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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

Peter CollinsPeter 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.


Part II - Missing Dimensions of Relativity

The deeper implications of Einstein's theories of relativity have been greatly overlooked. For example, relativity properly pertains not only to quantitative measurement with respect to space and time but equally to qualitative interpretation of such measurement. This article attempts to apply appropriate qualitative interpretation to this and many other well-known relativity concepts.


Great revolutions in physics have the capacity to unify key aspects of scientific understanding through a radical new vision of reality.

However such a vision in itself often contains the seeds of further conflict, the solution of which may require a dramatic innovation at a later date.

Newton's law of gravity was a truly remarkable development applying a single principle to the behaviour of all material bodies both earthly and “heavenly”. Perhaps more than any other contribution it set the tone for the true differentiation of science as a rational analytic pursuit, free of the remnants of pseudo religious understanding through which it had been previously hampered. [1]

However Newton himself was fully aware that his explanation of gravity was philosophically unsatisfactory. Though he demonstrated with admirable clarity how gravity worked, he had no real explanation of what the force of gravity represented. Several hundred years later, Einstein was to exploit this lack in a radical new theory that has fundamentally changed our understanding of how the universe operates.

Then in the 19th century, Maxwell achieved another important breakthrough when he unified electricity and magnetism showing how they were two aspects of the same phenomenon i.e. the electromagnetic force. He also demonstrated how natural light is an important manifestation of this same force.

However this breakthrough also sowed the seeds of a new difficulty that once again would find its resolution through the genius of Einstein.

An important legacy of Newton's vision was that the nature of space and time is absolute. The speed of light had been successfully measured and shown to be 186,000 miles per second. Now according to the Newtonian understanding, if projected an object at high velocity to catch up as it were the speed of light, then the measured speed should be less.

From this perspective, for example with respect to an object travelling at 100,000 miles per second, measured light speed (between the light source and the object in question) should be 186,000 – 100,000 = 86,000 miles per second. However, even before Einstein's time this conclusion had been refuted through an important experiment, which showed that the speed of light always remained constant. [2]

Einstein himself in wondering what it would be like to travel alongside a beam of light saw another problem. Maxwell had predicted for light waves to exist that they must be in motion. Stationary light waves therefore could have no meaning. And for one travelling at light speed, in relative terms, light would indeed appear to be stationary. So the very notion of light waves would be rendered redundant at the speed of light!

Einstein's dramatic solution to this problem was eventually revealed in his special theory of relativity in 1905, leading to radical change in the Newtonian conception of space and time. Here Einstein postulated that the speed of light was central with all object phenomena necessarily travelling at lesser speeds. Likewise, measurements of space and time no longer had any absolute meaning depending on the relative velocities at which objects travel with respect to each other.

Einstein in a later addendum to this article also came up with the relationship showing the equivalence of mass and energy, leading to the most famous formula in physics i.e. E = MC2. [3]

We will initially focus on these developments in the special theory suggesting the nature of an integral approach (where physical and psychological aspects of understanding are combined in complementary fashion).

Relativity of Space and Time

By basing his perspective on the constancy of the speed of light, Einstein moved from the traditional view of space and time as somewhat absolute to a new understanding where they intimately depend on relative motion, which thereby dramatically affects the way in which both time and space behave.

Brian Greene in “The Elegant Universe” gives a striking example showing how the effects of motion on both time and space are truly minuscule at normal velocities.

For example with respect to a stationary observer, a car travelling at a constant speed of 120 mph will complete a certain distance in 30 seconds. However the same distance as measured by a person in the travelling car would take slightly less time 29.99999999999952 seconds. However as it would be impossible to measure this slight difference with present clock technology, the assumption that the measurement is the same for both stationary and moving observers works extremely well as a practical approximation (for speeds substantially less than that of light).

However when an object moves at a significant speed (relative to light) time differences can be considerable. Thus travelling at 87% of light speed, measured time to cover a given distance, from the stance of the moving object, would be just half of that registered for the same distance by a stationary observer.

So, as an object approaches the speed of light, time slows down significantly (relative to that measured by a stationary observer).

Greene also illustrates how for a moving object, measured spatial distance will also differ from that of the stationary observer. Say, the stationary observer measures the length of the car in our illustration as 16 ft. Then for the driver travelling at 120 mph, the length will be measured as slightly less i.e. 15.99999999999974 ft.

Again, this minute difference cannot be readily detected by conventional devices. So for speeds significantly less than light, the assumption that space measurements are similar for all observers, irrespective of motion is fully justifiable as a practical approximation.

However, again when an object moves at a significant speed (relative to light), space measurements can differ considerably. Thus travelling at 87% of light speed, measured length of the moving object would be just half of that for the same object (carried out by a stationary observer). Thus objects travelling close to the speed of light significantly shrink in size (relative to a stationary observer).

Because in practical terms normal speeds are significantly less than that of light, everyday experience tends to confirm the common sense intuition of absolute notions of space and time (irrespective of motion).

However there is a significant - largely unrecognised - problem to Einstein's treatment of space and time.

This arises due to his unquestioning acceptance of the conventional linear notion of rational understanding (where physical phenomena can be interpreted independent of the enquiring mind). And it is such understanding that is properly consistent with common sense notions of absolute space and time!

