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INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
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H.B. Augustine (c. 1990) is an author, entrepreneur and activist. He has practiced integral spirituality and philosophy since 2007 and has written, edited, and published several books pseudonymously.
The Logical Anatomization of Spirit
The notion of Spirit is perhaps the core of Integral philosophy.
It does not matter what name we use to represent the Ground of Being. However, what does matter is what we mean by “Ground of Being.” Yes, perhaps Spirit is beyond all finite conceptual grasp because It is Infinite and Eternal, to name a few. Yet our using the terms “Infinite” and “Eternal” in asserting that we cannot use such terms is simply contradictory. In other words, it is as if we are saying that we cannot use any sort of linguistic rationalization to understand better the nature of Spirit ironically because of the linguistic rationalization concerning the Infinite and Eternal nature of Spirit seemingly lying “beyond” the “confines” of the “finite” and “petty” human mind.
We can agree, however, that with the latter in mind, we can still use some terms to understand what Spirit is as well as what Spirit means. Spirit is Infinite and Eternal, no doubt. “Infinite and Eternal,” in geometric terms, is a necessary but insufficient definition of Spirit, though. Our objective in this essay is to construct a necessary and sufficient “logical anatomization” of Spirit, or the Ground of Being.
One thing that Postmodern philosophy and philosophy as such in general, has over Integral philosophy and the Integral paradigm in general, is its nearly obsessive reliance on “precise logic and reasoning.” Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, and Ludwig Wittgenstein are prime examples of Postmodern philosophers who are masters in the realm of contemporary logic (in case anyone would like to dispute this claim). Integral could greatly benefit from incorporating more Postmodern logic as a means to articulate Premodern prominent metaphysical themes such as God and Spirit – which is itself a very Modern thing in trying to achieve.
The notion of Spirit is perhaps the core of Integral philosophy, which integrally separates it, so to speak, from the Pre-Socratic, Socratic, Medieval, Renaissance, Modern, 19th Century (in some respects), and Postmodern philosophic traditions alike. Therefore, it is important to explain and justify Spirit and Its Actuality in order to establish a firm logical foundation on which Integral can stand and from which it can be credited and acknowledged by the Postmodern tradition, which still dominates the conventional Western philosophic community. We have not yet experienced such a massive Kantian-esque revolution within this community, to be sure – ergo, we ought to consider just how we can be successful in doing so.
One final and crucial thing we ought to clarify has to do with the notion of so-called “post-metaphysics,” and what this term actually means. Is Integral post-metaphysics, out of all honesty, not still metaphysics except using linguistic rationalization including substantial scientific justification that are both “more advanced” than the metaphysics prominent during the Enlightenment and prior? We can very well eliminate the “post-” from the term, and see what remains alone: Integral metaphysics. So let us regard the branch to which the subject of this work belongs generally as Integral metaphysics, and specifically as Integral ontology.
Ontology is the first branch of the first branch of philosophy altogether, this latter first branch being what Aristotle calls “first philosophy” – and ontology (of the metaphysical branch) is rightfully the very first philosophy anyone ought to consider. Ontology is the study of reality at its deepest level: what is reality? What is real? What is real? What is real? The following account, in its entirety, is an attempt to convey an Integral ontology as much as possible as adhering to intuitive understanding, practical proof, and clear explanation. Without further ado, let us now proceed to consider the logical anatomization of Spirit.
As we may know, Rene Descartes uses hyperbolic doubt to create the foundation of his arguments in Meditations On First Philosophy, a masterpiece which is to the Modern Era as Critique of Pure Reason is to the 19th Century Era, as Principia Mathematica is to the Postmodern Era and Sex, Ecology, Spirituality is to the Integral Era. In our attempt to grasp the fundamental nature of reality, we will use a concept similar but not identical to that of Descartes. We know that there are logical laws and aspects of contemplation that we cannot doubt. Instead of doubting everything that we can doubt in order to know what we cannot doubt, we will do just the opposite.
We will seek hyperbolic necessity or hyperbolic Certainty first, which may seem absurd. (Just for clarification sake, we capitalize “Certainty” to emphasize its Absolute nature. In other words, Certainty means Absolute knowledge or sureness in something being True again in the Absolute sense. Integral, as we know, as no problem with the existence of Absolutes.) With this technique, we will disregard all that we can doubt and, rather, acknowledge all that we simply cannot question, specifically in relation to reality. Let us now consider the significance of Existence itself.
