An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

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British-born, Canadian Gerry Goddard was an astrologer, metaphysician, transpersonalist, consultant, writer, teacher and scholar whose special interest was the bridge between foundational astrology and the field of post-Jungian transpersonal studies. Gerry died unexpectedly in November of 2007 at the age of 64. Much of Gerry's written work is available at his memorial website:

Holonic Logic
and the Dialectics
of Consciousness

Unpacking Ken Wilber's Four Quadrant Model

Gerry Goddard (1943-2007)


As a methodological framework mapping various domains of valid inquiry, Ken Wilber's Four-Quadrant model (Click here to see Fig. I) is a significant step toward establishing a truly integral and non-reductive science of consciousness.1 Such an integrative program recognizes subjective experience as a legitimate domain of inquiry equivalent to the privileged objective domain of traditional science, while at the same time clarifying the logical relation of individual and society -- a relation carefully differentiated from the holonic part/whole polarity of hierarchic structuration. Although I am in general agreement with the perennialist idea of developmental deep stage/structures and the non-reducibility of subjectivity to objectivity, of individual to society (and vice versa), I believe that Wilber's model precisely as mapped is not adequate as a foundation for a transpersonal model of consciousness. Certain central features of the dynamic dialectical journey of consciousness from pre-personal to personal to transpersonal levels are truncated by this map. Nevertheless, if certain conflations in the interior/exterior and individual/society polarities are uncovered and Wilber's own explication of the agentic/communal structure of the holon is more adequately incorporated into the model, a somewhat different picture emerges, one which is inevitably implied by the nuances of Wilber's own foundational bi-polar 'holonic logic'. This picture combines a hierarchical, structuralist and perennialist paradigm with central features of certain dynamic, dialectical, and archetypal accounts within the field of transpersonal theory.2

Incorporating, yet expanding and deepening the scientific world view, Wilber has taken a bold metaphysical stand on some of the most intractable of philosophical dilemmas: the nature and relation of mind and matter or mind and brain; the nature and identity of the self and its relation to the 'other'; and the nature of the eco-systemic relation of organism and environment, individual and society. In this paper I am not engaging the details of the vertical hierarchic axis. With some reservations, I generally accept the broad categories from atoms to molecules to cells to simple, and then to ever more complex organisms up to humans -- along with their aggregates and societies. I will be talking specifically about one major band of the vertical spectrum; the human compound holon manifesting as society and as the individual. I want to show that Wilber's model, due to certain Left/Right and Upper/Lower conflations, requires a further dimension in order to more adequately map the holonic differentiations that he explicates. It is when this other dimension is introduced that we find the logical room to integrate Wilber's views with more dialectical views that because of the limiting topography of his model, he has accused of retro-regression.

In terms of the concept of holonic bipolarity, Wilber is correct in mapping individual and society side by side all the way up (i.e. his Upper and Lower quadrants mapping atoms/galaxies to organisms/societies). Every individual holon in itself and in its relations with other holons is embedded in a social holon. And he is generally correct in mapping subjectivity and objectivity side by side all the way up even though this feature requires a defense of a philosophical position known as panexperientialism.3 But his Left and Right categories expressed as interiority and exteriority, subjectivity and objectivity, conflate two different senses of objective and subjective orders while logically presupposing a condition not on the map. Likewise, his Upper and Lower categories conflate the interactivity between any holons and the logical relation of individual holons and social holons. I will argue that the categories 'interiority' and 'exteriority' tend to become conflated with the subjective and the objective and with mind and matter, and need to be more carefully differentiated. Also, I will argue that the bipolarity of agency and communion has become conflated with individual and society, both polarities actually expressing a different sort of holonic logic.

There are two categories of holonic logic: (1) two sides of the same coin which I shall call 'Janus-faced', a condition where we may be said to be seeing the 'same thing' from different epistemological perspectives: but ontologically speaking, 'the more of the one, the more of the other'; and (2) two modes in polar dialectical relation: ontologically, 'the more of the one, the less of the other'. The sense in which every subject is simultaneously an object is expressed through a polar Janus-faced relation. But this relation implies a necessary epistemological relation between two distinct individual holons in mutual subject/object relation which is the concrete foundation for a dialectical dimension. As Wilber makes clear, the agentic mode of the individual is dialectical with the communal mode of the same individual. The agencies and communions of a holon although logically interdependent, are a logical bi-polarity in dialectical either/or relation, a different logical relation to the Janus-faced subject/object. But since both individuals and societies must be considered agentically and communally, individual and society actually exist in both Janus-faced and dialectical relation to each other. We shall see that the agentic individual is in Janus-face relation with 'communal' society, while the communal individual is in Janus-faced relation with 'agentic' society. The 'social holon' in its communal mode refers to a universalizing interactivity of different societies and cultures with their various constitutive myths and paradigms through an increasingly permeable social boundary. The social holon in its agentic mode refers to the original cohesive and homogeneous cultural form, though originally more open to nature, it is actually more bounded in relation to other cultures. I shall go on to argue that it is the subject/object based epistemological relation of two individual holons which constitutes the basis of individual agency (and its Janus-faced social communion), while a directly resonant subject/subject relation between two individual holons constitutes the basis of individual communion (and social agency). We shall see that individual agency is in a developmental dialectical conflict with social agency, while individual communion is in developmental dialectical conflict with social communion. It is this more complex set of relations, which will become clearer through the text, that will constitute our reconstruction of Wilber's model.

The Left/Right Distinction

In Wilber's model, the Left and Right quadrants are said to represent the 'interior' and 'exterior' dimensions of any holon including the human holon, neither side being reducible to the other; not the Left to the Right as in materialism, nor the Right to the Left as in idealism (or as in radically interpretative "extreme postmodernism" Wilber, 2000). Thus, we apparently see the experiential world mapped on the Left and the objective world mapped on the Right. However, expressing it this way implies a simple Cartesian dualism which contains all the traditional problems. Since the problems which Cartesian duality generates should be at least provisionally answered by any 'post-Cartesian' model purporting to be the foundation for a transpersonal model, it is not good enough to maintain, as does Wilber (1997, 2000), that the Cartesian problem is only solvable at the trans-egoic level of direct meditative apprehension. Any transpersonal model should be a mapping, not from the Cartesian perspective itself, but a mapping of the Cartesian from a higher level perspective (vision logic). The Cartesian perspective, if it is a world view, or even a real feature within a larger structure of reality, and not the overarching way things ultimately are, must appear within the map and not as the essential structure of the map.

As Ken Wilber points out, Rene Descartes did not 'invent' mind/body or mind/matter dualism (as some 'end-of-duality' new paradigmers might sometimes have us believe). Rather, he 'discovered' it, and it thereafter became a fundamental logical feature, even a dogma of scientific methodology.4 What is the essential feature of reality which Descartes discovered, or rather, articulated? Berkeley, and later Hume, would point out that the so-called world of independently existing concrete objects (Cartesian extension; Lockean primary qualities) was as much an aspect of the manifold of experience as was the 'private' mental realm. It followed that a 'real' tree (i.e. the tree that everyone can see 'over there') as much as a memory of a tree, or even an imaginary tree, could only be disclosed in experience. Any description of the tree (even a subatomic account, which is concerned simply with smaller phenomena) was only a description of the experienced tree plus a set of logical abstractions and common agreements. Since Berkeley equated experience with mind, having adopted the Cartesian paradigm -- the mind/matter distinction -- it followed that there was only mind. But this radical skepticism (including Hume's phenomenalist and solipsistic field) concerning the nature and existence of an objective order has remained unacceptable to hard common sense. The intuitive conviction of the 'real world' as the objective referent of a certain class of experiences remains in some tacit paradigmatic form to this day. In fact, such a conviction of the independent existence of the object perceived, appears as a logical precondition for all thought, experience and action. Kant called the object, or realm of objects, the 'noumenon' while explaining the generally consistent, collective, and persistent nature of those 'objective experiences' as a particular metaphysical structuration of cognition, cognizing 'something' objective, yet as far as sensory perception is concerned anyway, something which remained logically and necessarily unknowable in itself.

Berkeley and Hume were correct in pointing out that the so-called objective world as much as the subjective, is disclosed only through experience. Even if he had drawn a dualistic conclusion which itself has proven unsatisfactory, Descartes had made an accurate epistemologically central and foundational distinction: the clear distinction between public and private experience (a distinction roughly corresponding to Hume's distinction between 'impressions' which are primary and 'ideas' which are secondary). Experience is not seamless: it is bifurcated. But it has become apparent that the Cartesian mind/matter (subject/object) distinction is a logically incoherent interpretation of the experiential bifurcation. It leads to serious logical difficulties to say that 'mind' perceives 'matter.' In terms of the bifurcated manifold of experience, it would be logically peculiar to say that one part of the experiential continuum is in subject/object relation to the other part. But if Wilber's Right is claimed to denote so-called matter, energy, all concrete forms including organismic and brain processes (all these as the 'world') while his Left denotes the experiences of the world etc., then we would be compelled to say precisely what we cannot legitimately say, namely, that the Left experiences the Right.