Momentary consideration of the issue will show that it is impossible to reflect - as Einstein did - on the nature of space and time without implicitly accepting that physical (external) and psychological (internal) aspects of understanding must necessarily interact.

As illustrated, absolute physical notions of space and time work well as an approximation when the degree of motion is limited relative to that of physical light.

Likewise, absolute psychological notions of space and time (as with linear understanding) also work well as an approximate means of interpretation when the degree of motion i.e. with respect to the dynamic interaction of polarities is limited (relative to that approaching contemplation of pure spiritual light).

Because of limited interaction at the middle stages, intuitive experience remains somewhat restricted and is dominated by linear rational understanding. Indeed in formal terms the conventional scientific paradigm ignores the nondual intuitive element altogether. This enables patterns of rational interpretation that are assumed similar for all observers (irrespective of spiritual intuitive type development).

However for one genuinely progressing on a contemplative path, psychological motion considerably increases in the refined dynamic interplay of polarities such as external and internal that are no longer exclusively viewed in dualistic terms. Approaching light speed in this psycho spiritual context therefore reflects the extent to which one can attain a state of pure nondual awareness (which is experienced as a state of rest).

The clear implication therefore is that qualitative scientific interpretation of reality will differ significantly when carried out from the perspective of higher stages of development (relative to conventional scientific interpretation).

Putting it another way, a major missing dimension in Einstein's treatment of relativity is the manner in which it ignores that scientific qualitative interpretation of space and time is itself relative (depending on the stage of the psychological spectrum from which it is viewed). [4]

Einstein implicitly assumed that there was just one overall valid means of rational interpretation (in what is termed the classical scientific paradigm).

However in this key aspect he was fundamentally mistaken. Just as measurements of space and time are intimately dependent on relative physical notions of motion, likewise measurements of space and time (in the manner we qualitatively interpret such notions) are intimately dependent on corresponding relative psychological notions of space and time.

Thus the qualitative interpretation of space and time changes so fundamentally when we approach it in an integral manner - reflecting understanding of the higher stages of development - that it really constitutes a different interpretation altogether!


In the following, I will illustrate this point by contrasting the understanding of space and time consistent with the higher 1 stage (integral 1) with conventional middle stage interpretation.

Fundamental to this “higher” stage is the realisation that physical and psychological appreciation of space and time are complementary notions (which cannot be properly understood in abstraction from each other).

On reflection one can readily appreciate how psychological notions are indeed relative (demanding on different states of e-motion). For example when one is bored, time in psychological terms tends to slow down. Alternatively when under stress, such as when busy at work, time will speed up (with the characteristic feeling of not enough being available to carry out required activities). [5]

Likewise space distances can change dramatically in psychological terms (depending on one's emotional state). For example, when feeling fresh and buoyant, goals may appear closer to us (and thereby achievable). However when tired - and again under stress - they may seem much further away. Indeed in the accepted physical sense of distance, one can readily appreciate how the finishing line would seem far away for a tired marathon runner!

Once again, absolute notions of space and time that still inform common sense are a direct product of the scientific paradigm (which Einstein accepted without question).

Firstly with this paradigm external and internal polarities are formally separated. So, physical notions are therefore considered independent of their psychological counterparts.

Secondly, in this approach objects are assumed to have an independent existence. In psychological terms this amounts to a reduced understanding of the relationship between concepts and perceptions. Because of such reductionism, space and time are seen as the backdrop containers in which such independent objects are placed.

Now this paradigm was indeed more properly consistent with the Newtonian view of the universe.

The great paradox in Einstein's case is that a new intuitive understanding (not related to the accepted scientific paradigm) implicitly led to his great breakthrough. However having used intuition to fuel his new relative understanding, he then tried to channel these findings through the conventional rational paradigm.

In other words to properly understand Einstein's notions in a consistent qualitative manner - so that his findings now seem directly intuitive - we need a new scientific paradigm, or more correctly a whole range of new paradigms, to appreciate his findings in a truly integral fashion. [6]

And the first step with this new paradigm is to accept that internal and external aspects dynamically interact in experience (even when attempting to carry out strict physical measurements).

We cannot experience an object phenomenon (as external) without a corresponding mental construct (as internal).

So when we speak of an object such as the “sun”, in the conventional paradigm this is given an unambiguous existence (as an external physical object).

However in integral 1 understanding, the “sun” is now understood as a dynamic experiential interaction entailing both the external object of “sun” (to which our internal perception refers) and the - relatively - internal perception of “sun” (to which the external object relates”).

Now let us demonstrate clearly how this changes understanding. In conventional terms it would be accepted that it takes about 8 minutes for light to travel from the sun to the earth. In this way time has just one positive direction (i.e. forward). Likewise the distance travelled - about 93 million miles - has a positive direction in space (as forward).

With integral 1 understanding, interpretation is much more refined. Now we have two aspects internal and external involved in understanding. If we treat both aspects as independent, unambiguous interpretation will arise. So we can measure distances in space and time either with reference to the external objects involved, or alternatively the internal mental constructs we use to represent such “objects”.

However when we allow for dynamic interaction, a new problem arises in that internal and external reference frames become paradoxical. So what is positive (or forward) in terms of one frame is now - relatively - negative (or backwards) with respect to the other.

Therefore when we treat both reference frames as interdependent, space and time distances are thereby - relatively - both positive and negative with respect to each other.

