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".
Response to: "If You Meet Wilber on the Road, Kill Him"
Imre von Soos, architect, civil engineer, research scientist, philosopher and writer is a Hungarian born, Hungarian and Australian national. His anti-communist activities have forced him to escape from Hungary, and he lived and worked since in Australia, France, Germany, Austria, England, Switzerland, Brazil, the Czech Republic and now again in Austria. Read more...
A FRESH LOOK AT WILBER
Comment on Frank Visser's:
"If You Meet Wilber on the Road, Kill Him"
Imre von Soos
Shouldn't we take a fresh look at Wilber and start the arduous process of independent integral research?
By all means! But also take a fresh and very critical look at all the other popular figures and movements – whoever and whatever they happen to be – and their thoughts and replace them also with thoughts founded on and derived through pure, unbiased reason. There were and are a good number of highly qualified individuals of integral thinking and integral philosophy, who wouldn't or wouldn't ever have considered Wilber – as also many of the other anthropocentric "integralist" would-be gurus made popular by the media, like, for instance, Dawkins – to be one of them. A would-be guru is easy to be recognised by the fact that he is out for publicity and followers – which pays good dividends – and that he gathers them not through reason but through emotional incitement and popularist views.
I am quite aware, as an independent thinker and an emotionally unbiased voice, that my writings rub the wrong way the emotionally preconditioned people, just as the apotheosis of their ego through the apotheosis of their pack turns my stomach. But isn't there just about time for unprejudiced perception and purely rational thinking on and about the integral field of universal existence; a field integrated from alpha to omega, if you wish?
The subtitle of Frank Visser's essay gave me a hope that the concept of integral thinking will be discussed in it without any reference to Wilber, turning the title into: If You Meet Wilber on the Road, Ignore Him. Unfortunately, the word "integral", but not its true concept, has been so powerfully monopolised by him with the help of the popular media, that not even his ex-followers and ardent critics can separate any more the two; a fact that is also strongly apparent in the Call for Papers for the Integral Theory Conference 2008. The collection of Wilber's theories became "The Integral Theory" and "Integralism" became "Wilberism": whatever is not "Wilber", is not "Integral"; Wilber can be either debated, or further developed as long as it is done within Wilber's frame. And all this within the framework of an époque of compulsory categorisation, in which every person and every thought must belong to a movement for the sake of belonging, forgetting that, as soon as a paradigm becomes a "movement", it stops dead in its track, and expands only sideways through the numerical expansion of its followers.
This situation very much reminds me of the neo-Darwinians' monopolisation of the word "evolution" for their already anachronistic but still tooth and nail adhered to credo of random mutation and natural selection within the ad hock existence of a by-chance-banged-off universe, rendering any other approach to evolution a sectarian belief-nonsense, a "Mysterionism", not fit to be touched by serious scientific paradigm-sharing communities. See my essay: Reflections on the neo-Darwinian Theory of Evolution.doc - http://groups.msn.com/livinguniverse
The word "integral" has been used, but not exploited, centuries, if not millennia, before Wilber.
The Integral Calculus in algebra operates in taking limits in defining all-inclusive dimensions, and is centuries old. It serves also, when expressing mathematically a thought, a philosophy, which incorporates all related fractions of a subject matter.
An essay, Integralism Is My Philosophy, published in the nineteen fifties, and written by Pitirim A. Sorokin, founder (1949) and first director of the Harvard Research Centre in Creative Altruism, starts thus:
"Integralism is its name. It views the total reality as the infinite X of numberless qualities and quantities: spiritual and material, momentary and eternal, ever-changing and unchangeable, personal and super-personal, temporal and timeless, spatial and spaceless, one and many, the littlest than the little and the greatest than the great. In this sense it is the veritable mysterium tremenndum et fascinosum and the coincidentia oppositorum (reconciliation of the opposites). Its highest centre is the infinite creative X that passes all human understanding.
"…Of its innumerable modes of being, three forms of differentiations appear to be most important: (1) empirical-sensory, (2) rational-mindful, and (3) supersensory-superrational. … The truth obtained through integral use of all three channels of cognition – senses, reason and intuition – is a fuller and more valid truth than that received only through the channel of either sensory perception, or of logico-mathematical reasoning, or of intuition."
I want to draw attention to the fact that belief and emotion are missing from the list, and would be interested in any rational proof of any truth ever having been obtained through these two channels; channels through which Wilber is mostly operating and gaining, no doubt, most of his followers. In fact, these are the two channels through which all political and religious systems were always operating and raising their enormous numbers of blind followers.