The vertical line in Wilber's model would appear to be dividing either:

  1. the experience of the tree (LEFT) from the objective tree (RIGHT) where LEFT is experience and RIGHT is concrete nature;
  2. person x's experience of the tree (LEFT) from the ways that person x's experience of the tree shows up in the world (RIGHT); namely as person x's behaviour and more subtly the total state of his/her body and brain.

In formulation (a) we have the familiar Cartesian duality. Formulation (b) is coherent as far as it goes, but the map is not adequate as it stands to picture the necessary epistemological relations between experiencer and the object experienced. In this sense, the Right hand object is the objective face of the Left hand experiencer; it is not then simultaneously the objective 'other' perceived by the Left hand experiencer. Where, then, is the tree? If it is on the Right along with the brain state, then we are back to (a) where we have to say that some mental awareness on the Left perceives some physical objects on the Right, which is Cartesian. What are these concrete objects beyond the phenomenological or experiential descriptions, which apparently belong on the Left and not the Right? -- that is, if the Left is defined as 'experience' over against 'objective fact'.

It would seem to follow that both sides, the Left and the Right, must be contained in 'experience'; in which case, the Left cannot be defined as experience over against Right hand objective facts. What then, are Wilber's Left and Right dimensions? They can only be a map of experience itself, dividing the two manifolds of experience; private (thought trees) and public (sensed trees). Therefore, the Left/Right division must be a picture of the structure of consciousness of a particular holon -- which at the higher levels is a person. But under point (b) above, we saw that, in part, Wilber's model is significant in that it depicts the relation between experiences and brain states in terms of the Left/Right (Janus-faced) distinction. But if the Right (the experience of the real tree) is as much the experience of the individual person as is the Left (the experience of the thought tree), then the brain states and behaviour which will concretely manifest the experiences of this person cannot be shown on the Right simply as part of the field of his/her outer experiences. Outer experiences cannot belong to the category of how experiences of the inner and outer show up as brain states!

But since Wilber's Right (as mapped) cannot denote the fact of the brain state (only experiences of the objective world), we need another category of equal status which maps how both the Left and Right experiences show up as brain states and behaviour. To map this, of course, implies an epistemological relation between at least two holons (or persons since our example will be at the human level) which cannot be logically fit, without significant modification, into Wilber's framework as it stands. If Wilber's model is to be a foundational epistemology and ontology of consciousness, it needs to recognize that the uniting consciousness of both Left and Right is that of a particular holon (or person), and hence requires a map relating the perceiving person to the perceived person.

We have to introduce two observers or observing viewpoints. There is the observer who is experientially constituted by both the mental contents on Wilber's Interior Left and the sensory/perceptual world contents on his Exterior Right. Both Left and Right are directly disclosed to this observer; they are the inner and outer experiences of this person. As such, the Four-Quadrant model is then a map of an individual conscious holon where the Left and Right define, not experience on the Left and objectivity on the Right, but define the full range of experience of a holon. But since reality, or the reality of a holon (at the higher levels, a person/holon), cannot be pictured without the observer, we must introduce another holon which is conscious of the first holon, but to which none of the contents of the four quadrants can be directly revealed, at least through the senses! What is directly revealed of the first holon is how it appears as a complex brain and behaviour state, that other category which needs to be integrated into a more adequate mandala. As a picture of any holon, Wilber's Four-Quadrant model is an abstraction, with consciousness disembodied and transcendent.

The Left/Right feature of the Four-Quadrant model actually conflates two dimensions; (1) the subject and object perceptual relationship of person x and person y at the same horizontal level, and (2) the bifurcated 'inner/outer' field of experience of a holon. This is precisely the Cartesian error which conflates and identifies the structure of subject/object perception with the bifurcated experiential, inner/outer structure, identifying consciousness (experience) with the mind or interior side of the experiential divide! A more adequate model must differentiate these dimensions and relate them as we have seen. Wilber mixes on the Right, the way that experiences show up as brain states (the mind/brain relation) with the objective nature of the world which is perceived. These need to be differentiated. If both Wilber's Left and Right are experiences, then both the experiences of inner 'mind' and outer 'nature' will show up as objective brain states (or complex brain related energy fields) from the point of view of the other. This feature needs to be mapped.

Consequently, the valid or legitimate Cartesian differentiation is not the vertical line which separates Wilber's Left and Right; rather, it is a fundamental, onto-epistemological division which must be drawn on Wilber's Left. We need to map a new LEFT and RIGHT. On this LEFT we see Wilber's Left and Right in the sense of point (a), that is, as inner and outer experience, while on the RIGHT, we see Wilber's Right in the sense of point (b), that is, the sense of brain states and behaviour 'correlating' with the Left hand experience of a particular holon. Insofar as LEFT/RIGHT depicts the Janus-faced relation of any holon's experience/brain state, it presupposes the logic of the first person and third person epistemological perspective. Without this, the Four-Quadrant model remains an abstraction -- we are caught in the old scientific dilemma of trying to map the world while leaving out the observer.

Now we have a map based on the mutual perceptual relationship of two holons (or persons). Each holon is mapped as a LEFT/RIGHT Janus-faced relation. The RIGHT is the objective experience from the perspective of the other which belongs on this other's LEFT -- that is, on the Right hand facet of the LEFT! That which distinguishes RIGHT from LEFT is precisely, and nothing more than, the self/other relation! That which distinguishes the so-called realm of 'mind' from the so-called realm of 'world' is that A shows up as B's world and B shows up as A's world! The objective form of A is revealed as the subjective experience of B and vice versa. Hence, it follows that the fundamental logical condition underlying all epistemology and ontology is the relationship, not of a Cartesian subject to a Cartesian object, but of a holonic subject/object to a holonic subject/object where the objective form of the one is in some sense equivalent to the subjective form of the other. In this view, subject and object, mind and matter spring into existence in each moment of perceiving and being perceived which occurs all the way from the shadowy prehension level 3 up to the rational-egoic levels of experience/manifestation.

When an entity (x) (atom, organism, human) perceives another entity (y), (y) shows up as an object and (x) shows up as an experience, the content of which directly matches the description that object (y) is claimed to be. Similarly for entity (y) perceiving entity (x). The nature, being, or existence of an entity is 'objective' as the recipient of the perceiving entity and 'subjective' as the perceiving of the other entity. Both entities are subject/objects depending on the nature of the relations between them. This interactive relation is an occurrence or event which is non dual -- i.e. it is not two parts, namely, mind and matter interacting.5

That which is observed is called the object, the body, or nature and the phenomenological description of the observation is called mind operating as perception. We generally confuse consciousness with 'mind', then see it as private and posit it over against the objective world. But what is called 'subjective mind' beyond the present moment's perception (i.e. thought and imagination -- past/present/future) unfolds as consciousness of both mind and body/world increases reaching its maximum in humans. Consciousness is the embracing principle that both joins and differentiates Wilber's Left and Right experiential continuum (placed on our LEFT). Being neither identified with 'mind' nor 'matter', consciousness discloses both in experience.6

This argument of course rests upon the claim of the ultimate non reducibility of 'mind' to 'matter' right down to the Whiteheadean prehension of particles level. (As Wilber [2000, p.709] puts it, "Wherever there is a boundary between physical objects -- for example, between an atom and another atom -- then those atoms have exteriors, and wherever there is an exterior there is an interior: you cannot have one without the other.") This in no way constitutes an idealist reduction of matter (trees) to mind (experience of trees and remembered trees). The concrete reality of y does not 'exist' only in the mind of x because x's very existence depends on y's experience and y's existence is also y's experience of the objective form of x. The objective form of x is the necessary manifestation (actual and potential) of the existence of x's mind appearing before y. Existence and perception is mutually implicative and rests upon a foundational dyadic logic which needs to be pictured as fundamental in any model of consciousness. It is this dyadic logic which defines the fundamental inner/outer which is also self/other, providing a foundational constellation for a more adequate transpersonal map of consciousness.

