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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Joe Corbett has been living in Shanghai and Beijing since 2001. He has taught at American and Chinese universities using the AQAL model as an analytical tool in Western Literature, Sociology and Anthropology, Environmental Science, and Communications. He has a BA in Philosophy and Religion as well as an MA in Interdisciplinary Social Science, and did his PhD work on modern and postmodern discourses of self-development, all at public universities in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at [email protected].
The Quantum-Semiotic Kosmos
How language, archetypes, and the Great Chain of Being are written into the fabric of reality
The universe is truly a unity of creative meaning and organized purpose in its fundamental process, and as the very condition of its existence.
One thing fundamental about the universe that we can be certain of is that it owes its existence to a series of broken symmetries from an original unity that then formed the multiple and diverse forms of complexity we see today. In the first few moments of cosmic existence, gravity, the weak and strong forces, and electromagnetism broke away from the singular unity they came from, eventually to become the archetypal fields of Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and Justice, whose more familiar forms we know as Body/Nature, Mind/Self, Culture/Soul, and Society/Spirit.
It is my conjecture in this essay that for the universe to emerge and evolve as it did it required four very fundamental guiding principles of geometry, and from these principles came all the fine-tuned values and constants of nature, more or less as a condition of fulfilling the demands of these basic principles and the geometry they describe. Moreover, these principles are the same principles from which the language of the universe is constructed, in and through which the universe would essentially come to speak or language itself into existence and into the many diverse and complex forms it has become.
The process by which these separate principles or fields came to be and started generating the forms of the universe, which will be discussed in more detail below, began with the geometric seed-forms of existence in our 3-dimensional space-time, which are, first, simple Extension into 3D from “lower” (and possibly curled-up) dimensions, without which nothing else would be possible in the universe as we know it. This is the origin and birth of what would eventually become Truth/Body/Nature.
Second, Variation of directions, vectors of momentum, and positional perspectives for the multiple sides of a 3D form, with a minimum of 6 (up, down, right, left, front, back) directions/perspectives from which the Diversity of forms in our universe owes its existence. This is the origin and birth of what would eventually become Beauty/Mind/Self.
Third, Enclosure and preservation of Memory for 3D forms through Resonant Repetition is encoded in the topology of a 2D surface, known as the holographic principle, whereby the cell membrane, for instance, regulates the interior volume of the cell, and where the 2D surface of space-time near the planck scale encodes the information for 3D forms in the bulk. This is the origin and birth of what would eventually become the Good/Culture/Soul.
And fourth, Angular Reflexivity or Recursion and Nested Hierarchy from the angles of a 3D form turned in on itself (in stratified layers) makes both enclosure and variation possible and meaningful in organized forms of increasing complexity. This is the origin and birth of Justice/Society/Spirit.
Each of these specifically geometric seed-forms, which emerged as the geometry of 3D space-time in the first few moments of the universe as the broken symmetries of its original unity, in turn correspond to the semiotic seed-forms of the extended Sign (representation, object, particle), the varied Signified (referent, subject, potentials), the preserved Semantic Meaning (internally related subjects, probabilities), and the organized Syntactic Structure (a system of recursively and sequentially related objects) of the Kosmos, respectively, by which the universe would come to speak itself into existence, so to speak, and diversify into complex forms.
These fundamental principles, in both their geometric and semiotic forms, are the organizing fields of the subatomic, atomic, molecular, genetic, ecological, neuronal, and societal forms of emergent complexity. Each scale of existence is organized according to these principles. When a certain threshold of complexity was reached for one level a phase transition destabilized that level into a chaotic state, and then reorganized and stabilized the next (higher) level of existence, from the sub-quantum and subatomic to the atomic and molecular all the way up to the ecological and societal levels of organized existence, each in phases of an increasingly complex integration of information. As outlandish and unbelievable as it may sound, it was by this process that Truth (signifiers) eventually emerged from the force of gravity, Goodness (semantic meaning) emerged from the strong force, and Beauty (signifieds) and Justice (syntax) emerged from the weak and electromagnetic forces, respectively.
Quantum Semiotics and Bohmian Kosmic Dynamics
To illustrate exactly how geometric principles become semiotic principles that then speak the universe into its many diverse forms of existence, it is necessary to translate these geo-semiotic principles into quantum properties that have the characteristic of dynamic interaction, or what I call Kosmic Dynamics. First, there are the letters, words, characters, and symbols that are the 3D things of sounds (vibrations) and signifiers (mass, charge, spin). These are the elemental bits and actualized particles of the universe that provide the scaffolding for the different possibilities (signifieds) of existence.
