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Jim O'Connor has had an interest in theories of everything and the integral worldview since the mid 1990's. He can be contacted at

Development in
the One-Scale Model

A Unified Theory?

By Jim O'Connor


A new holarchical model of the universe allowing for the existence of a spiritual dimension to reality was recently proposed by Andrew Smith in his online book Worlds within Worlds. Outlining a 'big picture' view of the universe based upon the concept of holarchy, Smith offers a paradigm in some ways similar to the quadrant model of Ken Wilber and in other ways, significantly different.

Starting from findings in the empirical sciences, Smith constructs his holarchy one level at a time beginning with the physical and moving through the biological, mental and transpersonal levels, while proposing that similar laws, patterns and developmental processes drive evolution through all four.

The potential of Smith's paradigm is considerable, offering as it does a scientific method of defining such spiritual concepts as freedom and immanence as well as a systematic method for inferring the properties of higher-order holonic structures by analogy with those of lower levels.

The purpose of this essay is to outline some of my own thoughts on Smith's paradigm, and particularly its implications, as I see them, for the dynamic, stages and experiences of both individual and collective development. In doing so, I will diverge from Smith's position on some matters, particularly the nature of the higher levels of the holarchy, while still, I believe, holding firmly to the principles on which his model is based.

A key aspect of the essay will be an attempt to demonstrate that Smith's model is capable of accounting for the major features of both existing paradigms of individual development, namely the structural-hierarchical paradigm of Ken Wilber and the dynamic-dialectical paradigm of Michael Washburn.

To properly demonstrate this possibility it would be necessary to summarise the work of both Wilber and Washburn as well as that of Smith. Yet to summarise the work of just one of these theorists would be a lengthy task, so to attempt to do so for all three would be verging on lunacy. Therefore with regard to the work of Wilber and Washburn I shall assume that the reader is familiar with both paradigms and the main points of contention between them and give only a summary of each while drawing out the points salient to our purpose.

With regard to the work of Smith, I shall also just give a scant outline of his paradigm, pointing out the differences between it and Wilber's, while highlighting the main issues relevant to this essay. A full outline of Smith's paradigm is available in his book Worlds Within Worlds, which is available free and on-line [1] while a shorter summary is available in his paper A One-Scale Model of Holarchical Existence, also available on his website. [2]

To avoid misrepresenting Smith's position, I shall attempt to point out the main areas of divergence between my views and his own as we go, although it is recommended that the interested reader consult Smith's own works in order to gain a clearer understanding of the differences. In addition to this, Andy himself very kindly read through the first completed draft of this essay and provided many detailed and helpful comments. In some cases I have worked these into the body of the text, while others are included as footnotes.

I should also point out that the range of topics addressed within this essay differs from those covered by Smith in Worlds. This is because my aim in writing the essay was to apply the one-scale model to some new areas. It does, however, mean that there will be many aspects to Smith's work which I fail to address at all.

So having issued this disclaimer, I'll now give an outline of Smith's paradigm.

Smith's One-Scale Model of the Holarchy

As Smith's model is holarchical, it is easiest to grasp its main features by comparison with the other holarchical model in the field, the quadrant model of Ken Wilber.

One Axis

Firstly we note that Smith's holarchical paradigm, like Wilber's, recognises the existence of several distinct levels; the physical (physiosphere), biological (biosphere), mental (noosphere) and the spiritual/transpersonal (theosphere), each with its own unique features and emergent properties. The most obvious difference between the two models is that whereas Wilber splits development through these levels into four quadrants, Smith's model centres around a single scale. Where Wilber places the individual and social aspects of a level of existence on two parallel axes, Smith points out that human societies, being constituted of individual humans, really belong at a higher level of the holarchy. Thus, in the same way that living tissues are made up of complex organisations of cells, human societies are made up of complex organisations of individual humans. In both cases then, Smith argues, the higher order structure should be placed on the same scale as its constituent holon and above it.

Smith then argues that the elimination of the individual and collective axes allows us to also eliminate the distinction between the remaining two axes, the interior and exterior aspects of holons. This argument is based upon Smith's assertion that a certain form of interior consciousness (magic, mythic etc) is the result of an individual viewing the social structures of which he or she is a member. i.e. the experience of a holon at one level of existence viewing the higher-order holon in which it is embedded. An individual participates in the consciousness of the group by observing and internalising the rules, taboos and customs of the society of which he or she is a part. As Smith puts it:

"a particular structure of human consciousness or interiority represents what a person sees when he looks at the highest form of social organization to which he belongs. Thus the interior experience of a modern human being is what results when that person looks at the complex groups of people of which he is a member. The interior experience of a primitive tribal villager is what that person sees when looking at the social organizations she is imbedded in. And so on." [3]

So in Smith's paradigm as in Wilber's the individual and group evolve together, although in Smith's we see that it is very much the evolution of social structures which drives the process [4]. As societies evolve and complexify according to their own dynamic this predisposes, indeed causes, individuals within that society to reach higher levels of development themselves.

For a more detailed explanation of these arguments, see Smith's paper A One-Scale Model of Holarchical Existence.

Perhaps the main difference relevant to this essay between the two paradigms is that although Smith recognises the same basic levels of the holarchy as Wilber, his conclusions on the dynamic of evolution through these levels are built very much on findings from the physical and biological sciences and extrapolated upwards, via a process he terms holon substitution, to make inferences about the evolution of higher-order holons. As Smith puts it:

"The new holarchical view, however, takes this idea [of drawing analogies between levels] much further, drawing on a wealth of recent findings in physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, ecology and the social sciences to show in some detail just how one form of existence is analogous to another form on another level. A major aim of this book is to explore these analogies, which I feel have not been sufficiently appreciated." [5]

In Smith's paradigm each level in the holarchy is split into several intermediate stages, usually around six or seven. Note the specific use of the term level to denote a whole stratum of existence and stage to denote a discrete step within it; which differs slightly from Wilber's use of the term level to denote each discrete step. Within the body of this essay I will generally use Smith's terminology.

Unlike in Wilber's paradigm where there is no explicit demarcation between the physical, biological, mental and transpersonal levels, the levels of Smith's holarchy are discrete entities with a specific rule for determining where one ends and another begins. We will outline this rule in a moment, but first an overview of the first two levels:

Physical Level
supramolecular structure
subcellular organelle

Biological Level
simple cell unit
complex cell unit
simple organ
complex organ
organ system

Two Type of Holons

Drawing on findings in the physical and biological sciences Smith shows that holons are one of two distinct types; those which are able to exist independently for a time outside of a higher-order structure and those which are not. The first, Smith terms autonomous or fundamental holons and the latter intermediate or social holons. For example a cell is capable of existing for a time outside of any parent holon, whereas a molecule is not.

Smith also shows that the sequence of stages within each level of the holarchy follows the pattern of an autonomous holon, followed by a series of intermediate holons, followed by another autonomous holon marking the culmination of the level. This final, autonomous holon then goes on to form the initial autonomous holon of the next higher level and so on. So in the first two levels outlined above, the autonomous holons are the atom, the cell and the organism.

Although Smith points out many differences between autonomous and intermediate holons, one that is particularly relevant to this essay is that although all higher-order holons include their constituent lower order-holons, autonomous holons do so in a different fashion from intermediate holons. For whereas intermediate holons are hierarchically structured entities, with lower stages nested in strict Wilberian "transcend and include" fashion, autonomous holons are structured differently, with holons from all previous stages of the level existing in semi-autonomous form within a complex, self-regulating system. [6] I will usually refer to this type of organisation as non-hierarchical as the simplest way to distinguish it from the Wilberian transcend and include nested-hierarchy, although this deviates from Smith's terminology. [7]

So on the physical level we can see that a peptide is structured in a strict hierarchical fashion, with lower-order holons present only as embedded within this hierarchy, but that a cell is a self-contained entity in which we find atoms, molecules, peptides, supramolecular structures and subcellular organelles all existing independently and interacting to form a self-regulating system.

We also note that because the intermediate holons which exist within a cell are still themselves structured hierarchically, within any cell we would find, for example, some atoms existing as independent entities and others embedded within molecules, peptides and so on. In the remainder of this article I will use the term 'embedded form' for a holon embedded with a higher-order hierarchical structure and 'free form' for one existing semi-autonomously inside the culminating autonomous holon of the level.

