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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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Peter CollinsAs an economics’ student in Dublin in the late 1960’s, Peter Collins underwent a significant “scientific conversion”. Since then he has devoted considerable attention to the implications of a full spectrum developmental approach for radical new interpretations of mathematics and its related sciences. Though potentially of growing relevance for better understanding of our present problems, so far, he believes, these have been greatly overlooked by both the scientific and integral communities.

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Revisiting Perspectives

Part 5: Zoning in on Wilber's
Perspectives and Methodologies

Peter Collins

The Fundamental Problem

I have written repeatedly regarding what I see as a fundamental design flaw in Wilber's work i.e. its lack of a coherent dynamic perspective. And because this is not satisfactorily addressed by other commentators, I find it necessary to keep returning to this issue, which is central to so many of the problems that subsequently arise with his thinking.

Put simply, Wilber fails to clearly distinguish the notion of differentiation in development (where dualistic distinctions necessarily occur) from the complementary notion of integration (where such distinctions are no longer strictly valid).

In fact he keeps swinging in his writings between two extremes, where from an integral perspective, he frequently affirms the ultimate nondual nature of spiritual reality, while then in differentiated terms making a number of absolute dualistic assumptions in an arbitrary manner.

However, he never shows how these two extremes can be properly related with each other. This reconciliation requires a more refined dynamic interactive manner of understanding, where all dualistic assumptions are given a strictly relative validity (depending on context). Then recognition of the inherent paradox in such assumptions, arising from the dynamic shifting of arbitrary reference frames, provides the very means through which the nondual integral dimension enters experience.

So, throughout his writing career, Wilber has attempted to build his system on distinctions of an absolute—rather than relative—nature. These subsequently have led to what I would see as a somewhat incoherent portrayal of overall development in holistic integral terms.

For example, Wilber defines the individual holon, which he uses as a fundamental building block of development, with a pre-existent whole identity (without reference to its collective aspect).

So a holon is a whole that is also part of a higher whole. And his key notion of the transcendent holarchical nature of development is built on this individual aspect of a holon where the “highest” whole is ultimately seen as beyond any part.

However when one shifts the frame of reference, a holon—or what in reverse terms can be referred to as an onhol—is now defined in terms of a part, which only becomes whole through its collective relationship with other parts. And this then leads to the corresponding immanent (onarchical) nature of development, where the nondual whole can ultimately be understood as uniquely contained in the “lowest” individual part.

So in dynamic interactive terms, neither the individual nor collective aspects of the holon (and onhol) can be given primacy, with both containing an equal relative validity, depending on context. Then in the refined spiritual experience of the radial stages, both aspects become so exquisitely balanced that they appear to arise simultaneously in the present moment, with expressions of their separate nature (as whole and part respectively) possessing a merely relative phenomenal identity in space and time.

However, when as with Wilber, one gives primary emphasis to just one aspect i.e. the individual aspect of the holon, this then crucially leads to an unbalanced portrayal of development (in terms of holarchical ascent). In turn it leads to an undue emphasis on an elitist form of top-down integration with the corresponding need for bottom-up integration in development effectively ignored.

It also leads to a distorted appreciation of what is perhaps Wilber's best known concept i.e. the pre/trans fallacy. Here trans are unambiguously portrayed as more advanced than pre stages, whereas in truth pre and trans dynamically interact with each other (in two-way fashion) throughout development. So, it is only with the continual refinement of both pre and trans (and trans and pre) aspects, as truly complementary, that the two spiritual poles of immanence and transcendence can be suitably integrated with each other.

Sentience v Insentience

It also leads to a key problem in the very classification of holons. For Wilber, the only true holons as it were, which contain the four quadrants, are individual and sentient in nature.

In this way for example, an individual molecule of water, representing the holarchical development of its constituent atoms, is considered as a valid sentient holon (containing the four quadrants).

However, a collection of water molecules, where development for Wilber remains at the same level, is now considered inelegantly as an insentient holon (a heap), which does not contain therefore the four quadrants.

Thus reality for Wilber is made up of sentient holons, which poses the rather large question of where all other insentient holons (such as heaps and artefacts) fit in. And given that most of the phenomena around us fall into this latter “insentient” category, one might prefer indeed not to live in Wilber's world.

In fact, his attempt to neatly divide holons into sentient and insentient categories, makes no sense whatsoever from a dynamic interactive perspective.

So correctly understood, all holons necessarily combine both sentient and insentient aspects (in relation to other holons).

This for example is the case with human holons.

Sentience relates to the capacity to be aware of feelings and sensations and was first defined by Western philosophy in the 1630's to distinguish it from the corresponding “insentient” ability to think and reason. When we then generalise with respect to all holons (and onhols), sentience relates to a basic capacity of primitive response, with insentience relating to the corresponding capacity to exercise some control in relation to other holons.

So all holons combine fundamental response (sentient) and control (insentient) capabilities, when interacting with other holons.

Therefore it is somewhat one-sided to refer in this sense to humans as sentient beings. Certainly as humans, we do indeed possess the capacity to respond in a personal manner to reality through sensations and feelings. However, equally we possess the capacity to impersonally control reality through thinking and reason.

As humans we thereby possess an affective capacity (sensations and feelings) which is sentient and a corresponding cognitive capacity (thinking and reason) that is insentient. And in terms of experience, these two abilities are always related to each other in a dynamic interactive manner. [1]

Just as it is nonsensical to conclude that phenomenal reality is composed of sentient holons, it is equally nonsensical to conclude that it is then likewise composed of sentient perspectives.

Then in an attempt to maintain the validity of this untenable distinction as between sentient and insentient holons, Wilber has been led to his highly artificial construction of quadrivia (or quadrivii) to account for insentient holons.

So Wilber distinguishes between the “view through” and the “view from”. Therefore, a sentient holon alone possesses the four quadrants and can be viewed through these quadrants regarding interior/exterior and individual/collective aspects. However an insentient holon such as a chair, which supposedly does not possess the four quadrants, can however be viewed from the perspectives of sentient holons, thereby rendering a quadrivium of views of the chair.

However this attempted segmentation into active interacting holons (as sentient) and passive non-interacting holons (as insentient) once again is just nonsensical in coherent dynamic terms, as perspectives always necessarily exist in a two-way relationship with each other.

Wilber has then sought to extend this utterly misconceived approach to his treatment of 8 primordial perspectives. So again, according to Wilber, only sentient holons properly possess such perspectives. Insentient holons (such as heaps and artefacts) then achieve a sort of honorary membership, as it were, through being viewed from the standpoint of recognised sentient perspectives. So again for Wilber, individual holons which alone are sentient, are defined in terms of the four quadrants (and their corresponding perspectives). Collective holons, as insentient, enjoy a somewhat ghostly existence until brought to life through their sentient counterparts.

The key to clearly distinguishing the nature of what Wilber refers to as primordial or indigenous perspectives—what I refer to as primary perspectives—is the realisation that these can always be defined in a complementary relative fashion in terms of both affective (sentient) and cognitive (insentient) aspects.

However, because Wilber never makes this important distinction clear, I find his treatment of the primary perspectives greatly confused.

He fails completely to identify the majority of these perspectives. He defines 8, whereas, based on my extended model of Myers-Briggs personality types, there are 24! He also frequently combines in a composite manner both sentient and sentient aspects (so that his defined perspectives are no longer primordial). And his overall treatment is riddled with arbitrary dualistic distinctions, such as the manner through which he concludes that the singular “you” is included in the plural “we”. Most importantly, he never clearly distinguishes the differentiated interpretation of the primordial perspectives from their corresponding integral appreciation. In fact he repeatedly refers to such integration in a reduced fashion as with his calculus of indigenous perspectives that is defined as the combined sum of his separate perspectives.