So what does this all mean? Well these paradoxical findings actually point to the fact that there is a nondual element with respect to interpretation (which is central to all experience). Thus from a nondual perspective (where all reference frames are considered simultaneously) space and time have an absolute meaning as the present moment. This finding can then be given indirect rational paradoxical expression through the complementary pairing of opposite polarities that are positive and negative with respect to each other. Linear notions of space and time then only have a relative arbitrary meaning with respect to this present moment.

Indeed I have found such understanding of great assistance as a means of highlighting the psychological futility of maintaining attachment to phenomenal events. By definition a phenomenal event can never take place in the present moment but rather in a framework of space and time - that properly understood - is always relatively past and future (with respect to the nondual present moment).

So in the deepest sense, all phenomena are but illusionary manifestations (in relative space and time) of a nondual present reality that continually exists. So attachment to phenomena is to be trapped - literally - in illusion!

Of course mystics of all ages have clearly realised this! However my point is that - when appropriately understood - such insight is inseparable from enhanced scientific interpretation of physical reality.

Indeed it leads to an entirely new appreciation of the true nature of dimensions -applicable in both physical and psychological terms - that is directly related to corresponding mathematic notions (when understood in a holistic manner).

Looked at another way, what we have demonstrated here is that (nondual) intuition must be incorporated with (dual) reason for integral interpretation of reality. (Again such intuition is then indirectly translated in a rational manner through the circular logic of the complementarity of opposites!)

When we re-examine Einstein's approach closely, we can now perhaps appreciate a certain lack of integration involved in the overall way he sought to interpret his scientific experience. Though implicitly adopting a mystical worldview recognising the great importance of wonder and intuition for appreciating reality, he then attempted to fit such understanding within a linear scientific paradigm (that is solely rational).

Before leaving this section, I just wish to point to one key issue that illustrates the importance of this more integral appreciation of the nature of space and time.

Einstein's equations in his later work on general relativity led to the view that our universe started with a Big Bang some 13.7 million year ago. And by unwinding the universe backwards to the first instants of its existence, many physicists believe that we will be perhaps be able to eventually reach that treasured original unification of forces (which forms the central basis of a TOE).

However this reflects a reduced linear type of thinking. From an integral perspective, all investigation starts with the present moment (in which experience takes place). Space and time are then clearly seen to have a merely relative meaning with directions that are always ultimately paradoxical with respect to each other.

We often seem to forget that we ourselves with our remarkable capacity to reflect on the nature of existence are products of evolution that arose with the Big Bang. So rather than being in some way outside this event with the ability to objectively investigate its nature, we are in fact inextricably linked in psychological terms with what we are attempting to understand physically.

So current notions of linear time extrapolated backwards to the Big Bang ultimately break down altogether in the context of that original event. Again we are still trying to measure time as outside passive observers of the Big Bang, although such measurement would greatly differ from within that initial event! Thus it is somewhat meaningless to attempt to give a starting point in space and time to our universe (in a restricted linear manner). Properly, we always start with the present moment from which finite measurements of space and time then have a purely relative meaning.

The clear implication of this in turn is that just as the ultimate unification of the psychological aspect of reality comes through pure contemplative awareness, likewise - because physical and psychological are complementary - ultimate unification (in understanding) of physical reality with respect to the four physical forces comes through that same awareness. So correctly understood in an integral manner, the four physical forces are united in the (absolute) present moment that underlies all relative phenomenal manifestations of reality.

Physical and Spiritual Light

It is quite easy to see how physical light has a ready complementary psychological notion in that of spiritual light.

So natural light provides us with the means to physically see and observe phenomena. Spiritual light in turn provides that intuitive vision or insight by which we can psychologically see into the nature of phenomena. Also, as we have seen, physical light provides the absolute means through which all relative notions of space and time are based; likewise spiritual light provides the absolute (nondual) means through which all relative psychological notions of space and time are based.

When physical motion is considerably less than light speed, measurements of space and time appear similar for all observers (irrespective of motion); Likewise when psychological motion (in the degree of interaction between polarities) is very limited relative to the pure nondual understanding characterising spiritual light, psychological interpretation based on the conventional scientific paradigm is assumed similar for all enquirers (irrespective of the stage of development from which it is taken). Time does not pass for spiritual light, which is always present. And within its own frame of reference, time does not pass for physical light which exists in the present moment.

Though Einstein did indeed brilliantly show how physical notions of space and time are relative (depending on motion), he failed to see that there is an equally important complementary qualitative side to such understanding relating to psychological motion (depending on the dynamic nature of the stage of development from which such enquiry takes place).

So rather than just one valid interpretative system for scientific reality, there are potentially in fact an infinite number ultimately culminating in the pure contemplative vision (i.e. nondual present reality).

However comparisons between physical and spiritual light go further showing that the relationship is much more intimate than one of mere analogy. And it is the very essence of the integral approach to appreciate reality in such a way that these complementary type relationships are made fully explicit in understanding.

As we know physical light (as a manifestation of the electromagnetic force) has both wave and particle aspects.

In like manner, spiritual light has both wave and particle aspects in what are usually referred to as its transcendent and immanent aspects respectively.

Once again spiritual light is nondual within its absolute present frame of reference. Only when spiritual light interacts with phenomena can transcendent and immanent aspects become apparent.