So in Smith's holarchy each level follows an identical pattern of an autonomous holon, followed by several intermediate holons, followed by another autonomous holon marking the culmination of the level. And this final, autonomous holon includes and integrates all the lower stages of the level in a highly unified, self-regulating structure.

Making an observation that will become relevant later on, we note that in forming the culminating structure of one level and the initial building block of the next, an autonomous holon in some sense straddles these two worlds. In this case, we might not be surprised if we were to find it exhibiting properties of both levels. This point is intended to be taken somewhat loosely, and to my knowledge is not one that Smith himself has made, but is one which will hopefully become clearer when we discuss individual development in the one-scale model.

Having now outlined the first two levels of the holarchy we are in a position to outline Smith's principle of holon substitution. This principle states that the properties of a holon at a particular stage of a given level will show similarities to those of holons at the equivalent stage on other levels. It also states that how an individual holon at a particular stage of any given level relates to the holons of other stages of that level will bear resemblances to the equivalent interactions between holons on other levels. For examples of holon substitution, see Worlds within Worlds.

In his work Smith focuses mainly on the physical and biological levels of the holarchy because these are the levels which can be studied most objectively. The strength of this approach is that it allows us to build solid conclusions about the pattern of development which can then be applied to the higher, less objective levels. But although the bulk of Smith's work concerns the first two levels, he does apply his paradigm to the mental level, which takes us to the main point of departure between the quadrant and one-scale models, and also between Smith's views and my own.

Brief Overview of the Mental Level

In the quadrant model, human individuals are held to be the highest holon in existence, and human society is seen as the "social aspect" of these human holons. In Smith's model, however, human society is viewed as a higher-order holon made up of the individual humans that live within it. Smith argues that this is the only way of conceiving of human societies which is consistent with the structure of lower levels of the holarchy. For example a tissue is a higher-order holon than its component cells, it is not the "social aspect" of these cells.

Viewing human societies as a parent holon may at first appear like a minor distinction to make, but actually has important implications. Smith has analysed the problems which exist in the quadrant model due to its erroneous conception of human society, and I consider his critique to be valid.

In the one-scale model, therefore, a society is a higher-order holon made up of the complex interactions of human beings. Smith sees this holon as evolving through the same stages of socio-cultural evolution as Wilber and others have outlined. In summary these are:

Social Organisation
early stage
nation stage
planetary (integral)

As mentioned earlier, in the one-scale model an individual develops her internal mental structures in response to the society in which she lives. An individual's worldview is therefore the product of one holon (in this case an organism) viewing the structure of the higher-order holon in which it is embedded. It follows from this that the worldview subscribed to by the individuals living in a particular society is determined by the level of complexity that the society exhibits. This assertion gives us a similar correspondence between the complexity of social organisation and the stage of development of its members that we find in the quadrant model:

Social Organisation Mental-Stage of Members
organism uroboric
family archaic
village magic
early stage mythic
nation stage egoic
planetary (integral) centauric

And so this is how Smith constructs the mental-level of his holarchy. We note that the level itself is defined as the developmental stages of the social holon, and that the mental-stage of development reached by its members is secondary.

So how exactly are we to conceive of this holon which is human society? Well, assuming I have understood Smith correctly, this is the first, and main, point of divergence between his views and my own. So keeping this in mind, I'll now outline the properties of this holon as I envisage it.

Firstly, as we have noted, this particular holon consists of that which emerges from the interactions of progressively more complex groups of human beings. In the discussions on the nature of this entity up until now, it has been assumed that it is therefore human society and its institutions, culture and so on.

This conception has led to various objections being raised to the whole idea of humans being embedded in any higher-order holon at all, usually along the lines that this view is somewhat dehumanising. Ken Wilber has even claimed that such a state of affairs would lead to the individual being a mere cog in the machinery of the State:

"If I, as an individual holon, were merely a constitutive part of a social holon, such as United States, then I would be subsumed by the State. The State would have total control over me, and I should obey the dictates of the State, I should be subsumed by the State, since I am nothing but a mere part of the larger whole, the State." [8]

This assertion is, of course, based on the assumption that human society is identical to the State, which in Smith's model is not the case. If this higher-order holon is the totality of human society then it consists as much of subversive, anti-establishment elements as it does of State-sanctioned ones, and individuals are therefore able to exist free of absolute State control and even to actively rebel against it. [9] But I think discussions such as these are missing the most fundamental point about what this higher-order holon is, and that when this is clarified the objections do not arise. I also believe that when the nature of this higher-order holon is correctly understood, it allows for at least a few of the previously unexplained facets of the higher levels of the holarchy to fall into place. So I'll now attempt to describe this holon as I see it.

Firstly, we note that the relationship between this higher-order holon and its constituent humans would show features analogous to the relationship between a biological entity and its component cells. This means that the higher-order holon does not consist merely of a collection of these sub-holons, but also includes their various productions and secretions etc, which are usually known as artefacts. In other words, the human social holon does not consists only of complex groupings of humans, but of everything produced by that society, for example works of art, technology and so on.

But defining precisely what these cultural artefacts are is obviously going to cause us a headache somewhere down the line. In particular it will cause problems when we attempt to differentiate between man-made artefacts, such as buildings, and natural features, such as trees. For example, is a carefully sculptured landscape to be classified as man-made or not? And how much human manipulation can a natural feature be subjected to before it ceases being natural and becomes instead a product of human society?

Clearly there is a problem here. But it is in considering the possible solutions to this problem that we are led to what I believe is the correct understanding of the nature of the social holon. The three possible solutions, as I see it, are as follows:

  1. We decide that human society does not constitute a higher-order holon
  2. We devise a complex set of criteria for differentiating between man-made artefacts and natural features
  3. We look to see if there is a sense in which natural objects can be classified as man-made

And it is option 3) which leads us to a resolution of the problem and to an understanding of the nature of the social holon.

In my view, then, the sense in which natural objects can be classified as products of human society is the sense in which all objects can be classified as such, and it is the sense in which all the objects in our worldspace are the product of a socially constructed set of concepts and signifiers. In other words, they may not have all been made by human hands, but they have all most definitely been made by human minds.

That we live in a world of our own ideas is a central aspect of many mystical philosophies, particularly those of the east, which generally refer to this web of constructed concepts as maya. Maya, in these philosophies, runs deep, defining such fundamental aspects of our experience as space and time.

It is held that maya obscures a spiritual reality lying behind this mentally constructed world and that liberation consists in learning to see through it.

But the nature of any reality found to be lying behind this conceptual matrix is not important for our discussion of the mental-level of the holarchy, for at this stage we don't experience that reality in any case. All we need note is that our world at this point is the product of social consensus.

Carlos Castaneda describes this situation very well in Journey to Ixtlan:

"For a sorcerer, reality, or the world we all know, is only a description. For the sake of validating this premise don Juan concentrated the best of his efforts into leading me to a genuine conviction that what I held in mind as the world at hand was merely a description of the world; a description that had been pounded into me from the moment I was born. He pointed out that everyone who comes into contact with a child is a teacher who incessantly describes the world to him, until the moment when the child is capable of perceiving the world as it is described. According to don Juan, we have no memory of that portentous moment, simply because none of us could possibly have had any point of reference to compare it to anything else.
From that moment on, however, the child is a member. He knows the description of the world; and his membership becomes full-fledged, I suppose, when he is capable of making all the proper perceptual interpretations which we, the individuals who share a specific membership, have learned to make in common." [10]

So this view suggests that the social holon in which we are embedded is none other than the world around us, or, to use Ken Wilber's terminology, the entire gross realm.

Approaching this argument from another angle, we can say that when humans begin interacting, the earliest and therefore most fundamental emergent property of these interactions is not institutions or social structures but communication and, more specifically, language, and it is this which not only discloses, but actually brings forth, their collective worldspace.

As the mental level develops, this worldspace undergoes successive complexifications, from the simple representation of sensori-motor objects right through to the institutionalisation of complex concepts such as freedom and justice which define our shared experience.

In a rational-stage culture, this holon is therefore the heirarchy of objects, signifiers, concepts, rules and paradigms which define the limits of the world and the courses of action available to individuals living within it. This conception of the social holon therefore fits very well with Smith's assertion that the internal mental-structures of an individual are derived directly from the higher-order holon of which they are a member.