So in a more adequate model, the LEFT 'outer' experience is distinguished from the LEFT 'inner' experience (what we have called the legitimate Cartesian bifurcation to be pictured on our LEFT) in that the LEFT 'outer' is 'the way the other 'shows up' as RIGHT objecthood. The LEFT 'inner' along with the LEFT 'outer' shows up objectively on the RIGHT and as the LEFT 'outer' of the other. That is, the full description of the RIGHT of the one is equivalent to the LEFT outer of the other. See Click here to see Fig. II (individual holon). Perception/existence is the mutual implication of LEFT 'outer' and the RIGHT of the other. The LEFT 'inner,' while showing up as object to the other, is not in direct perceptual relation to the other at all. Thus what we normally call 'mind' (all 'subjective' experiential content not presently revealing 'objective reality' -- i.e. non perceptual mind) remains logically unknown to the other. Not only is it impossible but it is unintelligible to speak of apprehending the other's mental experience directly except to objectify it (at least until transpersonal consciousness embraces the distinction from a higher unifying level). An entity can be revealed to another perceptually within time-space only as an object, not as a subject; that is, not in and through the act of experiential perception: hence, the logically necessary privacy of experience. But I will argue below that an exclusively sensory-based epistemology is too narrow, not in the sense that there are higher transpersonal modes of perception, but in the sense that private interiors are directly linked through a primal (and for us entirely unconscious) mode of subject/subject knowing.

It is the total holon which perceives the other holon, and not simply the LEFT inner (or 'mind') which is the perceiver -- the holon as an object in the world as much as an experiential manifold including 'inner' and 'outer' phenomena. Although the sense of being a particular self is an identification with the 'mind' (the LEFT inner) as distinct from the world (the LEFT outer), the real perceiver is the total holon; not 'something' standing outside and observing the inner and outer contents of its experience. As each level of the hierarchy is a level of greater complexity, then each level is a level of increasing consciousness which is what the complexity is. The sense of being distinct from our own experience (inner and outer) is created through time; a process where a new experience establishes a relationship to the immediately past experience (in part expressed through Wilber's [2000] distinction between the proximate and distal selves). In mindfulness meditation this separation of the experiencer from his/her experience is optimally overcome as one 'realizes' that there is only the stream, the reactive chain of experiences through time. In fact, there is only the stream of experiences which is consciousness; but not a stream of which some transcendent observer is conscious.

The experience of the bifurcation of inner and outer which gives rise to the sense of duality (a self and world) comes about because inner experience is constantly flowing from present to past, whereas outer experience is always in the present. But the apparent 'self' is actually distracted from the present time of sensory experience to dwell in the inward flow of time where mind constantly seems to get one step ahead of itself in relation to the immediate past. Meditation allows as to stop creating the inner chain reaction and 'be with' the present flow of inner experience which now naturally meshes with the always present time of sensory (outer) experience. From this holarchically inclusive perspective, inner and outer present experience become one manifold of present living existence without a transcendent watcher. But in this experience, the experiential totality which is self/world is profoundly transformed. What is called 'mindfulness awareness' as distinct from ordinary experience is not a higher self and a lower self (except if we mean be 'self', the particular integrative structuration of consciousness at each level) but simply a higher level of consciousness on the vertical holarchy.

But before developing the implications of our model with its interactive individual subject/object (LEFT/RIGHT) Janus-faced polarities in subject/object epistemological relation (and as we shall see, subject/subject relation), we need to analyze the relation of individual and society, Wilber's Upper and Lower quadrants.

The Upper and Lower Quadrants & The Individual/Social Relation

In SES and in Integral Psychology, Wilber describes the Upper quadrants as picturing the 'individual holon' and the Lower quadrants as picturing the 'social holon.' But if Wilber is picturing the fundamental structure of any holon (i.e. picturing the fourfold logic of holonic structure), just as his Left/Right maps interiority/exteriority and the vertical hierarchy (levels 1 to 13 in Fig. I) maps part/whole, we would expect that his picture would also map the horizontal agency/communion dialectic. But the Upper and Lower quadrants of Wilber's Four-Quadrant model are apparently mapping two different logical types of holon (individual holons which include a locus of prehension and social holons which do not) rather than the polarities of any holon. An adequate map of holonic structure would need to picture the structure of any holon -- both the individual and the social holon. But one four-quadrant map could not picture both at the same time -- we would need two maps, or some sort of compound map. Wilber is certainly correct in putting individual and society on the same level (horizontally) since society or the state does not constitute a higher level whole of which the individual is a part. But the single Four-Quadrant model is not adequate as both a model of the structure of individual and social holons and as a logical mapping of the bi-polar, agentic/communal structure of any holon. If the Upper is seen as a holon in its own right (and Wilber [1995,2000] obviously means this by calling it the 'individual holon'), it must include both agency and communion. And likewise for the social holon mapped below.

But could the Four-Quadrant model as a picture of holonic structure itself perhaps be preserved by interpreting it as a map of the individual holon, where the term 'individual holon' (Upper quadrants) actually denotes the agency of the holon and the term 'social holon' (Lower quadrants) is simply a loose name for the communions of individual holons? Sometimes Wilber seems to simply equate the identity of an organism (its structure and manifold of experience) with its agency which, if the Upper/Lower is meant to signify the agentic/communal poles of any holon, would mean he must be prepared to equate the communions of the individual with the structure of the group itself, rather than with the distinct patterns of relationship to that group.

But there are problems with this interpretation. There is a logical difficulty which arises if Wilber's Upper is seen as the agency of the holon and the Lower, the communion of the holon. Wilber himself states that the bi-polarity of agency/communion is such that, the more agency, the less communion and vice versa. He writes, "These four forces are in constant tension. Horizontally: the more agency, the less communion, and vice versa." (Wilber 1995, p.45) This would mean then that the more developed the individual the less developed the society, or vice versa. On the face of it, since generally speaking highly developed individuals live in highly developed societies, this is obviously absurd. Of course, in terms of the agency/communion, or autonomy/relationships, of individual holons, such imbalances certainly make sense; some individuals favouring agency, others communion, but most of us expressing different poles at different times. Also, because of the either/or nature of the agentic/communal polarity, it would follow that when I am relating to someone, I am less who I am! This is an agentic bias indeed, since I may be less agentic when I am being communal but I am not less who I am, meaning we cannot equate agentic with individual being.

What agency does refer to is the maintenance and growth of a particular identity as distinct from relational connection and exchange. What we normally mean by the term 'individual', is an entity which does, alternately, assert and commune; an entity which can be described as both autonomous and connected. The cognitive structures pictured in the UL refer to individual cognition, but not exclusively to the agentic form of that cognition as distinct from the individual's communal and interpersonal modes. What the individual person is -- the cognitive structures pictured in the UL -- is the basis for both agentic and communal modes of experience and action. To equate the 'social holon' with the communions of individuals would be to reduce 'reality' to individuals, to derive environments strictly from organisms, fields from particles, society from individual egos. Understood in this way, Wilber's Four-Quadrant model would, in a certain sense, be reductive after all, giving ontological priority to individuals, even though, because of its hierarchic feature, it is not an atomistic reductionism, and because of its Left/Right feature (although I have argued that this is insufficiently articulated), it is not materialistically or idealistically reductive. Just like the Cartesian epistemology, this agentically biased reduction to the individual happens to be exactly the ego-based developmental form of the modernist stage in the history of the development of consciousness which Wilber's model is supposed to be mapping.

When we look at Wilber's Upper and Lower Right hand quadrants, we see the particle, the organism and the human body/brain in the Upper Right and bunches (not 'heaps') of particles, organisms, and human body/brains interacting in the Lower Right. This strongly suggests that the UR/LR relation is aptly a picture of the agency/communion of individuals implying that the 'social holon' is simply the communions of individuals. But patterns of relationship are not identical with communal world spaces. Logically speaking, an individual holon cannot be said to relate to a social holon in the same sense that a particular organism interacts with its environment. The bi-polar logic of any holon does not objectively demarcate the boundary of the individual in relation to the larger field -- holonic polarities are not different aspects of a field but different ways that the same thing "manifests" from different epistemological perspectives. The organism/environment relation is actually the interactivity of one individual holon with other particular holons (peers at all levels of the compound structure). Properly, we can only say that individuals relate to one another (their communions) in terms of universal social world spaces which are pictured in Wilber's Lower Left. So, again, individual communions cannot be identical with society. If the Lower quadrants are constituted entirely by individual holons interacting, they should show the communions and interpersonal interactions of individuals as society -- but they do not. Demonstrating this conflation of individual communions and the social holon, Wilber (2000, p. 546) in an otherwise legitimate context of classifying practices, lumps both interpersonal relationships and moral spaces together in the Lower Left Quadrant. From the strictly epistemologically correct standpoint which we are trying to establish here, this would constitute a logical mixing or a 'category error'.

As the result of these arguments, it is clear that symmetry requires that Wilber's Upper must be the individual; the Lower, the society -- both on the same ontological level, neither being reducible to the other. In Wilber's Lower Right, individual organisms are indeed interacting, but they are also features of time-space physical and biospheric fields which suggest a 'social holon' which indeed is not reducible to individual holons interacting. This 'social holon' would involve some sort of field-mind concept such as Sheldrake's (1995) morphic fields, Jung's (1959) collective unconscious, or Bateson's (1972) social mind. Wilber (2000, p 709-710) is clear in further stating the difference between individual holons and social holons. A social holon, though more than a mere 'heap', is less than an individual holon in that "social holons do not possess a locus of self-awareness at any stage of their development...self-awareness is possible in individuals, but not in societies." (Actually, social awareness is originally 'group-mind' and self-awareness grows out of that, as original group-mind becomes the 'collective unconscious'). So according to Wilber, there are indeed clearly two types of holons, each manifesting through both agentic and communal modes. The psychologist sees individuals while the sociologist sees societies. For the psychologist, society is a complex product of individuals, while for the sociologist, individuals are a product of society. Neither approach leads to the other: they are different (polar) ways of understanding the same world. But how are we to map the connections?

