from being revealed so that true interaction cannot meaningfully take place.
Once again it makes no sense to imply that we as individual persons can relate as sentient beings to heaps, but they in turn cannot relate in like manner with us. Most of nature is made up of what one would define as heaps. Indeed strictly speaking to maintain such a fragmented position would rule out having any interaction with nature. So when I walk on the beach and look out over the sea and mountains, I am relating to heaps everywhere. If I am honest, my deepest feeling of belonging (and indeed meaning) is often experienced just alone like this with nature.
From a nondual perspective we cannot restrict sentience (no more than Spirit) in an arbitrary fashion. Sentience is a reflection of Spirit and from a nondual perspective is equally shared by all creation as its very essence. Now of course this does not seem intuitive from the conventional analytic perspective. But this is precisely the very point. The appropriate way at looking at relationships from an integral perspective is quite distinct from the analytic viewpoint.
Integral and Radial Approaches to Development
Thus when we attempt to generalise from conclusions (that indeed appear valid within a limited analytic context) we can be easily led into adopting a position that is incoherent from an overall holistic (integral) perspective.
This is why I would continually assert that we must distinguish clearly analytic approaches to development (suited for its differentiated interpretation) from holistic interactive approaches (suited for corresponding integral appreciation). Certainly it is not enough to make integral sounding statements (e.g. that all quadrants mutually coarise) without subsequently incorporating such nondual type appreciation coherently with (dualistic) analytic type understanding. And the essential link between these two approaches is the bi-directional interpretation of all development relationships.
Initially this is achieved in analytic terms (using independent polar reference frames). However when these reference frames are viewed in interdependent terms then deep paradox results. It is the keen appreciation of such paradox (based on complementary type understanding) that then forms the intellectual component of an appropriate integral approach.
Integral approaches - as I define them - can be carried through at least three distinct levels (corresponding to the interaction of spiritual intuition with the refined cognitive understanding of the higher spiritual levels) which I refer simply to as H1, H2 and H3.
The remarks above (regarding the interactive nature of holons and heaps) would be illustrative of an Integral 1 approach (relating to H1) where phenomena are still interpreted in (merely) conscious terms.
Integral 2 (relating to H2) would lead to the much more refined attempt to incorporate the unconscious with conscious appreciation of phenomena (in a coherent dynamically interactive manner).
Integral 3 (relating to H3) which is the most subtle (and closest to pure contemplation) would then attempt to fully incorporate spiritual with both conscious and unconscious appreciation in a dynamically consistent interactive fashion.
So the three integral approaches - as I define them - relate to the interpretation of dynamic interactive relationships in a coherent (though necessarily paradoxical) manner. The proper development of such understanding then experientially serves as the very means of enabling the unfolding of nondual awareness in a permanently sustainable manner. In other words from this perspective, meditation practice becomes inseparable from one's habitual manner of understanding reality.
The radial approaches then entail the mature incorporation of both integral (holistic) and differentiated (analytic) understanding that can again be taken through at least three levels (Radial 1, Radial 2 and Radial 3). Here one learns to increasingly combine the refined multifaceted appreciation of dualistic relationships (which are recognised as having a certain independent validity in a local context) with the complementary appreciation of all interactive relationships from a universal perspective. And the capacity to switch flexibly and consistently as between these two modes of understanding is based on the permanently sustained attainment of nondual spiritual awareness.
It would be very mistaken to think of the intellectual aspect of these integral approaches - as I define them - as representing just a more sophisticated version of vision-logic (related to the centaur) In fact they require a radical distinct type of understanding based directly on the appropriate cognitive structures associated with the higher spiritual levels, which bears little relationship to such vision-logic.
It seems to me that the real integral task of our time is to successfully start mapping these interactive structures which in turn have the capacity for opening up a vast new terrain of knowledge (that as yet remains all but untapped).
