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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]
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A Meditation on
Breathe steady and be still. Observe yourself right now in your immediate surroundings. Go ahead, take a moment to do so. You and everything around you is mostly just empty space. The aggregate organization of all the particles and atoms around and within you only give the appearance that you and everything around you is solid material. You and everything around you are truly but little transient ripples on a vast ocean of emptiness, what Buddhists call Sunyata. That is the fundamental reality about reality that we rarely if ever consider. The reality that we observe is not what it appears to be, which is to say that we suffer from an ontological illusion.
But this vast emptiness, and this must be absolutely clear, is not just the emptiness of outer-space but of inner-space, within the atoms and between the particles of your body. And although this empty space is empty of form, it is not really empty, as it is teeming with virtual particles that are fluctuating in and out of existence too fast to be detected as material realities. Thus most of what you and the world around you is made of is immaterial stuff. And yet our science and just about everything we know about the world is only about material stuff, about the little ripples of matter on the vast ocean of immateriality below.
One of the things these immaterial virtual particles are doing (even between the quarks within protons and neutrons) is mediating the interactions of all the regular matter particles that we call physical reality, which means that interacting with emptiness is the means by which we are brought forth into the physical universe at each moment. Another thing they may be doing, as I hypothesize, is recording these interactions as memory traces into the fabric of space-time at or near the planck scale, deep in the ocean of emptiness. After all, if virtual particles are the mediators of regular particle interactions as established by quantum mechanics, it makes sense that they would also have a record of those interactions, or a subquantum memory on the “hard drive” of space.
This memory trace, which presumably records each planck instant of time, becomes the launching pad for the next wave of virtual particles to burst forth out of the quantum vacuum in the very next nano-second, modified by the previous interactions, in a continuous feedback loop of the past with the present conditions of physical reality, going forward into the future. Hence the virtual particle fluctuations of empty space, in this view, are not really random, but are conditioned and modified by previous interactions as a kind of Kosmic Morphic Memory Field. Moreover, these virtual particle fluctuations are additionally influenced by the potentialities of form in the quantum fields of matter from moment to moment, as I will discuss below.
The memory surface of space-time at the planck scale, which is suggested by physicists as a possibility for how information about the physical universe could be stored, is the informational storehouse of the Kosmic Mind, or Kosmic Unconscious, sometimes referred to as the Akashic Field, or Implicate Order. I hypothesize that this memory field is the Dark Matter (which I designate to be in the LL of the AQAL). The virtual particles which emerge from the quantum vacuum to mediate regular matter interactions, which are in the UR, record their history into Dark Matter in the LL. These virtual particles are what physicists call Dark Energy (which I designate to be in the LR quadrant of inter-objectivity), which is the chaotic dance of the quantum foam springing forth from the planck scale as pure creative-destructive energy, mediating particles at the micro-level and accelerating the expansion of the universe at the macro-level.
Thus my explanation for how Dark Energy is related to Dark Matter is that it serves as the “eyes” of the universe for cosmic memory, interacting with matter and recording those interactions into cosmic memory. Hence, in my model of the universe, Dark Energy is an aspect of the non-dual Witness or Spirit in the LR, the informational awareness that the universe has of itself as an objective observer at all times, whereas Dark Matter is an aspect of the causal Soul in the LL, a kind of Cosmic Unconscious, or primordial cosmic-cultural storehouse of memories. This view explains how Dark Matter and Dark Energy (along with regular matter) make-up the dynamic system of the universe, and why Dark Matter clumps around regular matter (gross matter in the UR), because it serves as the deep cosmic memory bank for regular matter.
In terms of the four quadrants of the AQAL, this leaves me with how to explain the role of the correlative aspect of the subtle Kosmic Mind in the UL. And here is where the unfolding of the universe occurs in a second creative phase to the chaotic creation of dark energy. The creation of the universe began with the cosmic energy of the vacuum, the same emptiness full of virtual particles that mediates the interactions of matter today. According to inflation theory, a field of energy known as the inflaton field suddenly expanded a small portion of the vacuum energy into an enormous size and then decayed. When the inflaton field decayed the energy that went into the expansion of the universe then condensed into all the matter and electromagnetic radiation we observe today in the material universe (minus the antimatter that was also present in that primordial seed of the quantum foam from which the universe inflated).