Complementary Nature of Perspectives

The very basis of the dynamic interactive approach is that phenomena are defined in a relative manner, where complementary opposites are always implied.

So, for example in personal terms, the 1st person (feeling) “I” is always related to the 2nd person “you” in complementary fashion. Thus “I” has no strict meaning in the absence of “you”; likewise “you” has no strict meaning in the absence of “I”. In relative terms, “I” and “you” (and “you” and “I”) are thereby interior and exterior (and exterior and interior) with respect to each other.

However, Wilber's absolute type understanding of quadrants effectively eliminates such complementarity and he is left with no place to clearly locate either the singular or plural “you”, Therefore he typically attempts to give primacy to the “I” and “we” (with the singular “you” then bundled in a highly unsatisfactory manner with the plural “we”).

Then in impersonal terms, the 4th person (thinking) “I” is always related to the 3rd person “he she or it” in a corresponding complementary manner. Thus the understanding of an empirical “it” (as 3rd person) has no strict meaning in the absence of a corresponding mental construct (that is, relatively, 4th person).

However, once again, Wilber's absolute designation of holon quadrants eliminates this complementary dimension, with no location available to place the “thinking” 4th person “I”. So he therefore typically attempts to give primacy to the 3rd person “it” through his emphasis on empirical science, with little corresponding emphasis on theoretical science (which should, relatively, be represented as 4th person).

Then when it comes to their plural forms, he places even less emphasis on the 2nd person collective “you”. So one unintended miracle of Wilber's “we” is how it completely eliminates the collective “you” from consideration.

His whole treatment of “we” with its emphasis on a hermeneutic circle is considerably one-sided and unbalanced. It fails to distinguish clearly subjective (1st person) and objective (4th person) notions. It also deflects from other important practical considerations such as how the collective “we” identity, as with nation states is frequently fostered through opposition to the collective “you” represented by other nations.

Then regarding the vertical dimensions of the quadrants, in the two way relationship as between singular and collective aspects, Wilber's approach is again dogged by the same lack of complementary understanding.

So he defines the personal “we” perspective (of feeling) in his Lower Left (LL) quadrant, unambiguously as intersubjective.

However, correctly understood, singular and plural interact in a two-way manner.

Wilber typically refers to the LL quadrant as referring to culture. However the cultural “we” cannot be restricted to intersubjective understanding. In dynamic interactive terms, “we” relates to a number of distinct individuals who share some common qualities as a group. Thus each individual brings a unique subjective experience to the “we” group. So, from this standpoint the “we” can be defined as a collection of these individual subjective experiences. However likewise the “we” group will typically share common characteristics in a direct qualitative manner. So in this sense, it possesses an intersubjective dimension.

And it is the interaction of subjective and intersubjective dimensions at all levels of collective 1st person experience that truly characterises “we” understanding.

For example, a team such as Italy, which triumphed in Euro 2020 finals, might be said to possess a strong team spirit. Thus in this sense this “we” group has an intersubjective dimension (where all players support each other in a common cause). However, each player in turn brings his own unique talents to the team. So in this manner the “we” comprise a number of individuals (with their personal subjective dimensions). And in dynamic interactive terms, one cannot have the intersubjective without the subjective (or the subjective without the intersubjective). Therefore, one can only distinguish subjective and intersubjective in a relative independent manner (where the reference frame can switch depending on arbitrary context).

Equally, in dynamic interactive terms, it makes no sense to identify the UL quadrant (which Wilber designates as 1st person “I”) in a solely subjective manner.

Certainly, there is a valid sense in which one can see oneself as an individual with a unique subjective identity.

However equally, there is a valid sense in which one possesses a shared social identity, through interaction with other individuals in an intersubjective manner that leads thereby to the “cultured individual”.

Once again, both one's individual (subjective) and social (intersubjective) identities can be given a merely relative significance, which can switch depending on context.

And because 1st person and 2nd person are complementary in a horizontal manner (as exterior and interior), this equally implies that both “you” (singular) and “you” (plural) equally possess both subjective and intersubjective aspects that operate in a dynamic complementary manner.

Wilber's Mixed-Up Perspectives

When we look at Wilber's 8 primordial perspectives in dynamic interactive terms, we can perhaps appreciate how limited is his overall treatment.

He unambiguously defines quadrant locations in an absolute manner. So the Left Hand quadrants are identified with interior and Right Hand with exterior aspects respectively. Then Upper quadrants are identified with the singular in subjective and objective terms, while the Lower quadrants are identified with the plural in an intersubjective and interobjective manner.

Then instead of 4 identifications for perspectives (i.e. 1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person and 4th person), Wilber's absolute designation of quadrant locations allows for just two i.e. 1st person and 3rd person.

Though admittedly, he allows for both inside and outside aspects for each of his quadrants, he does so in a somewhat confused manner that still lacks any genuine complementary appreciation.

So, Wilber identifies the UL quadrant with 1st person “I” relating to interior subjective feeling. However, he never clearly distinguishes the perspectives relating to affective feeling from those relating to cognitive reason. Thus, he equally identifies the 1st person “I” with the cognitive aspect of experience.

Again it is basically quite simple. In singular terms, there is always an implied relationship as between the “I” and “the other”. When “the other” is viewed in a personal manner, this implies the 2nd person “you”. However, when “the other” however is viewed indirectly in an objective fashion, this implies the 3rd person “he, she or it”. In true complementary terms, when the “I” is viewed in a personal fashion, this implies the 1st person “I”. However when the “I” is viewed indirectly in an objective manner, this now implies the 4th person “I”.

Unfortunately, as I have repeatedly stated, conventional language usage confuses matters greatly as it has no separate term to distinguish the 4th from the 1st person meaning.

The outside of the “I” which Wilber identifies is in fact the 4th person perspective. So in his identification of the inside and outside of the “I”, he is in effect mixing up both 1st and 4th person perspectives.

Integral Spirituality P. 40

And this is equally the case with his designation of the inside and outside of the “we”, which again combines 1st person and 4th person perspectives.

It is indeed necessary to subsequently attempt to combine in experience these perspectives. However, we thereby move to their composite rather than primary usage. In other words, where primordial or indigenous perspectives are concerned, both inside and outside, using Wilber's terminology should refer to the same person (1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person or 4th person). And this is patently not the case with his approach.

When we move to the Right Hand quadrants, we find a similar problem. So Wilber starts by defining the outside of his UR quadrant in 3rd person “it” terms. He then points to the fact that sentient holons, such as biological organisms, have their own 1st person interiors. So, here in his designation of inside and outside, he combines both 1st person and 3rd person perspectives, which again represents a composite rather than primordial usage.

In fact, his repetition of 1st person in this context is inaccurate. If one initially designates the 1st person “I” with the UL quadrant, then in relative terms, 1st person “I” now becomes 2nd person “you” in the UR quadrant. So in correct composite terms, Wilber's designation of the inside and outsides of this quadrant represents the combination of 2nd person “you” with 3rd person “it”.

However, because Wilber has no quadrant designated for the singular “you”, he attempts to avoid this problem by sticking with the 1st person (though this makes little sense in a relative context).

And the same problem then extends to the LR quadrant, where Wilber again mixes up through his designation of inside and outside, 1st person and 3rd person perspectives, which however correctly stated, in relative terms, should be 2nd person and 3rd person.