It is perhaps easier initially to identify the transcendent with the wave and the immanent with the particle aspect of light respectively.

The transcendent tends to go beyond specific phenomena in a more general appreciation of the holistic dimensional aspect of reality. Contemplative spiritual development is often strongly associated with its transcendent aspect. Indeed in the mystical literature we can often identify a pronounced wave aspect through the cyclical unfolding of phases of illumination and purgation associated with such development!

The immanent aspect can by contrast be more readily associated with the particle nature of physical light. For example Blake's oft quoted line “To see a world in a grain of sand” provides a good example of the complementary immanent spiritual viewpoint.

We can also see a close complementary relationship as between the overall physical electromagnetic spectrum and a corresponding spiritual light spectrum.

Ken Wilber has fruitfully used this comparison in deriving his “Spectrum of Consciousness”. So, just as electromagnetic energy can be described through a spectrum of various bands (exhibiting distinct features) likewise we have a psychological spectrum with various stages (also exhibiting distinct features).

And this comparison involves much more than a helpful analogy connecting the physical and psychological realms.

As we know the various bands of the spectrum of electromagnetic energy are defined by characteristics such as wavelength and frequency, which vary inversely with each other. Thus energy of short wavelength will be emitted with high levels of frequency; by contrast energy of long wavelength will be emitted with low levels of frequency.

Natural light varies from ultra-violet red at its lower end to infra red at the higher end and resides somewhere in the middle of the Spectrum. Below the ultra-violet we then have X-rays of shorter wavelength and higher frequency and below that again the bands of gamma and high gamma rays.

Then above the infrared we have the microwave and radio bands where waves are progressively of longer wavelength and lower frequency.

It is very similar in psychological terms. The middle stages of development are characterised by that band of light through which we can conventionally “see” into natural phenomena and relationships.

However above this band are further types of more contemplative spiritual light - characteristic of the “higher” stages of development - leading to understanding that cannot be seen in a conventional manner.

Also the holistic type of insight that facilitates a truly universal understanding of reality is the direct product of these “higher” bands that are extremely passive i.e. of low frequency and long wavelength suited to more general considerations.

So even in conventional terms the radio band of longest wavelength and lowest frequency is ideally suited as a means of global communication (as with radio and TV)!

Then, below ultra-violet we have the X-ray and gamma rays. In psycho spiritual terms these correspond well to that intense type of inner radiation that is characteristic of the purgative phases of the spiritual journey. So, just as a physical X-ray can facilitate investigation of what is inside the body that cannot be seen by ordinary light, likewise a spiritual X-ray, in the effects of this purgative light, can more easily reveal the faults and imperfections of the unreformed ego. This helps to explain that feeling of wretchedness and sinfulness that is characteristic of so many spiritual mystical accounts. In other words it takes the more intensive spiritual light of the dark purgative stages to properly reveal the nature of such imperfection!

Thus in my own work I use this notion of the bands of electromagnetic energy to refer to the spiritual states that are characteristic of the various stages of the spectrum. However we must remember that light also has a particle aspect. So in relative terms this would then apply to the various structures (of form) that are associated with each of the various stages.

So for a comprehensive account of development each stage needs to be associated both with a characteristic state (as wave) and structure (as particle) in a dynamically interactive manner.

Equivalence of Mass and Energy

In a postscript to his 1905 article on special relativity, Einstein drew attention to the equivalence of mass and energy which has led to - what is commonly accepted as - the most famous formula in physics i.e. E = MC2. [8]

Thus mass can be converted into energy and energy in turn into mass. And because the square of the speed of light (c) is such a large number, this implies that an enormous amount of energy can be created from a very small amount of matter.

One way in which this law is demonstrated is through the interactions of high-energy physics where matter and anti-matter particles annihilate each other in the direct creation of energy. So here we have direct evidence of how the fusing of opposite polarities of matter (positive and negative) leads to the significant formation of energy.

Once again we have a direct complementary relationship in spiritual terms. Thus the creation of intuitive energy (which is necessary to fuel the dynamics of understanding) comes from the fusing of complementary positive and negative polarities of psychic matter i.e. the phenomena of understanding.

Unfortunately, because the scientific appreciation of the middle stages is based on the clear separation of polarities (such as internal and external) it has no formal place for the role of intuition, treating all understanding of phenomena in merely reduced rational terms.

However the higher stages of spiritual development do lend themselves directly to the transformation in psychological terms of mass into energy.

As we have seen, the starting basis for this process is the clear recognition of paradox with respect to all dualistic interpretation. Such paradox therefore creates the corresponding psychic anti-matter for all (former) matter understanding. And when these complementary poles interact in experience it leads to the direct generation of spiritual intuitive energy (which within its own frame of reference is nondual).

We can validly view the contemplative spiritual journey as the attempt to ultimately transform all phenomenal mass in psychic experience into pure spiritual energy.

Indeed it is fruitful to look at the manner in which the stages of higher development unfold.

Typically the erosion of a previous stage comes about through a purgation or cleansing (where former attachment to phenomena is significantly reduced). This leads to the gradual transformation in an initially unconscious manner of mass into spiritual energy. Then, often in a new conversion experience the higher stage unfolds through an outpouring of illumination i.e. spiritual energy, in a refined conscious manner.

This then leads to more transparent experience of phenomena whereby the spiritual energy gradually gets converted into new refined forms of mass.

