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".
Jim O'Connor has had an interest in theories of everything and the integral worldview since the mid 1990's. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
The Structure of
the Theosphere in the
A Possible Approach
In previous essays on this site (O'Connor 2001, 2002, 2006, 2008) I have attempted to develop a holarchical schema of existence based on Andrew Smith's One-Scale model that can integrate and explain the main features of individual and collective development as we currently understand them. I have differed from Smith over how we should go about constructing the higher levels of the holarchy while still holding to the principles upon which his model is based.
In the earlier papers I have alluded to the possibility that the general "wheel of life" worldview of the perennial philosophy, in which a reality as a whole is seen to be made up of a vast number of interacting realms, is compatible with the "many worlds" interpretation of quantum theory, in which the "multiverse" is made up of an infinity of interpenetrating universes.
In this short paper I would like to expand on this assertion and attempt to explain why I believe the many worlds interpretation of quantum theory dovetails nicely with the version of the one-scale model that I have developed.
2. Summary of My Model
In my version of the one-scale model, existence is divided into (at least) four discreet levels: the physiosphere, the biosphere, the noosphere and the theosphere; each of which is further subdivided into several stages. Following Smith, each level begins and ends with an autonomous holon, and stages in between consist of intermediate holons of increasing complexity. As outlined by Smith in his book Worlds within Worlds and elsewhere, intermediate holons consist of groupings of holons from (only) the previous stage, leading (schematically) to a nested structure, whereas autonomous holons consist of groupings of holons from all stages of the level, leading to a mandalic structure.
The first three levels, the physiosphere, biosphere and noosphere look as follows:
simple cell unit
complex cell unit
organism, or individual (autonomous)
very complex group
integral society (autonomous)
Likewise the theosphere, which will be the subject of this paper, is constructed in the same way and looks as follows:
single realm (autonomous)
simple realm grouping
complex realm grouping
very complex realm grouping
3. Summary of the Relevant Parts of Deutsch's Thesis
The "many worlds" interpretation of quantum theory was first proposed by Hugh Everett in 1957, with its most well known current proponent being David Deutsch of Oxford University. In particular Deutsch has developed a complex theory of everything based upon a multiverse worldview.
Deutsch's theory of everything is outlined in his book The Fabric of Reality (FoR) and is based on the integration of four fields of research: Quantum Theory, Epistemology, the Theory of Evolution and the Theory of Computation. With great subtlety he shows how these fields are related to one another and how an understanding of each is fundamental to developing a truly unified view of reality.
It is not necessary for the purposes of this paper to explain Deutsch's entire thesis in any great detail, as the relevant points can all be derived from just one or two of his arguments. Readers interested in understanding Deutsch's worldview as a whole are referred to his own book, which is highly recommended as an example of how a theory of everything can skilfully be done.
In FoR Deutsch begins by arguing that the existence of the various experimental phenomena that form the basis of quantum theory all point to reality being multi-valued - in other words they point to the existence of an infinite number of parallel universes that impinge on each other weakly through the phenomenon of quantum interference. The whole of reality, according to Deutsch, can be represented as shown below, that is, as a 2-dimensional grid of interrelated snapshots, with each snapshot representing a moment in time in a single universe, and in which "other times are just special cases of other universes".
Deutsch then goes on to integrate this multiverse view of reality with the theory of evolution as propounded (in its modern form) by Richard Dawkins. Building on Dawkins' "selfish gene" thesis, he shows that as genes evolve to embody knowledge about their environments they take on a regular, lattice-like structure across nearby universes, and that the same holds true for any knowledge-bearing entity. To illustrate this fact Deutsch asks us to imagine the existence of a "magic microscope" that can look across the multiverse and he shows how such knowledge-bearing entities would be discernible by their exhibiting a crystal-like structure.
4. Constructing a Theosphere
To return to the one-scale model, we recall that on any given level of existence each successively higher stage is built up by combining instances of the autonomous holon of the level into successively more complex holarchical forms. Therefore, if it is correct as I have asserted that the fundamental autonomous holon of the theosphere is the worldspace or the realm (or, to use Deutsch's terminology, the snapshot) then we might look to see what might happen if we were to combine such snapshots into progressively higher holarchical forms.