So correctly interpreted, the inside and outside of Wilber's Left Hand quadrants entail a composite mix (for singular and plural) of 1st person and 4th person perspectives.

Then his Right-Hand quadrants properly entail a composite mix of 2nd person and 3rd person perspectives.

However, where primordial perspectives are concerned, both inside and outside should relate to the same perspective. And when this is properly done, inside and outside have meanings that are inseparable from interior and exterior respectively. Therefore by identifying inside and outside regarding each perspective, we are led to a true appreciation of the inherent complementarity of all perspectives, in a horizontal manner.

Also, by then identifying an independent (subjective or objective) and interdependent (intersubjective or interobjective) aspect for each perspective, we are likewise led to an appreciation of the inherent complementarity of all perspectives in a vertical manner. [2]

So I will attempt to demonstrate how this is achieved in the next section.

The Shadow Faces of Perspectives

1st and 2nd Persons (“I” and “You”)

Once again we need to commence by emphasising the dynamic relative nature of perspectives.

For example, “I” can only be understood in relation to “you; “you” in turn can only be understood in relation to “I”.

Therefore, both “I” and “you” share a relatively separate independent identity and likewise in a complementary manner, a relatively unified interdependent relationship, where “I” and “you” (and “you” and “I”) in varying ways can merge together in a nondual manner.

However, properly understood, there are two faces to both “I” and “you” arising from the fact that the affective personal perspectives always entail both sensations and feelings. And these two aspects operate in a shadow manner with respect to each other. So when one aspect is made manifest in experience, the other thereby, in this context, remains hidden; then when the latter aspect is made manifest, the former now remains hidden.

Therefore in some cases, as with introverts, feelings tend to be dominant with sensations dictated by such feelings. For example, when one is feeling depressed, this has considerable implications for the sense phenomena subsequently experienced. However in other cases, as for example with an extraverted partygoer, sensations are primary, with feelings indirectly arising from such experience of phenomena.

So, one could thereby identify the inside of the 1st person “I”, as relating to introspection and emotional feelings. And this relates to the inside of Wilber's “I”.

Thus, there is a private interior self to the “I” (that in some measure as inside remains detached from “you”). However equally, there a corresponding exterior to the “I” as a personalised self image that arises through recognition of an outside relationship with “you”. Therefore, properly understood in dynamic relative terms, the 1st person perspective has interior and exterior aspects. In Wilberian terms, this relates to both the inside and outside view of the 1st person perspective. However by attempting to give inside and outside an alternative meaning from interior and exterior, Wilber fails to make explicit the paradoxical nature of these two sides of a perspective, which form the very basis for true integral appreciation (in a horizontal manner).

So, true interactive appreciation in this context renders paradoxical the very notion of exterior and interior as referring to unambiguous locations. For what is interior from one valid perspective is exterior from an equally valid alternative perspective; and what is exterior from one is likewise interior from the other.

These two aspects of the personal “I” are in fact brought out very well in the Enneagram personality system. So the 4 (the Individualist in Enneagram terms) primarily identifies with the interior feeling self. However the 3 (The Status Seeker) identifies by contrast with the exterior, placing considerable emphasis on self image and how one appears to others in personal terms.

This latter aspect is extremely important in show business and celebrity culture, where one is intent in presenting an image of the self to others (very often inauthentic) that can create a favourable impression. And both the fashion and beauty industries are largely geared towards enhancing this self image.

It also has become typical of politics, which unfortunately in modern society is often seen as an extension of show business. And it is likewise true of social media, where an excessive emphasis is placed on attracting a form of personal popularity e.g. number of followers on Twitter, frequently based on highly superficial criteria. And both of these aspects can be combined in personality terms, as for example a 4 with a 3 wing (alternatively a 3 with a 4 wing), where one can then substantially relate to the 1st person perspective, regarding both its interior and exterior aspects.

And then associated with 2nd person “you” (singular) is likewise a primary perspective that contains two aspects (outside and inside) that are relatively exterior and interior in terms of each other.

So for example, the exterior aspect of “you” is the personal image you present to the world.

One important example of this arises with romantic attachment, where my initial attraction to a “you” is based on the perceived desirability of your physical image. This attraction is not however strictly confined to your immediate physical identity, but extends to a number of associated phenomena. So attraction generally entails an overall package, encompassing a number of related personal “objects” such as your speaking voice, the clothes that you wear, the lifestyle you lead, the career you pursue, the music and literature you enjoy, and so on.

All of this relates to the exterior “you”. But just as with the “I”, there is another side that is now relatively interior, relating to your unique identity as a feeling individual. And though considerable reciprocation on the basis of shared feelings may subsequently transpire in a relationship, it is important for me to realise that there is a private “you” that in some sense always remains separate as a unique individual.

So, just as there is an existential “I”, likewise there is an existential “you”. I stated in a previous article, how in literature, some authors such as Sartre, Kafka and Camus are especially noticeable for the way they develop the “existential I” dimension. And I mentioned the Irish writer Edna O'Brien as just one author who develops well this complementary existential “you” aspect, through attempting to get inside the personalities of her key characters.

Indeed one of the great challenges posed by society is a willingness to enter into the existential dimensions of those who in varying respects remain on the margins, afflicted in various ways. For example there are many who have been treated badly by life, lonely and depressed or suffering various hardships arising from civil war, enforced migrations, homelessness, poverty, disability, illness, addictions and discrimination of various kinds.

And if I have been relatively fortunate with my development, these may represent experiences that are completely foreign to me. So a direct encounter with such a marginalised individual may place special demands on my ability to embrace in a meaningful fashion an existential “you” that severely threatens my own seemingly secure “I” sense of identity.

And this important dimension I find greatly missing for example in the approach of Ken Wilber, who portrays the integral age essentially in terms of a privileged intellectual elite, developing a leading edge new way of thinking in the comfort of their select environments.

Unfortunately, there is little recognition here of the realities of life for so many, who have been largely left behind in the drive for success and the various forms of recognition accorded to those esteemed by society.

Thus any “integral movement” that ignores the reality of the deep injustices that confront so many in the world at every turn, will ultimately prove futile.

Indeed without such recognition of injustice, the possibility for true authentic development of the personal perspectives is thereby considerably lessened.

So, in terms of both 1st person I (singular) and 2nd person you (singular), there are two faces, as it were, to their corresponding perspectives, with both containing aspects that are—relatively—interior and exterior with respect to each other.

So if one identifies the 1st person “I” as the interior (feeling) aspect, then the 2nd person “you” relatively relates to an exterior (sense) image; however equally if one identifies the 1st person “I” with the exterior aspect (of phenomenal sense), then the 2nd person “you” is now in complementary fashion identified with interior feeling.

Correctly understood, there exists a two-way complementarity in horizontal terms regarding both of these personal perspectives. When one face is revealed, the other remains hidden in the shadows. And when the other face is then revealed the first face now remains in the shadows. Therefore if one aspect, say the interior, is dominant in personality, then considerable shadow work may be necessary to give proper recognition to the relatively neglected complementary aspect.

Collective Aspects (“We” and “You”)

Of course 1st person and 2nd person operate in a collective as well as individual context. Though there is indeed an intersubjective dimension to 1st person “we” contacts, there equally is an important subjective aspect (which Wilber fails to recognise).

So again, we can view a group in an intersubjective manner as possessing a common shared quality e.g. “team spirit” in sport. However, equally we can view a group as composed relatively of unique individuals in a more quantitative manner.

Thus in this subjective sense, the interior feeling aspect of a “we” group relates to a combination of the unique individual experiences of its various members. And then in true dynamic interactive terms, the “we” experience combines both subjective and intersubjective aspects in a two-way fashion.