So, gradually as the energy gets depleted, enthusiasm and creative vision wane somewhat. Fresh attachments thereby arise thus creating the need for a renewed conversion of mass into energy in a further purgative process.

However there can be severe limitations to the traditional contemplative journey. As physics demonstrates, a small amount of energy can be transformed into a significant amount of energy.

Likewise in spiritual terms a small amount of phenomenal experience can form the basis for the authentic contemplation of nondual reality.

However, this process can be approached narrowly through greatly limiting the range of phenomena experienced. Indeed in the past this was facilitated through the formation of monastic communities largely shut off from the world with day-to-day life tightly constrained within predictable limits.

So is it certainly possible to specialise in contemplative type development in an otherworldly manner that is somewhat unhealthy.

This is an issue that I feel is not dealt with satisfactorily in the mystical literature.

Thus I would argue now for the need for including an extensive range of further stages on the psychological spectrum following attainment of nondual contemplative awareness. So, with the radial stages, as I refer to them, spiritual energy could then interact in a more extensive manner with a wide range of phenomenal mass forms.

It is a customary failing for people to believe that their own age is critical with the most significant advances already achieved.

I believe that this is greatly mistaken and would argue that we are still at an extremely early stage of human evolution in scientific and spiritual terms. So from this perspective, even the greatest mystics have achieved very little in terms of the potential for transformation available.

So human evolution does not end through successful conversion of one's own mass, through phenomenal life experience, into spiritual energy, which is always of a limited approximate nature. Ultimately total attainment for one individual requires that the phenomenal experience of all sentient beings (which includes everything in creation) be likewise converted into spiritual energy, a task that will always remain unattainable!

Indeed there is a striking parallel here with Einstein's physical ideas.

It is not possible for a physical phenomenon to travel as fast as the speed of light. The reason for this is that the mass of a particle increases as it approaches the speed of light. Therefore it takes more and more energy to increase the speed of the particle that is gaining in mass so that ultimately it would take an infinite amount of energy for even one particle to completely close that gap.

So likewise in spiritual terms it would require an infinite amount of energy to completely convert form into emptiness (which is not possible). So the experience of spiritual unity is always approximate and can never be fully attained.

Ultimately total transformation for one individual would require that all phenomena in creation be likewise converted into spiritual energy, which will always remain incomplete.

General Relativity: Nature of Gravity

Einstein quickly realised that the findings of his special theory were in conflict with Newton's theory of gravity.

For Newton the force of gravity, depending on the mass of a body and its distance from other bodies, was transmitted immediately in a manner for which he offered no explanation.

However Einstein maintained that nothing could travel faster than the speed of light.

So for example, if the sun was to suddenly explode, from the Newtonian perspective this would immediately influence the elliptical orbit of the Earth. However according to Einstein's Theory, it would take at least 8 minutes for this influence to be communicated to Earth. So a consequence of the special theory was that a new theory of gravity (consistent with this theory) was required.

Einstein would spend - on and off - the next 10 years in resolving this issue of gravity. His earliest key insight in 1907 was the recognition that acceleration and gravity were equivalent concepts. We can get some insight into the truth of this proposition with respect to the manner in which an accelerating car tends to push us back into our seats (as if experiencing an increase in gravity). Remember that the special theory was framed for observers moving at a constant velocity with respect to each other (where consistency could be maintained)! So it seemed natural to try and extend this approach to accelerated velocity and the equivalence of gravity and acceleration facilitated this approach.

Now the task for an integral approach to physics is to demonstrate a complementary psychological correspondent to gravity.

My own insights into this matter have been greatly facilitated through the work of the Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross.

St. John can be best seen as a most reliable guide on how the process of psychological acceleration with respect to the spiritual life occurs. In reading his formal work, one realises that he spends very little time on the illuminative stages. Indeed he is somewhat scathing of the imperfections of proficients, who already have reached a fairly advanced stage of illumination. So for St. John true progress in the spiritual life comes from the dramatic negations or “dark nights” that occur with authentic mystical aspirants.

He gives several classifications of the nature of these nights with initial focus on active nights (of sense and spirit) that are consciously initiated and then the more directly intuitively inspired passive nights (also of sense and spirit).

Now what is apparent from St. John's treatment is that these great accelerations in spiritual development (especially with the most advanced passive night of the spirit) lead to a dramatic increase in psychological gravity.

When we reflect on it gravity - like light - has important psychological connotations.

A person can be described as having a grave or serious manner in contrast with one who is light or superficial. Light itself is associated directly with life (in physical and conscious terms). However gravity is more closely aligned with darkness and death. Indeed when someone dies it is still customary in many countries to place the body of the deceased in a grave!

Also, the word grief - which is directly associated with the psychological notion of gravity - is etymologically of similar origin.

Einstein's second big insight regarding the nature of gravity was the manner in which large bodies cause a warping or curvature of space and time in their environment (depending on the gravitational force exerted).

In a reverse complementary fashion, grief is directly caused through the loss of - literally - what matters most to us in psychological terms.

Thus when we suffer some big misfortune e.g. the death of a loved one, severe illness, financial ruin etc. this becomes associated with characteristic feelings of grief.

This likewise leads to a curvature in the psychological framework of space and time in a manner that is very revealing.