And there can be no question of this conception of the social holon being dehumanising. The constraints placed on humans are the boundaries of the collective worldspace, whether sensori-motor, rule-bound or conceptual, and these are not the result of State wielded power (leaving aside the issue of propaganda). In fact Wilber himself has written insightfully about how concepts and signifiers constrain both our world and our choices within it, pointing out in particular how our dualistic categories of thought guide our behaviour in paradoxical ways, leading inevitably to double-binds and collective frustration. [11]

Of course, the objection could be raised that although in this view humans are not necessarily slaves to any over-arching government or other totalitarian organisation, they are still mere automata mechanically acting out biological urges and social conditioning, and in this respect are still deprived of any real free-will.

The solution to this problem clearly lies in the role of consciousness in the human individual. To the extent that we are conscious we are able to transform conditioned patterns of thought and action and discover a power of intention which lies deeper than the mind. But until we develop this awareness then many spiritual teachers tell us that we are little more than machines, however unpalatable this may be.

In Worlds Smith carefully distinguishes between the soft-problem of consciousness, our ability to think and have mental experiences, and the hard-problem, our ability to have conscious experience of our thoughts and sensory-experiences. Smith then discusses various solutions to the hard-problem of consciousness proposed by the scientific community and concludes that none of them are satisfactory. He suggests instead that we view consciousness as an entity outside, and prior to, the holarchy altogether.[12]

I'm not sure that we need to do this however, and will instead explore the possibility that consciousness is a property which emerges at the transpersonal level of the holarchy, and that the form of consciousness we experience while engaged in mental-level development is an immanent form of this.

But this slight digression aside, if it is correct that the social holon in which we are embedded is the gross realm, then we would expect this to have implications for our view of collective evolution. In this model, then, the correct way to view socio-cultural evolution is not primarily as successive developments in human society - although this, of course, is involved - but as the evolution of the gross-realm itself, as the evolution of the world. And it seems that the world is evolving towards spirit.

As we noted earlier, in Smith's model development follows an identical pattern on all levels of the holarchy; an autonomous holon, followed by a series of intermediate holons, followed by another autonomous holons integrating all the previous stages in both free and embedded forms. Exactly what form this culminating holon might take on the mental level is open to question, but leaving this aside for the moment, I'll generally refer to it as the integral worldspace.

Brief Overview of the Transpersonal Level

As of yet Smith has not really applied his model in any great detail to levels higher than the mental, perhaps because the evidence for the existence of such levels is less than clear cut and perhaps because the stages within any higher levels are open to wider debate than are those of lower levels.

However, I believe that if we allow ourselves to accept the existence of a transpersonal level, and if we broadly adopt Wilber's stages within it, then we are able to make some interesting observations. So I'll now outline how I see the structure of this transpersonal realm.

Firstly, we note that because the culminating autonomous holon of any one level also forms the basic building block of the next, the basic building block of the transpersonal level is therefore the realm or worldspace. (Strictly we should say the integral worldspace, but for reasons which I'll outline later I'll currently just use the term worldspace when referring to general occurrences of this type of holon, and gross-realm when referring to ours).

By analogy with lower levels of the holarchy, we would expect the transpersonal to consist of successively more complex groupings of realms, with the emergent from these interactions forming the entity which we term spirit.

Although such an assertion would probably not be popular with the scientific community, it does seem to fit quite well with some eastern cosmologies. For example, in Buddhism it is said that manifest existence consists of a dizzying system of interacting realms into which beings incarnate according to their patterns of karma. This system is the wheel of life, or samsara.

In this model, the lower forms of spirit are simple groupings of many realms. These groupings then combine to form even more complex entities and so on until we reach the final stage of the level. At this last stage we would expect all the previous stages to be combined in the highly integrated, self-contained system of samsara.

But whether this assertion is correct or not, descriptions of this highest stage definitely seem to suggest that it is an autonomous holon. From Wilber's A Brief History of Everything:

"In Buddhist terms, this is not just the Nirmanakaya - gross or nature mysticism; and not just the Sambhogakaya - subtle or deity mysticism; and not just the Dharmakaya - causal or formless mysticism. It is the Svabhavikakaya - the integration of all three of them." [13]

As we noted when discussing mental-level development, in Smith's model the internal experience of an individual is a result of him participating in the higher-order holon in which he is embedded, or, to include transpersonal development in this definition, we could make it more general and say with which he has made contact. At the mental-level this internal experience takes the form of the various stages of psychological development. But when an individual succeeds in making contact with the holon above that, with the transpersonal level, their interior experience takes the form of the various transpersonal stages of development. In Wilber's system these are the psychic, subtle, causal and nondual; in the work of Aurobindo they are the intuitive mind, overmind, supermind and satchitananda.

So here, then, is my interpretation of how a transpersonal level of Smith's holarchy might look:

Mental Level
higher mindearly/mid centauric
illumined mindlate centauric
Transpersonal Level
intuitive mindpsychic
Level Above Transpersonal

When discussing the stages of this level, I'll generally use Wilber's terminology, but will occasionally make reference to Aurobindo's terms.

My match of Aurobindo's stages to Wilber's differs slightly from Wilber's own. The reasoning behind my correspondences should become clear when we discuss the form of individual transpersonal development.

We should also note that for reasons I'll explain later I believe the causal stage is the autonomous holon of the transpersonal level, and that the nondual actually constitutes the first stage of a higher level still, outside of samsara altogether.

The view of spirit I am outlining in this essay, therefore, is an evolutionary one. It suggests that far from having always existed, spirit actually evolved from the interactions of a large number of realms, but that once evolved it took on an existence beyond them. The analogous situation on the biological level is that the body evolved from the interactions of cells, and yet once completed, took on an existence beyond them also. To say, therefore, that spirit is the creator and sustainer of all worlds is analogous to stating that the body generates and nourishes its cells.

If this is correct then spirit only appears to have 'always existed' because of our perspective as sub-holons within it - in the same way that the body appears to have 'always existed' to a cell born within it.

And because spirit is an entity which has evolved from lower levels, this view also suggests that evolution is not a simple reversal of involution, but that the cosmos is an 'empty space' or 'blank slate' within which new entities have evolved.

However, although my own interpretation of spirit is an evolutionary one, Andy has pointed out that the one-scale model could equally well support the "always already" view and that he prefers not to take sides in the issue.[14]

Individual Development

Having outlined the two levels of the holarchy most relevant to individual development, we can now discuss how growth through them might proceed. But before addressing how I view this process in Smith's work, I'll first outline very briefly the two main existing paradigms of individual development; the structural-hierarchical paradigm of Ken Wilber and the dynamic-dialectical model of Michael Washburn.

Overview of the Two Existing Paradigms of Individual Development

Ken Wilber's Structural-Hierarchical Paradigm

In Ken Wilber's structural-hierarchical paradigm, human development is viewed as a progressive expansion through a hierarchically structured spectrum of psychic potentials, which Wilber slices into discrete levels for analysis. Although we have some leeway in choosing exactly how many levels to slice the spectrum into, Wilber himself usually chooses around 10, as follows:[15]

  1. uroboric
  2. archaic
  3. magic
  4. mythic
  5. rational (mental-egoic)
  6. centauric
  7. psychic
  8. subtle
  9. causal
  10. nondual

Development through the spectrum proceeds by a three-fold process of identification, transcendence and inclusion, whereby each level is for a time the mode of self but is eventually transcended and included as an integrated component of a new and higher level. [16]

When a particular level is identified with, Wilber terms this a transition structure, and when it is eventually transcended and included in the next higher level Wilber terms that of it which remains as an essential component of the higher level a basic structure.

We note that in healthy development once any particular level has been transcended and included it is not in any way repressed or dissociated. Although Wilber acknowledges that such repressions often happen, it is clear that such an event forms a departure from the ideal case.

Another important point for us to note is that in Wilber's paradigm development through all levels, prepersonal, personal and transpersonal, proceeds by this identical process of transcend-include. So as mythic-level consciousness transcends and includes magic-level consciousness, which transcends archaic-level consciousness, so psychic-level consciousness transcends and includes centauric-level consciousness and is itself transcended and included within subtle-level consciousness and so forth. In other words, the transpersonal levels are continuous with the lower levels and development, in the ideal scenario, proceeds smoothly from the personal to the transpersonal, or at least as smoothly as the transition between any other levels.

Although Wilber acknowledges that in reality most people will need to heal any traumas in the lower levels of their consciousness before stable transpersonal development may be embarked upon (a regressive movement which he terms the "curative spiral" [17]) it is clear that this is a departure from the ideal case.