The studies of the principles of the general systems of microcosmic and macrocosmic existence have been around since timeless times, on which religious and philosophical theories were built by scattered tribes and great cultures. These theories were based on their observational and intuitive knowledge of Nature, trying to arrive to how the world is being constructed, giving it even an infinite quality. They didn't involve themselves and their social systems in this study and centred their judgements on them. These were the approaches which characterized also Ludwig von Bertalanffy's work, who has founded his General System Research (even before Wilber was born) on the integral study of the natural laws to be found in the natural sciences. "The pioneers shared and articulated a common conviction: the unified nature of reality… They developed a trans-disciplinary perspective that emphasised the intrinsic order and interdependence of the world in all its manifestations." Bela Banathy.
Consequently, it is a very erroneous statement, that is misleading the general public, that
"After all, he [Wilber] is the most influential integral author of this moment in time."
He most certainly is not in academic and especially not in higher academic circles, where he is hardly being heard of, if at all. And being influential, he is even less so, at least not in Europe, Australia and South America of what I know, and it is my reasonable guess that neither is he in Asia or Africa.
As I have stated in another comment published on Integral World,
"Wilber's theories are "integral" only by label but not by substance. They contain no "integral", universal thinking, no integrating into a whole, but rather a "differentiating" to define the tangent of a great complex at the unique point of the species Homo sapiens of a planet of a small solar system; a species that is then further differentiated and categorised into colours and quadrants without any pragmatic sense or value. They represent rather a belief-system instead of a knowledge-system. The interior underlying principles are approached on a religious, dualistic basis, as some extrinsic realities that "interact" with the physical manifestations, without even approaching the questions of what it is and why and how it does that."
Another misleading statement I have read on the Integral World website is that "A core concept in Wilber's philosophy is the concept of the holon, which he borrowed from Arthur Koestler." He borrowed the word coined by Koestler all right, but not the concept. Anybody who has read Koestler's exposé at the Beyond Reductionism Symposium at Alpbach, 1968, will know that Wilber has only confused it beyond recognition.
Wilber's holon-concept that considers summa Homo sapiens, collectivised as "humanity", as a bona fide holon – a harmonious life-unit of the holistic chain of the universe – when no nations, societies and not even today's families can be considered harmonious life-units, just adds to the confusion in the general picture presented. It treats the rest of this living planet as "the environment in which we humans live", ignoring the fact that the only true social holons are the ecological and major ecological communities, without the harmonious, symbiotic coexistence of which no member, individually or collectively – very much including Homo sapiens – could survive longer than he can keep his breath. His idea about a "heap" being a sub-category "holon", like are (human) "social holons" and also other "holons"(?), is worth any heap of whatever one chooses to imagine.
The actual human societies are not holons, they are heaps. And, like heaps, they are not more than the sum of their parts.
"Men as mobs are less than men; – writes Gabriel Marcel – only passion and violence rule them. Numbers are not magical, it is only man conscious in himself as man, thinking and responsible, who is capable of the good, the true or the beautiful. . . But in point of fact the masses exist and develop (following laws which are fundamentally purely mechanical) only at a level far below that at which intelligence and love are possible. Why should this be so? Because the masses partake of the human only in a degraded state, they are themselves a degraded state of human."
One should realize that Wilber is not a researcher himself, he deals with theories, not facts, and selects theories whenever they fit his larger integral frame of reference.
There is nothing extraordinary in this approach, as the selection of theories whenever they fit their larger integral frame of reference, is the favourite pastime of the mainstream scientific circles, who share paradigms for the sake of sharing and belonging.
Being a researcher and being a theorist are two disparate activities. A researcher concentrates on the minutest particulars. He is a highly specialized person and establishes facts. His questions are "what is", "what happens and when", "what are the consequences of"; and deals with his object as a closed system. The theorist must consider the facts presented to him as integral parts of a much larger open system and theorize "how", "why" and in "what kind of system" the presented facts "do", "can" or "might" fit in, and "what kind of contributions and effects" they represent in, how they integrate into that system, the life of the Planet and, finally, that of the Universe.