As we know in psychological terms, conscious and unconscious continually interact. Now when phenomena to which we are consciously attached are lost, this inevitably leads to a switch to the unconscious. And here in our grief we become more attuned to focusing on the holistic meaning of life (rather than its varied specific manifestations). And just as conscious understanding is inherently based on a linear logic of separated opposites, unconscious appreciation by contrast is based on a circular logic of complementary opposites.

So as unconscious life deepens due to an experience of deep grief, quite literally therefore our psychological framework of space and time can undergo considerable curvature through a more holistic and - hopefully - more integral appreciation.

In this very understanding of the nature of psychological gravity, there is a clue as to why physical gravity has proven so problematic.

Conventional scientific understanding - as we have seen - is based on direct conscious interpretation of reality. However gravity essentially relates to the physical counterpart of unconscious understanding (which cannot be directly appropriated within current theories).

So, just as we recognise that in psychological terms we have conscious (manifest) and unconscious (unmanifest) aspects, likewise it is similar in complementary physical terms. So, visible phenomena which can be consciously interpreted are therefore in continual interaction with an invisible holistic ground of reality. And it is to this holistic ground that the notion of gravity directly relates.

Indeed even more dramatic connections can be demonstrated as between the physical and psychological manifestations of gravity.

Black holes - which arise out of Einstein's equations in the general theory - represent matter such as a burnt out star that has imploded or contacted into an extremely small volume, which thereby exercises an enormous amount of gravity.

Not all burnt out stars are destined to become black holes. The influential astronomer Roy Kerr distinguished in the 60's between stable and dynamically rotating stars and it is with the latter case that black hole implosion takes place causing an extreme curvature in the nature of space and time. So matter in the vicinity of the black hole will be sucked in and the warping or curvature of space and time will become so severe that even light cannot be emitted from the hole.

There are strong complementary similarities here with the dark night.

At the same time that Einstein was developing his views on gravity, Evelyn Underhill published her seminal book “Mysticism” in 1911 where she demonstrated a striking psychological appreciation of the nature of spiritual development.

For example she explains how the onset of the “Dark Night of the Soul” is due to a special type of “burn out” or fatigue that is most likely to be suffered by the great spiritual stars (that have already experienced intense periods of illumination). Indeed she highlights in her account how unstable personality traits are often characteristic of such “stars”.

So the onset of the dark night closely parallels the manner in which rotating physical stars implode. And just as the black hole leads to the generation of immense gravity, the dark night leads to a corresponding generation of immense psychological gravity (in the form of an intense feeling of loss and subsequent experience of grief).

Just as a black hole will suck in matter in its vicinity, likewise the dark night keeps sucking inward one's phenomenal experience with all becoming deeply internalised in an unconscious manner. This leads to a greatly intensified feeling of loss as former attachments to phenomena are considerably exposed.

There are such strong parallels as between the physical black hole and psycho spiritual dark night that holistic understanding of both areas can be greatly assisted through cross referencing behaviour in complementary fashion.

For example one significant problem that I feel has not been properly addressed in the mystical literature is the manner in which emergence from a severe dark night process occurs. Too often, accounts misleadingly suggest that it leads directly to spiritual union. However from a psychological perspective this makes little sense.

Remarkably - when interpreted in an integral manner - Stephen Hawking's seminal work on black hole radiation provides the means for a more complete understanding of the psychological transition from a severe dark night episode.

Hawking showed that in the vicinity of the event horizon, virtual particles would be emitted. This would then lead to the possibility of the polarities being momentarily separated with the positive pole leading to a flow of radiation. In this way the black hole through this process of radiation would become less black and eventually radiate altogether. Thus gravity in this manner would become totally transformed into radiation.

The manner in which the dark night is resolved is similar in psycho spiritual terms. Here the unconscious starts to project remaining unreformed material into experience in a new form of transient imaginary consciousness (where phenomena represent the holistic expression of the unconscious).

In this way repressed material from the unconscious is gradually relieved thus leading to a considerable easing in one's psychological situation. So as I would see it lengthy periods of virtual type consciousness e.g. in the emission of deep-rooted fantasies, are required before mystical union with reality can be attained.

So rather that just highlighting the empty spiritual state h2 (of the causal level), I would lay considerable emphasis on the importance of the virtual (i.e. imaginary) type structures that unfold at this time. In this way a proper balance as between form and emptiness (and emptiness and form) can be maintained.

Furthermore, as we shall see, this treatment in turn provides significant clues as to appropriate means of reconciling quantum mechanics with relativity theory.

Unified Field Theory

As is well known, Einstein spent the last 35 years of his life in the unsuccessful pursuit of a unified field theory.

Physicists often use the term “field” in relation to the various forces. So a unified field theory represents a unification of the four forces, which is customarily seen as a major requirement for a TOE (Theory of Everything).

In Einstein's time only the electromagnetic and gravity forces were recognised. So Einstein essentially was attempting to unify these two forces in a consistent manner. However he was handicapped due to his unwillingness to recognise the philosophical implications of quantum mechanics. So essentially he was attempting unification within the classical scientific paradigm (which was not appropriate for the task involved).

Subsequently two new forces viz. the weak and strong nuclear respectively were discovered which operate internally within the nucleus of atoms. So, attempted unification in the modern sense applies to the four known forces i.e. electromagnetic, gravitational, weak and strong. Now. there are great hopes that this can at last be achieved within string theory (which we will deal with in another article).