For example the integral understanding of mathematical symbols (which I refer to as "Holistic Mathematics") provides the appropriate scientific tool for the precise interactive mapping of all the structures of development. Indeed it opens up a radically new way of looking at relationships leading to the unfolding of many valuable insights that would be virtually impossible to access through other means. However again it is vitally important to recognise that the appropriate interpretation of such symbols requires the very refined cognitive understanding of the higher spiritual levels. (Needless to say the attempt to apply the conventional analytic interpretation of mathematical symbols for the purpose of integral scientific understanding leads to considerable reductionism!)
Then when such holistic appreciation can be coherently incorporated with the detailed analytic interpretation of various disciplines, we open up an even greater field of new understanding (i.e. radial). This represents the mutual interpenetration of both mystical contemplation and the refined world of dualistic phenomenal forms (that are rendered transparent through continual transformation in the spiritual light).
Spiritual Transformation of a Rock
So with reference to our friend the rock let me briefly illustrate how its nature is transformed with respect to the various integral and radial stages.
In terms of linear understanding the rock might be treated simply as a heap (a composite of other holons e.g. atoms and molecules exhibiting holarchic tendencies).
Furthermore the rock will be given a polarised existence i.e. an (exterior) objective interpretation as if somehow independent of (interior) mind.
Of course it may well be accepted that the "objective" recognition of the rock requires forming a corresponding mental perception. However because the interaction is not understood in proper dynamic fashion the "object" will be assumed to remain unaffected through this interaction i.e. a rock is a rock is a rock.
A further implied supposition will be that the (individual) perception of the rock is somehow unaffected through interaction with the collective concept of rock (that applies potentially to all perceptions of this class). Indeed the very notion of a heap is based again on this limited form of linear interpretation, where the individual sentient holons are assumed to have an existence independent of the collective heap (whereas in dynamic terms this is clearly untenable).
However when seen through the gaze of authentic spiritual development, all these limited assumptions regarding the separation of polar opposites - which fundamentally define linear interpretation - break down.
Now for convenience we can trace this integral development in three stages.
In stage 1 (corresponding to the subtle realm), bi-directional understanding in relation to horizontal (exterior/interior) polarities mainly takes place.
This means in effect that one begins to appreciate clearly that the actual exterior experience of an object cannot be abstracted from corresponding interior perception. Furthermore the dynamic dialectic that results continually changes both aspects and enhances authentic spiritual appreciation of its true nature.
So now the dynamic experience of a phenomenon begins to properly serve as a symbol or archetype of the divine (as source and goal of all phenomena).
Thus any notion of the independent "objective" identity of the rock breaks down. From this perspective, the experience of the rock (in relation to both exterior and interior aspects) becomes much more spiritually transparent and mysterious, radiating something of the eternal Spirit. Indeed in this respect the experience becomes much more integral.
However some phenomenal rigidity will still remain with respect to the holistic (archetypal) appreciation of the rock.
In stage 2 (corresponding to the causal realm) bi-directional understanding in relation to vertical (individual/collective) polarities increasingly takes place. In effect this means than any notion of individual identity as separate from the collective identity of all phenomena breaks down. This very refined appreciation, whereby whole and part aspects can be related, requires that both "real" (conscious) and "imaginary" (unconscious) appreciation be preserved in mutual balance. 5
So for example the notion of a "heap" loses any residual meaning at this stage.
Here, in the experience of the rock, its intrinsic collective connection with all other phenomena is thereby enhanced. Likewise the growing awareness of this collective context greatly enhances appreciation of the individual uniqueness of the rock. So the rock now becomes ever more transparent as the indirect expression of a continual awareness that is spiritual. This also entails that secondary rigid attachment to the rock (as symbol) is thereby considerably eroded.
In stage 3 (corresponding to nondual reality) bi-directional understanding in relation to diagonal (form/emptiness) polarities i.e. that operate simultaneously both within and between levels, takes place.
This requires the purest activity of the will so that possessive attachment of either a direct (voluntary) or indirect (involuntary) nature largely ceases.
Thus any remaining phenomenal rigidity in relation to the experience of the rock is eroded and it becomes fully spiritually transparent, continually radiating the ever-present Spirit and in turn becoming continually renewed as transparent form through that same Spirit.