Follows that the researcher is a specialist, while the theorist is a generalist. The ideal condition is if the generalist also understands the work of the various researchers covering a very wide field, meaning that he is an integralist. The worse, sometimes quite cockeyed theories happen when the specialist theorises within his own limitations. Unfortunately, this later situation dominates the scientific scenery with the additional rule that "nolite tangere circulos meos".
Physiological intelligence, the intelligent reaction of organs tissues and cells –each on its own level – to organismic demands and stresses, has been known and called as such for well over half a century; as has been also known, that even bacteria and viruses react fast with additional immunity, marked on their genetic code, to new antibiotics. The by now through observation firmly established processes of genetic alterations at cellular levels as intelligent responses to changing environmental conditions in multicelled creatures, is translated by most evolutionary theorists as "DNA reorganizes itself intelligently when organisms are environmentally stressed", and that "genomes respond to stress in many different species, from microbes to plants and animals, with the changes then passed on to succeeding generations". While this no doubt removes the idea about "random mutations", and replaces them with "intelligent chromosomal self-reorganizations as responses to stresses on organismic level", as the explanation of genomic changes, it still leaves the intelligent causation of the biological evolution of organisms at the genomic level, and attributes species diversity and evolution, and the harmony within ecological communities, to chromosomal intelligence. Accordingly, scientist are "beginning to see these processes of genetic alteration at cellular levels as intelligent responses to changing environmental conditions in multicelled creatures". In his book, The Selfish Gene, Professor Dawkins goes even as far as stating that "It's the genes that, for their own good, are manipulating the bodies they ride about in. The individual organism is a survival machine for its genes." See also my essay "Professor Dawkins' Gods and Intelligent Replicators" - http://groups.msn.com/livinguniverse
Few are the scientist who dare to declare openly that the reactions to environmental influences happen on the organismic level, and that the DNA is not an active generating agent, but a passive recording and transmitting one: a genetic blueprint, the intelligent activity of which consists of recording the current state of the organism for the purpose of eventual organismic repair and genetic transmission, and of making self-repairs in case of faulty mutations; and few are who state, like the evolutionary biologist, Elisabet Sahtouris does that "biological evolution is holistic, intelligent and purposeful."
I have noticed in some of the essays, that the concept "mainstream" is exalted as something bearing fundamental value, based, apparently, on the misconstrued idea that quantity beats quality. And still, I have to see yet a scientific, philosophical, cultural or artistic spearhead that belongs or has ever belonged to the mainstream.
"No great scientific advancement has ever been made by anyone whose thinking has remained kosher. – wrote Physicist Mano Singham – The problem is, the intelligentsia is dominated by danger zone IQ holders (125-140), a species capable of enough reason to be useful in maintaining an accepted model, but utterly useless in formulating new ones. Good stewards make crappy iconoclasts. It takes a solid paradigm inventor to shake things up. Given some years after any old model is replaced with a better new model, the stewards defend the new model as rapidly as they defended the old one."
The products of the "mainstream" are their ossified convictions and contain what C.H. Waddington, the famous biologist, genetist and epigenesist well characterized as the Conventional Wisdom of the Dominant Group and pregnantly acronymed for "COWDUNG", which – so Waddington – "is memorizable, appropriate and accurate enough. During most of this century [20th], the conventional wisdom of the dominant group about the nature of living organisms has been a rather exaggerated form of the 'thing' view; and when this applied to man and his social affairs, it seems, to me at least, to fall appropriately under the heading COWDUNG. It argues that the world and everything in it is constituted from arrangements of essentially unchanging material particles, whose nature has essentially been largely, if not entirely, discovered by the researches of physics and chemistry. These physico-chemical entities are supposed to constitute the whole of objective reality."
I agree with Frank Visser writing that "In my opinion, evolutionary theory would be a perfect case study to assess the validity of integralism." However, it appears to me that the anti-Wilberians' stance of evolution is shortly expressed by quoting David Lane's statement that "Wilber does not seem to understand that the processes of evolution are blind." In opposition of this blunt statement I have already offered before my essays: The Rational Evolution of the Species; Reflections on the Neo-Darwinian Evolution; COonventional Wisdom of the DUmiNant Group; and Professor Dawkins' Gods and Intelligent Replicators, all to be found at my website http://groups.msn.com/livinguniverse , or at http://thelogics.50webs.com. As, however, I suspect that few readers will reach back at these essays in the concern that they might shake their pet believes, I will quote the words of the well-known evolutionary biologist, Elisabet Sahtouris, which most certainly will.