We will need to picture the individual up to the human in terms of its particularity -- its distinct and self maintaining agency -- and its connected interactions with each of its individual peers -- its relational communality. Also, we need to show the 'social holon' -- a particular interactive group with a particular cohesive world space (or world view) -- in both its agentic and communal modes. The agency of the social holon is its distinction from other (same level) groups or societies: the communion of the social holon refers to its dynamic interactivity with other societies and cultures with consequent change from a homogeneous grouping to a larger and more heterogeneous culture.7

Rather than the organism/environment relation, the individual/social relation is a modelling of the same thing viewed from a different perspective. In this sense, we are talking about a Janus-faced polarity, like the polarity we modelled above as LEFT/RIGHT, as experience/brain state. We are talking about a polar identity like the two faces/one vase gestalt picture or the particle/wave nature of light. Logic and symmetry requires a 'social holon' which is at the same ontological level as the individual holon -- one which is logically other than the communions of individual holons. But just as it makes no sense to speak of the interactive relation of John's experience of the tree and his simultaneous brain state event, it makes no sense to speak of the individual holon directly interacting or relating to the social holon. We can say only that individual holons interact with other individual holons, thus constituting the group; or that an individual can relate to several individuals at once through his/her 'idea' of the group.

Now just as the agency and communion poles of an individual holon operate in dialectically related or either/or fashion, so do the agentic/communal poles of the 'social holon'. But this implies a dynamic dialectical interplay of 'group mind' and 'individual mind' that cannot be modeled simply be a Janus-faced polarity. Actually, it implies a more cross dialectical modelling of the agentic and communal poles of both kinds of holon. See Fig. II -- upper individual and lower social diagrams. The agency of the 'social holon' is its cohesive structure which puts a preventative counter pressure on the developing individual: the communality of the social holon is its openness to other cultures (in human terms, from inter-tribal mixes to the culturally complex nation state and now global culture). So as we go up hierarchically (up to the modernist period), the social holon decreases its agency and increases its communion, while the individual increases its agency and decreases its communion, thus demonstrating its increasingly patriarchal character (beyond the lower matriarchal, relatively undifferentiated levels).

So the logic of the dialectical relation of individual to society is such that each bi-polarity is oppositely configured. The agency of the individual and the communion of society are mutually configured -- that is, they stand in Janus-faced relation. The same holds for the communion of the individual with the agency of society. On the vertical axis, the individual develops up to the mental-ego level through the dialectic of its agency against the pull of its own communions and of the conforming forces of social agency. Society develops as increasingly communal. But as it does so, there is an overarching sense in which the 'individual' becomes 'more' and the 'society' becomes 'less'; that is, the individual (i.e. the agentic individual) becomes more and more front and central, with society as a background matrix for the individual. Genuine collective consciousness (group mind) in fact becomes 'less': it becomes collective unconsciousness! As 'group mind' gives way to 'individual mind', the original fusion of the largely communal (tribal) individual and agentic society (small group cohesion) is replaced by increasingly autonomous interacting individuals. Society does indeed then become a web of individual communions replacing or superseding the fundamental group mind or field mind, which is for us collective unconsciousness, but was once the enchanted interconnected wholeness of psyche/nature at pre-mental/egoic levels. That is, with consciousness increasingly centered in the individual, society/culture indeed becomes a conscious, intentional intersubjective web just as Wilber actually describes the Lower quadrants! The development of consciousness up to and including the mental-ego is indeed the development of individual consciousness occurring through an increasing individual/world distinction!

From Wilber's (1995, p65) observation, "the social system is not a true organism (it is a social or environmental holon, not an individual holon) does not have a locus of self-prehension...a locus of individual self being," we know that despite his point about consciousness being distributed across the four quadrants, he is asserting that consciousness is actually centered in the Upper quadrants (especially the Upper left). But historically and developmentally, the locus of being does indeed become increasingly invested in the individual (Upper quadrants) and divested from the Lower. This process is what actually happens as a part of the movement of development, just as the Cartesian dualism pictures both a real feature of the world and a stage in the development of consciousness. Indeed social structures -- language, world view, cultural institutions -- go on developing in parallel but are increasingly informed by the Individual (agentic) pole. Society increasingly becomes the interconnections or medium of communication among individual holons which are primary, as if the organism were a lot more important than its environment or its autonomy more important than its relationships. But this centrally significant changing nature of the Individual/Social (Upper/Lower) relation is not mapped by Wilber's model! It is not a model which maps the development of an increasingly individualized consciousness which, approaching and crossing a threshold to the transpersonal, will eventually pass beyond such an agentic bias. Rather, it is a model which still, despite incredible clarity and insight, embodies such a bias.

As we have said, Wilber describes the nature of the polar relation between the agency and communion of the individual as, 'the more agency the less communion, and vice versa'. We see that the masculine favors the agency, the feminine, the communal; assertion and relationship, autonomy and connection, distinction or the permeable self. The development of patriarchy can be seen as agentic dominance. The Cartesian/Lockean ego of the Enlightenment is clearly agentic.8 In our time, there is an increasing awareness of the historical marginalization of the feminine and feminine relatedness. Holistic and systemic thinking is a part of this awakening. As male and female cognitive and moral modes (Kohlberg, 1981, Gilligan, 1982) come more into balance, the very nature and structure of consciousness begins to change and further develop. But it was, historically, the increasing imbalance between maleness and femaleness, individualism and social cohesion, agency and communion, which led to the development of the rational and mental-ego. In the rational-egoic we see the loss of the original immediate connectedness of psyche/nature before the consciousness of distinction and separation; the loss of the social-field dimension in the Lower quadrants and its replacement by concepts and symbols exchanged on purely sensory and mental/verbal levels.

There is a strong consensus particularly from Jung and Neumann (1954) onward, that individual development begins with maximal communality and moves toward greater agency. At the same time, we must add that social development moves from agency toward communion. Social agency (conservative maintenance of order and cohesive distinction from other groups) resists the development of individual agency; the individual develops as an assertive, autonomous and distinct being dialectically over against the counter restraints of the group. As the consciousness of the distinction of individual and society (Upper/Lower) increases (i.e. as consciousness grows by means of the very distinction!), groups begin to blend with others groups, myths expand and complexify, modern rational post-mythic society becomes maximally open to other traditions, beliefs, cultural practices; that is, society becomes more communal. This reflects the centrality and increased distinctiveness of the individual who had internalized (introjected) the linguistic, symbolic and conceptual social substance. This process occurs up to the modernist historical level of mental-egoic consciousness.

We have taken Wilber's structural concept of the various bi-polarities of the holon and drawn out the developmental dialectical implications of the interacting poles through identifying overarching polarity shifts. It is precisely the complex shifts of polarity, the bi-polar and holonic nature of things, the dialectical interchanges among fundamental principles which map and explain the nature and development of consciousness. Just as interior/exterior (subject/object) of an individual holon stands in cross logical-polar relation to another exterior/interior individual holon, the agency/communion of the individual stands in cross logical-polar relation to the agency/communion of society. It is in this way, I suggest, that we need to picture the developmental dialectic of individual and society.

Re-Mapping the two epistemological modes and the individual/social relation

The model we have been mapping grounds bi-polar holonic structure (subjective/objective) in a binary relational and mutually perceptual model as the necessary condition for all manifestation. The bi-polarity of subject/object (mind/brain) is logically related to the dyad formed by at least two individual holons in mutual perception. But the mutual subject/object perceptual relationship of the binary pair of individual holons constitutes only one of two fundamental epistemological modes informing all manifestation. There is also a primal subject/subject mode, a direct resonance between subjectivities within a cohesive or agentic social form. The individual holonic dyad exists in two epistemological modes: the subject/object relation and the subject/subject relation. Subject/object perceptual interactivity is the basis of the agentic individual and communal social development: subject/subject connective resonance is the basis of the communal individual and the agentic form of society. (In the course of development from the primal human up to the modern the subject/subject way of knowing gives way to the subject/object epistemology, consequently, to individual agency and social communion as we shall trace below).

In Fig III, we see in concrete, rather than abstract terms, the distinction (agency) and relationship (communion) of two individuals. As we argued above, the subject/object Janus-faced polarity only makes logical sense through the subject/object dyad. All individual holons are what they are only in relationship. That is, both the agencies and communions of the individual are based in this primary relationship, not just the communal mode. But agentically speaking, a particular subject through perceiving the 'other' as object, experiences itself as distinct.

