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INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
Anders Erkeus lives in Stockholm, Sweden and works as a writer, web editor, musical performer and inventor of musical instruments, as well as a teacher of creative music. He was educated as as a civil engineer and studied some social anthropology. These days he is combining political, cultural and philosophical efforts, including working on integral theory in a group of integralists in Stockholm. He has published a number of texts in Swedish leading newspapers and can be reached at email@example.com.
The Kosmic Globe
An attempt at a
three dimensional representation
of Integral Theory
Abstract: This text tries to expand the graphic representation of AQAL from a picture on a plane to the surface and interior of a three dimensional Kosmic Globe. The aim is to integrate more aspects of the theory into a single graphic, and in the same time discuss the implications arising from such an attempt. The Globe appeared as an answer to an attempt to integrate homecoming and evolving. The theoretical aspects graphically included are involution, second tier, the pre-trans fallacy, tetra-evolving, the Wilber-Combs Lattice, the 8 zones and maybe BigMind/Big Heart. Room-related analogies become illustrated according to their concrete meanings: Metaphorical Up becomes upwards in the Globe, Down becomes downwards and Depth becomes depth below the surface. In the process, some theoretical questions arise: Is the rational mind the most differentiating tool and the following development more integrative? Does an infant really has access to a true gross state or is it more like a subtle state? Do we need to include a psychic state into the W-C Lattice? And of course, what are really Big Mind and Big Heart? Two different causal perspectives?
There are more aspects to Wilber´s theories than what is easily illustrated with the four quadrants AQAL map. There are concepts as the prior involution, the turning point of second tier and the highly integrated spiritual stages. None of these phenomena are explicitly graphically pictured in the 4 quadrants. And of course, we have the Wilber-Combs Lattice, which is presented as a separate graphic model, and the recently added 8 zones, whose graphical inclusion in the quadrants could be more intuitive than is done now.
There are also concepts that you may think should be included, that so far are missing. To these we have the concept of returning, that appears in various perspectives. At a stage in his theory building, Wilber introduced the “Up from Eden” concept as an opposite to the romantic stance about “returning to the source”. The latter was seen as a promotion of regression, that had to be abandoned, and after that we could see his main development models changing from circles to arrows in the four quadrants, pointing out into eternity in all four directions in the AQAL map.
However, there are some very obvious “circles” in Kosmos, that can hardly be denied, for example the returning of the matter of the body to soil after death and Spirit's urge to return to itself after having lost (abandoned) itself in the world, as the world. And isn't there something very archetypally attractive in the concept of homecoming, at the culmination of an evolutionary process? Wilber says lately on involution: “Profound mystical experience always carries the sense of 'coming home'"
This text is an attempt to picture all of the above mentioned aspects in a single, very simple symbol. In the process, we can integrate the homecoming concept with the concept of the ever rising Eros. In Wilber's language, we consider them both partially true. What we have to do is introduce another dimension into the picture, a trick that actually is rather “wilberian” in essence.
So, let us look at the Kosmic Globe! For a start, let´s just see what happens if we project the four quadrants on the surface of a sphere, leaving the interior for now.
The Four Quadrants then become the surfaces of four segments, where the streams/lines rise along the surface of the globe as “longitudes”, passing the levels, that represent different “latitudes” In this model, it would of course be better to exchange the “upper” and “lower” metaphors from the two dimensional scheme with something else, for example “front” for the individual aspect and “back” for the collective aspect, in which case we would have the four segments FL (front left) FR (front right) BL (back left) BR (back right). The up and down metaphor will then be reserved for the movement along the axis direction (as in “Up from Eden”, “higher” levels etc). As a help you might even project the whole thing on your body with the creative left corresponding to the inner, the linear productive right to the outer and the collective working from behind, in relation to the individual front. See Picture 1.
For example – in Picture 1 we see a green line, representing a developmental stream in the AQAL Lower Left quadrant (here Back Left segment). To the left, we see only the two lower quadrants (Back segments), because the others are on the other side (Front side). To the right, in a view from above, we see the same line coming up onto the upper half of the sphere, representing the upper half of the stream.
So, on one hand, the line is constantly rising, moving upwards, away from “Eden” in the lowest point of the sphere (the S (south) pole). On the other hand, it has somewhere to go. It is performing a curve, departing from and then returning closer to the central axis. This axis of the globe will symbolize an aspect of the Ground of being, literally existing behind/beneath the streams/lines. This aspect of the Ground establishes a direction along the axis, which is the direction of evolution. Now we can think of a number of developmental lines in all of the segments making their way up the globe's surface, as a representation of the overall development in the present quadrants. Since we know that it takes a tetra-evolution to reach enduring progress, we can picture the furthest reaches of the different developmental lines performing a concerted, related growth on all sides of the centerline, the necessary precondition for overall growth according to the AQAL theory. We can even picture an ideal spiraling upwards through the quadrants (here segment surfaces) of these line endings, including the spiral metaphor.