We could put this another way i.e. the experience of the rock now becomes fully integral (as pure contemplative awareness).
During the radial stages, the rock now begins to assume again a truly refined but directly (conscious) local identity that can interpenetrate fully (without confusion) with its corresponding holistic (archetypal) meaning. So now all the varied dualistic appreciation of the rock in both artistic and scientific forms can take place with respect to all quadrant perspectives while continually preserving its inherent nondual nature as Spirit.
So with the culmination of radial awareness the rock can now be most fully appreciated (with extraordinary spiritual clarity) with respect to both its (dual) differentiated and (nondual) integral nature.
The implication of this two-way interaction of perspectives equally applies to meaningful criticism.
It seems to me that Ken is increasingly demanding that criticism of his work be based on just one perspective (i.e. which he himself adopts). However if carried to its logical conclusion this effectively means the end of meaningful integral dialogue as - by definition - anyone not misrepresenting his work (in his opinion) will be looking at it from exactly the same perspective.
Indeed this is amply borne out by the “dialectical exchange” which quite revealingly is presented by Ken as an example of authentic critical dialogue.
However when we examine it we can quickly see the largely one-sided nature of the discussion that ensues.
This is certainly no mutual exploration of truth by equals approaching issues from different angles.
The role of the questioner in this dialogue is simply to provide prompts for Ken so as to allow him to expound his current thinking. We are given no sense whatever of a differing perspective and consequently no independent viewpoint is offered on any issue. In fact all Ken's responses are accepted meekly without challenge (even though they lead to a nonsensical position in dynamic interactive terms). The only hint of any disagreement comes towards the end when the questioner tentatively puts forward a previous viewpoint on holons of Ken's (that he perhaps thought was still Ken's position). However Ken quickly puts him right on this and the conversation concludes with the questioner twice confirming that he has successfully installed this latest upgrade of the master's knowledge.
Thus judging by this exchange, Ken's view of meaningful critical dialogue is a discussion that is carried out entirely from his perspective as a means of disseminating his thinking.
However truly meaningful dialogue - certainly in an integral context - requires the mutual sharing of perspectives. However while Ken demands the most exacting standards in understanding his position he shows little inclination to apply the same standards himself with respect to critics who dare to approach issues from an alternative perspective.
And when viewed through the lens of an appropriate alternative standpoint his work will look somewhat different from how he himself views it with the potential capacity to reveal important unresolved problems and inconsistencies that he himself cannot see clearly (from within his perspective). Therefore a great deal of what Ken views as misrepresentation I would see as very valid criticism (from an alternative perspective).
Sadly however Ken's current message seems to run something like this. "If you are expressing your own views (i.e. from a different perspective) don't even bother trying to relate them to mine. There are hundreds of more informed critics in my inner circle (i.e. who share my perspective) and these are the only people I consider can make relevant comments about my work."
If followed this advice will surely mean the end of meaningful dialogue with respect to Ken's work (especially where fundamental issues are concerned). We will then no longer be dealing with an open integral system of thought but rather a new ideology.
Notwithstanding the above comments, on certain levels, I admire what Ken is doing as he pursues so effectively the furtherance of his ideas.
And clearly he has already made an immense contribution in this regard.
I can only marvel at the many gifts he has been blessed with and continue to learn greatly from him.
He is unmatched in the coherent use of vision-logic understanding in a wide variety of development contexts.
Likewise he is superb in the manner in which he conveys the nature of nondual reality - insofar as this can be conveyed in language symbols - from the perspective of spiritual states.
However there are also considerable weaknesses in evidence, the most important of which (from my perspective) relates to his inadequate handling of interactive relationships.
For some time now I have diagnosed a fundamental problem with his manner of structurally interpreting integration (where it is not properly distinguished from analytic differentiation).
So the big missing ingredient in his treatment is any proper recognition - not to mention - application of the bi-directional structures (especially cognitive) that unfold (along with states) in the balanced spiritual experience of the "higher" stages. The full recognition of such structures would ultimately lead - as I have indicated - to a radical new perspective on literally every aspect of development. 6
So in broad terms we have the analytic (asymmetric) approach that is suited for the appropriate interpretation of the differentiated aspect of development. (Vision-logic provides the most sophisticated version of this approach).