In terms of holonic logic, just as one individual cannot logically exist as subject/object except in relation to another subject/object individual, every individual (and every, even momentary dyad) is embedded in a larger structural whole called a society. Now we want to map the relationship of the epistemologically formed individual holon to the social holon. We are here, I believe, looking at relating an epistemologically foundational binary pair to other binary pairs. Both the Inner and Outer, subjective and objective dimensions of the social holon are constituted by the relationships among the binary pairs. Society is not reducible to the individual; it cannot be derived from the individual (in its fundamentally necessary, though ever changing pairings). The epistemology which sustains, or is at the core of, the binary pair and its derivative individuals does not explain the complex relationships of binary pairs which constitute society or the social holon. The lattice among relational dyads connected primarily through subject/subject resonance is a way of picturing the morphic structure of agentic society. The lattice among dyads formed by agentic individuals for whom intersubjectivity is grounded in subject/object knowing is a way of picturing society in its communal mode. Agentic society is grounded in resonance and immediate commonality. Communal society is grounded in intentional agreements. See Fig. IV for a suggested pictorial representation of the morphology of the social holon.

Most important -- a dimension not mapped in Wilber's model -- the individual's relation to society is in one sense Janus-faced and in another sense dialectical. The communal self is in Janus-faced relation to the integrated and cohesive form of agentic society -- originally tribal society but now re-forming as various subcultures (both evolutionary and reactionary). As the individual grows beyond the original social pattern it does so agentically and in so doing modifies and breaks the hold of the (social agentic) pattern. From that higher place, it then acts back on others which eventually changes the social patterns (the process of social communion). The agentic self is Janus-faced with social communion -- the Enlightenment and postmodern global society (both liberal progressive and hegemonic capitalist).

Keeping with the general holonic logic of Wilber's model and bringing in our modifications, we see in FIG V two four-quadrant maps around a central plane where 'front' and 'back' are in polar dialectical relation. The Left and Right quadrants of each map, subjectivity and objectivity are in Janus-faced relation as in Wilber's model. (subjectivity includes the experiential inner-outer manifold of the particular holon). The Upper and Lower are in Janus-faced relation and are common with Wilber's model to the extent that the Upper quadrants are individual and the Lower are social. But to preserve the Janus-face polarity of individual and social the Upper of Four-quad (a) is the agentic individual while the Lower is the communal society. (Remember, it is the agentic individual which is Janus-faced with the communal society). Four-Quad (b) has the communal individual Upper and the agentic society Lower in the same Janus-faced logical relation. The Upper quadrants of map (a) are in dialectical relation with the Upper quadrants of map (b). The Lower quadrants of map (a) are in dialectical relation with the Lower quadrants of map (b). Likewise the Upper of the one is in mutual dialectical opposition with the Lower of the other. Agentic society exerts a counter pressure forcefully against the development of the agentic individual and vice versa. Here is the sense of the dialectical relation of individual and society in addition to the Janus-faced polarity of individual and society.

The Janus-faced relation, pictured in four-quad (a) and (b), was what was meant when we said the individual does not relate to society but only to other individuals. We still had to make the distinction (one that can easily be confused) between an organism's active and observable interactivity with its environment and the holonic logical relation of the morphic structure of the individual in relation to the morphic structure of its environment or society. FIG V is still not adequate to picture the subject/object and subject/subject epistemological relations between two individual holons, but the concrete forms of Figs II and III must be taken as logically implicit within it. We must also understand the social holon as depicted in Fig II (lower) in terms of its corresponding distinction of social mind (myths, narratives, beliefs, values, taboos, paradigms) and the encounter with changing natural ecosystems and the felt impact and full force of other societies and their cultures.

Now we can look at explicating a broader based epistemology beyond the dyad of subject/object individual holons. Rather than the subject/object relation which defines individuals in their pair, the social holon in its agentic form is constituted by an unmediated relational resonance among pairings; an unconscious participation (unconscious from the point of view of individual subject/object consciousness) forming the collectively resonant and empathically attuned 'field-mind' or 'group mind'. At higher mental-egoic levels of the Great Chain, this participation has become largely unconscious (i.e. Jung's collective unconscious) and has been replaced by the dominating individual holon and the form of collective intersubjective consciousness we call mental-culture. Epistemological participation is in Janus-faced polar relation with the subject/subject mode of knowing -- that very connective resonance of 'private inners' which is the other epistemological face within the binary relation of individual holons. Mental-culture -- the communal mode of the social holon -- is grounded in the subject/object distinction and the necessary privacy of experience. Most importantly, neither of these epistemologies; the subject/subject way of knowing (linked with participation) and the subject/object way of knowing (linked with individual agency and heterogeneous social forms), can be said to be ontologically more foundational than the other.

In mapping the bi-polar dialectical plane in Fig V, we provide the missing dimension in Wilber's model which is nothing other than the dialectical and developmental interplay of consciousness and unconsciousness. This is not to be confused with the vertical dimension which maps the gradual evolutionary awakening of consciousness from the original unconsciousness of matter and primitive life forms. As consciousness awakens at the human level it does so through the dialectic of consciousness and unconsciousness which is structured by the archetypal polarity of agency and communion. This horizontal dialectic of consciousness and unconsciousness plays out on individual, social, and individual/social levels -- the personal conscious/unconscious relation, the central social division of gender, and the personal conscious/collective unconscious dialectic respectively.

Implications for Historical/Developmental Dynamics

The story of evolutionary and historical development adopted by Wilber is that the more sophisticated subject/object way of knowing came to replace the earlier dominant but primitive mode of 'participation' (in our terms, subject/subject knowing). The mature subject/object distinction accomplished the differentiation of dimensions which had been previously undifferentiated in a state of participation and magical thinking. But if our extrapolations from the polar holonic logic inherent in Wilber's model are logically coherent, then this 'usual' view must be skewed. I want to suggest a different understanding of original 'fusion' and the historical process of differentiation -- an account implied by our model.

From the beginning and from the beginning consciousness of humans, two fundamental ways of knowing were fused and predifferentiated -- the subject/object mode and the subject/subject mode. Since our model allows and even requires both of these epistemological modes to be mapped, it is not limited to only the subject/object mode, the mode which actually developed historically (from the Greeks through modernity). With the rise of modernity (most clearly articulated by Descartes) these two epistemological modes became differentiated. These modes would not then lie at different levels on the same, to use Wilber's terms, cognitive stream or line. 'Original fusion' as I am here describing it is not identical with participation; rather, original fusion is the as yet undifferentiated enfoldment of both epistemological modes. In the modern era, the great differentiation is to be understood as the differentiation, not primarily of the subject and object, but of subject/object knowing and subject/subject knowing. But with the great differentiation, it was the subject/object mode which came into emphasis and marginalized the participation mode which has continued to be marginalized even when not relegated to the status of primitive fusion.

In holonic polar dialectical fashion, the modern differentiation actually meant that the subject/subject mode became the de-emphasized pole of the epistemological enfolded pair (subject/object appears now as 'figure'; subject/subject appears now as 'background'). The further development of consciousness did indeed depend on the differentiation which occurred in the modern era. Since further development was, almost exclusively, of the subject/object mode, the subject/subject mode did not develop and was, from the point of view of mainstream culture and consciousness, devalued. It became a 'lesser' mode attributed to women, children, primitives, Romantics, and 'purely subjective' artists. From the subject/object perspective, it is seen as only the primal and primitive way of knowing; the 'regressive fusion' which Wilber accuses Romantics of committing. But original fusion or predifferentiation, which was indeed primal and even 'primitive' if you like -- i.e. lower on the developmental chain -- was not subject/subject knowing per se, but the pre-differentiated fusion of subject/subject and subject/object modes of knowing. This point provides the purchase by which we can reveal the inherent skewing within Wilber's account of development.

Given the path that historical development has taken, we are indeed looking ahead to levels of consciousness where hopefully, both epistemological modes have become differentiated and integrated at a higher level. But that does not mean that the subject/subject knowing is 'up there ahead'; a higher level of the chain with emergent properties of communion, telepathy, and mystical union with nature. The historically unprecedented higher level which lies ahead on the evolutionary path, is the integration of the two epistemological modes. But before we can integrate these two modes, they must both become differentiated on the same footing! Therefore, we are going to have to 'go back', to pick up again and acknowledge the lost and alienated mode of knowing. So we are not saying that a subject/subject way of knowing, or a participatory epistemology stands either lower or higher than the subject/object mode on the same cognitive line. The higher or trans-egoic epistemology is an integration of both these modes as an equal bi-polarity.