We also have an exterior aspect to this subjective “we” perspective, where self image now relates to the multiple members of a group.

One interesting manifestation of this takes place at a national level.

So, for example when a country wins a major international competition such as the Euros or World Cup in football, this can do wonders for the national self image of that country with its citizens experiencing a special pride in the victory.

Likewise, there are exterior and interior aspects to the collective “you” perspective that can be given both a shared intersubjective and individual subjective meaning i.e. where the collective experience arises from the combination of individual “you” experiences.

Thus the exterior subjective aspect arises directly from the personal affective relationships, which, say, a group of tourists could establish with a variety of sense phenomena experienced on a holiday e.g. individual interaction with other travellers, scenic spots visited, meals and entertainment enjoyed etc. Therefore the “you” perspective is here expressed through the personal relationships which the various individuals establish with all such sense objects.

Then the interior aspect would relate to deeper relationships that certain individuals could share with perhaps some other members of the group, thereby involving more intimate feelings.

However because there is a huge deficit in Wilber's treatment of the “you” perspective, perhaps it would be worthwhile to indicate clearly, how his particular interpretation, which relegates 2nd person (singular) “you” to 1st person (plural) “we”, arises directly from his one-sided dualistic interpretation of interpersonal relationships.

The Hermeneutic Circle and “We”

Wilber frequently refers to the miracle of “we”, whereby two people can resonate deeply with each other in a relationship of mutual sharing. And indeed this is a wonderful experience whenever it properly occurs.

However in terms of his perspectives, he misrepresents the true nature of this relationship. Also, by unduly concentrating on the shared intersubjective nature of “we”, he is led to ignore other important aspects of such understanding that unfortunately are far from miraculous.

Quoting directly from Integral Spirituality, P. 148, Wilber states:

“Remember that a “we” in general is formed when a 1st -person singular (“I”) is converted to a 1st -person plural (“we”) by the inclusion of a 2nd -person (“you”). That is, I + you = we. (This is why AQAL often lists 2nd -person as “you/we.”)

However this is very one-sided for one can equally say:

“Remember that a “you” (plural) in general is formed when a 2nd -person singular (“you”) is converted to a 2nd-person plural (“you”) by the inclusion of a 1st -person (“I”). That is, you + I = you (plural). This is why AQAL could equally list 1st -person as “I/you (plural).”

Now again, it is very revealing with regard to the manner in which Wilber seeks to engage in dialogue about his work in personal exchanges, he typically invites the “you” to join with his “I” to form a common “we” that can now both view issues from Wilber's perspective.

However, he has shown remarkably little desire throughout his career to form a common “you” with critics, whereby he can demonstrate an equal capacity to likewise view issues directly from their distinctive perspectives. Perhaps, because of a presumption that his own approach is more comprehensive, he has long operated under the misapprehension that there little need to seriously consider alternative perspectives, which he sees as already transcended in his more “integral” viewpoint.

For example, I have consistently articulated my fundamental criticism of Wilber's integral approach over the past 25 years. Not alone has this never been addressed, it has never I believe been properly understood by Wilber as this requires an ability to look at development from a distinctive dynamic perspective. And evidence of such ability was patently lacking in the limited dialogue that transpired between us.

Therefore it is not enough that “I” am willing to join with “you” in what is a common “we” (from your perspective). It is equally necessary that “you” are willing to join with my “I” in what now is a common “we” (from my perspective). And what is “we” from your perspective is “you” (plural) from my related perspective; and what is “you” (plural) from your perspective is “we” (from my related perspective).

So in fact Wilber misrepresents the very nature of true mutual understanding (based on a shared intersubjective relationship).

Now, when one ignores the true interactive nature of relationships, where both subjective and intersubjective dimensions are involved, the shared “we” from my perspective) of the intersubjective may seem indistinguishable from the shared “you” (from your perspective). In other words in this context, “you” (plural) can be equated with “we”; alternatively, “we” can be equated with “you” (plural).

However properly understood, this is never strictly the case, for both “you” (singular) and “I” always maintain relatively separate individual subjective identities, even when involved in the deepest form of mutual sharing. So my appreciation of the hermeneutic “we” circle will never exactly accord with your corresponding appreciation (even when we are both tempted to believe otherwise). And how many romantic couples have only come later in their relationship to realise the truth of this observation!

So, true mutual intersubjective understanding does not involve a relegation of “you” to “we”, or equally a relegation of “I” to “you (plural)”. Rather it entails an implicit recognition that while maintaining our separate dual identities as “I” and “you” respectively, “I” and “”you” are also complementary and ultimately equal in a nondual spiritual manner that we can refer to as “both you and I” (as interdependent) or alternatively “neither I nor you” (as separate).

Again, Wilber fundamentally misrepresents the true nature of intersubjective understanding (which involves a two-way complementary relationship). He then ignores the dynamic interaction that always takes place in practice as between both subjective and intersubjective aspects of the “I” and “you”.

So, it is wonderful when a true meeting of hearts and minds, as it were, can take place, as for a time in a shared intersubjective understanding.

However, much more frequently, even regarding the most intimate relationships, considerable barriers can remain.

So for example if two partners are only willing to view issues from their own particular perspectives, then true intersubjective communication cannot take place. And sadly in many cases, even when they genuinely show a willingness to see from their partner's perspectives, they may discover that a wide gulf separates them, which may be very difficult to bridge.

And even in the best relationships, each partner maintains a separate subjective dimension (as a unique individual), which cannot be directly shared with the other partner.

Political dialogue often shows how far apart separate perspectives can be with little opportunity to establish common ground. You could say for example in the recent meeting between President Biden and President Putin that both sides left with a better understanding of each other's perspective on the world. However this represented a form of non-mutual understanding, only serving to further establish the separateness of their distinctive perspectives.

Likewise, rather than an intersubjective meeting of “I” and you”, the separate identifies of both are often fostered through mutual opposition to each other. For example, we hear of bitter personal rivalries in sport where one's “I” is seen in sharp opposition to another's “you” identity.

We also see this in collective terms, where the “we” of one group of supporters is fostered through opposition to the corresponding “you” of another group.

Perhaps an even more important example is how national “we” identity is frequently defined through opposition to the corresponding “you” identity of other states. This for example has been a major factor in the Brexit movement, where British—or more specifically—English national identity has been cultivated by supporters through increasing antagonism to the European Union.

So there is something almost unreal regarding Wilber's focus on the wonders of the hermeneutic circle of a shared mutual identity (where the separate “you” dissolves in the loving embrace of the “we”) when so often the relationship between “I” and “you” (singular) and “we” and “you” (plural) at all levels of interaction is characterised by varying degrees of opposition and conflict.

And one suspects that this bias in emphasis is largely dictated by his absolute understanding of quadrants, which leaves him with no separate location for the “you” perspective. So once, Wilber seemingly has managed to bundle the “you” with “we”, he does not want you to realise that the “you” has many other dimensions (in both singular and plural terms), which when properly investigated, clearly expose the limitations of his overall approach.

Indeed some of his comments on the “I” you” relationship, I find so glibly superficial as to be deeply disturbing in their social implications. For example he suggests that one cannot have a “you” relationship with someone in a coma. [3] Family members who unfortunately for one reason or another have experienced the trauma of a loved one in a coma would not view such a remark kindly.

On the contrary, the most meaningful “you” connection can sometimes take place in extremely testing situations, for this does not depend primarily on spoken words but rather on the depth of connection which one can genuinely feel for the personal identity of the other. As we know, this connection can in some cases be so profound that the ardent desire of a loved one to communicate can eventually spark a response in a comatose family member.