However my purpose here is to provide the basis for an entirely different integral approach, which ultimately I believe provides a more coherent resolution. Once again this requires demonstrating complementary psychological equivalents for each of the four physical forces and then - by indicating clearly the precise holistic mathematical nature of the two sets of forces - showing how they are unified in an experiential manner.

As stated clearly by Kaku and Thompson in their book “Beyond Einstein” a force is anything that can move an object. [9]

In complementary manner therefore a force gives rise to motion in psychological terms. And this is what is commonly referred to as motivation (which resides ultimately in the will). In other words, meaningful psychological activity always presupposes some basic motivation or purpose for interaction to take place.

We can express such motivation in basically four ways (corresponding to the physical forces).

Once again, Evelyn Underhill at the same time that Einstein was probing into the electromagnetic and gravitational forces implicitly examined the same issue in psycho spiritual terms. Underhill was clearly concerned to explain how the process of mystical development towards eventual unity takes place and decided that two basic motivational types were involved i.e. the transcendental (metaphysical) and immanent (devotional) respectively.

The transcendent could be best identified with the gravitational and the immanent with the electromagnetic force respectively. Though initial development would largely take place through a characteristic type, successful union ultimately entailed significant integration of both aspects.

So interpreted in this light, mystical union in experience entailed the successful fusion of the gravitational and electromagnetic forces (in psychological terms).

The two new forces in physical terms can be incorporated by treating then as internal counterparts to the already externally recognised forces. So the weak would represent the internal counterpart of the electromagnetic and the strong the internal counterpart of the gravitational force respectively.

Indeed the very words used to represent the two new forces (weak and strong) suggest complementarity in the same manner as gravity and (electromagnetic) energy. Whereas gravity is “heavy”, energy is “light”; equally whereas gravity is “dark” energy is again “light”.

If we apply this reasoning in complementary psychological terms, we have now four fundamental motivational types (with characteristics corresponding to the four psychological forces).

Underhill herself gives many examples of these types.

The (external) immanent corresponding psychologically to the electromagnetic force is best given by the nature mystics (who literally can see the phenomena of nature illumined by a new spiritual light). Walt Whitman represents a fine example. Also the well-known poets William Blake and William Wordsworth would also fall into the same category.

The (internal) immanent type corresponds psychologically to the weak force, which is often characterised by somewhat unstable emotional states.

Underhill refers on numerous occasions to an extreme example in the French mystic Madame Guyon (who clearly fascinated her from a psychological perspective). We could indeed refer to Madame Guyon as having a fussy radio-active type of personality due to the continual fluctuation of emotional states which tended to quickly dissipate in experience. Catherine of Genoa and Teresa of Avila would perhaps represent more balanced examples of the same type.

The (external) transcendent type corresponds to the gravitational force. In psychological terms this is often associated with the more intellectual personality that - literally seeks to hold all knowledge together - in a universal interpretation of reality. Einstein himself was a good example of this type with - not surprisingly - his main preoccupation the corresponding understanding of the nature of physical gravity. However though inspired by intuitive insight he was not truly of the mystical integral school. In other words Einstein sought primarily for an intellectual unification of reality rather than one directly based on experience.

A better example of the more mystical type is perhaps provided by his close contemporary Teilhard de Chardin, who sought to provide an inherent integral view (combining physical and psychological aspects) of the nature and course of evolution. [10] Meister Eckhart would also represent another more deeply spiritual example.

A corresponding good example of the internal gravitational is then given by St. John of the Cross. Such types are motivated primarily by the desire for the transcendence of the personal self and are often willing to endure a great deal of psychological pain in pursuit of their objectives.

In this way they develop an extremely strong nucleus of personality, which becomes largely impervious to external misfortune. So with this type it is a strong inner faith that above all defines the personality.

The Flemish mystic Ruysbroeck, a “favourite” of Underhill is especially interesting as he - perhaps more than any other Christian writer - manages to maintain harmony as between motivational extremes.

Indeed in his own writings the highest stage of the mystical life is referred to as the Superessential Life (which bears comparison with the supersymmetric state where the forces are unified).

So it is in Ruysbroeck that we get this healthy balance as between the internal and external regarding the need for both contemplation and activity, which mutually can serve each other. Also we have a wonderfully exalted and poetic account of ultimate union (where immanence and transcendence are one). Perhaps the best way to refer to this state is as a dazzling darkness!

So here at last the gravitational and electromagnetic forces are unified in a psycho spiritual manner (with respect to both external and internal aspects). And the key to this unification is that it happens in a nondual manner (without phenomenal restriction).

Therefore we can intellectually translate the nature of this union only in an indirect rational manner through the language of circular paradox. [11]

However what is truly remarkable from the integral viewpoint is that it is in this very same experience that the complementary physical forces are similarly united (with respect to understanding) in a psycho physical nondual manner (preceding phenomenal identity).

And exactly the same indirect intellectual interpretation (of circular paradox) that applies at a psycho spiritual now equally applies likewise at the psycho physical level.

So in integral terms (related to direct experience of ultimate reality) both the physical and psychological forces are united in the same experience in the present moment continually renewed. Here the Alpha, as potential source of all physical existence and the Omega, as transformed actualised psychological goal of such existence, become one (as reality truly knowing itself in deepest union).