From the point of view of 'either/or' holonic logic, the two polar fundamental modes of knowing could not, both at the same time, constellate further developments of consciousness. Rather than a departure from 'optimum development' where the one mode 'unfortunately' marginalized the other, it was inevitable that the subject/object mode moved to front and centre. (It would have been desirable that it not do so with such destructive 'excess'; but this remains the great issue when we apply our humanistic ethics to evolution itself). But now the time has come to reclaim the other mode and begin to integrate them. So we are not saying that the subject/subject way should have been equally honoured along with the development of the subject/object differentiation. Rather, we need to now see the ontological equivalence in polar difference of the subject/subject way of knowing and the subject/object way of knowing. (The marginalized feminine and communion is resonant to the former; the masculine and agency to the latter.)

Wilber describes the formative forces of our time as the differentiation of science, art and religion/morality (the 'Big Three'); a differentiation foundational to the 'good news' of our era (universal reason, human rights, more accurate knowledge etc). The 'bad news' is the result of this differentiation going 'too far' into dissociation; as if it were a bit of bad luck that what was developmentally optimum turned bad. He describes this as the dominance of the Right Hand Outer over the Left Hand Inner. (The 'It' over the 'I' and the 'We' -- the flatland collapse of the Great Chain). For him, this identifies the major problem which needs to be corrected. We need to see that the Left Inner is as legitimate as the Right Outer; the Left being not less than, reducible to, nor derivative of the Right. Above all, the criterion of legitimacy of the Left cannot be the same criterion of legitimacy of the Right. All this is correct enough as far as it goes, but what Wilber is diagnosing as the problem is simply the obviously skewed outcome of a previous, yet I believe inevitable, polar imbalance.

I would want to state Wilber's account in somewhat different terms: the 'bad news' at this stage and level is the exclusive 'objectification' of 'reality' by the subject which then objectifies itself. But this hegemony of his Right over Left follows inevitably from the original differentiation of subject and object -- the subject/object epistemology (Descartes). On the basis of the subject/object epistemology, it is understandable that the object world observed by the subject would become the primary domain. Then, self consciousness would next investigate and describe the subject in the same objectifying terms; hence the development of modern quasi-scientific psychology. (Later, the development of the social contextual pole would produce sociology etc.)

It was after this objectification of both self and world that Kant came along with his 'Big Three'. Hence the essence of modernity is clearly prior to the differentiation cited by Wilber. The diremption and skewing had already occurred. The 'we' mode of dialogical intersubjectivity recognized by Wilber is possible only on the basis of the prior inner/outer, subject/object differentiation. Dialogical intersubjectivity is not subject/subject knowing (though it is a dialogical communication from subject to subject and fits in the same domain at a later or 'higher' stage) but an interaction of selves formed by the subject/object epistemology. Contrary to Wilber, I would want to emphasize that the essence of the skewed modern era is not primarily the Right Outer over the Left Inner, but the subject/object relational way of knowing reality over the subject/subject relational way of knowing 'reality'. This then leads on to the 'Right over Left' hegemony focussed on by Wilber.

The essence of the Romantic opposition to Enlightenment Reason is the proclaiming of the subject/subject relation to reality and its refusal to be devalued and marginalized. In equating the essence of the Romantic impulse with a regressive urge to fusion (against the Kantian forward development), Wilber devalues and marginalizes the Romantic way of knowing, extracting from it only the way of Art, thus reducing its larger meaning as does the modern mind, which is precisely the problem we are facing. When Wilber (1995, 1999) says the Idealists failed because they lacked an injunctive practice, he is overlooking that Idealism 'failed' more because it did not integrate the valid essence of the Romantic position. Romanticism, though not adequately articulated, represented the subject/subject epistemological mode; namely participation. Though it contained a 'participatory' element in its thinking derived from Kantian constructivism, German Idealism essentially grew out of the Kantian differentiations which were already constellated around the Cartesian subject/object epistemological pole.

Wilber (1995, 1999) also devalues the current 'new paradigm' 'holistic' thinkers, failing to appreciate the validity of the Romantic subject/subject epistemology inherent in their position. Consequently, on the one hand, he reduces 'new paradigm' thinking to his Lower Right Hand objectifying holistic systems-science perspective, and on the other, recognizing the 'new paradigmers' commonality with the Romantics, reduces such thinking to a necessarily regressive position. Wilber explains that the countering of the individualistic and atomistic Enlightenment with holism is by no means new or significant because the Enlightenment (referring to Lovejoy [1936]) did not reject the Great Chain: it was not yet leveled. Then he goes on to claim that the Romantic 'ecos' are as much a part of the flatland as the Enlightenment 'egos' (Wilber, 1995). But I would want to point out that the Great Chain (or Great Nest, as Wilber now calls it) was vertically mapped, whereas in relation to Wilber's model, we are talking about horizontally mapped distinctions -- his Upper and Lower quadrants.

The rational universalism of which Wilber speaks was only the individual subject's view writ large. When the contextual holistic systems perspective (Mead, structuralism and later 20th century developments) came to complement the individual subject-based perspective of the Enlightenment, it indeed did so in the Right Hand way because the Right had already become dominant after the subject/object mode had devalued the subject/subject mode of knowing (it is not because the new paradigm 'eco' perspective is inherently flatland). As a privileging of the objective and resultant objectification of the subject, the hegemony of Right over Left actually results from the privileging of the individual (UPPER) over the social (LOWER); the part over the whole (in the lateral sense). Therefore, the new emphasis on holism is significantly developmental in that it corrects the very ground of the Right Hand hegemony; it balances the individualistic subject/object relation! But if the new emphasis is conceived within the same "object-before-subject" modernist framework, then it becomes as Wilber says, just an embracing of the Lower Right and not an integral account. But the 'new paradigm' holism actually includes the 'Romantic' perspective, namely, the epistemology which became marginalized with the rise of the individualistic subject/object epistemology.

Modernism rests on the subject/object way of knowing so that the communions of the social dimension are derivative of the subject/object relation. The intersubjective dialogue between human individuals is defined in terms of the subject/object relation! As we have said, the Communal subject/subject essence of primal agentic society has been overlayed by the Individual subject/object based intersubjective web, the ego-to-ego "we" that Wilber describes. His Lower Left quadrant then carries the sense of the subject/subject non-objectified sharing, the hermeneutical realm of interpretation and values. But this is subject/subject connection possible only after the subject/object differentiation, though it falls in the same quadrant domain (i.e. social holon or Lower quadrants).

To repeat, the Kantian differentiations are not the source of the modern diremption but a set of secondary differentiations which would further (not by some pathological accident or dissociation) skew culture. In order to correct the hegemonic imbalance of one foundational pole over the other, we need to resurrect, not just an Inner alongside an Outer, but the pole of subject/subject knowing. Contrary to the urge to name the subject/subject way of knowing either as tribal and infantile fusion or as a higher level dialogical relationship of postEnlightenment subjects, the subject/subject way of knowing must be differentiated as an equal partner to the subject/object mode! Then person-to-person dialogue and communion ('being-with') as well as peoples' communion with nature will grow out of both of these fundamental ways of knowing.

And subject/subject knowing is not confined to Wilber's Lower Left Inner. Even the Lower Right Outer can be known in two modes; nature as a great Subject and as a great Object depending on how we approach it. Most significantly, if we approach nature as a Subject we cannot legitimately be accused of regressing. We would be regressing only if we reverted to a pre-differentiated level before subject/object and subject/subject ways of knowing had differentiated out. Wilber's 'sciences' of the four quadrants (see his Marriage of Sense and Soul) tend to map reality from the point of view of subject/object knowing. But what is it to 'know' the world as subject/subject? This is no where to be found in Wilber either as describing primal fusion, or as a higher state of mutual being at the levels of the transpersonal: it is not knowable in any sense except as a further development beyond subject/object differentiation. Most significantly, according to his view, such a higher way of knowing has nothing to do with anything that might legitimately have been present from the beginning!

Some Implications for Transpersonal Theory

From the point of view of transpersonal theory, the most fundamental of the polarity shifts -- the archetypal and dialectical interplay between the agentic and communal poles of individual and social holons -- informs the difference between the path of evolution up to the mental-ego (or more exactly, the vision-logic of the centaur) and the path beyond the ego into the transpersonal levels. In his earlier work, Wilber (1980) himself adopts the Brahmanic terms, 'Outward' and 'Inward' arcs to describe this fundamental difference between the pre-personal and personal realms on the one hand and the transpersonal realms on the other (a difference he later de-emphasized to break completely from the spiralic model and establish his linear stage-by-stage hierarchical-structural model). The Outward arc (levels 1 to 13 in Wilber's model) is the realm of the manifest universe from its beginnings to the level which generally describes our present deep structure of consciousness. But the levels of the transpersonal are characterized by an all together different epistemology and ontology. Dualistic distinctions which manifested as ever complexifying mind/bodies now begin to interpenetrate.