And when after perhaps days or weeks without any sign of recovery, this person eventually smiles or conveys some faint gesture of recognition, I suggest that such communication, forged in such difficult circumstances, would now represent the most meaningful of all “I and you” exchanges. This once again indicates how the importance attached to perspectives can greatly vary, so that what might not seem like communication at all in one context, may represent in yet another, the most meaningful possible.

However once again there is a lack of appreciation not only regarding perspectives, but running though all Wilber's work of the significance of relative context.

And because of the great influence that he exercises in the integral field, his absolute interpretation of quadrant locations is generally accepted without question, though it lacks any true coherence from a dynamic interactive standpoint.

This in turn leads to a tendency for commentators to then uncritically accept Wilber's somewhat arbitrary treatment of perspectives though much of it, to say the least, is highly suspect.

The 3rd and 4th Persons

Just as an implicit complementarity marks the relationship between 1st person and 2nd persons (in affective emotional terms), likewise an implicit complementarity marks the relationship between 3rd person and 4th person (in a cognitive rational manner).

So, for example, one cannot recognise a 3rd person objective “it” in an exterior manner, without a corresponding 4th person mental construct that, relatively, is of an interior nature.

However, just as with 1st person and 2nd person, there are hidden shadow faces to both 3rd and 4th persons.

The 4th person “I”—in a manner corresponding to the 1st person “feeling “I”—relates to a capacity for independent thinking. Just as one can become aware of oneself as a unique individual so that no one feels exactly like me, equally one can become aware of oneself as also unique in that no one exactly thinks like me. Therefore, to form this independent thinking ability (as 4th person), one must to a degree withdraw inside from conventionally accepted objective reality (as 3rd person).

However, there is a shadow side to this in that one can equally form an outside objective perception of oneself (again as 4th person) in relation to the world. For example, an accurate objective assessment of one's abilities could be very valuable in applying for a job.

So, just as one can have a personalised self image as with romantic relationships, equally one can form a more impersonal self image, as for example regarding work capabilities.

Therefore, in this context, the independent thinking self and objective self image constitute the inside and outside of the 4th person perspective (in singular terms).

There then is equally a shadow face to the 3rd person perspective (considered in a relatively exterior manner).

In this context, the individual “its” correspond to the outside aspect of the 3rd person perspective. Then the inside aspect is the overall collective structure related to the “its”. And this in turn corresponds to conceptual thought. In science, for example, objective “its” in the form of impersonal data, have no meaning in the absence of a corresponding hypothetical framework that is used to interpret the “its”. So in this context, the objective structure properly relates to the inside of the 3rd person (as the same primordial perspective).

Therefore, on the one hand, we have thinking that can be identified with the mental self (in subjective terms).

However equally we have an overall structure that can be identified in objective terms (corresponding to such thinking).

Thus, individual “its” have no meaning in the absence of an objective dimensional background (that directly corresponds to conceptual thinking).

So again, just as in affective terms, one can become aware of one's own individual feeling as “I” and likewise the corresponding feeling of the other as “you”, one likewise becomes aware of one's own subjective thinking as the 4th person “I” and its relationship with the objective world as 3rd person (him, her or it).

And intersubjective understanding now constitutes a 4th person “we”, where as for example in scientific discourse, the views of a colleague can be related to one's own thinking through a shared interpretation. Therefore to this extent, a colleague is seen in subjective mental agreement with one's own perspective.

Equally, this likewise can constitute a 3rd person interobjective “they”, where I can see my own position as in agreement with my colleague's account, in an impersonal objective manner.

And such dialogue operates both with respect to theory, where rational thinking is primary (initially termed 4th person) and also with respect to empirical facts where the phenomenal objects are primary (initially termed 3rd person). 4

Now again, with Wilber's approach, the 4th person perspective is not specifically recognised. Therefore, he misleadingly attempts to represent scientific type understanding in 3rd person terms (where the empirical aspect is emphasised).

However he then fails to deal adequately with the equally important hypothetical nature of theoretical science.

So in the inevitable interaction as between theory and facts in relation to all impersonal type activity, both 4th person and 3rd person approaches are required (with respect to both inside and outside aspects).

Lack of Holistic Dimension in Science

However a bigger problem generally exists with scientific type understanding in that in explicit terms it has no manner of interpreting the nature of intersubjective or corresponding interobjective understanding, through the existing accepted paradigm.

In fact, conventional science operates on a double form of reductionism.

Whereas, it may well be recognised that such understanding necessarily entails a relationship as between exterior objects on the one hand and interior mental constructs on the other, it effectively treats this relationship in an absolute manner where constructs directly correspond to the objects understood. In this way the dynamic relative interaction as between both is thereby completely avoided.

So in terms of perspectives, it could be then said that in horizontal (exterior/interior) terms, 4th person and 3rd person directly correspond with each other.

In this way the 4th can be effectively reduced without alteration to 3rd, or alternatively 3rd reduced to 4th person. So theory and facts can thereby correspond, in an absolute manner, with each other.

Again, science may well recognise the necessary relationship as between wholes on the one hand (the collective) and parts on the other (as individual).

However once again, this relationship is explicitly treated in a reduced quantitative manner, whereby the whole in any context is viewed as the quantitative sum of its parts.

Thus there is no room here for any explicit qualitative notion of the intersubjective (and interobjective) dimensions of scientific understanding.

Though intuition (through which such understanding arises) is indeed implicitly recognised, it plays no explicit role in scientific interpretation, which is conducted in a merely rational manner.

And this is a huge issue that I have spent much of my adult life attempting to address.

In particular, I have delved deeply into the grossly reduced nature of mathematical interpretation that is still accepted, without serious question, in present culture.

I have continually stated on this and other forums—though I recognise that few may be yet prepared to listen— that there are enormous mathematical vistas, radically different in conception to present understanding, that have remained all but untouched throughout its history.

So, just as a coherent quantitative interpretation already exists, an equally coherent qualitative interpretation can be given to all mathematical symbols and relationships, with immense possibilities for completely new forms of understanding.

And this alternative qualitative interpretation I refer to as holistic i.e. integral mathematics.

Then the dynamic interaction of both qualitative and quantitative aspects, which constitutes a truly comprehensive appreciation, I refer to as radial mathematics.

And in this context, in recent years, I have devoted considerable time to the derivation of a radial interpretation for example of the Riemann Hypothesis, which remains the most important unsolved problem in mathematics.

And certainly, from my perspective, such a radial interpretation completely revolutionises its true significance.

In this respect I am in agreement with Wilber regarding his contention that an all perspectives approach needs to be brought to mathematical understanding.

However unfortunately, apart from this general observation, which is indeed significant in its own right, Wilber offers no real indication of what a more integral mathematics might entail.

So hopefully I can address this important issue further in a later article.

Again, just as there are independent and interdependent aspects to the personal perspectives (1st and 2nd), equally, there are independent and interdependent aspects to the impersonal perspectives (3rd and 4th ).

However, though most people for example can appreciate to some degree what the mysterious qualitative dimension of an intimate personal relationship entails, because of the reduced nature of science, this does not apply at all in an equal manner to impersonal relationships.

For example, the largely accepted scientific theory of evolution represents a complete denial of any such mysterious dimension to material relationships.

Briefly, just as there are inside and outside aspects to 4th person and 3rd person perspectives in singular terms, equally this applies in a collective manner.

However, once again as understood in a quantitative scientific fashion, the collective is treated in reduced manner as the quantitative sum of its individual components, in both theoretical and empirical terms.