The different possibilities that are represented by the signifiers exist in an open field of infinite diversity, quantum fields of infinite super-positional potential with their free-floating (fluctuating) signifiers called protons, electrons, quarks, etc., which are fully grounded and realized as stable forms (actual particles) only in relation to other possibilities like and unlike themselves in specific (enclosed, measured, probable) contexts. These contexts consist of a (hermeneutic) enclosure with an inside (volume) and an outside (surface horizon) that can record and filter the similarities and differences between potentialities in a sorting process of contrasted polarities and (semantic) meanings that are literally resonated with one another into a stable surface-structure of space-time memory.
Finally, these coded or resonant meanings themselves become coherent wholes, called “matter in the bulk” or “the meaning of the text”, only through ordered sequences and recursively nested hierarchies of resonating (amplifying) and interfering (cancelling) relations between multiple sequences and nested hierarchies of possible meanings and their probable forms. This last principle, the syntax of the quantum vacuum governing the interactions of particles per QED and QCD, provides the self-organizing structure for the other principles of semantic coherence (meaning) between particles of matter, and the possible expressions of their forms in actuality, which in this case would be the organization of the words of the text called matter into complex networks of interacting bits.
This rather abstract comparison between linguistic semiotics and quantum reality can be described in a more simple formulation. What happens anytime anything appears in the universe is that there is an oscillation between its past probable (more frequent) resonant forms and its future adjacent possible forms, which appear less frequently given the fewer relational resonances they have in the sub-quantum vacuum. This subterranean or implicate oscillation between the past probable and the future possible forms of things takes place simultaneously with, and in oscillation with, an explicate oscillation between the thing that has appeared in the universe and the total environmental context of its relations and interactions with other things.
In Bohmian terms, on the one hand there is an oscillation between the implicate order of quantum field potentials and the super-implicate order of a space-time memory field, and at the same time there is an oscillation between these implicate order(s) and the explicate order of the thing and its total environment, which are always already in dynamic interaction. David Bohm calls these oscillations within and between the implicate and explicate orders the holomovement, the process by which quantum field potentials and their deeper memories unfold themselves into the explicate order, manifesting things in the universe, and information about the things in the universe is enfolded back into the implicate order, back-and-forth between the implicate and explicate orders from nano-moment to nano-moment. I call this entire process of unfolding-enfolding Kosmic Dynamics, which is based on the geo-semiotic quantum field forms of Extension/Signifier/Object, Variation/Signified/Potential, Enclosure/Meaning/Probability, and Recursive Structure/Syntax/Self-Organization.
Evolutionary Dynamics and the Archetypal Great Chain of Being
From a more concretely grounded perspective we can see this same dynamic operating at a higher level of biological unfolding and complexification. Phenotypic traits (signs) are organized and selected to be optimal fits within an environment (eco-syntax) that oscillates between the past forms of organisms that have been recorded as memories in the genomes of species (eco-semantic meaning) and the future possible forms of organisms that exist as adjacent possibles in the mutational potentials (signifieds) of the genes in those genomes. It is my conjecture that the advance of species occurs in environments oscillating between the past and future possible forms of the organisms that inhabit them, and that is a direct consequence of this same evolutionary or Kosmic Dynamic operating in the manifestation of the universe at all levels of existence.
Although other configurations and directional vectors of this dynamic may exist for other manifestations and other levels of reality, applying this same dynamic to Platonic archetypes, we could say that the progress and evolution of humanity, its objective and physical Truth, is organized and selected by systems of Justice that oscillate between the Good and the Beautiful forms of the human beings who inhabit them, which is to say, material progress is organized and selected by societies that oscillate between the cultural and the individual forms of the human beings who inhabit them.
Likewise, we could say that signs are organized and selected by a syntax that oscillates between the semantic meanings and the signifieds that inhabit a linguistic landscape. Traits are organized and selected by both an internal molecular and an external ecological environment that oscillates between the genome and the genetic mutations that inhabit an organisms molecular and ecological landscape. And technologies and resources are organized and selected by the relations and mode of production that oscillates between the ideological formations and the creative disruptions of the individuals that inhabit them.
In the final analysis, we could say that the Body and Nature are organized and selected by a Spirit-In-Action that oscillates between the deep Soul of space-time memory and the creative Mind of disruption to potentiate the creation of the universe as we know it, to speak the Kosmos into existence, from the sub-quantum realm of the vacuum to the highest levels of ecological and human self-organization. The universe is truly a unity of creative meaning and organized purpose in its fundamental process, and as the very condition of its existence.