In more recent versions of his model [18] Wilber splits development through the basic levels into various developmental lines (or 'streams') such as cognition, affect etc. Although interrelated, these lines can develop at varying rates, but all unfold through the levels outlined above.

Arguably the most important marker of development in Wilber's system is the self, which, as Wilber has pointed out, tends to hover fairly stably around a single level of development at any given time. [19] This suggests that, temporary regressions or peak-experiences aside, development of the self should proceed fairly smoothly through the spectrum.

Michael Washburn's Dynamic-Dialectical Paradigm

Whereas Ken Wilber has proposed a model which sees ideal individual development as an expansion through a hierarchically structured set of psychic potentials, Michael Washburn has proposed a model which views it as a dialectical interaction between two poles, termed the egoic and the non-egoic. At birth the self lies almost completely embedded within non-egoic potentials, which Washburn refers to as "the Ground", and possessing only minimal independence from these potentials, is frequently overwhelmed by them. Development in Washburn's paradigm proceeds, then, by a process of primal-alienation and primal-repression whereby the developing ego seeks to differentiate itself from its non-egoic potentials in order to escape their tendency to engulf it [20]. However, once the self has successfully achieved its independence from these potentials, in maturity it eventually comes to feel alienated from its own inner life and creative resources.

It is at this point that primal-repression eventually gives way as the self opens itself once more to its non-egoic potentials in a search for wholeness. The difference now being that as a strong, independent entity, the self can integrate these potentials without being overwhelmed by them. This process Washburn terms regression in the service of transcendence for, as the pre-egoic potentials are once more admitted to consciousness they are transformed by the dialectical interaction with the egoic pole into transpersonal manifestations. This transformation Washburn terms regeneration in spirit. In his paper The Pre/Trans Fallacy Reconsidered [21] Washburn sets out his position that the transpersonal levels may be structurally identical to the prepersonal levels, and that the latter arise directly through this dialectical interaction of the former with the separate self.

The main evidence of this structural identity between the prepersonal and the transpersonal levels is the existence of rather striking correspondences in their content. For example the primary matrix of infancy shows similarities to transpersonal states of mystical union, prepersonal magical thinking shows similarities to cognition at the psychic level, the mind-body fusion of the uroboros can appear similar to the higher mind-body integration of the centaur and so on.

One important point for us to note is that regression in Washburn's paradigm is not in any sense a reversal of development. It is an opening (or surrendering) of the mental-ego to elements of lower stages which were repressed during intermediate stages of development.

The Bones of Contention

The main points of disagreement between the structural-hierarchical and dynamic-dialectical paradigms focus around two key issues - the mechanism of development and the nature of the centaur.

As we have seen, the mechanism of development in the structural-hierarchical paradigm is one of transcend and include, whereas in the dynamic-dialectical paradigm it is one of primal-repression followed by a reverse movement of regression and regeneration.

Firstly we note that Wilber has criticised Washburn's paradigm for viewing individual development as being driven by this process of repression, pointing out that if this was the case it would put it at odds with the rest of nature:

"Human development [in the dynamic-dialectical model] must then be viewed as doing what no other organic system ever does: in this Romanticized view, each stage grows and develops primarily by brutalizing and crippling its previous stages. (How on earth could that even work? How on earth would natural selection ever select for that? Not the occasional repression, but the actual shattering of the entire Ground of Being? Is nature that ... confused?)" [22]

Although this appears to be a very valid criticism, one problem with it is that no matter how incompatible a dynamic of repression appears to be with natural development, there is evidence to suggest that repression is indeed an inherent aspect of human growth. However, in viewing repression purely as a pathological occurrence, Wilber is forced to distance himself from this evidence, even when he has used it himself to support his earlier positions.

For example, in an extensive section in Up From Eden entitled A New Body, Ken argues strongly that the repression of body, sexuality and instinctual life is the necessary act of an infant becoming aware of his own separateness and mortality:

"Thus the [infant], in flight from death and under sway of the... Atman project, has to begin to take steps to shield itself from the terrible vision of its vulnerability, its mortality, its helplessness. It has somehow to screen out or repress the terror of it all. We might say that at this point, if repression did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it. There is simply no other way the separate self could face its own emergence out of the uroboric slumber - except by repressing death, and its reflex terror, and all aspects of life that threaten death." [23]

"Thus, the infant self has but one choice: in Becker's words, he 'has to repress globally from the entire spectrum of his experience, if he wants a warm sense of... basic security. ... In other words - and this is crucial enough to bear stressing one final time - the child 'represses himself'. " [24]

"It all boils down to a simple fact: the separate self has to begin to sequester and dilute the vitality of the organism, to dilute life to a point that it doesn't threaten death, to dilute the energies of the organism itself to a cautious level of low intensity. Now this organic energy has been called by many names. Bergson termed it elan vital; to the Hindu it is prana; Lowen, bioenergy; Freud, libido. In a broad sense, it is simply emotional-sexual energy. .. It is this... bioenergy that has to be sequestered and restricted through self-repression." [25]

This description of the natural repression of body, sexuality and emotions is identical to primal-repression as described by Michael Washburn.

The fact that Wilber appears to acknowledge elements of repression even during ideal development was also pointed out by Washburn in The Pre/Trans Fallacy Reconsidered, in which he notes that in particular the archaic level is always unconscious during development up to and including the mental-ego [26].

With regard to the handling of cognitive development in the two paradigms, Washburn has acknowledged that Piaget's (and Wilber's) stages are valid, but asserts that they arise directly from primal repression rather than Wilber's dynamic of transcend and include. In support of this assertion Washburn contends that the movement from pre-formal to formal cognitive structures involves a loss of the fluid modes of knowing associated with the auto-symbolic process, and their replacement by the more structured modes of thought associated with the intellect. And because the move to post-formal cognition involves the re-emergence and integration of the auto-symbolic process back into thought, Washburn argues that the whole process is better explained by the dual process of repression and regression rather than transcend and include. [27]

The second bone of contention between the two paradigms is regarding the nature of the centaur.

It is widely accepted that the centaur consists of the integration of all prior stages of mental development, i.e. the integration of all stages from the uroboric to the rational. In the dynamic-dialectical paradigm, this is seen as the undoing of primal-repression and an integration of the regained material, but because the structural-hierarchical paradigm does not allow for primal-repression, it is seemingly hard-pressed to account for its reversal, and hence for the superior integration of the centaur. In short, in the structural-hierarchical paradigm there seems to be no reason why we should have to wait until the centaur to integrate the earlier stages of development. Washburn summarises the problem as follows:

"If normal development includes rather than excludes lower levels at each stage transition, why do we need to wait until the centauric stage to integrate all lower levels? In normal development, according to Wilber, each psychic level attained is already an integrated totality including all previous levels; each stage transition to a new level simply integrated a lesser totality within a greater totality. ... Nothing [should] be lost along the way; there should be no need to wait until after the ... mental-egoic stage to integrate lower levels." [28]

So Wilber's paradigm, therefore, sees the centaur as being structured hierarchically [29], with all lower levels embedded as basic structures within centauric consciousness. Thus it would appear incompatible with much of the work that has been done on the nature of psychological-wholeness, and in particular with the work of Jung.

Yet despite these problems, the structural-hierarchical paradigm has the huge strength of being able to offer a model of individual development set in the context of an overall theory of collective, and even cosmic, evolution. This is accomplished by Wilber's use of a holonic model of the cosmos, which sees evolution on all levels, the physical, biological, mental and transpersonal, as successive developments of a single process.

Yet I believe that Smith's holonic model not only enjoys all of the benefits of the structural-hierarchical paradigm, but when applied to individual development is also able to accommodate the phenomenon of primal-repression and the superior integration of the centaur within a developmental framework.

Brief Statement of the Differences Between
the Structural-Hierarchical and Dynamic-Dialectical Paradigms

To clarify the main points of difference between Washburn's dynamic-dialectical paradigm and Wilber's structural-hierarchical, we can note that:

a) In Washburn's paradigm development proceeds by the mechanism of primal-repression whereby each lower level is successively alienated on the way to egoic consciousness, followed by a process of re-admitting these levels into the separate self, a process by which they are transformed into their transpersonal counterparts. The consecutive phases of this dual process are termed regression in the service of transcendence and regeneration in spirit respectively.

In Wilber's paradigm development proceeds by a process of transcend and include whereby, in the ideal case, no repression occurs at any point, and each successive level is built upon the basic structure of the preceding one.

b) In Washburn's paradigm the transpersonal levels are formed from a dialectical interaction between the material of the prepersonal levels and the separate self-sense.

