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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

From quadrants to perspectives

Reviv Lerech

I was fascinated by 'A Brief History of Everything' but the reduction of the four quadrants to the three biggies just didn't mesh. There was no real justification for, or elaboration on that move, and you have to admit that four to three is not an elegant move; no symmetry. Makes your intuition go hmmm… So I gave it some thought and it gave me some thoughts back. I hope you find them interesting, if not constructive.

The quadrants are mapped as two overlapping diads: Interior-Exterior and Individual-Collective. In the Big Three, the two quadrants of the vertical right side are collapsed, so that the individual 'IT' and the collective 'ITS' are reduced into a non-quantified unit, and we get 'I' 'WE' and 'IT".

This reduction makes a lot of sense, since any unit (Holon) consists of other units and is a constituent of other units. A metal sheet, a ship, a navy, each can be viewed and investigated as a whole, individual unit or as a bunch of other parts that make that whole (albeit an ordered bunch, not just an aggregated one. That is, each part is in a certain relation to each other and to the whole, as structure. This - the relation between the upper right and the lower right quadrants - is not adequately addressed in the book, in my opinion. But anyhow, the relation between the quadrants in general, is what I'm getting at next.).

On the other hand, 'WE' cannot be reduced into 'I'. 'WE' is not a bunch of 'I's. We, are you and I. 'You' and 'I' are the constituents of 'WE', or perhaps more accurately, of 'US' ( my pants and I for example, we just don't fit each other anymore. In other words, 'WE' could be 'I' and 'IT'.). Notice that in 'you' there's no quantification (in English, though in other languages it may exist). You can't necessarily tell if you and I are here alone, or if you and I are half a million strong.

The quadrants, each has its own dynamic topography. You can identify (as Ken presents it) a process, a movement with direction, an evolution. In other words, within each quadrant, the elements relate to each other (a construction, yes?) as a history, or histories. But the quadrants themselves, as elements of a whole (Holon or Kosmos) are not related in this way. There's movement within each quadrants, not between them. The Kosmos is static. Its picture is flat.

The way I see it, there is a hierarchical order, a movement (developmental relation) between these constituents of the Holon. Let me then, sketch a relation between the Big Three, one that takes into account a history, or movement: 'I', 'IT', 'YOU', or experience, observation and communication (or conversation, if you like).

Now, 'I' comes into being bound together with 'IT'. Any infant will tell you that, if you care to ask. In fact, 'IT' may even be conceptualized much earlier than 'I'. 'Waahhh' and 'mmmmm' are not I. but tit is It. 'I' is discovered through 'IT'; it's a special 'IT'. Then 'IT' starts separating into 'ITS'. Repetition, recognition and all that jazz. Tit and tits are not that different from each other, so to speak. You can only have one at a time anyway (from an infant perspective, though my recollection of that period is vague :). In this respect, singularity and plurality are not that fundamental. But then an amazing realization starts to crystallize. Some (or at least one) of these 'ITS' are also (or also have) 'I's. And thus, you come into the world. My world. And we communicate. I scream you come. I smile you smile. At first this is all very confusing. What is you and what is it? In time I sort it out. The difference between acting on and communicating with, slowly becomes apparent. And in time, as I develop, mature and grow, more and more of 'IT' may transform into 'YOU', as my relationships with 'them', 'The universe', 'God', my dog, etc., transform into 'WE' or 'US' (that is, you and I).

Another way to look at this: I'm writing this piece. It will never write me back. It's an 'IT'. I might erase the whole thing in a minute time, or lose it by mistake. Perhaps nobody ('ITS') will ever read it. And yet (ah, my favorite trick is coming) although I know almost nothing about you (well, you read English and perhaps are singed up for Integral Something), with the same absolute certainty I have of me sitting here typing this, I know that you are over there reading it. Am I wrong? didn't think so. Such is the power of communication. Between us, you and I now, it is my written thoughts. On other occasions it might be an eye contact, a smile, a bullet, the love of Christ, the Cosmic consciousness, and so on. Whenever you exist, so do necessarily I, and therefore we.

As far as I am concerned, there is no other I in all of the Kosmos. There's only one person in the whole universe I call "I". If something (It) reflects I, then it must be you. And you are plenty (if not in the Kosmos, on this planet, or at least reading this). If something (It) reflects me, it must be a mirror, not you. When I talk about myself, it is already 'IT' I talk about. Even when I think about myself. Whenever you encounter an 'I' (within or without quotes), you encountered a right hand quadrant. There's no way around it. The self, the id, the ego, you name it, all inescapably UR. Are not Freud and Jung keen observers? Anybody, Wilber, Castaneda, you name them, who give you the most intimate and subjective account of their innermost experiences, it is an account they give, and therefore UR.

The only way to say anything meaningful about any 'IT', is by accounting for its parts (interior) and/or its relations (exterior). This is why 'IT' and 'ITS' are just two aspect of the same section of the Big Three. The difference is quantitative , not qualitative)

And herein lies my qualm about the nature of Ken's AQAL theory, as luminous and clear is it may be (and as poorly and inadequately as I comprehended it). Teaching, that is, through discourse, is right hand quadrant, no matter if its subject is physics, your true non-dual unreal self, or The Subject. Communication is always with or to you, about it. Even if it is you or I we communicate about, it is 'It', never the less. When I say "I'm sorry" or "I feel good", the communication is about UL experience. The act of communication is an UL, but not the communication. I am the messenger, and the message is about me, but I am not the message. Jesus, Buddha, and their likes indeed are both the message and the messenger, but then their message really is them, not their words (but then, they really are their words, and so on :).

"We think that…", "We both feel…" and other such declarations, are made by politicians and other demagogues. But what is talked about may be shared, that is, experienced. And it is in this shared experience (especially by lovers, spiritual, carnal, et al.) that you and I become us. There's nothing to learn from the Buddha, but if he's around, we may share a meal, a thought, a laugh.

p.s. Wilber presented a fascinating paper concerning perspective calculus, but unfortunately for me, my mind cannot handle equations (and abstractions in general) too well, so I can't comment on that part of his teaching, insightful and relevant to as it may be.

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