Therefore the proper expression of the interdependent dimension (at either the individual or collective level) requires a new form of scientific appreciation, which I term holistic or integral science.

Wilber's Methodologies

A number of points can be raised here regarding Wilber's methodologies, which are related directly to his own particular delineation of primordial perspectives.

I have already criticised Wilber's treatment of perspectives on many fronts.

Integral Spirituality P. 41

He does not clearly distinguish the personal (sentient) from the impersonal (insentient) perspectives, which in dynamic interactive terms are always related.

He does not properly distinguish the integral from the differentiated aspect and typically reduces in intellectual terms integration to multi-differentiation.

He uses an absolute treatment of quadrant locations, which is totally unsuited to capturing a coherent dynamic interactive appreciation of their nature.

This then leaves him with no distinct locations for 2nd person and 4th person perspectives.

He identifies intersubjective and interobjective with the collective, when they equally apply to the singular; likewise objective and subjective apply in plural as well as singular terms.

He does not clearly identify the shadow side of each perspective (even for those 1st and 3rd person perspectives that he explicitly recognises).

Thus a great number of valid perspectives are missing from Wilber's treatment.

In fact, in each case the inside and outside of his primordial perspectives actually represent a hybrid mix of two distinct perspectives.

Need for Artistic and Intellectual Methodologies

Another major criticism is that his methodologies are conceived in an unduly intellectual manner.

Now, there is a significant value indeed in drawing attention to what one considers the major intellectual disciplines associated with perspectives.

However, the very point of a balanced approach should be to show that affective (directly related to the personal perspectives) are equally as important as cognitive methodologies (related to the impersonal).

So there is an undue emphasis on 3rd person approaches (as defined by Wilber) with respect to all his methodologies. Even those that are intended to be 1st person (such as phenomenology and hermeneutics) can represent in part an objective manner of accessing the 1st person. Therefore, there is an overemphasis with his methodologies on indirect intellectual understanding, rather than personal experience. Regarding the 1st person and 2nd person perspectives, it would be more appropriate to emphasise that the artistic domain and aesthetic appreciation relate directly to the world of sense and feelings e.g. existential literature.

However phenomenology (for the inside of the 1st person “I”), can represent a somewhat philosophical means of indirectly accessing 1st person experience.

Then structuralism (for the outside of the “I”) represents an even more abstract way of understanding, in what properly represents a 4th person objective approach.

Then autopoiesis represents a highly indirect way of describing—what is correctly—the 2nd person perspective. For example, I could indirectly say of a male colleague that I recognise he (as 3rd person) has a 1st person interior.

However, I would relate to this interior directly in 2nd person terms.

And in principle I can relate directly to the interiors of all phenomenal “its” in 2nd person “you” terms by switching from an impersonal (scientific) to a personal (aesthetic) approach.

Again in general, the arts rather than the sciences are better geared to directly revealing the inside of phenomenal “its”. For example when viewing a programme on Ernest Hemingway recently, I was immediately struck by his own account of what he was attempting to achieve in his writing:

“You see I am trying in all my stories to get the feeling of actual life across, not just to depict life or criticise it but to actually make it alive so that when you read something by me you actually experience the thing. You can't do this without putting in the bad and the ugly as well as what is beautiful. Because if it is all beautiful you can't believe in it. Things aren't that way.” [5]

In other words, Hemingway was trying to directly communicate the 2nd person perspective (especially as revealed through external images), which can be more effectively achieved in a literary rather than a scientific account. The outside of empirical “its” in Wilberian terms relates to 3rd person. Then the inside should properly relate to 2nd person just as in complementary fashion, the inside and outside of his “I” relate to 1st person and 4th person perspectives.

Once again, hermeneutics often represents a somewhat impersonal manner of understanding personal relationships. I have already suggested in a previous article, how music, for example, can offer a particularly important way of directly experiencing intersubjective “we” meaning. In this context with the easing of Covid restrictions, I have noticed the desire of many young people to again attend live outdoor music events, which entail a strong shared experience of “we”.

Then ethnomethodology and all the related disciplines that Wilber mentions, even more clearly represent an indirect 4th person manner of approaching the outside of “we”.

In fact I have major reservations regarding the manner in which Wilber attempts to identify his LL quadrant of “we” with culture.

Culture can in no way be confined to the LL and equally belongs to the UL quadrant. Thus one may validly refer to a person as a cultured individual. And such a person does not solely acquire this cultural experience from wider society but may also significantly contribute to society. Therefore, many would admire Bob Dylan, for example, for his cultural contribution to several musical genres and even a contemporary form of literary expression.

And culture cannot be identified just with the Left Hand quadrants, as in artistic attainments, but also with the sciences (which would be Right Hand in Wilber's terms). In fact, C.P. Snow in his famous book “The Two Cultures” refers to the importance of both the arts and sciences to society.

As stated, autopeoisis should be relating directly to the 2nd person. It really amounts to the important recognition that biological life forms (indeed all phenomenal forms) cannot be conceived in a merely impersonal objective manner.

But the direct recognition of this entails the simple realisation that these phenomena can be experienced in either an impersonal (scientific) or personal (aesthetic) fashion. Thus a rock from a scientific perspective might seem the most impersonal of objects. However in an appropriate aesthetic context (as part of a beautiful landscape) it can obtain a profound “you” identity in a personal manner. 6

Then Wilber identifies intention with the 1st quadrant which is again one-sided and misleading. Like culture, it can be identified with all quadrants. In fact the will, as the true basis of intention is best conceived as the centre of being or, alternatively the centre of the quadrants, which then coordinates phenomena associated with all four quadrants (which are themselves understood in a relative manner).

Then empiricism indeed has an important value as in all forms of inductive science. However such science cannot be solely identified with the UR quadrant.

Equally, one can adopt empirical methods in psychology, which would be related to Wilber's UL quadrant.

And empirical knowledge can equally be used in a general collective context. So Wilber's very discovery of the four quadrants represents an empirical type approach operating at a collective level of investigation.

Then the inclusion of social autopeoisis, as one of his most important methodologies, has a very forced ring about it. Wilber here has been influenced by the work of Luhmann showing that there is an inner meaning to social communication that cannot be reduced in an impersonal manner.

But again, in a more direct fashion, this simply relates to the collective aspect of “you”. However, this perspective especially is given little or no explicit recognition in Wilber's thinking

Behaviourism is not just a feature of the UR quadrant, but can apply to all four quadrants.

And systems cannot be exclusively identified with the LR quadrant. One may apply systems thinking at an individual or overall collective level. Likewise, one can apply systems thinking in an objective manner to consciousness. So structuralism, which Wilber includes in his UL quadrant, really represents in this context a form of systems thinking.

Ecological type systems cannot be successfully understood in the same scientific manner as for example mechanical systems.

So again, in direct terms, ecological awareness requires a refined form of compassion or feeling for the holistically experienced 2nd person “you” (which should constitute the inside of Wilber's LR quadrant). However the interobjective dimension, in outside 3rd person terms, cannot be properly approached through analytical, but rather holistic science (which however is not formally recognised).

Methodologies and Personality Types

There is another important criticism one can make regarding Wilber's methodologies. Each personality type operates with a unique mix in terms of perspectives.

Unfortunately this means that perspectives related to just two of the four persons (1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person and 4th person) tend to be unduly dominant in experience, whereas the other two tend be underutilised with one in particular remaining largely undeveloped.