In Wilber's paradigm any correspondences between the prepersonal and transpersonal levels are judged to be coincidental. Prepersonal structures exist in the transpersonal levels only as basic structures embedded within the higher order structure. Although we note that Wilber very much acknowledges the similarities between the material contained in these two tiers as this forms the basis of his Pre/Trans Fallacy argument. [30]

c) In Washburn's paradigm the transition between the personal and transpersonal levels is by a rather complicated process of regression in the service of transcendence, whereby the separate ego, unable to any longer bare its alienation from its own deeper resources, opens itself to the previously repressed non-egoic potentials and begins the task of transforming and integrating them into the newly emerging transpersonal self.

In Wilber's paradigm the transition between the personal and transpersonal realms proceeds in an identical fashion to the transition between all other levels, although Wilber acknowledges that this transition is often preceded by some kind of existential crisis and is in some ways more intense than the transitions between other levels.[31]

Individual Development in Smith's One-Scale Model

Mental-Level Development in Smith's Model

As we have already noted, in Smith's holarchical model an individual develops his internal mental structures in response to the society in which he lives. So a person living in a magic-stage culture would generally develop as far as magic consciousness and no further whereas an individual living in an egoic-stage culture would generally develop to rational awareness. In most societies a mixture of different stages and trends will generally be present and the stage to which an individual develops will be dependent upon the particular aspects of the culture with which he is in contact.

This view, then, suggests that individual development is a process of contacting successively higher order holons and that the internal experience of an individual at each stage is a reflection of those external structures.

If this is the case then it should be possible to map the interior stages of individual growth in an analogous way to how we map the development of the corresponding external structures. And this, of course, is what Wilber does with the individual and collective aspects of the quadrant model.

Applying this rationale to the mental level of Smith's model, we would expect individual development to follow the pattern of an autonomous holon, followed by several intermediate holons, followed by another autonomous holon marking the culmination of mental development. Furthermore, we would expect this final, autonomous holon to integrate all the preceding stages of the level in a highly unified form.

More specifically, we would expect to see a) this pattern of development correspond to the following stages:

uroboric (organism)






And b) that each stage from the archaic to the egoic would be reached by transcending and including the preceding stage, but that the centauric stage would contain and synthesise holons of all the previous stages in both their embedded and free forms.

To show that the uroboros is an autonomous holon, we need only point out that it is identical to the final stage of the biological level (the organism), and therefore is indeed such a structure. Also, the uroboros is traditionally represented by the image of a serpent eating its own tail, which signifies the "self-possessed, all enclosing" [32] nature of the autonomous holon.

And as we noted earlier, as the uroboros is both the culminating stage of the biological level and the first stage of the mental, it in some sense straddles these two worlds. The consequence of this "dual-identity" is that the uroboros is both a biological organism and yet also a rudimentary mental self, with both of these existing in a state of fusion - hence Piaget's comment that "the self is at this stage material, so to speak". [33]

Moving to the other end of the level, what evidence is there to suggest that the centaur is also such an autonomous holon, integrating and synthesising all preceding mental-level stages in a highly unified form? Well as we noted earlier, this is the generally accepted conception of the centaur, as we see from Wilber's excellent summary of the properties of the centauric self from The Atman Project:

"That is, because consciousness is no longer identified with any of these elements to the exclusion of the others, all of them can be integrated: the body, the persona, the shadow, the ego - all can be brought into a higher-order integration" [34]

"Presumably, then, actual autonomy (and self-actualization), would result, and could only result by definition, with the conscious emergence of this totality - a type of shift of identity from any of the fragments (ego, personal, body) to their prior and higher integration." [35]

"This stage is variously referred to as the "integration of all lower levels", "integrated", "self-actualized", "autonomous" [36]

So whereas the culmination of the biological level, the organism, is biologically self-contained and unified, we can see that at the equivalent stage of the mental level, development produces a psychologically unified being.

This is a key point of departure between the developmental model suggested by Smith's holarchy and that of Wilber's structural-hierarchical paradigm. In Wilber's model the centaur is structured in a similar manner to earlier stages, with the basic structures of the preceding stages (uroboric, archaic, magic, mythic and egoic) nested hierarchically within it.

But in Smith's model the centaur has a completely different structure to any of the preceding mental-level stages. It is a non-hierarchical, self-regulating system in which holons from all stages of the level interact semi-autonomously to form a being of an order of magnitude more complex than at any previous stage.

This vision of the centaur as being non-hierarchically structured has a strong resonance with Jung's view of the individuated self in which the predominance of the ego has been usurped in favour of the integration of the whole range of psychic potentials, unconscious as well as conscious, around a new centre. As Jung himself was to put it:

"During those years... I began to understand that the goal of psychic development is the self. There is no linear evolution; there is only a circumambulation of the self. Uniform development exists, at most, only at the beginning; later, everything points towards the centre." [37]

Development from the mental-ego to the centaur, therefore, is by a mechanism involving the re-emergence and integration of the holons of previous stages. And this explains why the properties of the centaur appear to be highly developed forms of many of the capacities possessed by infants which are then mysteriously absent during intermediate stages of development. From Wilber again:

"And again, studies of impulse expression and spontaneity show that the child and the most developed adults share these traits, whereas the individuals in the intermediate stages (the average ego/persona realms) do not". [38]

In other words, Smith's paradigm would suggest that such properties of the centaur as it's advanced mind-body integration originate from the re-emergence and integration of the holons of lower stages, in this case the mind-body fusion of the uroboros.

Another facet of the centaur explained by this model is Arieti's tertiary process. [39] The tertiary process is argued by Arieti to be the source of the centaur's creative powers, and is a synthesis of primary and secondary processes arising at the centauric stage.

And moving back to earlier development, we can see that since development to the centaur involves the re-emergence of all prior stages in their individual forms, this suggests that those re-emerging structures are repressed at some point in earlier development - even in the ideal case. However, as the embedded form of each stage still remains by virtue of it being a component of the next higher stage, we see that depending on whether you focus on what remains of each level when it is transcended (embedded form), or what is repressed and later regained (free form), the early developmental dynamic may be viewed as one of transcend and include or one of repression. So it may be that Wilber's "transcend and include" and Washburn's "primal repression" are both correct descriptions of the mechanism of development, but are each only viewing a partial aspect of the same process.

We also note that the reason given by Wilber in Up From Eden for the infant repressing her own lower stages was to shield herself from an awareness of her vulnerability and mortality, so it comes as no surprise that the awareness of this existential threat once more dawns on the centauric individual. I suggest that this is more evidence that the centauric stage is reached not by a mere transcending and including of the mental-ego, but by a process of integrating all of the lower stages.

With regard to Washburn's paradigm, we might say that primal-repression is the process whereby the individual form of each stage is left behind during development and that regression in the service of transcendence is their re-emergence and re-integration during the transition from the mental-ego to the centaur.

It would therefore seem likely that the embedded form of each stage is equivalent to Wilber's basic structure, but whether the free form is directly equivalent to his transition structure is open to question. I suggest that it is, as long as we understand that once this transition structure re-emerges in the centaur it is now no longer identified with, but instead takes up it's place as a component in a new type of being. Although the details of this are still to be worked out, it does seems plausible, however, that the ability of the centaur to take multiple perspectives might arise from it once again having access to the worldviews, and cognitive structures of earlier stages. So for example, although a centauric individual would no longer be identified with the structures of pre-conventional morality, by once again having access to those structures she would be much better able to empathise with those who were.

Note that although Smith's paradigm allows for primal-repression and its reversal, this does not constitute transpersonal development as it does in Washburn's paradigm. But neither is it akin to Wilber's "curative spiral", which has as it's aim the healing of lower-level pathologies while leaving the basic hierarchical structure of the psyche intact. Rather it is a natural regressive movement to bring all lower levels into balance around a new centre, with no single one of them predominating, completing mental-level development and bringing the individual to the brink of the transpersonal.

But despite this regressive movement not being an actual ascent into the transpersonal level, it would be a mistake to not regard it as spiritual growth. For by all accounts the regression is a very arduous task, portrayed in mythology as a journey into the underworld, and involves facing both the individual and collective shadow. While on the positive side, when properly actualised the centaur is a highly integrated and creative being, and in its mature form polymorphously sensuous and prone to transpersonal experiences. It may also be that this "properly actualised" centaur is the necessary basis for healthy transpersonal development to be possible.

