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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].
Synchronicity and Self-Organization in Evolution
From Astrology to the Hero's Journey
In previous essays I have discussed supplemental mechanisms of transdarwinism that transcend and include Darwinian theory. Here I will discuss the roles of synchronicity and self-organization in the phase transitions toward greater complexity (emergence) that is the hallmark of evolution.
In the integral model of evolution and Kosmic Dynamics that I have developed using Ken Wilber's AQAL map, the environmental system of the LR (which includes the plenum of dark energy in which all matter is embedded) serves as the observer (Witness) and ultimately the judge (Justice) of what physical and behavioral traits will be selected in the UR, whereas the LL serves as the genetic, epigenetic, and morphogenetic storehouse memory for matter and organisms, while random mutations as well as teleological attractors (quantum field potentials) in the UL guide organisms toward new traits that can be selected.
On one level, this is a theory of how matter, dark energy, dark matter, and quantum field potentials interact to create the universe we see and experience. On another level, it is a theory of how traits, the eco-environment, organismic memory, and the future possible forms of organisms interact to create the species that have evolved not only on earth but throughout the entire universe. This theory accounts for the evolutionary dynamics throughout the entire universe because it is the fundamental structural dynamic of the universe itself, which is replicated in its subsystems according to the principle of fractal self-similarity that is also present in phrases like “as above so below” and “atman-brahman”.
Describing the dynamics of how this system is put together and generates forms is one thing, which I have done elsewhere, but in describing the specific dynamics of how this system generates more complex forms and actually evolves rather than simply creates itself, we can take the example of how archetypal astrology works through synchronicity. And here I ask the reader to bear with me and follow the reasoning rather than judge any beliefs that may be involved. In astrology we see the planetary archetypes of our solar system with distinctive fields of qualitative energies and characteristics, much as each species has a genome with genes that define the qualities and characteristics of that species. The planets of our solar system constitute the archetypal genome for life and consciousness on earth, and how the planets are arranged with respect to one another in the birth chart constitutes ones personal archetypal genome, so to speak.
The astrological evolution of a person takes place through a series of transits over their lifetime between the planets in their birth-chart and the planets as they move in real-time. The resonances between the qualities of the archetypal energy fields as they are configured within the person and the archetypal energy fields as they are configured in the environment of the Earth as the planets make their way across the sky in real-time, provide the qualities and potentials for change and transformation within individuals, societies, and species. In other words, the planetary archetypes are the embodied qualitative forms that potentiate the evolution of forms on Earth when they come into certain propitious and critical alignments with past forms of themselves.
My point here is not to convince you that the astrological account of change through the influence of planetary archetypes is true, but to illustrate how different sets of qualitative memory fields, one from the past and one in the present, can come together at critical moments in time to trigger transformations in the forms of the universe going forward into the future. It suggests how genomes can be significantly reconfigured not just by a random chance mutation of a gene at any random time, as such arbitrary mutations rarely have any influence on an organism, but that mutations are most likely to be beneficial and have the greatest effect on the organism when they occur in synchrony with other genes (planetary archetypes), and at special critical times (transits) both within and outside the organism, simultaneously.
This may be what is behind the phenomenon of punctuated equilibrium within evolution, where rapid bursts of significant change within species is seen. It probably occurs much more frequently than thought in standard accounts of catastrophic events that mark the gaps between speciation. In other words, genetic and other biomolecular synchronicity through vibrational energy resonances, by planetary or other natural means -- including random synchronous events, is an overlooked aspect of how evolution works through the coherent ordering of patterns in synch (or if you prefer, in tetra-synch).
When two or more memory fields synchronize they don't simply repeat the pattern each had before. They combine to create a new pattern, with a new form and expressive trait. However while the form that is created may be novel, it nevertheless existed a priori in the virtual future of the interacting fields as a possible form for those fields, for it existed as a field potential before it was ever manifested or actualized into a form itself. Thus every form and its memory field begins as a wispy imaginal form, a quantum field potential that becomes included in the old memory fields at the same time that it transforms those fields and gives a new expression to them in the manner of transcending and including them.
How new forms arise from the old is the mystery of the phase transition, that black box of magical transformation which is seen in all complex self-organizing adaptive systems. Whether it be a genome, a self, a society, or any self-organizing system, where a system lands upon reorganization after a critical crisis or threshold is reached is always a matter of what quantum field potentials are available to it. And those potentials will come directly from what field memories are in play for transformation. Capitalism easily emerges as a field potential of slavery and feudalism, for instance, but socialism as a system of democratic equality would be a much more distant field potential with a lower probability to emerge from such primitive forms of exploitation. Socialism as an authoritarian dictatorship like Stalin, on the other hand, has an even higher probability of emerging out of feudalism than capitalism.
The quantum field potentials available to new emergent forms of organism, self, and society include states of both greater and lesser complexity. This underscores that there is indeed a hierarchy of developmental potentials, of greater and lesser integration of the field potentials. Hence a system may regress rather than evolve depending on what happens during the transition phase, as well as on the specific memory fields that are involved. But the system itself will always come to settle on one of the field potentials made available by the previous memory fields and their vector trajectories.
When a field memory jumps from one state to another, it goes from the field potential it occupies to an adjacent field potential that it does not occupy. Thus, the mystery of the black box in the phase transition of self-organizing adaptive systems consists of jumping from one field potential to another, and what happens in-between is what we call the path, dharma, or journey to the next state of the system. What this journey or mysterious quantum jump of the system consists of and how it generates growth and evolution can be thought of in terms of the famous metaphor of the hero's journey.
The hero's journey can be divided into three basic stages. First comes the call to solve a question, problem, or crisis that has arisen, and then the departure from the given state of things. This corresponds to the self-system reaching a critical threshold whereupon a departure from the stable state of the system begins. Next comes the real beginning of the journey, and that is the quest which involves some kind of ordeal or challenge that threatens the very existence of the self-system itself. This corresponds to the self-system exploring the search-space of possibilities for it to settle into, which is filled with states that are dead-ends, catastrophic failures, and regressive set-backs, as well as as resolutions that integrate the problem for which a solution was sought, bringing into being a new form with a better outcome for the self-system. After the quantum field potential is found and finally settled into comes the final stage in the return of the hero, now transformed and empowered anew.
All of the these potential states are part of the possibility landscape that the hero must explore and resolve for better or worse. In this heroic journey we see the Hegelian dialectic at work of thesis-antithesis-synthesis, as well as the psychoanalytic dialectic of ego-shadow-superego, as the process by which all self-organizing adaptive complexity evolves. In fact, even the entire universe could be considered as undergoing this process, and all of its subsystems are simply fractal self-similar iterations of the same general cosmic process involving a critical threshold being reached where there is a departure into a search-space of possibilities that (hopefully) results in a return to a more complexly integrated form that resolves the initial crisis of self-system instability.
The universe and everything in it is doing this all the time as it jumps from one quantum state of possibility to another at all levels of complexity from atoms to cells to species to selves and societies. The entire periodic table of elements out of which all matter is made, and indeed all the levels of psychological and social development that has occurred throughout human history, is based on this principle of quantum potential states becoming organized into ever greater wholes of complexity. The process-relational dynamic of creative-adaptive learning through the exploration of the past and present with the future possible states of a system is what the very existence of the universe is all about. All the reality we see and experience in the Kosmos comes from a journey we take everyday into the primordial journey of the Self to Become I AM.