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].


Self-Similarity of States and Stages in the Kosmos

Joe Corbett

As the Kosmos becomes in each moment the Witness to itself in flux, it remembers what it has seen, and stores It in its Kosmic Unconscious.

Simply put, the AQAL is the Kosmos, and the Kosmos can be characterized as having 4 basic states within 4 basic domains through which 4 basic stages develop, giving 64 basic Kosmic addresses or locations for occupying space-time. The Chinese hexagram system of the I-Ching comes to mind as a comparison.

In the first iteration of Kosmic self-similarity, each quadrant-domain of the Kosmos has a gross, subtle, causal, and non-dual aspect, and in a second iteration each of these aspects have a pre-conventional, conventional, post-conventional, and supra-conventional (or integral) level of development.

The 4 domains are also the Great Chain of Being: body-nature, mind-self, soul-culture, and spirit-society, where soul is defined here as the intimate connection we find in and through others, and spirit is defined as the objective relation of the parts to the whole (as an empty witness might see them). Some might say that here I am “conflating” the Great Chain with the 4 quadrant-domains. But what I am suggesting is that if we take these terms literally rather than in the metaphysical sense of their meaning, we might then get a notion of what they really mean, in a post-metaphysical sense.

The 4 basic states emerge as a layer of sheaths over the domains, where gross states correspond to bodily or physical aspects of experience, subtle states correspond to mental aspects of experience (or imaginal potentialities, which is also the quantum realm of existence), causal states correspond to deep memories and unconscious habits (which is also the subquantum or storehouse realm of existence), and non-dual spiritual states correspond to the re-unification of the gross physical with the inner subtle and causal states into a single inner-outer expression of undivided wholeness.

Before we go into how the stages develop through each of these domains and states, lets go briefly into how these domains and states are related and interact with each other.

First, the body is a gross physical thing, but it also has subtle potentialities, causal habits and unconscious memories, and the expression of all these aspects in real-time, which is always only right now from moment to moment in its undivided wholeness, or non-dual suchness. And the same can be said for each of the Kosmic domains. They all have gross, subtle, causal, and non-dual aspects.

In general, the mind is the subtle domain of possibility, just as the body is the gross domain of materiality. But all domains have a subtle aspect of possibility and a gross aspect of materiality. Likewise, culture and soul are the domain of deep habits and memories, the essence of soul being love and commitment, similar to the nature of habits and deep memories. But all domains also have the aspect of habit, memory, love, and commitment, although these are not the core, or defining aspects of the other domains. Regarding society and spirit, I say these have the core aspect of non-duality because it is by bringing the gross (physical) aspect back around and including the subtle (psychological) and causal (cultural) aspects that the non-dual is all-inclusive and integrative of all aspects. Yet all domains have a non-dual (relational-integrative) aspect, even though that is not their core feature.

Thus, culture, for instance, has subtle potentialities embodied in its ideals and values, and societies have different potentialities embodied in their different institutions and social relations. Different ideals and institutions determine the potentials for what each culture and society can become in terms of their gross physical existence. The potentialities of culture and society are, in turn, intimately tied to the habits and unconscious memories that guide and largely determine the shape they take as they reproduce themselves on a daily, even moment to moment basis. Hence, rituals, norms, laws, and infrastructure are the concrete or gross physical expressions of the subtle and causal aspects of culture and society.

As for the 4 basic stages of development, they emerge in sequential order through time beginning with the pre-conventional survival mode of archaic, magic, and egoic modes found in primitive tribes and early civilization, which becomes conventional with the axial age civilizations and traditional religion, post-conventional with the renaissance and through most of the 20th century, and then supra-conventional or integral with the global village emerging today since the later decades of the 20th century. It is important to remember however that even primitive people had traditions and rational modes of thought, just as in today's global village magical and egoic mentalities are widespread and openly on display. Just as in the case of the quadrant-domains, what aspects and characteristics are typical of them (and of people in different times) does not mean those aspects and characteristics are exclusive to those domains (or people and times). Even shamans of ancient times could have visions of all people in unity with one another and nature (supra-conventional).

Moreover, each stage of development (pre-conventional, conventional, post-conventional, supra-conventional) is capable of each state of existence (gross, subtle, causal, non-dual), and does so in each domain (body-nature, mind-self, culture-soul, society-spirit) of the Kosmos. What would it mean then to describe a post-conventional stage in a causal state of society? That might consist of the institutions, rituals, and values of modern and postmodern class and identity relations distinctly geared toward individual self-interest, such as civil rights laws, politically correct speech norms, and private property protections. How about a conventional stage of development in a subtle state of the body? That might consist, for instance, of mythical archetypes leading one into heroic acts of self-sacrifice, self-transcendence, and bravery in the face of physical danger, liberating ones people and oneself from an oppressor. How about a subtle state of the mind at a supra-conventional stage? A supra-conventional culture in a non-dual state? The imaginal possibilities are tempting. And so on for the other combinations, totalling 64 basic stage-state-domain Kosmic addresses.

With this map of the Kosmos we can then speculate on its fundamental dynamical structure, which Wilber has characterized as Eros, or spirit-in-action, by which he means Whitehead's notion of the creative advance into novelty from moment to moment by a process he describes as a concrescence of moments or events, appearing accumulatively one after another in each unique moment which is different from the next. In the language of quantum physics, all manifest reality (particles of matter) is mediated by unmanifest virtual particles that fluctuate in and out of existence from moment to moment, guiding each manifestation anew with each new moment of fluctuating virtuality, registering the past with the present and directing the now into the future, nano-second by nano-second.

As the Kosmos becomes in each moment the Witness to itself in flux, it remembers what it has seen, and stores It in its Kosmic Unconscious. This becomes the causal Storehouse of memories and habits, of the love and commitment that will be necessary to sustain itself, and the stability from which its creativity and potentialities (Its imaginal being) can take flight in the random play of the subtle quantum realm. If we can say one thing about the Kosmos as a multi-layered self-similar fractal hologram in a dynamical process of becoming, surely it is that of an on-going creative learning process in the art of becoming aware of Itself.

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