Concerning Existence, what above all cannot we deny? The one thing regarding Existence, that is most Certain and most imperative, is that Existence must be; there must be. Ayn Rand is correct: Existence must exist. Existence is Absolute. There is nothing more fundamental and imperative, that we can regard, than is Existence. Let us see Existence as the First Law; we will refer to this Law as Absolute Necessity, or, simply, Necessity – that there must be. The next logical necessity from this initial one aligns itself with the question, “What must be?”
Surely, something must be. Perhaps the very last statement is more significant to consider. Going further, then, what follows from something must be? Of what can we be Certain that most fundamentally logically follows? The answer is possibility.
(Absolute) Necessity demands possibility, in the most general sense imaginable. What is synonymous semantically to possibility? Potential is synonymous, no doubt. Potential, as it is, means possibility for anything. Potential or “Pure Potentiality,” says Deepak Chopra, means infinite possibility. Potential does not exclude anything. Just as all possible colors and images are theoretically contained in white, so are all possibilities necessarily contained in possibility, or potential. With this explication of potential in mind, let us now see that the Second Law of Existence, after Necessity, is Omnipotence, since Omnipotence is synonymous to potential.
Disregarding Omnipotence in the immediate connotation that it may bring, let us consider what it really means. Omnipotent means being all-powerful. What does it mean to be powerful? Powerful stems from the significance of power. What is power? Power is the ability to control, or the ability to create. Now, let us return to potential. Does potential – as we have seen – have the ability to control, or the ability to create? The answer is necessarily yes. Most fundamentally, the World, or the Universe, rests on the necessary possibility or potential for there to be a World or Universe in the first place. However, this possibility or potential alone is not sufficient for the World to exist. Possibility or potential itself must also “possess the ability” to create the World. This ability demonstrates potential's capacity to control the World, since the World is governed by nothing other than potential itself.
Potential has the ability to control and it has the ability to create. Power is the ability to control or the ability to create. Therefore, potential has or contains power. Since potential entails an infinite number of possibilities, and since potential is powerful (since it contains power), we can see that it is, in perhaps an apparently absurd yet surely legitimate sense, Omnipotent. The Second Law of Existence is Pure Potentiality, or, better put, Omnipotence. Baruch Spinoza reminds us that the order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things. As suggested, there is a physical way of explaining the Truth of Omnipotence in addition and corresponding to the logical one that we have just devised. Quantum physics provides this complementary elucidation.
The revolutionary innovation of quantum mechanics during the early 20th century gave rise to quantum physics, which, as we may know, studies reality at the atomic and sub-atomic levels. The monumental double-slit experiment along with the uncertainty principle, and – of course – Einstein, are what spurred the third physics paradigm shift still in the making. The double-slit experiment primarily showed physicists that, strangely, particles can behave as waves, and that the outcome of atomic phenomena can be influenced or determined by the role of the observer.
Before, science saw particles as only behaving like particles, and the same for waves. In other words, a particle was predetermined to act in a way due to what had caused it. This behavior was different from that of waves. However, after the experiment, not only did we see the inconsistency of original mechanics, but we also saw that the role of the observer has to do with this potential inconsistency. Furthermore, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle essentially showed and shows that it is impossible to know fully the nature of particles. For instance, the more accurate our knowledge of a particle's location, the less accurate is our knowledge of its momentum.
Heisenberg's work further showed and shows that there are a number of major flaws and things unexplained by the conventional Newtonian approach to physics. Along with at least seven additional theories supporting quantum mechanics and quantum theory altogether, a significant concept that this branch of science claims and explains is that regarding nothingness, or the unified field.
Everything, based on quantum theory, is ultimately energy, and this energy distinguishes itself to form its most fundamental building blocks, lesser than atoms, called quanta. From where does this energy come? From what is this energy sustained? How does this energy manifest and behave in the way in which we are accustomed? The answer to these questions is “simple.” There must be a hypothetical “domain,” from which everything comes and by which everything goes on: nothingness. Nothingness is the causal realm, the unified field, responsible for material events in their most fundamental nature. Perhaps the name is rather misleading.
Nothingness exists, accordingly, and nothingness cannot be “literally nothing,” since all energy and matter depend on “it.” We may see that nothingness, in essence, is equivalent to possibility, potential, Pure Potentiality, or Omnipotence – all of these names share the same meaning. From nothing comes something. From nothingness comes “something-ness,” or energy, in quantum terms. Likewise, from Omnipotence comes the World or Universe. Another more scientific way of understanding the significance of Omnipotence is the notion of the tenth dimension.
Rob Bryanton explains this hypothetical level of Existence as the source, point, or origin, of all possible Universes, of all possible outcomes, and of all possible branches within each outcome. As we know, the first dimension rests on imaginary points in space indicating exact location. A line connecting one point to another point represents the first dimension. If multiple one-dimensional lines were to create shapes such as a circle, then we know that this figure would be two-dimensional, because it contains an entirely new dimension that the one before simply and by definition does not have. Furthermore, objects in the third dimension have length, height, as well as depth.