Quite simply when one attempts to translate the dynamic nature of experience using the vision-logic of the centaur it leads to a reduced integral interpretation (in phenomenal structural terms).
We then have the holistic (bi-directional) approach that is suited for the appropriate interpretation of the integral aspect of development. (As we have seen this can be carried through at least three major levels, requiring ever greater subtlety of understanding that interpenetrates ever more closely with pure nondual awareness).
Finally we have the most comprehensive approach (which I define as radial) which combines in mature fashion the specialised development of both the analytic and holistic aspects. Again this can be carried through at least three levels requiring an ever-greater depth of contemplative awareness so as to sustain an increasingly active and creative involvement in the world (where secondary attachment to phenomena ceases).
Thus overall - despite the vast scope of his work (based on detailed exacting research) and the assemblage of wonderful ideas and insights that Ken offers, I would characterise the integral aspect of his approach as very reduced in cognitive structural terms. The vision-logic of the centaur is simply not appropriate to translate the inherently dynamic interactive nature of understanding that especially characterises the "higher" and indeed (in confused terms) the "lower" levels of the Spectrum. As we have seen this requires the very refined use of bi-directional understanding (based on recognition of the complementarity of polar opposites). 7
And this has led inevitably to many inconsistencies with Ken's work in global terms. The dynamic implications of the many refinements that he has made to his ideas (which quite often are inconsistent in terms of each other) pose grave questions for the very validity of his core model (in integral terms). 8
Thus if I am right - and I make this assertion with considerable confidence from my perspective - then a very fundamental problem remains to be addressed before we can properly herald in "The Integral Age".
1. In a dynamic interactive context, "higher" and "lower" have a purely relative meaning depending on context. Thus when we switch the (polar) frame of reference - that continually occurs in the dynamics of experience, what was "higher" in the context of one frame is now "lower" in the context of the other; equally what was "lower" in the context of the first frame is now "higher" in the context of the second.
Equally such relativity applies to all polar frames of reference in a dynamic context e.g. interior and exterior, whole and part, form and emptiness etc.
Though it true therefore that all experience is interactive in this manner we customarily interpret it in a reduced analytic fashion (where opposite poles are clearly separated). This leads to rigid dualistic understanding, which constitutes a key barrier to the clear recognition of the inherent nondual nature of all reality.
As I define it an integral approach basically serves as a "skillful means" of preparing one to move consistently - with respect to both states and structures - from the limited dual perspective to the (inherently) universal nondual experience.
I would see the manner in which we understand development as a vital aspect of such training.
2. In contrast to Ken Wilber I would consider Evelyn Underhill's approach - for example - to spiritual development as being properly integral (in dynamic interactive terms). Thus she makes quite clear that illuminative stages of development (as states of pleasure) inevitably keep giving way to their opposite purgative counterparts (as states of pain). Mystical (nondual) union is then achieved when one becomes free of any possessive attachment (positive or negative) to such states.
This dynamic interactive understanding where the positing of one phenomenal pole requires the negation in experience of its opposite, raises fundamental issues for Ken Wilber's pre/trans fallacy.
Prepersonal and transpersonal constitute polar opposites. Therefore we can only experience what is transpersonal (with respect to what is also prepersonal); likewise we can only experience what is prepersonal (with respect to what is also transpersonal). Thus prepersonal and transperonal remain continuous with each other throughout development (though the relative balance can vary considerably).
Put another way what we identify in discrete terms as prepersonal and transpersonal stages, remain in a continual stage of transition throughout development.
Therefore we can have a largely confused experience of both pre and trans (e.g. in early infancy); equally we can have a very mature experience of the interaction of both aspects where body and Spirit are successfully integrated (approaching mystical union).