In a second creative phase of the universe, the matter that condensed from the energy at the end of cosmic inflation did so not in the form of tiny billiard-ball particles, but in the form of quantum fields that extend into the entire universe, with probabilities and potentialities for physical form concentrated in excitations or wave-crests within the quantum fields. Although matter can be found at the tips of these wave-crests, the fields that give rise to them are spread-out indefinitely in all directions. This means that all matter retains a reality of immaterial potentialities with various probabilities, and those immaterial potentialities are integral to the very existence of material reality itself. In other words, built-in to the very existence of matter is the potential for it to change and transform into other forms of itself, in potentia, depending on the conditions in which it is configured in relation to the other potentials of matter in its environment, and/or those particles of matter with which it is entangled.
Thus, in the model of the universe that I present here, which is consistent with the standard cosmological interpretation, the primordial creation consisted of an inflationary phase of the vacuum energy, and that vacuum energy remains with us today as the “eyes of the universe”, mediating all regular matter interactions and recording all of their configurations throughout the entire universe into the subquantum fabric of space-time in each planck moment. But every interaction with matter also has a quantum potential aspect, which are the future possible forms of matter, as matter itself, according to quantum field theory, only exists as an excitation of probabilities and potentialities in the quantum fields of the universe, which extend infinitely into space in all directions. The are no fixed and solid particles of matter in the universe, there are only quantum fields of potentiality and probability waves.
Putting all these component parts together, the dynamic structure of the universe consists of the non-dual creative-destructive vacuum energy as the ground floor of the Kosmos, the Spirit Witness of gross matter whose interactions are recorded in the subquantum fabric of space-time, which becomes the causal launching pad for the arising of all forms from moment to moment, both in their material and present forms and in their subtle potentials as newly transformed future forms within the ever shifting possibilities of the quantum fields of the universe.
The thing is, what I just described as the dynamic structure of the universe is also the dynamic structure of many subsystems of the universe, including the entire process of emergence within evolution, as well as many spiritual phenomena such as the experience of turiya or the ground state of the universe in meditation, Tantric Deity Yoga and how astrology works, and the so called subtle energies and bodies of various quasi-psi experiences. I have described how the dynamic structure of the universe is replicated in evolutionary dynamics in other essays, including “The Four Levels of the Informational Storehouse” and “Materialist Delusions and Integral Evolution”. But let me briefly discuss here in closing this essay how spiritual phenomena derive from the dynamic structure of the universe described above, which I have also discussed in other essays such as “The Structure of Kosmic Deep-Time” and “The Transdarwinian Mechanisms of Subtle and Causal Fields”.
When we experience altered states of consciousness by meditation, psychedelics, sleep or other means, what we are doing is accessing the levels of emptiness within. Non-dual, Causal, Subtle, and Gross are all structurally dynamic states of the universe itself through which we access different kinds of experience that correlate with these different levels of reality. The gross waking state is the material world as we usually experience it with relations of linear cause and effect. The subtle state is the experience of the quantum level of reality, the world of dream sleep where psychic, astral and etheric energies are shifting and can potentiate our physical body into different forms of itself, at both higher and lower levels of being, which makes it crucial in potentiating the evolution of forms that will eventually take shape in the gross realm.
The causal state is the experience of the subquantum level of reality, the world of deep formless sleep where memory is consolidated and the healing of the body takes place through morphogenetic resonance, but it is also where the Forms or Deities and archetypes of the collective unconscious reside. These Forms consolidate the experiences and habits of a species, transmitting their stored wisdom and serving as the reference point for activating possible future forms of the species in new practices and habits. However such Forms-Deities cannot be directly accessed in the causal subquantum realm (of dark matter) but can only take tangible shape in the subtle quantum realm (the immaterial potentials of the physical universe). Hence these Forms may arise out of the causal formless realm, but can only be accessed in the subtle dream state, or in the quantum realm of experience, and they are the platform from which all subsequent evolution proceeds.
Finally there is the non-dual state, which is the experience of the creative-destructive ground floor of the universe, the so-called quantum foam of the vacuum energy out of which the virtual particles of dark energy “observe” the universe in Witness-Spirit-Self mode, quietly recording everything it sees whether good or bad, outside of which nothing exists. This is the experience of Turiya, the Hindu fourth state and foundation of the Self.
The evolution of all forms in the universe, including life and consciousness, as well as the experience of the spiritual world that humans have been having for thousands of years if not before then, are all generated from a simple dynamic of Spirit-In-Action, the Self observing Itself arising from moment to moment in the stillness and emptiness of Its own Being.