As we move into the transpersonal levels beyond the mature mental-ego and centaur, consciousness no longer can grow in the same increasingly agentic and individualizing direction in Wilber's Upper left quadrant (where Wilber [2000] locates the premodern Great Chain). As polar logic implies an inevitable shift of the pendulum, the Upper quadrants (our fully individualized consciousness) map the beginning of a movement toward a re-balancing of agency and communion. With individual agency and communion moving toward a new balance, so to do socio-cultural agentic and communal forms come more into balance as the subject/subject mode of knowing begins to become more deeply valued. Social agency begins to arise as a new emphasis on cultural and local group identity and a valuing of collective diversity over against the overly social communal force of global homogenization. As the vertical directional arrow of development continues, there is then, a shift back from maximal agentic individuality and social communion, toward a now increasing individual communion and social agency, but at an holarchically higher level enfolding all lower levels a la Wilber's (and Hegel's) hierarchical nesting. The dialectical 'either/or' of the Outward arc which constitutes our subject/object, mind/matter, individual/social and consciousness/unconsciousness divisions begins to moves toward a polar 'both/and' where consciousness realizes, in a higher all-inclusive embrace of the four quadrants (two four-quadrant maps connected dialectically, in our model, Fig. V), the polar identity-in-difference of self and other, mind and body, subject and object.

As the agentic and communal principles come more into balance (gender relations and individual psychology), so do individual consciousness (having become centered in the individual ego) and collective unconsciousness begin to move toward a new harmony. The Outward arc structures begin to be transcended (though initially, the deconstruction of old divisions may be disorienting. See Washburn's [1994, 1995] 'Regression in service of transcendence'). Most significantly, the archetypal shift back toward a re-balancing of individual-mind and field-mind does not constitute a regression to original and primal fusion or pre-differentiation. even though (contrary to Wilber) it involves the embrace of lower levels. It takes place at the higher levels with an embrace of the depths, but now embracing the 'not-self,' the 'field mind,' which from the point of view of the mental ego, is the collective unconscious.

Although in meditation one does indeed go inward, the 'inward' goes beyond the inner private self (UL) to contact a larger and transcendent space which puts one back in touch with the greater whole, the greater 'not-self' (the individual 'other' and the social holon) which one had, up to then, defined and experienced oneself as distinct from. Beyond the dynamic of distinction and separation -- the developmental interplay of individual and society -- there is no way of adequately mapping these transcendent levels in Wilber's model precisely as mapped. The nature of transegoic development certainly cannot be mapped strictly by upwardly extending the Four-Quadrant structure. To simply extend the Upper Left quadrant in this way does not show how it 'opens out' into a transpersonal inclusive space which ultimately unifies individual and collective, mind and matter.

Mind and body, culture and society (Wilber's four quadrants up to the 'centauric' and 'vision-logic' level) are the realm of manifestation which is what the universe and all conscious entities are. The 'world arises' in each moment as subject/object encounters subject/object in relation to the subject/subject resonance of group-mind and nature-field at every level. This is equivalent to awareness or consciousness manifesting from an 'ocean' of potentiality, suggestive of something like Bohm's (1981) implicate order envisioned beyond the specific realm of physics.9 From such a 'universal unconscious' embracing mind and matter, consciousness gradually awakens. This concept would accord with Jung's (1969) idea of the 'psychoid' archetype, the archetypes of the collective unconscious which somehow underlie and connect both mind and matter, a concept suggesting that the 'collective unconscious' cannot be simply equated with 'psyche'.

But finally, we need to acknowledge that our picture, like Wilber's, maps 'reality' in terms of holonic logic. Something is a holon in that it can be 'seen' as this or that depending on the perspective. But when we say, 'can be seen', we are taking (in common with science) the third person perspective; that is, holonic logic (our map) is a mapping of 'reality' from a third person perspective. It is this third person perspective which is itself the dominance of individual subject/object agency -- i.e. a picture constructed from the point of view of one of the facets in our map -- the subjective/agentic/individual perspective. It is the privileging of this perspective which begins to give way as we move across the threshold of the transpersonal. On the Outward arc consciousness is always a person's consciousness, always embodied, always consciousness of 'something' whether the 'something' is inner or outer. But on the Return arc there ceases to be an exclusive identification with the 'something' (which also, by the way, gives rise to the sense of being a perceiving subject), and consciousness begins to enfold back into itself (Return arc) giving rise to a radically different epistemology growing out of a more integrative balance of subject and object, agency and communion.

Concluding Remarks

In offering these criticisms of various features of Wilber's Four-Quadrant model, I believe I am, largely, drawing out conceptions which are already implicit within this model and within Wilber's larger work. In doing so, I feel I am opening up his overarching conception rather than attacking and rejecting it. But in following the logical implications of some of these foundational concepts, we are led toward a more dynamic dialectical picture than I believe Wilber is prepared to accept. His various deep structure/levels (waves) which I generally accept, are constituted by a deep dialectical polarity which gives us a picture of evolutionary history more friendly to some of the perspectives which Wilber definitively rejects. I believe our conception offers a way of reconciling certain fundamental differences in the competing transpersonal paradigms. Whether such differences can in fact be reconciled without foundationally altering the paradigms goes beyond the scope of this essay. I have explored this theme elsewhere.10


1. See background to Wilber's Four-Quadrant model in supplement below. For a background to Perennialism, or the primordial tradition, and Wilber's 'Great Chain of Being' conception see; Aldous Huxley (1945), Huston Smith (1989) Plotinus (1991), Hegel (1974), [for a good introduction to Hegel, see Findlay (1958)], Teilhard de Chardin (1975) Arthur Lovejoy (1936), and Aurobindo (1987) by Robert McDermott.

2. Within the field of transpersonal theory, the dominant theoretical models include on the one hand, the structural and developmental view of Ken Wilber, and on the other, the more dynamic, dialectical and 'Jungian' views of (chiefly) Michael Washburn (1994, 1995) and Stanislav Grof (1975, 1985, 1988). Briefly, those of the dynamic-dialectical, or post-Jungian group see Wilber's framework as overly linear and rigidly hierarchical, while Wilber sees their view of access to the transpersonal, necessitating an integrative return to collective unconscious levels, as a mistake, a 'retro-Romantic' or regressive view of the higher levels of consciousness disclosed through meditative and mystical states of consciousness. For other paradigmatic views, see particularly, Wade (1996), Tarnas (1991) and Kelly (1998). For material on the differences between these paradigms, see all contributions in Ken Wilber in Dialogue, edited by Donald Rothberg and Sean Kelly. (1998)

3. See David Ray Griffin (1998) for an account of Whiteheadian panexperientialism. A. N. Whitehead first postulated that even atoms possess a shadow of consciousness which he, and Wilber after him, termed 'prehension.' "I will use the word prehension for uncognitive apprehension: by this I mean apprehension which may or may not be cognitive....The actual world is a manifold of prehensions; and a 'prehension' is a 'prehensive occasion'; and a prehensive occasion is the most concrete finite entity..." Whitehead (1967, pp.69,71).

4. Science would eventually drop the mind part and keep the matter part, but matter still gets defined in terms of Cartesian logic.

5. It is most important to point out that this existence is not merely in some mind. Nor is it a relation of two minds, but of two (and more) mind/bodies; or rather, 'entities' which show up as mind/bodies. Mind and world spring into existence at the same time at each level. This is generally consistent with Wilber's mapping, though not shown in it. This epistemology does not posit, as Berkeley would, the existence of an entity upon its perception by another entity in whose experience it alone exists. It cannot lead to solipsism since the existence of only one body/mind entity is logically impossible. The fundamental ontology is that of two from which the one is an abstraction. Existence is constant relationship among subject/objects which 'show up' (as events) when and only when in relationship. This is not duality. Duality arises when x is posited as real in itself and y is posited as real in itself; then the two are related. Just as subject/object is a holonic logical relation, so is the relation of x and y.

6. The sense of identity, (or the intuited sense of the 'watcher': the "proximate self" -- Wilber, 2000), is not something perceiving the experiential data or phenomena on the LEFT. There is no observing homunculus. Complex selfhood is the multifaceted structure including both inner and outer mapped on our LEFT constituted by complex interactions of inner and outer experiential phenomena. (Interactivity takes place on the LEFT between Inner and Outer [the experiential manifold of a particular holon] but not between LEFT and RIGHT which would imply mind/body dualism). That the self seems like something certainly distinct from the 'outer', but also transcendent to 'inner', arises partly from the fact that the 'self' is not solely the structure of inwardness but is a structure which embraces both inner and outer, the bifurcation of experience. As a unifying consciousness then, it carries the quality of a hierarchical and functional integrative structuration of both sides while identifying with the 'inner'. This consciousness is more than either inner or outer considered in themselves. The hierarchical embrace of experience pictured on our LEFT, is not, however, the 'true' duality-transcending integration of inner and outer possible only at transpersonal levels.