It is this unification (that indirectly can be expressed holistically as a compelling TOE) that is the true goal of integral physics. This then becomes the appropriate starting basis for a fully comprehensive scientific understanding that combines both quantitative and qualitative aspects of interpretation in a truly balanced manner i.e. radial physics.


1. Adam Smith was the first economist to truly understand the key role of the price mechanism in the functioning of capitalist market systems. He likened it to “an invisible hand” giving it a similar role within economic societies to the role of gravity which Newton had defined with respect to the physical world.

2. The Michelson-Morley experiment conducted in 1887 demonstrated that the velocity of light had a constant speed irrespective of relative movements with other bodies.

3. E here represents energy (measured in joules). M = mass (measured in kilograms) and c = speed of light (measured in metres per second). For example in one kilogram of water we have 111 grams of hydrogen i.e. .111 kg. So converting this into energy gives us: E = .111 * 300,000,000 * 300,000,000 = 10,000,000,000,000,000 joules (approx). This is equivalent to the energy from burning several hundred thousand gallons of gasoline!

4. The Uncertainty Principle would then apply with respect to the relationship as between the quantitative and qualitative measurements of space and time. Therefore greatest accuracy with respect to the quantitative aspect (as with the conventional scientific approach) corresponds with least accuracy with respect to the true qualitative nature of space and time; in reverse fashion greatest accuracy with respect to the true qualitative nature of space and time (approaching pure contemplation of reality) corresponds with least accuracy in quantitative terms. The clear implication is that space and time do not constitute fundamental physical notions, but merely have a relative validity dependent on phenomenal circumstances.

5. There is a famous quote by Albert Einstein used by him to give a simple explanation of Relativity. "Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. THAT'S Relativity." However though indeed instantly accessible to understanding, there is an important unrecognised problem with this quote in that it properly relates to the psychological - rather than the physical - meaning of relativity. The clear implication therefore is that relativity - with respect to both space and time - has both physical and psychological aspects, which are complementary. However Einstein's theory confines itself merely to the (quantitative) physical aspect!

6. Such paradigms can be shown to be intimately linked with the holistic mathematical notion of numbers (as dimensions). And as the set of possible numbers is infinite (conventionally understood), the set of possible paradigms is likewise infinite. The qualitative structure, which defines each number (as dimension) is obtained through consideration of the corresponding number of roots (in quantitative terms). However whereas the quantitative structure of mathematical roots is defined in conventional (either/or) linear terms, the corresponding qualitative structure is defined through (both/and) circular logic. So the two roots of 1 for example are either + 1 or – 1. The corresponding qualitative structure of 2-dimensional understanding is given as both + 1 and – 1. In other words, such understanding is defined by the complementarity of real (conscious) opposite poles in experience (e.g. internal and external).

7. St. John of the Cross is perhaps the extreme exponent of the dark night process in Christian mysticism. His account is extraordinary as it reaches a depth of expression that - to my mind - is quite unmatched in the spiritual literature. One can sense in his treatise on the “Dark Night of the Soul” an immensely concentrated form of grief arising from feelings of utter spiritual abandonment. Such feelings become greatly accentuated during the dark night as a result of the intensely congested environment of the inner psyche. Indeed a line that I had read many years earlier in Butler's “Lives of the Saints” regarding St. John's dark night experience left an indelible impression. “So violent was his sorrow in this state of privation that it seemed he must have died of grief if God had not supported him by his grace.”

8. It appears that a largely unknown Italian Olinto de Pretto published the famous equation two years earlier than Einstein in 1903 and that he (Einstein) may have already been aware of this fact!

9. For example magnetism (as a manifestation of the electro-magnetic force) can make a compass needle spin; gravity (especially in its concentrated form as in a black hole) can influence the behaviour of matter!

10. It is worth remarking that de Chardin was a very close contemporary and passed away just 8 days before Einstein's own death. Though his synthesis lacks rigour in the accepted scientific sense, its deeper implications are extremely challenging for Einstein's view. In other words, ultimately we cannot hope to understand reality fully without recognising that both physical and psychological aspects are inevitably intertwined at all levels of investigation.

11. To appreciate the holistic mathematical nature of the four forces (both in physical and psychological terms) we require - what I refer to as - integral 3 understanding. This incorporates the earlier understanding associated with integral 1 (2-dimensional) and integral 2 (4-dimensional) and is based on 8-dimensional appreciation of reality. The structure of such understanding is then obtained through consideration of the corresponding 8 roots of unity. 4 of these have already been encountered with integral 1 and integral 2 appreciation. The additional 4 dimensions are especially relevant with respect to the structure of the four forces.

In each case these combine both a real and an imaginary part (that are equal). In the same way light for example combines both a particle and a wave structure (that are equally important). These dimensions can also be represented by the diagonal lines (that arise from their geometrical representation). Remarkably these can be shown to be null lines with no magnitude. So light in its own inherent nature (where both wave and particle aspects simultaneously exist) is purely empty in nature (with no phenomenal characteristics).

The same reasoning can be shown to apply to the other physical forces and likewise in complementary manner the corresponding psychological forces.


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Penrose, Roger: The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics: Oxford University Press USA, 2002 Underhill, Evelyn: Mysticism, a study in the nature and development of man's spiritual consciousness: Nabu Press, 2010

Greene, Brian: The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory: Vintage Books, 2000

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