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

Joe CorbettJoe 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].


A Trans-Darwinian

Joe Corbett

If there is anything a trans-Darwinian world-view offers it is the view of a living universe of intelligence, intention, and purpose.

Trans-Darwinism accepts the premises of Darwinism but goes beyond the mechanistic explanations of blind chance to explain not just the evolution of biological life-forms but the universe as a whole. It sees the universe as an intelligent and living whole rather than as an inert lump of matter waiting to hit the lottery of incredible odds, over and over and over again. In short, trans-Darwinism is about the re-enchantment of the Kosmos, not in magical fantasy,[1] but in a scientifically based panpsychism that restores wholeness and organicism to the universe, which has a meaning, purpose, and direction to it that can only be described as, “AWAKE!”.

Perhaps the most important concept in trans-Darwinism is the scientifically based notion of the Ground of the Kosmos. It comes from the discovery that empty space is not so empty after all. Empty space is filled with immense energy. This energy rapidly flickers in and out of existence (according to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle), briefly interacting with the manifest universe and then disappearing into the emptiness again. This process is occurring everywhere (and not just in empty space), and at each and every moment of time. In addition, the conservation of energy means that energy is never lost, and with the expansion of the universe this energy only gets larger. So what we have as the ground of all being in the universe is an expanding reservoir of energy that records everything that has ever happened and ever will happen in the universe. The quantum vacuum, in other words, is a kind of Kosmic mind, a Great Unconscious whose conscious counterpart is the manifest universe.

The flickering of virtual particles rapidly unfolding and then enfolding back into the emptiness is the means of information exchange between the explicate order of physical reality and the implicate storehouse of the Kosmic Unconscious. It is the interface between the manifest and the unmanifest realms of the universe, the holomovement that guides the undivided, entangled interaction of the universe with itself in dynamical flow from moment to moment. It is the hypothesis of trans-Darwinism that this information exchange is stored as morphic fields in the sub-quantum space of the void, perhaps at the Planck scale in the inter-locking forms of tetrahedral q-bits that weave the very matrix of space-time itself, as I speculate in my essay on Geometric Meditations. And this is not so speculative as it might sound.

The holographic principle comes from the discovery that the information content of a black hole is actually stored on its surface, and this has led some physicists to postulate that the information content of the entire universe is stored on the surface of space-time itself at the Planck scale. Thus, they say the universe can be seen as a 3D holographic projection of the informational content on the 2D surface of space-time, however that may be constructed, tetrahedrally or otherwise. The Ground of the Kosmos is therefore an informational field reservoir, and morphogenetic fields would be the geometric seed patterns, or more precisely they would be the non-locally entangled interference patterns or standing wave patterns, in the Ground that were created by the flickering feedback loops of energy and information exchange between the unmanifest (implicate) and the manifest (explicate) universe, ultimately giving rise to the forms and habits of the universe we observe.

One thing to keep in mind here is that the flickering between the Ground and the external universe is also manifest at the external level itself (albeit at a much slower rate) as a flickering between sense perception and consciousness (the interiors), on the one hand, and the physical world of objects on the other, in a continual feedback loop of stimulus and response. And this is primarily how organisms have evolved through adaption to their environment. Thus, once the morphogentic fields manifest (mostly geometric) forms and habits in the external world from that worlds' interactions with the Ground, the external world itself takes over and starts creating forms and habits at a more complex level of existence, relatively autonomous from the Ground, creating not just geometric (atomic, molecular, anatomical) forms and habits, but archetypes and ritual behavior. In other words, the morphic fields become more complex archetypal fields, giving rise to ever more complex forms and habits. And remember that the creation of all these forms, habits, and archetypes are not haphazard and without limits, but take place within the four-fold structure of the universe (perhaps tetrahedrally originated), as demarcated by the four entangled forces of the universe itself, or indeed by the four quadrants of the AQAL as they tetramesh from moment to moment, as I outlined in my essay Blueprint for a Flying-Saucer Engine.

Another important concept from a trans-Darwinian perspective is synchronicity. Synchronicity is related not to morphic fields but to morphic resonance, and especially to the timing of certain formations and events that are seen to occur always in the context of a larger whole, and in this case it would be the larger whole of the Kosmic Ground. It occurs when two distant points or objects simultaneously and acausally converge in meaningful, self-similar resonance. The two are in synch as one, not just externally but internally as well, as when you think of an old friend and then suddenly you get a phone call or an email from them. The forms and their meaning resonate, and they come together not by chance but through an underlying pattern of acausal or non-local connection. The material universe somehow coughs-up miraculous “coincidences” on a regular basis. But this is not so miraculous, even if still amazing, if we understand how the external universe is related to an informational Ground of Being.

The role synchronicity might play in the formation of genetic expression if not in the formation of the genes themselves, is suggested in what Stuart Kauffman calls the “adjacent possible”, and I think it is related to what David Bohm calls the field of the “quantum potential”. When entering a space of possible futures for any given moment, objects in that space will be strangely attracted to only a limited set of closely related options, but what path or potential is taken opens up a new set of possibilities, new adjacent possibles and quantum potentials, that were not available before. Over time this ever changing field of possibilities can evolve into realities that were unimaginable even as possibilities before. As morphic fields resonate over molecular geometries they bring together self-similar forms that forever have their adjacent possibilities defined by the new quantum potentials they contain, and this builds piece by piece the necessary architecture for complex forms to evolve over time. In this scenario there is evolution by coordinated ordering of quantum potentials as much as by random chance.

In archetypal astrology a synchronicity between the planetary archetypes is activated when they come into certain angular relationship either with one another or with the previous positions of any of the planets at any time in their recent past with respect to the sun and the earth. We might say that the morphic fields of the planets, which have evolved into the more complex habitual forms of archetypal fields in their relation to the solar system, are activated when they come into certain mathematical, musical resonance with each other. These planetary morphic-archetypal fields are an expression of the Unconscious Mind of the solar system itself, the local or solar Ground of Being, which makes itself known in the daily lives and historical events of human and non-human life on earth. The solar system too has its own field of quantum potentials of what it can become, of what is possible within its field of possibilities.

But this solar field of possibilities is itself evolving, opening to ever new possibilities that were unimaginable before. As new forms evolve in the manifest universe they are recorded in the informational Ground reservoir of the Kosmos, which then supplies an ever growing menu of options for form to evolve and open up new potentials for new forms. If there is anything a trans-Darwinian world-view offers it is the view of a living universe of intelligence, intention, and purpose, re-enchanted by science itself rather than magical thinking. This is a universe that human beings and all of life are an integral part of not just as observers but as active participants in creating the very universe we observe. THIS is the universe worthy of Charles Darwin, and you.


[1] It is important from a trans-Darwinian perspective that terms like Eros, Agape, and Spirit only be used as heuristics, and not as substitutes for understanding the complex material processes underlying them that they are intended to signify. There is a tendency for such terms to become fetishized idols that operate as god-like substitutes for real and empirically explainable material realities.

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