So it seems that with regard to mental-level development Smith's paradigm can offer us the best of all worlds. It allows for a developmental dynamic of both primal-repression and transcend-include, and is also able to explain the superior integration of the centaur within a developmental framework. And all of this is accomplished by direct analogy with the pattern of development shown to be operative on the physical and biological levels of the holarchy.

With this point in mind, we note that Smith's paradigm offers a refutation of Wilber's critique of repression as a mechanism of development. For we can see that, contrary to this critique, repression, in a sense, does exist elsewhere in natural development. For when the lower stages of any particular level are embedded hierarchically within an intermediate stage holon, they certainly enjoy less freedom than they will eventually enjoy within the culminating holon of the level. And so allowing ourselves to be slightly anthropomorphic about it, we could say that while embedded within an intermediate stage holon, the lower stages are, in this sense, repressed. [40]

Having now outlined the centauric stage of Smith's paradigm, we are in a position to look at the higher stages of development, and the transpersonal level.

Transpersonal Development in Smith's Model

An important difference between Smith's paradigm and Wilber's is that by drawing inferences about higher levels by analogy with lower ones, Smith's paradigm suggests that the transpersonal stages of development form a completely new and discrete level of the holarchy from those of the mental level. So whereas Wilber's ideal case sees development as progressing smoothly from centauric consciousness through to psychic and so on via the process of transcend and include, Smith's paradigm sees the centaur as marking the culmination of the mental level and the start of a completely new one with new emergent properties and as different from the mental as the mental was from the biological.

We note that this immediately offers an explanation for the movement from gross to subtle realms experienced during the transition to the transpersonal level. For during the mental-level, development yields progressively more complex cognitions of a single realm (the gross realm), whereas once transpersonal development is embarked upon, a series of progressively more subtle realms is disclosed, each containing sensori-motor objects uncognisable at preceding stages. We also note that at the centaur/psychic boundary, an individual's sense of identity shifts from the body-mind to consciousness itself.

I believe that the magnitude of this transition alone must raise problems for any paradigm which attempts to make transpersonal and mental-level development continuous with one another, and that by recognising that the levels of the holarchy are discrete entities, Smith's paradigm is better able to account for this shift in development.

In fact Smith's paradigm suggests that at the centaur/psychic transition the individual outgrows the socially constructed, mental-level world and makes contact with the next higher-order holon, which consists of the Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya, Dharmakaya and Svabhavikakaya. Each of these entities, as we have noted, consists of successively more complex groupings of realms, and the internal experience of making contact with each is the various stages of transpersonal development; the psychic, subtle and causal and so on.

I will not say too much about development through the transpersonal level, and re-iterate that I differ from Smith in using Wilber's schema of the transpersonal stages. Smith has said that he prefers not too speculate too much on the transpersonal stages, instead referring to the level as a whole when discussing the issues involved.

So here again is my interpretation of how a transpersonal level of Smith's holarchy might look:

Mental Level
higher mindearly/mid centauric
illumined mindlate centauric
Transpersonal Level
intuitive mindpsychic
Level Above Transpersonal

Once again it seems likely that the form of development through the transpersonal stages is identical to that of lower levels, that is: an autonomous holon, followed by a series of intermediate holons, followed by another autonomous holon forming the culmination of the level.

We have already outlined the evidence for the centaur being an autonomous holon while discussing the mental level, although we are now looking at this structure from above, so to speak, from the transpersonal rather than from the mental level.

The evidence for the existence of an autonomous holon at the higher reaches of the transpersonal level is also quite convincing. For example, here is how Wilber describes the nondual stage in The Atman Project:

"This is the radically perfect integration of all prior levels - gross, subtle, and causal, which, now of themselves so, continue to arise moment to moment in an iridescent play of mutual interpenetration." [41]

And in A Brief History of Everything:

"In Buddhist terms, this is not just the Nirmanakaya - gross or nature mysticism; and not just the Sambhogakaya - subtle or deity mysticism; and not just the Dharmakaya - causal or formless mysticism. It is the Svabhavikakaya - the integration of all three of them." [42]

However, despite the apparent similarities between these descriptions and the highly unified nature of the autonomous holon, I have some doubts that the nondual is actually the autonomous holon of this level. The reasons for this will hopefully become clear when we discuss the form of individual development, but for the time being I will simply state that I believe the causal stage is actually the transpersonal autonomous holon. The only important point to note here, however, is that there is clear evidence to point to the existence of an autonomous holon at the culmination of the transpersonal level.

As for the form of development through the level; well once again by analogy with lower levels, we would expect development through the various strata of the psychic and subtle realms to proceed by a dynamic of transcend and include, whereby the transition structure of the previous stage is left behind and only a basic structure remains, embedded hierarchically within the new stage. Then we would expect development to the final stage (high causal) to be accompanied by a re-emergence of all the previous stages and their re-integration in a highly unified structure.

My reasons for suggesting that this is indeed the case should hopefully become clear when we discuss the form of development. But as we have now outlined the structure of the mental and transpersonal levels, we can look at how Smith's paradigm might offer a new explanation for the pre/trans fallacy.

The Pre/Trans Fallacy Re-Re-Considered

The Pre/Trans Fallacy, as Ken Wilber has pointed out, arises because each transpersonal stage has a prepersonal stage in mental-level development which can be mistaken for it. There is, however, no explanation in the structural-hierarchical paradigm for why this might be. From Smith's paradigm, however, and particularly from the principle of holon substitution in which a holon at a particular stage of a given level of existence will share analogous features with holons on the same stage of other levels, we would very much expect to find similarities between each mental-level stage and its transpersonal counterpart.

Washburn's paradigm also offers an explanation for the similarities between pre and trans stages of development. Because, in his model, the trans stages are transformed versions of the pre stages and therefore are expressions of the same psychic potentials, similarities in their structure would be very much expected. There is, however, one problem with this explanation if we are to accept Wilber's schema of the transpersonal stages - namely that the transpersonal stages are encountered in the wrong order for Washburn's explanation to work nicely.

If we take the agreed upon correspondences between pre and trans stages in which the magic stage shows similarities to the psychic and the mythic stage shows correspondences to the subtle [43], then when primal-repression gives way during regression in the service of transcendence, we would expect the material of the most recent stages to emerge and be transformed first. If this is so, then it means that generally speaking the material and structures of the mythic level would be first to appear, and consequently we would expect the first transpersonal stage experienced to be the subtle and not the psychic.

In Smith's model the principle of holon substitution accurately predicts the order in which we would expect the transpersonal stages to arise, for it suggests that stage x of the mental level would bear certain resemblances to stage x of the transpersonal level. And, if we allow for the difficulty of "slicing" both levels into the same number of stages, this is indeed what we find.

So in Smith's model the stages of development we might expect to be liable to pre-trans confusion are as follows:

uroboric -> centauric -> causal

magic -> psychic

mythic -> subtle

Note that we now have two possibilities for mistaking features of a lower stage with those of the highest transpersonal stage. For example the uroboric, body-fused spontaneity of a baby can be confused with the autonomous spontaneity of the centaur and both of these can be confused with the selfless spontaneity of the sage.

The explanation for the Pre/Trans Fallacy offered by the one-scale model tends to suggest a common pattern to development on the mental and transpersonal levels. First we experience the awakening of an energy source (on the mental level this is libido, on the transpersonal level, kundalini) which then undergoes successive sumblimations leading through archetypal forms and culminating in a mode of knowing whose purpose is to synthesise contradictory positions. Vision-logic/aperspectival reason is clearly how this mode of knowing functions on the mental level, and we can see clear analogies between this and the equivalent stage of the transpersonal level, which is Aurobindo's supermind (Wilber's causal). [44]

"[The Supermind] sees not only the whole of things and beings within a single vision, connecting all the beams together without opposing anything, but it also sees the point of view of each separate thing, each force; it is an all-encompassing view that does not terminate in a single, central point but in myriads of points." [45] The Supermind does not set truth against truth so see which will stand and survive, but completes truth by truth in the light of the one Truth of which all are the aspects... This is what the Mother calls thinking spherically." [46]

And we can also see a clear analogue between the mode of time experienced by the centaur and that experienced at the stage of the supermind:

"At the mature centaur level, the immediate and vivid present is indeed the dominant mode of time, but the individual now has complete access to the entire conventional world of extended temporal realities as well... The individual learns to see thoughts of yesterday as present activities, and anticipations of tomorrow as present activities... [The Centaur] can still see the past and future.. but it can see them as movements of the present." [47]

"Global vision, undivided vision, and also eternal vision... The supramental consciousness completely embraces all three tenses: [it] links past, present and future in their indivisible connections. [48] The supramental consciousness is not anxiously turned towards the future as we habitually are. Everything is exposed before its eyes, but it lives time divinely: every second of time is an absolute, as filled with plenitude as all the millenia combined." [49]

So in both cases, then, the individual experiences temporal existence as originating from the present moment, but for the supermind this experience is of a much higher-order. And when we place these two autonomous holons alongside the autonomous holon of the biological level, the uroboros, it looks as though this type of groundedness in the present is a feature of autonomous holons in general, at least as they are encountered during individual development, a point which Smith himself makes.