If we view the third dimension as a macrocosmic point similar to those constituting the first dimension, then the lines made by these points represent the fourth dimension. Whereas the third dimension adds depth, the fourth dimension adds duration, or time. Anything in the fourth dimension shows what has already happened, in its entirety, from beginning-point to end-point. Just as the second dimension is created through one-dimensional lines that intersect and create two-dimensional shapes, so is the fifth dimension created through four-dimensional “lines” intersecting and creating five-dimensional “shapes.” The fifth dimension is characterized by the totality of all possible outcomes from one third-dimensional point to another. As quantum mechanics has shown, atomic and sub-atomic phenomena are based on probability, not on determination. (The latter does not mean that we cannot be Certain of the kinds of causation/contingency we have discussed.)
There is not one and exclusive behavior that atoms must follow in response to some kind of induction. Rather, there are multiple possible outcomes regarding the nature of how the atom acts. Similarly, a point in the third dimension faces multiple possible outcomes as far as it becomes a line in the fourth dimension. Again, the totality of these possibilities forms that which belongs to the fifth dimension. Whereas the fourth dimension brings duration or time, the fifth dimension signifies indetermination of something relative to the fourth dimension.
The fifth dimension pertains to any “point” in the Universe, and the effects that it will have on “everything else.” Einstein's light cone symbolizes this level of complexity, beginning at a single imaginary point, and extending upward alongside the cone. We can see that the fifth dimension pertains to any of these points within this Universe. However, the Big Bang, logically and physically, could have occurred differently from the version responsible for our World – just as an electron could have behaved differently from the way that it actually did.
Our Big Bang could have occurred in multiple ways, most fundamentally after the initial explosion. The sixth dimension pertains to the totality of these possible beginnings of our Universe. Furthermore, there are multiple ways that the Universe in which we live, regardless how it manifests, can be distinguished from another kind of Universe. For instance, gravity is an Absolute notion or Idea relative to this Universe; however, this does not mean that gravity must exist for any kind of Universe. There may be physical laws entirely different from gravity, as known. The totality of all these kinds of Universes, and respective laws, equals the seventh dimension.
The eighth dimension, then, is the “line” created from one Universe and all its possibilities to another Universe and all its possibilities. The totality of all these lines equals the ninth dimension. Finally, the totality of the totalities of the lines stemming from one Universe to another equals the tenth dimension, the source of all possible Universes, of all possible outcomes, and of all possible branches within each outcome. There is nothing beyond the tenth dimension.
The theory of multiple dimensions suffices, according to both quantum and string theory branches of contemporary physics. We know that we live in a probabilistic – not deterministic – Universe. Therefore, we know that time is not the “highest” dimension relative to the World in its utmost entirety. Furthermore, we know that the tenth dimension exists but that it is not a physical thing – rather, it is a theoretical yet existing “point,” the source of everything. Whereas string theory names this point the “tenth dimension,” quantum physics calls it “nothingness.” The order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things. Whether we use the terms “potential,” “possibility,” “Pure Potentiality,” “infinite possibility,” or “Omnipotence,” or the terms “nothingness” or “tenth dimension” – we can see that the “objective” reality of Omnipotence is, no doubt, real.
If we can see and agree with all the above, then it is plain that we have also scientifically or physically described and explained the Second Law of Existence, which is the Truth of Omnipotence. The logical Truth of Omnipotence pertains to the scientific concepts of nothingness and the tenth dimension. Now, disregarding soon-to-be conventional physics as well as Spinoza, we have already logically proven the Law of Necessity and the Law of Omnipotence. The significance of nothingness or the tenth dimension is that it is valid and sound theoretical scientific evidence supporting the Second Law, which we have discovered based on pure logical inquiry. There is Absolute Necessity or Necessity, that there must be; there is Pure Potentiality or Omnipotence, that following from Necessity there is the requisite for possibility or potential, which is necessarily unbound and infinite in essence – hence, Omnipotence.
If possibility did not exist, then the World or Universe would not exist. The absence of possibility eliminates the possibility for anything. However, there is something, no doubt. Therefore, there must be possibility, and possibility means potential for anything. What, then, follows Necessity and Omnipotence? What follows is the Third Law of Existence, that of Consciousness.