3. Ultimately holarchical and onarchical notions have no ultimate validity with respect to development. Essentially they represent (limited) linear constructs which enable the arbitrary dualistic differentiation of development. However - as we have seen - such notions are inherently paradoxical in an interactive context. Thus as spiritual development deepens, holarchy and onarchy assume a merely relative interpretative significance before melting away entirely with nondual awareness.
So from one perspective, a proper integral approach (that is inherently interactive) entails the gradual undoing of both holarchical and onarchical notions.
4. Perspectives in fact arise from the dynamic switching of quadrant locations. When we temporarily fix the location - through arbitrarily fixing the frame of reference with respect to horizontal (interior and exterior) and vertical (individual and collective) aspects - we thereby create a perspective. With four locations we can create (4 * 4) i.e. 16 distinct perspectives. However in a eight-sectoral model where diagonal polarities (form and emptiness) are included we can create (8 * 8) i.e. 64 primary perspectives.
And given these primary perspectives we can create an unlimited number of composite perspectives (representing varying configurations of the primary elements).
However once again the differentiation of separate perspectives does not - in itself - constitute an integral approach.
The important point from an integral aspect is to show the complementary nature of perspectives through the dynamic interaction of opposite quadrants (and sectors).
Though Ken Wilber's present work on perspectives is very interesting and valuable in its own right, it relates very much to the differentiation (rather than the integration) of perspectives.
Though his use of 1st person, 2nd person and 3rd person language could be ultimately adapted so as to demonstrate complementary opposite aspects of experience, it does not directly lend itself to this treatment.
So Ken has not really demonstrated how his various perspectives can ultimately be integrated (and based on the example of his "dialectical exchange", he is still adopting a very fragmented approach).
Also - which amounts to the same criticism - there is little evidence yet of the vertical treatment of perspectives (i.e. showing how the relationship between perspectives changes with each stage of development).
5. The proper interactive understanding of the relationship between whole and part (and part and whole) requires in fact Integral 2 understanding, where both direct and indirect conscious experience are interpreted in a dynamically consistent manner.
However for exposition purposes I have limited myself in the discussion to the simpler form (Integral 1) which, though not complete, does indicate the interactive nature of understanding involved.
6. With respect to my available written contributions, I have mainly focussed on the scientific implications of the integral - and more recently - radial approaches.
In other words a radical new notion of science applies in both integral and radial terms (with enormous potential implications for every current discipline).
In this regard I have spent over 30 years developing Holistic Mathematics as a precise scientific tool for the appropriate integral interpretation of all stages of development (i.e. within a dynamic interactive context). I have discovered - initially to my great amazement - that all the structures of development (at whatever level) are mathematical (in this dynamic holistic sense).
7. In fact there is a unique type of complementarily associated with the bi-directional understanding of each of the "higher" spiritual levels (H1, H2 and H3). Thus Integral 1 - in precise terms - is associated with Type 1 complementarity (that relates to directly opposite poles). Indeed this is the only type of complementarity that is properly recognised. However much more subtle forms of complementarity (Type 2 and Type 3) exist at H2 and H3. From a holistic mathematical perspective, these require the "complex" interpretation of interactive relationships that consistently combine both "imaginary" (unconscious) as well as "real" (conscious) appreciation.
8. Once again we come back to the important issue of perspectives. The validity of what I am saying cannot be appraised simply from a Wilberian perspective, as my very contention is that a proper interactive treatment - as the basis for an appropriate integral approach - is not available in Wilber. This is why effective dialogue would require the interaction of perspectives to evaluate each approach (in the light of each other).
Wilber, K. (2003) The Ways we are in this Together: Intersubjectivity and Interobjectivity in the Holonic Kosmos, excerpt from Volume2 of Kosmos Trilogy.
Wilber, K. (1995) Sex, Ecology Spirituality: the spirit of evolution: Shambhala (Boston & London)
Kofman, F (2001) Holons Heaps and Artifacts (and their corresponding hierarchies), Available at the World of Ken Wilber web-site, http://18.104.22.168/~wilber/kofman.html
Collins, P (2003) Looking for Perspective (Chap 15 of ongoing work "Development - the Radial Approach")