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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].
The Kosmic Self
Could the metaverse be what humans have intuited to be God, the Source and greater Being of our existence?
When we think of the self we often think of a set of preferences, the likes and dislikes, predispositions and tendencies that shape the thought and behavior of our unique personhood. These personality traits in turn are mostly shaped by the cultural and historical context in which we live, with some unique biographical and biological differences.
Indeed, even entire societies, civilizations, and historical epochs can be said to have such sets of characteristics that define who and what they are. Species too are defined by a unique set of characteristics such that we may say that the self of a zebra is very different from the self of a lion, that America is very different from China, and that the self of modernity is very different from the self of postmodernity.
More fundamentally, we can say that even the most primitive cells have a set of preferences, like and dislikes, predispositions and tendencies that define its being as a self-system. When a cell or a bacteria is in the presence of molecule A or B, it will open its membrane wall to let in the nutrients, and when A or B is not present or when molecule C or D is present, it will remain closed to protect itself against toxins. With simple information like this encoded on the cell membrane it is able to sustain the integrity of its self-system and its identity.
By having a simple set of binary rules for what to let in and out, the cell is able to maintain its self through constraints on what defines its being. These constraints, being inherently conservative, are what defines the self-system of the cell through an awareness of the environment based on molecular informational switches embedded on the surface of the cell membrane. Each kind of cell has a different set of molecular switches to interpret its environment in slightly different ways suitable to maintaining the integrity of that particular kind of cell. Interestingly, the same can be said for the universe as a whole.
In quantum electrodynamics (QED) and quantum chromodynamics (QCD), which are theories that make the most precise and accurate predictions about the behavior of matter ever made by science, the universe follows a set of simple rules that define its being. And like the rules for maintaining cells, without these quantum rules for the behavior of matter the universe would be as lost and as chaotic as a cell in which there were no rules for maintaining its integrity as a self-system. Just as in the case of a cell, in the quantum theory of matter a particle behaves one way in the presence of particle A or B, and quite another way when it encounters particles C or D, and it always does this whenever those particles interact. The difference is that the cell has acquired through a long process of selective trial and error what rules it must follow in order to maintain itself, whereas the universe was given the rules for its orderly maintenance from the start, or otherwise acquired them very quickly in the first few moments of its existence.
This may seem self-evidently trivial, that different molecules and particles behave differently with different molecules and particles in a consistent manner. But it should not be dismissed lightly that such simple rules of interaction are the basis of order in the universe, and importantly it is what allows complexity to build-up from simpler foundations.
There are two other things that cells share with the universe that I will mention in brief here. One is that information about the inner workings of the cell is encoded on its surface membrane. This is similar to the cosmology of the holographic principle, in which physicists hypothesize that information about the inner workings of the universe may be encoded on the surface of space-time much like a hologram is encoded on a two dimensional plate, and what happens in our three dimensional universe may be a projection of the information embedded in the surface of the plenum of space that surrounds us as the subquantum foundation of matter. The cell membrane that informationally controls what goes in and out of its self-system may be a self-similar scaled down version of the space-time membrane that informationally controls what gets projected into our material reality.
Second, cells come in a variety of forms, and at greater levels of complexity they come in multicellular organizations of form. This is similar to the idea of the multiverse where universes come in a variety of forms, each with slightly different rules of organization than the next. This also suggests the next level of organization in universes, a metaverse (among metaverses?) organized into a larger whole consisting of a variety of different kinds of universes, but having a common theme or organizing principle among them, similar to how cells have evolved into multicellular organisms with a common, larger purpose.
Could the metaverse be what humans have intuited to be God, the Source and greater Being of our existence? If so, that Metaverse has its reverberations here in this universe, in the very cells of our being, and in the laws and values of our society and culture that shape our thoughts and behaviors, as the Kosmic Self.