Before seeing why Consciousness is the next logical step from Omnipotence, it is necessary to rid ourselves of any confusion as to what Consciousness, in this way, means. The conventional definition of “consciousness” is that it is the unity and actuality of our subjective experience. On a subtler note, what is the significance of the word subjective? “Subjective” implies there being a subject of some sort, relative to perception or experience. We can agree that we exist. We can agree that there is an “I” of which each of us can be aware. We can agree that there is a Witness “watching” all that arises within perception.
Subjectively, we can be Certain that I exist, and together, we can agree that “I” exists. The way we will view Consciousness is the way that we can view the subject, the Witness, the watcher, the “I,” that is the fundamental root of sentience. Consciousness, in this sense, is finer and more specific than the “unity and actuality of our subjective experience.” Rather, let us see Consciousness as the label we use to identify the essence of subjectivity, or – in Wilberian terms – “I-AMness.” What is I-AMness and how can we grasp its meaning? Perhaps the following thought experiment will help.
Let us attempt to structuralize experience. What constitutes experience? Bodily sensation, surely, contributes to experience. However, sensation is not all that we can experience. We do not exclusively experience seeing, touching, tasting, hearing, and smelling, for we also experience “feeling” as well as “thought.” Now, we may agree that experience consists most generally of sensation, thought, and feeling. More specifically, experience is the cohesion and interplay of sight, touch, taste, sound, smell, all feeling, and all thought.
Imagine we “removed” the component of sight. Experience still exists, no doubt – except now it consists of everything mentioned minus sight altogether; we can agree that should this happen to us – regardless how or why –, we would still exist, we would still be aware of what remains of our familiarity with ourselves and with the World. Going further, imagine we eliminated touch, taste, and sound as well. Experience now consists of smell, thought, and feeling. We can still agree that we exist. Now let us remove smell. We can still imagine and to some extent grasp, as absurd and abstract as it may seem, what experience would be like if all that existed were our abilities to feel and to think.
Moving along, let us rid experience of all feeling. Experience now consists of thought, and thought alone. We can nevertheless agree that, relative to this scenario, we would still exist – there would still be I-AMness, there would still be an “I.” Imagine that thought, now, only occurs in intervals. Every “five seconds,” say we experience a random thought. We still exist, no doubt. Instead of every “five seconds,” say we experience a thought every “ten seconds.” We still exist. Every “20 seconds” – we still exist. Every “minute” – we still exist.
Finally, imagine that like sensation and feeling, thought altogether disappears (as the above shows). Ignoring semantics and what “we” means, the question now is, “Do we still exist?” If our answer is no, then let us see why this is false. When there was still thought (exclusively), we likewise still existed, and when it occurred temporarily (i.e. the intervals), it is false to believe that we existed only when thought arose, but that we ceased to exist during the time in-between. We still existed, meaning “I” still existed, even when there was nothing to constitute experience whatsoever.
We agreed that experience most generally consists of all sensation, all feeling, and all thought. However, we have seen that Consciousness, or I-AMness, still remains even when there is no sensation, no feeling, and no thought. How can Consciousness remain without any kind of kinds of object(s) (of awareness)? The Kantian view, for instance, states that Consciousness only exists when there is something of which to be aware, i.e. experience – a very rational belief, indeed. Consciousness and experience, then, are synonymous. In order to disqualify this fallacy, let us agree that a subject cannot be an object and that an object cannot be a subject.
Let us agree that Consciousness or awareness is the subject, and that experience is the object. Experience cannot be aware of itself because it is by definition that which is Witnessed by awareness; likewise, Consciousness – that which Witnesses experience – is by definition not that – applying only to experience – which is Witnessed by awareness. Based on the law of non-contradiction, we can see that the totality of the objects of awareness cannot be the awareness of the objects. Furthermore, the objects are contingent on the awareness – they are virtually inexistent if there is nothing to Witness them. However, awareness is not contingent on the objects.
Necessarily and sufficiently, awareness is that which is aware. Necessarily and sufficiently, Consciousness is that which is Conscious. Therefore, awareness or Consciousness is able to be aware or Conscious of awareness or Consciousness, since this is both its “quality” and “function.” Experience cannot be aware or Conscious of experience, since experience is not awareness or Consciousness. The subtlety underlying what we have just attempted to understand may prove itself too abstract, lofty, and/or absurd for a number of readers. Thankfully, all this only serves at least to clarify what Consciousness means and, at best, to show that it is independent of and different from experience.
Perhaps we may agree that Consciousness is independent of and different from experience. Perhaps, then, it is plain to see that Consciousness in this light is unique unto itself. Again, in Wilberian terms, “Absolute Subjectivity” or being exists subtly detached from experience. With this relatively unorthodox view on Consciousness, it is further necessary to see that not only does Consciousness not depend on experience nor does it equate to experience, but also that it cannot be most fundamentally attributed to neurons firing within the brain. In other words, Consciousness (again by this definition) is not physical at all.