In this one-scale paradigm, therefore, the pre-trans fallacy indicates a common pattern of development being played out in more refined forms on successively higher levels, as a musical scale repeats itself on higher octaves.

Returning briefly to the dynamic-dialectical paradigm; from the one-scale model I think we would have to conclude that Washburn's paradigm only maps development up to and including the centaur, and that it perhaps mistakes the resurgence of the unobstructed flow of libidinal energies throughout the body (which occurs when primal-repression is lifted) for the kundalini awakening - a type of pre/trans fallacy. If this is so then Washburn may also mistake the traumatic experiences which occur during regression in the service of transcendence for similar experiences which occur during the first awakening of the kundalini (auditory hallucinations, for example). This is a tentative suggestion, but I find it hard to pin down exactly how Washburn accounts for stages of development such as Aurobindo's Supermind, which seem to be beyond the range of his paradigm.

Death, Rebirth and the Transitions Between Levels

As we noted earlier the emergence of a new level of the holarchy involves the emergence of a new property such as mentality or spirit and a corresponding shift in identification. An interesting feature of the autonomous holon which forms the culmination of each level is that it in some sense straddles two worlds. Forming the highly unified and culminating structure of the lower level, it also seems to posses the most rudimentary characteristics of the next level.

For example, the uroboros is both the final holon of the biological level, the organism, and yet is also a mental-self, a mental-self which exists in fusion with the biological form.

And as the culminating autonomous holon of the mental-level, the centaur, matures it seems to become infused with a rudimentary form the next higher level still, the level of spirit. From Wilber's Atman project once again:

"This mature centaur is the point, I believe, that transpersonal energies begin to rush into the organism, even transfiguring it physiologically. This whole level - which is a disidentification with the total bodymind - marks the highest potential that can be reached in the existential or "gross" realm. It is very much what Jon Lilly (following Gurdjieff) called "state +12," which is "blissful state; cosmic love, reception of grace [higher energies], heightened bodily awareness [super-sensory]; highest function of bodily consciousness." [50]

And Aurobindo recognised what could be considered an equivalent stage of development which he termed the illumined mind at which the self, while remaining identified with the mental self, begins to experience flashes of the transpersonal. I believe that the ability of the culminating holon of one level to become infused with the properties of the next level is why the centaur is often differentiated into 'early' and 'mature' (or 'late') forms. In this view the early centaur is the structure arising from the re-emergence and integration of all mental-level stages, and the mature centaur is the result of this structure becoming infused with transpersonal energies.

If we accept that as the autonomous holon of a level matures, a rudimentary form of the next level begins to manifest in fusion with it, taking this further we can see that at some point the self appears to sever it's sole identification with the culminating structure of the lower level in order that development be allowed to continue through the next level.

The two points in mental and transpersonal development where this type of transition occurs are:

a) At the transition from the biological self to the mental self which is the first severing of the uroboric union. I suspect that this corresponds to the event which Margaret Mahler terms "hatching". [51]

b) At the transition from the mental self to the transpersonal self which occurs at the centaur/psychic boundary.

We might expect that because the transition between levels involves the self crossing into a completely new domain of development, that the experience of this transition would be of a different kind to that of moving between stages of the same level. With this in mind, it is interesting to note that the two points of transition outlined above are the major points of development at which the defining experience is one of death and rebirth. Therefore we might suggest that the death-rebirth experience is the experience of the severing of identification with the culminating structure of the lower level in order that development may continue through the next.

Stanislav Grof, probably the foremost researcher into the experiences that surround biological birth, has found that when the birth trauma is relived, it is often experienced not only as a birth, but as a death-rebirth. And he has also noted that during the reliving of the birth trauma, experiences occur that seem to bear little relation to the actual biological phenomenon of birth. [52]

There does not appear to be any reason why reliving the event of biological birth should involve the experience of death and rebirth. Grof himself believes that the reliving of such experiences involves an experience of dying and being reborn for the following reason:

"To understand why the reliving of a biological birth is experienced as death and rebirth, one has to realize that what happens is more than just a replay of the original event. ... Much of our later self-definition and our attitudes toward the world are heavily contaminated by this constant reminder of the vulnerability, inadequacy, and weakness that we experienced at birth. In a sense, we were born anatomically but have not caught up with this fact emotionally. The "dying" and the agony during the struggle for rebirth reflect the actual pain and vital threat of the biological birth process. However, the ego death that precedes rebirth is the death of our old concepts of who we are and what the world is like, which were forged by the traumatic imprint of birth." [53]

But we could also suggest that the severing of sole identification with any level of existence is experienced as a "death" and that the entry into the next higher level is experienced as a "rebirth" and that at least some of the phenomena associated with the birth-trauma are actually the completing of any unfinished aspects of this process as it occured at the transition from the biological to mental levels.

So we have the autonomous holon of the biological level (the organism) existing in fusion with the most rudimentary type of mental-level self, and thereby forming the uroboros. And I am suggesting that it is the shift in identification from the biological to the mental aspect of this entity that accounts for the death-rebirth experience which occurs at this stage.

In fact it may be that there are two simultaneous processes at work here, both contributing to the experiences involved: the trauma associated with the actual clinical birth as well as the shifting from the biological to the mental level (which occurs later in development). And although both processes are probably intertwined in a complex phenomenon, it is the second that explains the existence of a death-rebirth experience in what would otherwise simply be a "birth experience".

The evidence for this type of death-rebirth experience once more occurring at the transition between the centauric (or existential) stage of existence and the subsequent transpersonal level is also quite suggestive. In the writings of Aurobindo this event corresponds to the psychic birth [54]. In the work of A.H. Almaas, it corresponds to the birth of the Personal Essence, which Almaas compares and contrasts with the psychological birth as follows:

"Rebirth is a recurrent theme in the literature of inner transformation. Inner transformation is primarily a death and rebirth, the death of an old identity and the birth of a new one, on a deeper level of reality. While we can see the realization of each essential aspect as a process of death and rebirth, it is the discovery of the Personal Essence [transpersonal self] which is actually felt by many students as the birth of who they are. It is the true birth of the Human Being, and is recognized as such by the experiencer himself. If the development of the separate individuality of ego is the psychological birth of the individual, then the realization of the Personal Essence is his essential birth. The death, of course, in this process of rebirth, is the abandoning of ego identifications. In this sense the "birth" of the Personal Essence is fundamentally different from the birth of the ego, which is not preceded by a death but arises out of a state of nondifferentiation." [55]

As mentioned previously, Wilber's position on this existential death/rebirth is that the transition between all stages of development can be seen as a death-rebirth but that:

"[T]he death-rebirth struggle of the centaur/existential [stage] is, in some ways, the most dramatic, simply because... it is the great transition from the personal to the transpersonal domains. And... existential death is the deconstruction of the extensive networks of biologically oriented identifications (death to an exclusive identification with the gross-oriented body-mind in general). As such, the death-rebirth struggle of the existential [stage] is profoundly significant and altogether intense." [56]

However, the structural-hierarchical paradigm does not really offer a reason for exactly why the centaur/psychic transition should involve "[dying] to an exclusive identification with the gross-oriented body-mind"; but we note that this is an almost perfect description of the transition as we would expect it to occur in Smith's model.

We can also now see how complex the transitions around centauric awareness are. In the ideal case the transition from mental-ego to centaur involves a general re-emergence and integration of all prior mental stages, which at some point may involve the re-emergence of unfinished death-rebirth aspects of the hatching experience as well as unassimilated elements of the individual's clinical birth. The transition from the centaur to the transpersonal level then involves firstly the manifestation of spirit within the centaur followed by a death-rebirth experience marking the full transition into the higher level.