So in this way, we can “save” some aspects of Wilber I and the Romantics picture. We can propose that the mind/rational level is in a way furthest away from the Ground, and in that way is an important node in creation. Maybe the maximal differentiation takes place here, or at least the greatest urge for differentiation, for a material and conceptual multitude. Maybe we can pose that in some way there is more integration than differentiation on the upper half of the globe. (Cook-Greuter actually poses that in her ego stages graphics). On the way home and at the same time further away, aiming at a “final” integration of the Beyond and the World? Is the equator where 2nd tier starts, with the ability to overlook all 1st tier waves? Is this a useful illustration of this 2nd tier novelty, meaning that we in our normal state are getting closer to the Ground again?
There seems to be a lot more to this. For one thing, we can discuss the strange resemblances between aspects of lower and higher levels/waves in terms of equal distances from the Ground axis - resemblances that among other things bewilder psychiatrists and their patients, such as those between magic and psychic, between lower and higher archetypes etc. The root of the “pre-trans fallacy” can be easily illustrated in this perspective.
As the central axis point out the direction of evolution, it therefore also points out the direction of involution as the opposite direction. And involution is then a movement along the axis from north to south, beneath manifestation.
Can the introduction of the new dimension be brought further in a useful way? Let us now go beyond the surface of the globe and discuss what a filling of the internal volume of the globe could represent. What comes to mind is of course the Wilber-Combs Lattice. This lattice can be projected onto a cross section of the front left segment, corresponding to the UL in AQAL (at least). The analogy of depth for the more “spiritual states” can be applied as the actual depth below the surface of the Kosmic Globe, reaching down to the center line representing the perception of ground of being, the casual mystic state. The gross state will be represented by the surface and the subtle in between, a bit down into the globe. I think we can insert the psychic also, as the flow state, where synchronicities occur. (The W-C Lattice doesn't differentiate gross and psychic, though it refers to “nature mysticism” , which hardly can refer to the everyday gross perception. With the help of this projection, you can map a state with the corresponding experiencing level/stage/wave onto a point within the globe. (I have played a little with the name of the levels here, to be discussed in another context). See picture 2.
There are a couple of ways to do this projection. How shall the state borders be illustrated? To make a choice, let's look at what we find very near the south pole, within the infant's mind. Do we have a “normal” gross perception here, or maybe the natural state of a baby is more of a dreamlike subtle state, “interpreted” at the very first sensimotor level. This would suggest that the states would be illustrated as cylinders around the Ground axis, rather than forms projected as banana like slices when you cut the globe in half. (This also satisfies the “simple and beautiful” criterion for good theories.)
And the more advanced levels, not so much analyzed but nowadays freed from being defined by states, still may have easier admission to subtle and causal states. This could also point to the cylinder picture.
And the Non-dual? The very sphere itself is good classical analogy for the always already present fullness, (the AQAL plane fails here) resting in the emptiness of the surrounding space, with its creative power (Eros) penetrating the central axis. I find a kind of theoretical beauty here. Here the non-dual would be illustrated by the whole sphere and the surrounding space together. Since we seem to get two causal perspectives here, what would be the relation between the surrounding space and the central axis? Something to play with. Maybe the Big Mind / Big Heart differentiation can be used?
A final reflection can be made around the more recent version of the four quadrants that include an outside and an inside view of each quadrant, and in that way contain eight perspectives, the eight zones. That distinction can possibly also be represented in the Kosmic Globe. The inside view would be a view in the direction from the central axis and outwards and the outside view would be a view in the opposite direction. Interestingly you would get two extreme spiritual views, the Pure Witness looking from the inner axis (resembling for example the “inner channel/s” of tantric Buddhism) and the detached outer view, maybe the extreme scientific perspective. The usefulness of a Kosmic globe as a model here remains to be figured out further.
Enough here, there are of course other ways of using the gained third dimension for various kinds of modeling. And there are a lot more to ponder, for example the meaning of the inside of the other segments/quadrants. I just want to point out that the three dimensional Kosmic Globe variation of AQAL gives room to include more of the complex integral theory into one single picture, and maybe help to reveal not yet considered aspects. Or at least breed interesting discussions on the relations between the different aspects of integral theory.