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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 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].



Joe Corbett

We should consider it inconceivable that there would be evolution of material reality without involution from a nonmaterial reality.

The universe is a dynamical system whose parts are in constant interaction. These parts consist of the manifest physical-material universe (gross), the intermediate quantum realm of nonlocal entanglement and potentials (subtle), and the unmanifest dark matter (causal) and dark energy (nondual) realms.

The physical-material and quantum realms are those in which “upward” evolution takes place, whereas the dark realms of matter and energy are “downward” or involutionary in nature. But the fact that these realms are in constant interaction makes the distinction between evo and involutionary trends rather technical, for in fact there is only one undivided holomovement between the manifest-explicate (evolutionary) and unmanifest-implicate (involutionary) orders of the universe.

gross waking state manifest universe
subtle realm of dreams quantum realm
causal realm of archetypal Forms dark matter
non-dual state dark energy vacuum

As things interact and events occur in the manifest universe their potentials and entanglements resonate to the informational storehouse of forms and archetypes in the dark matter via the ever-present virtual particles flickering and fluctuating in-and-out of existence from the emptiness of space all around and within us. Even in the vast empty spaces between the electrons and protons of the atoms in our body, the dark energy fluctuations are busily interacting with each and every moment of the quantum states of all the atoms and molecules of our body, and recording those configurations as information at the planck scale (in the form of dark matter), where the fabric of space itself is woven into a teeming-gyrating storehouse of constantly shifting form (the holomovement).

If this dynamical scenario of the universe is correct, and I think it is a close approximation, then our bodies are not just material stuff, but are part of a Bio-Kosmic information field at the deepest level of our physical existence. And hence the theory of evolution is in need of an upgrade that takes account of the missing 96 percent of the universe that is completely missing from its account of how evolution takes place. Up to this point, neo-Darwinism has accounted only for the gross physical realm, and scientists are only now beginning to take account of how the quantum realm also influences the bio-physical realm. But there are even deeper levels (the unmanifest dark realms of the causal and nondual) that must be accounted for to get a full view of evolution, and this is what the idea of involution provides.

According to quantum theory, information, like energy in the laws of thermodynamics, is conserved. It cannot be destroyed but only transformed from one state into another. This means that everything that has ever existed and everything that has ever happened is still here, in a kind of presence of the past (somewhere), like Kosmic karma stored as information in the fabric of spacetime, like morphic and archetypal fields waiting to be drawn upon for evolutionary guidance. This concept of an information storehouse for the universe is derived from the holographic principle, which is being used in some of the most cutting edge theoretical physics of the 21st century, and it suggests that the contents of the universe, including all the stars, planets, and humans on earth, may be a three dimensional projection of information stored on the surface of spacetime at the planck scale. Not all of this information will be retrievable in fully functional form once it passes from manifest material existence, but because it does not disappear and therefore remains a potential interactant with other information, the traces of this information can potentially be present in how other forms that subsequently do materialize are shaped and function in the universe.

In other words, all things and events that ever were, potentially and actually do have some influence on how the on-going evolutionary unfoldment of the universe takes place. And this is what is meant by involution, the influence of information from the whole (past, present, and potential future) on the evolution of the parts, or the flow of information from whole to part, whereas evolution is the flow of information from the part to the whole. Indeed, the Kosmic storehouse contains not just things that have happened in the past, but also nascent forms of potentiality (quantum potentials) that have not yet fully formed and manifested within the realm of gross material reality, but wait in quantum limbo to be called forth under the right synchronistic circumstances and resonant energies.

As a way of illustrating this, if we combine the notion of morphic resonance with Stuart Kauffman's idea of the adjacent possible, it is conceivable that whole chains of gene networks could be simultaneously activated to mutate in rare but not improbable synchronistic events that would result in radical physical novelties that were fully functional, the molecular potentials from the future, so to speak, making their way into the present, or alternatively, information from the whole in-forming and “guiding” the behavior of the parts.

In terms of the AQAL, evolution has interior subjective and intersubjective components that are not reducible to strictly objective interactions (gross materiality). This constitutes its creative and novelty generating dimensions in the UL (the wild-cards of the various quantum potentials) and nonlocal entanglement in the LL (the undivided wholeness of quantum subtleties). But at an even deeper level of the unmanifest (and not merely interior) realm, at the level of what I have called the Dark AQAL, the causal dark matter of morphic and archetypal forms and the nondual dark energy of empty space permeate and constantly interact with things and events in the material universe in an endless informational feedback loop between material reality and the informational storehouse of the Kosmos, where information flows both “downward” (from whole to part, from Kosmic storehouse to material reality) and “upward” (from part to whole, from material reality to Kosmic storehouse).

The evolution of the universe is intimately bound up with its involution, for the upward and downward movements of information are dialectical phases within the dynamical system of the Kosmos as it interacts with the different aspects, structures, or realms of itself. If evolution could be considered its neg-entropic phase of winding-up from lower to higher forms of energy and informational complexity, involution could be considered its entropic phase of winding-down from higher to lower forms of energy and informational complexity.

Just as it would be inconceivable to have an exterior without an interior, or an individual without a collective, or a part without a whole, so we should consider it inconceivable that there would be evolution of material reality without involution from a nonmaterial reality. The greater part of the universe, 96 percent to be exact, and the greater part of wisdom, demands that we consider what has hitherto been missing from the one-dimensional flatland theory of Darwinian evolution.

Involution and evolution
The involution/evolution cosmology as taught by many spiritual traditions.

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