Therefore, even if one's choice of methodologies properly recognises the need for both personal and impersonal type perspectives—which Wilber's methodological programme clearly does not emphasise—such a programme, where mature integral development is concerned, could remain largely ineffective, without addressing the inherent imbalances that typically characterises one's personality type.

So the earlier focus in terms of mature spiritual development requires a prolonged negation of the dominant perspectives, where for lengthy periods, one may feel a considerable outsider regarding the normal flow of life.

Then the later part of this spiritual journey may require the corresponding reverse role of slowly removing all the instinctive barriers that prevent the weaker perspectives from being properly recognised.

So in both cases the focus switches with mature spiritual development, from concern with conscious expression to a much deeper preoccupation with the hidden unconscious aspects of development.

Therefore, when one recommends various methodologies that deal with the conscious development of perspectives—which Wilber's approach offers in a somewhat limited impersonal manner—then this will never seriously address the deeper imbalances characteristic of each personality type.

Put more simply, Wilber's methodological approach is largely geared to the mere differentiated aspect of perspective development (and even then in a restricted manner).

It never properly addresses the corresponding need for integration of the various perspectives that unfold in development.

This again is why I have never considered Wilber's overall approach to development as properly integral (in any meaningful sense).

Though he indeed frequently affirms the ultimate nondual spiritual nature of reality, with respect to his attempted intellectual synthesis, he continually confuses integration with differentiation as with his Integral Methodological Pluralism, where integration is defined as the composite sum of his various methodologies.

Mathematics as a Methodology

There is one final point worth mentioning here. Though Wilber later speaks of an integral mathematics as deeply embedded within his perspectives, strangely he does not include mathematics as one of his methodologies. Social autopeoisis is seen fit to be included but not however mathematics!

And I think that this omission owes something to Wilber's vacillating position over the very nature of mathematics.

In some places, he refers to it in 3rd person terms, whereby it would be associated with his Right Hand quadrants (which he identifies in an objective impersonal manner).

However in other places such as “The Marriage of Sense and Soul” he points to its deeply interior nature, which in Wilber's terms would require that it be placed in his Left Hand quadrants (which he characterises as personal).

Now in his latest comments, he points to the fact that mathematics requires an all-perspectives approach.

He then attempts to formulate his understanding of perspectives through the use of his own form of mathematical notation, which he terms “Integral Mathematics”.

However in no sense does this constitute a genuine integral appreciation of mathematics (as I hope to clarify in a later article).

And there is another problem. Though he maintains that mathematics is embedded within the perspectives i.e. sentient perspectives, representing the fundamental language of the quadrants, yet in strict Wilberian terms, mathematics is an artefact, which as an insentient holon cannot thereby contain perspectives.

So Wilber, due to this untenable distinction as between sentient and insentient holons, is led again into an approach that is greatly lacking coherence in integral terms.

The Hori-zones

In Integral Spirituality, P. 42, Wilber describes a hori-zone (or more simply zone) in this manner.

“Each view or perspective, with its actions and injunctions, brings forth a world of phenomena; a worldspace that (tetra-)arises as a result; a worldspace with a horizon. The sum total of all of that we simply call a hori-zone, or zone for short.”

Integral Spirituality P. 43

Whereas, there is a certain merit in this notion of hori-zones in that one can indeed attempt to view phenomena through distinctive perspectives, there is a major problem that arises with his approach.

Though Wilber was anxious to assure us earlier that reality—or to be more precise sentient reality—is composed of perspectives, we now see that his notion of a hori-zone involves somewhat more than perspectives. So he states that a perspective “with its actions and injunctions brings forth a world of phenomena.”

So this begs the question as to how these actions, injunctions and phenomena are related to a perspective. If they are already by definition included in the perspective, then there should be little reason to give them specific mention. If however they are intended to convey a somewhat distinctive meaning, then it is necessary to explain in what way reality now requires more than perspectives.

In fact this just represents another example of how Wilber fails to grapple satisfactorily with the key issue relating to perspectives i.e. their dynamic interactive nature. So there is always a basic paradox inherent in perspectives. Again, though one can indeed give a relatively distinct differentiated meaning to specific perspectives that arise in experience, the overall holistic relationship between perspectives, representing there relatively interdependent integral meaning is ultimately nondual (without any distinct perspective).

Therefore, in a dynamic interactive manner, which is the only meaningful way in which to speak about perspectives, one must continually switch as between their differentiated (dual) and integral (nondual) appreciation.

However because of the lack of a proper dynamic approach, Wilber keeps reducing the two notions in terms of each other. At the one moment he speaks about distinct perspectives in a somewhat absolute manner. He then quickly switches to the opposite position, where all phenomena supposedly tetra-enact simultaneously.

However, once again the ultimate integral nature of perspectives is nondual (without any distinct notion of a perspective). Therefore, phenomenal perspectives cannot tetra-enact simultaneously.

Certainly, when one's integral appreciation (as with advanced spiritual contemplations) is well developed, switching as between specific perspectives becomes so transparent that they may no longer appear to distinctly arise in experience. However, while they maintain any phenomenal identity, then by definition, they do not fully tetra-enact with each other.

So, actual human experience always moves between the two extremes of the independent (differentiated) aspect of perspectives, and the corresponding interdependent (integral) aspect, where both are necessarily of a relative nature.

It is only in this true interactive appreciation that both differentiated and integral aspects can be coherently combined with each other.

And for me Ken Wilber's writing, despite offering a great many valuable insights, has always been especially lacking in the provision of a coherent dynamic understanding.

One can perhaps recognise that the fundamental root of this problem goes back to his very definition of a holon.

Once more, Wilber gives primacy to the individual nature of a holon, which alone qualifies as sentient. However, the individual aspect has no strict meaning in the absence of the collective; likewise the collective has no strict meaning in the absence of the individual. So once again, individual and collective aspects are related to each other in two-way interactive fashion.

We can indeed conceive of a perspective in collective terms as a worldspace, or more accurately dimensional framework in spacetime, through which all the individual phenomena associated with a particular perspective are related.

However, we can then look in turn at these phenomena (now constituting the individual aspects of a perspective) as transforming the collective framework through which they are viewed.

However they key point here is that such appreciation requires that one can conceive of the very nature of holons in a dynamic interactive manner (where both individual and collective aspects are related in a two-way manner).

So, when we speak of a general perspective and the individual phenomena revealed by a perspective, we are in fact switching between the two notions of perspectives (related to holons and onhols respectively) that in experience always dynamically interact in a complementary fashion. And what Wilber refers to as “actions and injunctions” is simply the voluntary expression of this complementary relationship between the two notions of perspectives.

And this reveals the huge root problem with Wilber's work.

Once again, the unwarranted primacy which he gives to individual holons shows how lacking is his approach in dynamic appreciation, which is thereby unable to embrace the complementary notion of onhols, related to their collective nature.

And this does not represent just one unfortunate lapse in this regard, as the characteristic approach in his writings is the making of arbitrary dualistic distinctions (which inevitably lead to untenable conclusions).

However when one can look at a hori-zone in a coherent interactive manner, certainly the notion has a considerable level of validity.

Composite Nature of Zones

However, there remains the problem that I have already mentioned in that Wilber in his zones is in fact mixing distinctive types of perspectives in a composite manner.

So for example Zone 1 relates to 1st person interior “I” understanding (of a feeling nature). However, Zone 2 relates to 4th person “I” (of a thinking nature).

Then Zone 3 relates to 1st person interior “we” (feeling) and Zone 4 to 4th person “we” (thinking).

Zone 5 properly relates to 2nd person “you” singular (feeling) though Wilber mischaracterises this as 1st person “I”. Then Zone 6 relates to 3rd person “he, she it” (thinking).