To do this I would like to leave aside what we currently know about the mechanism by which such snapshots interact with one another (i.e. by quantum interference) and imagine for the time being some more generic method of combining them, the properties of which we can currently specify as we wish.
To begin with, we recall that Deutsch has shown that knowledge-bearing entities posses a lattice-like structure across nearby universes, as shown in diagram 3.
Now, let us imagine some method of superimposing these nearby universes onto one another. What would we see? Well in the case of these two DNA segments we would see a single snapshot in which the regular, gene-segment features stood out with great clarity while the non-gene segment would be obscured. In other words, we would see a slightly hyper-real snapshot in which knowledge-bearing entities stand out with great clarity. I will refer to such entities as hyper-snapshots. It is my contention that such hyper-snapshots constitute the intermediate holons of the transpersonal level.
So by combining snapshots in this way we can construct an entire hyper-real version of the gross plane, as illustrated below:
Exactly what properties these hyper-snapshots possess could be decided either by the details of a fully formed theory of how they arise, or from the experiences of spiritual practitioners who are established in the transpersonal. However, I would suggest that one such feature would be that hyper-snapshots possess a slightly greater degree of dimensionality than their composite, gross-realm constituent snapshots. In this way, we can construct an entire astral plane.
Then we can imagine once again combining our astral snapshots by the same method and thereby constructing a higher-plane still, in this case the subtle. And so on... In this way we can construct an entire theosphere from our generic method of composition.
5. Individual Development
In the one-scale model individual development occurs by a process of one holon "looking up" at successively higher stages of a higher-order holon in which they are embedded. Psychological development is therefore a process by which the individual moves through the various stages of the society (or world) in which they live and gradually comes to master the increasing complexity of the structures they encounter.
Transpersonal growth, I would suggest, is a process of consciousness (rather then psychological) development during which the individual looks up at successively higher stages of the theosphere. This model predicts that upon entry to the transpersonal the individual's awareness would transcend the gross realm completely and become immersed in a slightly hyper-real version of the world she left. We know from the experiences of mystics that this new world is of slightly greater dimensionality and is more synchronous than the gross-realm, and a fully developed model would somehow have to account for these facts.
This process of consciousness-development then continues until the individual transcends the theosphere completely, at which point we would say that she has become liberated from samsara, or the interacting realms.
I would further suggest that consciousness is itself generated from the interaction between snapshots, and that at this point of liberation the individual transcends this lower form of consciousness entirely and enters a new one, described by the mystics as emptiness.
6. Comparison of the Multiverse and One-Scale Models
Of course, for this model to be an accurate portrayal of reality our hypothetical method of combining snapshots would eventually need to be shown to be identical to the process of quantum interference. This is not something that I envisage happening any time soon. It would also need to be shown that quantum interference between nearby universes creates higher-order snapshots in the way that I have described.
For the theory as a whole to fit nicely into the one-scale model it would also need to be shown that the multiverse as a whole has the structure of an autonomous holon, that is, an appropriate mixture of holons from all stages of the level interacting in a integrated, harmonious way.
However, rather than being a drawback I would argue that the existence of these hypotheticals is actually a positive, as studying the lower levels of reality as they are described by the one-scale model may give our physicists useful insights that could be applied to their research into the multiverse as a whole. For example, Deutsch has shown mathematically that the structure of the multiverse is "determined by information flow", while Andrew Smith has shown that a similar analysis can be performed on holons of lower levels. And in a previous paper available on this site I have attempted to show how it might be possible to integrate information theory with a theory of aesthetics/meaning based on the work of Silvano Arieti. If correspondences could be found between all of these fields then there is significant scope for expanding our best current "theories of everything" to include more facets of reality.
There are more correspondences between the one-scale and multiverse models that could be drawn, but to keep this paper simple I will leave them out at this point. I hope only to show that this model offers potentially rich avenues for further discussion.