"Thus, our scientific cosmovision is shifting 180 degrees from the view of consciousness as a late product of material and biological evolution to the view of consciousness as the very source of material and biological evolution, as I and many of my scientific colleagues have shifted it for ourselves.
"In molecular genetic biology this shift is supported by fifty years of research evidence that DNA reorganizes itself intelligently when organisms are environmentally stressed, and that the required information transfer often seems to obey some form of non-locality rather than slower chemical or electromagnetic transmission. Rather than being the sources of variation and evolution, errors known to occur in DNA during reproduction and by cosmic radiation or other accidents, are recognized at the molecular level and fixed by repair genes. Thus we see intelligence at work not only in higher brains, but in the lowliest of bacteria and cellular components. We are thus moving toward a post-Darwinian era in evolution biology."
". . some quantum physicists suggested that electrons intentionally leap orbits. Microbiologists are beginning to see similar intentional activity at systemic, cellular and molecular DNA levels. These discoveries of genomic changes in response to an organism's environment, in the context of a holistic systems view of evolution, are changing our story of how evolution proceeds in very significant ways. We are discovering, in short, that the fundamental life forms from which all other organisms evolve are capable of both self-organization in community and self-improvement through environmental challenge.
"Genomic changes in response to an organism's environment have actually been known since the 1950s, but they challenged the accepted theories of the time, so it has taken half a century to amass sufficient data to warrant changing our scientific picture of evolution accordingly."
"Barbara McClintock, who did much of her work on corn plants, pioneered this research showing that DNA sequences move about to new locations and that this genetic activity increases when the plants are stressed. She also found closed-loop molecular bits of self-reproducing DNA called plasmids moving about among the normal DNA and exchanged from cell to cell."
"1993 Nobel Laureate biologists Phillip Sharp and Richard Roberts discovered that RNA is arranged in modules that can be reshuffled by spliceosomes, referred to as a cell's "editors." Other researchers have shown that bacteria naturally retool themselves genetically and can correct defects created by human genetic engineers. Ancient bacteria had already evolved the ability to repair genes damaged by UV radiation.
"Further research shows that bacteria not only alter genomes very specifically in response to specific environmental pressures, but also transfer the mutations to other bacteria. Many of these genetic transfers appear to be evolutionarily related to 'free-living' viruses, according to Temin and Engels in England. Retroviruses are known to infect across species and enter the host's germline DNA.
"We are still in early stages of understanding the extent to which DNA is freely traded in the world of microbes to benefit both individuals and their communities. And we are just beginning to see these processes of genetic alteration at cellular levels as intelligent responses to changing environmental conditions in multicelled creatures."
"When we see that genomes respond to stress in many different species, from microbes to plants and animals, with the changes passed on to succeeding generations, as Jeffrey Pollard in England has reported, we are closer to the much discredited Lamarck than to Darwin. Pollard tells us we are seeing "dramatic alterations of developmental plans independent of natural selection," which itself may "play a minor role in evolutionary change, perhaps honing up the fit between the organism and its environment.
"This growing body of evidence suggests that evolution may proceed much faster under stress than was thought possible. It also reveals how the worldwide web of DNA information exchange invented by ancient bacteria still functions today, not only among bacteria as always, but also within multicelled creatures and among species. As Lynn Margulis puts it: "Evolution is no linear family tree, but change in the single multidimensional being that has grown to cover the entire surface of Earth."
"In this newer framework or cosmovision, biological evolution is holistic, intelligent and purposeful. Notions such as entropy in a non-living universe, running down to its death, no longer apply. Rather we see a living universe, with a metabolism like that in our bodies, with its continual creation from the ZPE as anabolism, while entropy can now be seen as catabolism -- continual dissolution for purposes of recycling. In this version entropy does not lead to the death of the universe because the universe is capable of replenishing itself continually."
"Since it is now clear that genomes are routinely scanned for damage and errors (the mutations that are the basis of evolution according to neo-Darwinists) in order to keep genomes functioning properly, and that these errors are repaired, neo-Darwinists must explain how mutations are distinguished from normal genes and how beneficial mutations can be differentiated from others to survive the cleaning-up process so that they may be passed on to future generations. Some kind of intelligence must detect not only all mutations, but know which of them have positive potential among the many useless or bad ones, as their "good" is not supposed to be evident until natural selection can take place."