Zone 7 once again properly relates to 2nd person “you” (plural), which Wilber mischaracterises as 1st person “we” (feeling). Then finally Zone 8 relates to 3rd person “they” (thinking).

So Wilber, through failing to make their complementary nature clear, then fails to identify a considerable number of possible zones. And again such complementarity in horizontal (interior/exterior), vertical (individual/collective) and diagonal (both interior/exterior and individual/collective) terms is the very means of moving towards a truly integral appreciation of the zones and their related perspectives.

There is also the issue I raised in a previous article that the personality types in some respects offer a better approach, in that each personality type is defined in terms of a unique configuration of perspectives, which thereby implies a preference for some zones over others.

So for each personality type, certain zones would be given an undue dominance, whereas other zones would remain somewhat unrepresented in experience.

Thus a key requirement for true integral development is the gradual lessening of the conscious influence of the dominant zones with a corresponding emphasis on removal of those unconscious barriers inhibiting expression of the weaker zones.

Notes

1. I am aware that sentience is often used in a much broader sense e.g. in Buddhism, as synonymous with overall experience. Here sentience and insentience are combined. However, the clarification of perspectives with respect to their affective (personal) and cognitive (impersonal) aspects requires its narrower meaning.

2. In the above sections, I have referred to the horizontal complementarity as between perspectives, where interior and exterior (and exterior and interior) aspects are related in two-way fashion with each other. I have also dealt with vertical complementarity, where subjective and intersubjective (and objective and interobjective) are again related in two-way fashion with each other.

For convenience, I have not referred in this context specifically to diagonal integration, which combines both horizontal (interior/exterior) and vertical (independent/interdependent) aspects. So with diagonal complementarity, for example the interior of the (individual) subjective is connected in two-way fashion with the exterior of the (collective) intersubjective dimension.

3. Now this assertion regarding a person in a coma can be found in Excerpt C “The Ways We are in this Together” dated 2006. One might have hoped that following further reflection on the matter and perhaps through consultation with others in his integral circle, that Wilber would have reconsidered his position. However his “Response to “Integral 2.0 and There is No 'You' in AQAL” published in 2015, indicates that this clearly is not the case. So he states:

“Or likewise, if two humans are involved, but one of them is in a coma, there is no person actually being spoken to anywhere; the person in the coma can only be spoken about—that is, they are a 3rd person, just like the rock.”

Now this statement, which is little short of outrageous, shows the highly damaging conclusions that can follow from erroneous starting assumptions.

But rather than admitting that he could ever be wrong, Wilber continues with ever more convoluted attempts in “the full technical explanation” to justify his unwarranted position.

So Wilber again uses the one-sided dualistic argument that neither “I” nor “you” could exist in the absence of the interactive nature of “we”. Now, this is partially true, though Wilber conveniently does not refer to the “you” (plural). So equally it can be said, neither “you” nor “I” could exist in the absence of the interactive nature of “you” (plural). So instead of equating 2nd person singular “you” with 1st person plural “we”, there is an equal argument for equating 1st person singular “I” with 2nd person plural “you”.

Also, it never seems to occur to him that the interactive notion of “we” and indeed the interactive notion of “you” plural (which he fails to address) in turn could not exist without the separate identities of “I” and “you”.

Thus, correctly understood in a dynamic interactive manner, both independence and interdependence (as subjective and intersubjective respectively) characterise all personal notions, which continually interact in experience. However, Wilber in both horizontal and vertical terms attempts to give primacy to just one side of a complementary relationship (when emphasis on the other side is equally valid).

Most of all, Wilber fails to emphasise here that the “you” perspective does not specifically relate to words spoken, but rather to a fundamental recognition of the unique personal identity of another holon—in this case a human being—which necessarily continues to exist, whether or not a person is addressed. Therefore, this fundamental recognition would still remain when a person is in a coma. So Wilber's contention that a “you” somehow only comes into being when directly spoken to is, to put it mildly, quite ridiculous.

In fact, I would find a marked lack of genuine complementary understanding running through all of Wilber's work.

Though the Integral 2.0 movement, as articulated for example by David Long has in some respects attempted to move beyond Wilber's limited expression of perspectives, it still maintains his absolute interpretation of quadrant locations.

And this is the true root of all the problems preventing dualistic understanding from being consistently reconciled with corresponding integral appreciation. So once again the four quadrants need to be defined in a relative rather than absolute manner (where the complementary nature of opposite poles is explicitly recognised).

4. The clear implication of relating 3rd and 4th persons in this manner is that exterior and interior designations (which initially are applied to 3rd and 4th person respectively) are rendered paradoxical through clear appreciation of the two faces associated with each perspective. And this is the very means through which one moves to an integral understanding (in horizontal terms) regarding these impersonal perspectives.

5. In a letter written to his father, 1925.

6. There is great irony in the manner in which Wilber keeps referring to “a rock” as an archetype of merely 3rd person “it” identity. For many years, as we know, he lived in Boulder Colorado. Boulder literally means “a large rock” and is located at the foot of the famed Rocky Mountains.

So when tourists visit Colorado to view the glorious wild scenery that it has to offer, they are not viewing the rocks from an (impersonal) scientific but rather a (personal) aesthetic perspective.

However, because in the context of his quadrants, rocks are insentient and viewed as 3rd person “its”, Wilber fails to recognise that they equally can carry an important 2nd person “you” meaning (in aesthetic terms). And this again illustrates a failure to appreciate the importance of relative context, where what might appear valid from one arbitrary perspective is then rendered invalid from another.

So when John Denver (well-known to Wilber) sings in “Rocky Mountain High” for example:

“And the Colorado rocky mountain high
I've seen it raining fire in the sky
Talk to God and listen to the casual reply
Rocky mountain high (Colorado)
Rocky mountain high (Colorado)”,

the context for viewing rocks has now changed to a highly charged aesthetic appreciation, through which one can directly communicate with God as 2nd person.

However, to successfully move to this latter understanding, Wilber would have to jump three dualistic barriers of his own arbitrary making. Firstly, he would need to get rid of the untenable distinction as between “sentient” and “insentient” holons (for a rock in Wilber's terms is insentient). Secondly, he would also need to get rid of his absolute interpretation of quadrant locations. Then by viewing “you” in relative personal terms, it would thereby comprise the exterior quadrant to the interior “I”. Thirdly, he would need to recognise that the “you” itself has two faces, which are inside and outside with respect to each other. Thus the aesthetic response to “a rock” would primarily refer to the outside aspect of the “you” (singular) perspective.

References

Ken Wilber; Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World; Shambhala Publications, US Reprint Edition, 28th December, 2007

Ken Wilber; The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion; Broadway Books, Paperback ed. 1st May 2000.

Ken Wilber; Excerpt A: An Integral Age at the Leading Edge; kenwilber.com, 2006

Ken Wilber; Excerpt B: The Many Ways We Touch: Three Principles for Any Integrative Approach; kenwilber.com, 2006

Ken Wilber; Excerpt C: The Ways We are in This Together; kenwilber.com, 2006

Ken Wilber; Excerpt D: The Look of a Feeling: The Importance of Post/Structuralism; kenwilber.com, 2006

Mark Edwards; Through AQAL Eyes; Part 1: “I” and “Me” “we” and “Us” “You” and “Yous”; Integral World, 2003

C.P. Snow; The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution: Martino Fine Books, December 11, 2013

Carlo Ravelli; Helgoland; Allen Lane, 1st Edition (25th March, 2021)



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