We know that neurons are responsible for at least one aspect of experience, sensation – but can they also be responsible for the Witness of experience? Perhaps neurons can create Consciousness, and perhaps Consciousness is nothing but the composition of billions of brain-cells in constant flux. Perhaps Consciousness is an emergent property, like sensation. For instance, at the atomic level, there is no such thing as “green” – this color emerges at a particular level of complexity. Likewise, perhaps the same explanation applies for Consciousness. If Consciousness is a physical emergent property, then we should see that it shares the same nature as sensation in that it is electric.
Let us pretend that Consciousness actually is electric in nature. Then, there must be a difference between the kind of electric quality characterizing sensation and the kind forming the subject of sensation. What, then, is the difference between these kinds of electricity, for one serves as the object of awareness while the other serves as the awareness itself? The only logical and physical explanation for this question is that Consciousness must be contained in the atoms providing the electricity responsible for both experience and subjectivity. Still, however, we see a problem.
Let us now pretend we have atoms containing Consciousness. We can see that Consciousness, then, cannot be the atoms, since it is contained in them. Furthermore, atoms cannot be Consciousness, since they contain it. Regardless, it is still possible that atoms contain Consciousness. However, it is not possible that atoms and Consciousness are synonymous, and that Consciousness is material – there is an automatic distinction between atoms and Consciousness still. At this point, either Consciousness is contained in atoms, or it is entirely independent of everything. If Consciousness is contained in atoms, then it must have existed before atoms existed. Let us see why.
Before there were atoms, there was simply energy. This energy, naturally, was able to produce atoms and everything that atoms contain. Atoms contain electricity, so the energy must have contained that which could have allowed the atoms subsequently to be electric in nature. Furthermore, we see that the energy must have also contained Consciousness. Electricity itself is contingent upon that which is able to become electricity. Likewise, Consciousness is contingent upon that which is able to become Consciousness. However, although it makes sense that electricity can emerge as the composition of originally pure and undifferentiated energy, the same does not apply for Consciousness. The subject, the Witness, the watcher, the “I,” awareness, I-AMness – Consciousness – none of these titles, each referring to the same notion, can be ultimately physical in nature.
Electricity, and what creates it, is definitely physical. However, we have agreed that if Consciousness is contained in atoms, then it must be contained in the origin of atoms, this being energy. However, as with the atoms, Consciousness cannot be the energy since it is contained in the energy and the energy cannot be Consciousness (in its essence) since it contains Consciousness. Even at the time of the Big Bang, when energy was all that was, there necessarily was still the distinction between Consciousness and the energy. Before the Big Bang, there was only quantum physics' nothingness. Nothingness, or Omnipotence, contained and contains the potential for the energy produced with the Big Bang. Likewise, nothingness contained and contains the potential for Consciousness. Having seen, further in depth, what Consciousness is, we will now see that Consciousness is the Third Law of Existence. The following does not depend on the clarification that we have just inspected. The following is logical proof for why Consciousness must follow from Omnipotence and Necessity.
A well-known philosophic expression asks the following: If a tree falls when no one is there, then does it make a sound? The immediate response for many may be yes. However, this inquiry has deeper meaning than the latter answer may suggest. The significance of this saying is that of Consciousness. The tree makes a sound if and only if there is someone there to experience the sound. Without experience, nothing would really exist. Bishop Berkley states, “To be is to be perceived.” If there were sensation, feeling, and thought, but no Consciousness, then experience would utterly cease to exist or to have any kind of significance. Without subjectivity or awareness, without Consciousness, the World would be the same as if there was no World at all. Imagine a World consisting of Absolute nothing. Now imagine a World consisting of “something,” but nothing able to be aware of such. Both these scenarios are essentially no different from one another. The first lacks objects of awareness, while the second lacks awareness of objects. Consciousness is necessary in addition to Omnipotence.
Omnipotence can create the World containing objects, but these objects are virtually inexistent and meaningless without a way for them to be recognized. Ergo, regarding Existence, Consciousness must follow Omnipotence; this is simply a metaphysical (logical) necessity. Furthermore, Omnipotence can create Consciousness, but Consciousness cannot create Omnipotence. Consciousness is Consciousness, and nothing more. Consciousness, in itself, is Absolute Subjectivity, and nothing more. It follows that Omnipotence precedes Consciousness since only it can create Consciousness. The Law of Consciousness along with the Laws of Omnipotence and Necessity, together form the logical anatomization of Spirit. Spirit consists of Necessity, Omnipotence, and Consciousness.