It is very appositely stated by Frank Visser, that
"one is struck by the fact that the only two real options seem to be: Either one believes in a blind-chance, random, materialist universe,
or one believes in a spiritual universe, driven by Eros, Spirit, or God."
The especially appropriate in the statement is the use of the verb "belief", because neither the materialist nor the religious worldviews are knowledge-systems, but are belief-systems, founded on irrational believes, misrepresentations and twisting of facts; in fact, both are relying on their extrinsic "supernatural" deities – verbs twisted into subjective agents – as I have amply demonstrated in three of the four essays referred to above. Their fights are consequently the fights of sectarians and not of rational thinkers, because neither belief-system has rational foundation to stand on.
Frank Visser asks:
"Is there such a thing as "Integral Design" -- that includes science (but this time, without misrepresenting it) but also points out where it currently fails, in a fundamental sense?"
Of course there is: any design done by a designer with integral – all-involving – theoretical and practical knowledge on the particular object. However, when you describe a beautiful woman, Frank, why bother pointing out where the ugly one fails?
What I don't understand in Alan Kazlev's suggestion in "Evolutionary Allies" is, why unite people interested in the same subject, but having utterly disparate thoughts about it, into one "larger Integral movement", a "mainstream" one, to top it. He would invite "also other philosophers, scientists, writers, teachers, artists, etc who identify themselves in terms of the Integral movement, Integralism, or Integral Science". This is reminiscent of the web-page "About Us" of many specialised websites, describing their own lines of thoughts, and then inviting new ideas, while forgetting to include that "as long as they conform perfectly to the paradigm we are sharing", but applying it in practice all the same.
Why not just opening simply a discussion board on any website with an open mind – and not "a centre around which devotees can cluster and be inspired and motivated" – and invite any individual thinker to present rational thoughts on a certain subject matter for rational discussion. But rational it must be, because a discussion is only possible on the rational level. Believes and emotions can be only fought about, as human history and many ad hominem attacks on the pages of the internet demonstrate. The objective should be to put as many rational thoughts on the table as possible, discuss them rationally, and teach everybody to use his own mind in evaluating, accepting or rejecting them; or to make, out the whole melange, some new thoughts for inclusion in a dynamic personal reality, personal truth.
"And those, Ananda, who either now or after I am dead shall be a lamp unto themselves, shall betake themselves to no external refuge, but holding fast to the Truth as their lamp, and holding fast to the Truth as their refuge, shall not look for refuge to anyone beside themselves – it is they who shall reach the very topmost height. But they must be anxious to learn." The Buddha
Alan Kazlev wrote:
"The Earth moves inexorably towards the point of crisis that will decide the fate not only of humanity but of all of planetary and even, I believe, cosmic evolution. And so what happens in the next few decades will decide the outcome."
I would rewrite the fist part to: "The human species is moving itself and the Earth inexorably towards the point of cataclysmic happenings." I wouldn't involve in it "cosmic evolution", because the cosmos cares mighty little about the antics of some naked apes on a planet of its sextillionth fraction. But Atlas is already shrugging, and the Planet is resolving its problems its own way. As C.G. Jung has stated it, "The Psyche, if it looses its balance, actually destroys its own creation."
My own stance, as a "planetarist" stands in my often repeated statement: "Don't people realize, that the task does not involve the creation of circumstances that are needed to build a homogenous 'Homosphere' out of an unruly conglomeration, whatever that may cost to our Planet, but the creation of circumstances that are needed to reinstate our Planet into a healthy life-community with a spiritually motivated, mentally productive, ethical, equilibrated and physically healthy and active new human species as an integral constituent of and in harmony with that life-community, whatever that may cost to an unruly conglomeration?"
And, re , by the evidence of what kind of dwarfed minds' ignorance is strongly indicated the uniqueness and indeed the aloneness of the Earth and human evolution in the cosmos, and the absence of extraterrestrial civilisations? And, to top it all, why would a superior space-faring race of super-beings long ago have colonised the planet of some "anthropomorph non-animals" (term borrowed from e.e.cummings) not even halfway up the universal evolutionary ladder? Superior beings do not overrun and overpopulate their own planet or any other, but live in harmony with, and keep their numbers to the "pyramid of numbers" of their environment. Why imagine that superior civilizations are also unruly, aggressive savages like are inferior ones?
If the Earth would be absolutely unique in the history of the cosmos, and this so called humanity would be the greatest thing that has ever happened to happen to that enormous complex of an Universe, then one could only throw ashes on one's head and cry.