7. It is easy to get confused when we speak of 'communal' society since in its ordinary usage the term seems to denote the sort of society where close communal relations are the norm. On the contrary, individual communion is at its strongest within agentic societies with a strong and largely homogenous structure. As societies blend together, as they interact and blend in accordance with the communal principle, society becomes more heterogenous, supporting a greater diversity of relatively autonomous individuals. But at higher levels of development, these principles come more into balance both socially and personally.

8. Charles Taylor (1989, pp 159-176) aptly refers to this as "the punctual self." (end of p. 12)

9. Such a concept must be capable of integrating features of Wilber's 'Ground Unconscious' (Atman Project), Jung's 'collective unconscious' (with modifications) and Bohm's 'implicate order' (raised beyond the level of physics). But this is beyond the present paper.

10. See my "Airing our Transpersonal Differences", held on line at this website. Follow links to Reading Room. Also see: Perspectives in Transpersonal Theory, online paper.

SUPPLEMENT: Background to Ken Wilber's Four-Quadrant Model

In a large number of ambitiously synthesizing works drawing on Eastern and Western premodern, modern and postmodern psychological and spiritual sources, the transpersonal philosopher Ken Wilber (1980,1981,1990,1995,1997a,2000) has articulated an upward evolutionary development of consciousness from material to biological to pre-personal to personal to transpersonal levels. This grand overarching scheme of successive levels and 'deep' (universal) structures of the development of consciousness is conceived within the paradigm of perennial philosophy's 'Great Chain of Being'.1 Further refining the ontological hierarchy of his earlier works, Wilber (1995, 1997, 2000) presents a rigorous explication of the notion of the 'holon' as the basic intelligible 'entity' or feature of the world. Such a concept acknowledges Koestler's (1978) idea of the nested holon, where, for example, a molecule is a part of a cell, yet at the same time, a whole unto itself composed of atoms. Any 'entity', 'atom', ecosystem, 'process', or 'idea,' that is to say, any holon however large or small and at whatever ontological level of evolutionary development it may be found, operates both as a whole to its constituent parts and as a part of a larger and higher level whole. The explication of the holon's simultaneous partness and wholeness necessarily (i.e. logically) entails hierarchic or holarchic multileveled structure conceived in terms of the multidimensional facets of evolving consciousness -- the cognitive, affective, conative, moral, self identity, and interpersonal 'streams' of successive development.

In his account of the nature of the holon and hierarchic holonic structure, Wilber cites a number of tenets of systems theory which apply to all levels of any hierarchy including the physical, the biophysical, and the mental. Going beyond systems theory per se, Wilber extends his holonic framework to include another foundational philosophical postulate; namely, the concept of interiority (experience) and exteriority (objectivity). Any holon can be seen or understood as both interior and exterior, as an object in-the-world to be described empirically and as a 'prehensive' or experiential subject to be disclosed hermeneutically and dialogically. When these logical polarities are combined in a multileveled or holarchic developmental picture from the Big Bang to the higher levels of rational-egoic development, we arrive at a picture with significant foundational conceptual implications, namely, his Four Quadrant model. By means of this model (see Fig. 1), Wilber ostensibly clarifies and corrects many of the conceptual distortions and errors in both traditional naturalistic and contemporary holistic thought.

So according to Wilber (1995) reality is not composed of things or processes but of holons, of subject/object part/wholes, endlessly, both up and down. Each part/whole preserves its identity (agency) at the same time that it is fitting and adapting to its environment (communion). Vertically, a holon can transform upward (Prigogine's [1984] symmetry breaks) becoming a new whole with emergent and novel properties. In terms of new and more encompassing patterns of wholeness, each emergent holon transcends but includes its predecessor(s). In this account, it is important to understand that any eco-system, including the greater biosphere itself, is not one level in a holarchic sequence such as: (1) individual, (2) society, (3) biosphere. Rather, each level of the hierarchy includes the individual holon and its community like the heads and tails of a coin; e.g. level (a) consists of a dynamic organism/biosphere structure; level (b) consists of a dynamic individual/society structure. Hence, there is a coevolution of the individual and its larger environment (microevolution and macroevolution). In Wilber's (1995, p. 64) words, "all agency is always agency-in-communion". As holons evolve, each layer continues to exist in a network of relations with other holons at the same level of structural organization.

In terms of the fundamental distinction between interior consciousness and exterior form, experience is not placed as an emergent at a particular level but is mapped all the way up and down. At the lowest levels, Wilber (1995, 2000) characterizes experience, following Whitehead (1967) and Griffin (date), as prehension without falling into the anthropomorphic fallacy of what Lovejoy (1936) called 'retrotension,' namely, reading our human 'higher' modes of thought into lesser forms. Correlations are mapped all the way up through levels of increasing consciousness, mapping, not only the exterior forms of the organism, nervous system and brain, but the 'interior' progression from shadowy prehension, to simple sensation, to affect, image, symbol and concept. In addition to the 'individual holon,' the exterior and interior features of the 'social holon', are mapped; namely, external forms of family, tribe, village, empire, nation state (Lower Right) and the corresponding collective world views, namely, typhonic, archaic, magic, mythic and rational (Lower Left).

Most significantly, the Four Quadrant picture maps four different correlative strands, each of which cannot be reduced to the other. The Upper Right is accessed by the physical sciences. The Upper Left, from prehension to sensation to concept etc., is accessed by the interior individual sciences like psychoanalysis. The Lower Right, from galaxies to planets to families and nations, is studied sociologically and functionally -- tools, technology, production, concrete institutions. The Lower Left, denotes the interiors of the social systems, the shared values and world views to be studied by methods such as phenomenology and cultural anthropology, accessing the intersubjective meanings behind the structures. Most significantly, the study of interior cultural meanings cannot be reduced to exterior action systems. For example, we can describe a social system and the behaviour of the inhabitants (LR) without understanding their world view (LL).

The 'Right-Hand path' is described in 'it' language, while the Left-Hand path is knowable only through 'I' and 'we' languages. "Whereas the Right half can be seen, the Left half must be interpreted." The Right-Hand path always asks, 'What does it do?' the Left-Hand path asks, 'What does it mean'?" (Wilber 1995, p.127) The Right-Hand quadrants possess simple location in space but no differentiating value: the Left-hand quadrants posses value but have no spatial location. Social theory has always been divided between hermeneutics (interpretation) and structural functionalism (structures governing behaviour), both approaches being holistic (lower quadrants). To reconstruct meaning, (LL) one must engage in interpretation entering the shared values, depths and worldviews of the inhabitants arriving at a mutual understanding. Whereas, to reconstruct function (LR), one must be detached and observe.

So every holon, grounded in these four domains, cannot be said to exist in any one of the four quadrants but must be studied in its intentional, behavioural, cultural and social settings. The premodern Great Chain, or Great Nest, mapped the levels only of the individual interior (Upper Left quadrant). The modern era reduced this interior to the Right hand world of objects. Now we need to see an integration of all four quadrants, the inner and the outer, the atomistic and the holistic, which is currently possible since the differentiation of the domains of science, art and morality in the modern era .

Wilber describes the 'validity criteria' pertaining to each quadrant. The usual modern criterion of 'truth' is the objective truth of empirical propositions -- the 'it language' which refers only to the Right-hand quadrants either as individuals (UR) or as complex interactive groupings (LR). Following Habermas (1979), Wilber (1995, p.137) identifies the validity criterion of the Upper Left quadrant as truthfulness and sincerity, (the UL being accessed through "dialogical interpretation, not monological indication") while the criterion of the Lower Left is that of intersubjective or mutual understanding, appropriateness, justness, cultural fit.

Wilber's explication of the holon and his mandalic Four-Quadrant model represents a major clarification of holonic structure. His formulation of the holon as bi-polar, expresses the clarifying insight that the organism is not holarchically contained within its environment. Rather, organism and environment, individual and collective, develop interdependently and simultaneously (his agency-in-communion). Wilber is also correct in insisting that phenomenology or experience is not reducible to brain states. He also corrects the older idea that the physical dimension is at the bottom of the Great Chain whereas both subjective and objective (interior/exterior in varied forms) go all the way up from the bottom.

I am in general agreement with Wilber concerning the holarchic epistemological and ontological levels of evolutionary development. I also agree that his four quadrants identify four fundamental horizontal domains at every level of the Great Nest, and as a methodological schema, this system puts an end to all forms of reductionism. But if we are to see the four-quadrant map as a foundational structural feature of a grand theory of consciousness, then there are certain logical difficulties and incompletions which have to be dealt with. I believe that more consistently following the logic of Wilber's own concept of the holon, particularly in terms of the interplay of agency and communion and the inner/outer duality, leads us to a somewhat different conception of the evolutionary Great Chain; one that allows us to include certain perspectives which have themselves been marginalized from Wilber's system.


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