And as it seems that the death-rebirth experience can begin before the process of regression is complete then we can see that there is the possibility of elements from two highly traumatic death-rebirth experiences, the reliving of clinical birth and a deep regression and re-integration of all prior stages, all occurring around the same time.

The Death-Rebirth at Higher Levels

Moving one level up the holarchy into the transpersonal stages, is there any evidence to suggest that a similar death-rebirth occurs once again and that this corresponds to the breaking open of the culminating holon of the transpersonal level? I would point out that the theme of death-rebirth at this stage features very much in some spiritual traditions, for example the 'great death' of the Zen tradition, the equivalent process in the nondual traditions as outlined by Wilber [57], or in the higher stages of development of the Vipassana tradition as outlined in the 'Map of The Elders'.

It is worth looking at the Map of The Elders in slightly more detail as it offers clear evidence for both the existence of an autonomous holon at the higher stages of transpersonal development, for this autonomous holon being the causal/supermind, and for a death-rebirth experience marking its transcendence.

Buddhist teacher and writer Jack Kornfield gives an excellent description of the stages of development in the Vipassana tradition in his book A Path with Heart. I would firstly like to draw attention to the stage of development which in this tradition is known as the Realm of Arising and Passing or pseudo-nirvana, described by Kornfield as follows:

"Next, a still deeper and more stable level of awareness arises, called by the Elders the Realm of Arising and Passing. Here, our attention becomes quite balanced, and we experience life as a dance of momentary experiences, like raindrops. This realm has several qualities. First, in it we distinctly sense life as only arising and passing, being born anew and ending, moment after moment. Second, at this stage, attention and concentration become so strong that the heart and mind become clear and breathtakingly luminous. All the powers and factors of enlightenment arise spontaneously: rapture, energy, clear investigation, calm, concentration, insight, equanimity. In this state, awareness arises so automatically and easily that the mind feels as if it floats, free and unhindered by whatever appears. Tremendous joy arises; we can sense a wonderful freedom and balance. As we see more clearly into the nature of life, with this well-being comes incredible faith and clarity. The opening of the mind and heart is so great that the need for sleep can diminish to one or two hours a night. Sometimes psychic abilities will open spontaneously at this stage. Dreaming will often become powerful, lucid and conscious, and out-of-the-body experiences are common. From this level it is even possible to develop meditation consciously while dreaming." [58]

This state as described by Kornfield sounds very much like an autonomous holon and, in fact, very similar to the causal-stage awareness described by Wilber in his various works. In particular we note the similarity between Kornfield's description of the stage at which "awareness arises so automatically and easily that the mind feels as if it floats, free and unhindered by whatever appears" with Wilber's description of the witness [59] and also between dreaming becoming "powerful, lucid and conscious" with Wilber's descriptions of awareness remaining uninterrupted through the various types of dream state [60]. We also note that "psychic abilities [opening] spontaneously at this stage" fits in with the theme of a general re-emergence and integration of holons from the psychic stage of development which would be expected in the autonomous holon of the transpersonal level. [61].

Another piece of evidence for this stage constituting the autonomous holon of the level comes from Kornfield's assertion that "[a]ll the powers and factors of enlightenment arise spontaneously: rapture, energy, clear investigation, calm, concentration, insight, equanimity". For if we compare these qualities with the states of being at each of the transpersonal stages, we note correspondences with each one. For example, rapture and energy seem to correspond to qualities of the psychic stage; clear investigation, calm and concentration to the subtle stage; and insight and equanimity to the causal stage. As Wilber puts it in One Taste:

"In the presence of a psychic-level yogi, you tend to feel great power. In the presence of a subtle-level saint, you tend to feel great peace. In the presence of a causal-level sage, you tend to feel massive equanimity." [62]

It is interesting that aspects of all these stages emerge at the stage of pseudo-nirvana, and I suggest that this is evidence for this stage being the autonomous holon of the transpersonal level. It is a goal of the Vipassana tradition to bring all of these factors into balance, a process which I'll suggest later has a clear analogue on the mental level.

But no matter how satisfying and powerful this stage may be, it is not yet the final stage in the Map of The Elders but an intermediate stage of growth which is often mistaken by the student for enlightenment - hence the name pseudo-nirvana. And it is held that development can only continue past this stage once the student submits to an all-encompassing experience of spiritual death and rebirth. As Kornfield continues:

"In pseudo-nirvana, students become stuck in positive states, trying to maintain them, grasping the clarity, power, or peace, using them to reinforce their subtle sense of being one who is awake, accomplished, free. The only release from this level of attachment is a radical letting go. Coming to this understanding is one of the greatest insights on the spiritual path. ... This opening marks the beginning of a spontaneous and deep process of death and rebirth. Many forms of death and rebirth are encountered in the course of spiritual practice in every tradition. All of the processes we have described... can be experienced in this way. Healing, expanding through the middle of knots, energetic awakenings, visions, and chakra opening can all involve a letting go of our old identities and a rebirth of a new sense of self. But at the level of Insight Meditation beyond pseudo-nirvana, the death-rebirth process becomes all-encompassing, involving our total being, a total dissolution of our sense of self, through a dark night, like death itself." [63]

I believe the fact that the stage of pseudo-nirvana gives way to another process of death and rebirth is an additional reason to suggest that it is the autonomous holon of the transpersonal level.

According to Kornfield's description of the Map of The Elders, once the student's attachment to pseudo-nirvana has been relinquished and the subsequent death-rebirth process submitted to, it eventually culminates in a state of profound balance called high equanimity, which Kornfield describes as follows:

"Our mind becomes like a crystal goblet or like the clear sky in which all things appear unhindered. We become completely transparent, as if every phenomenon just passes through our mind and body. We are simply space, and our whole identity opens to reveal the true nature of consciousness before we became identified with body and mind. This state is described in many traditions. ... In Hinduism, Advaita Vedanta calls it the nondual that contains everything and nothing, also referring to it as the Higher Self." [64]

Kornfield then goes on to discuss in some detail the various experiences, insights and awakenings which occur in this stage of high-equanimity, and which are the experiences of liberation in the Vipassana tradition.

So I would say, then, that pseudo-nirvana (Wilber's causal; Aurobindo's supermind) is the autonomous holon of the transpersonal level. Unfortunately pseudo-nirvana is a slightly derogatory term for what, by all accounts, is a highly positive stage, pointing as it does to what the state isn't rather than what it is. Although, interestingly, this choice of name highlights what I suspect is a feature of autonomous holons in general - namely that what starts out as a highly satisfying, integrated state - a state so complete that it is usually mistaken for the goal of development - is eventually experienced as being less than perfect. To use an analogy from clinical birth, we could say that eventually the walls of this self-contained structure close in on us, precipitating a movement through a series of experiences corresponding to the second, third and fourth birth perinatal matrices outlined by Stan Grof [65], and culminating in an experience of liberation as we are finally ejected into the new domain.

At the centaur/psychic boundary this liberation is the birth of the psychic self, and at the upper reaches of the transpersonal level this liberation is surely moksha. And if the emergent of the transpersonal level is spirit, or consciousness, then this experience of moksha consists of a disidentification with this entity and a birth into the new level, with an emergent that we could term emptiness.

And we can also note that if this schema of development is correct then it appears that the archetype of death and rebirth is woven into the fabric of development on all levels of existence.

So to summarise the ideal form of development in the one-scale model, we should expect to see the following steps:

a) The psychological birth of the infant.

b) Development through the intermediate mental-level stages via a process of transcend and include.

c) General regression and re-integration of all mental-level stages at the move to the centaur.

d) Manifestation of spirit within the centaur as it matures.

e) Existential death-rebirth marking entry to the transpersonal level.

f) Development through the intermediate transpersonal stages via the process of transcend and include.

g) The culmination of this means of development at some point, followed by a re-emergence and integration of holons from all previous transpersonal stages into a highly unified structure.

h) With continued practice, the manifestation of the qualities of the next higher level within this structure.

i) A process of death and rebirth to mark the transition to this next level proper, with the rebirth experience constituting moksha.

Higher Levels

In the one-scale model there is no reason to believe that development has an end-point. The extent to which an individual can progress spiritually should be limited only by the evolution of the cosmos as a whole. [66]

In fact we might expect to find that there is no such thing as "final enlightenment" at all, only an endless process of growth and the endless discovery of higher forms of spirit, each with completely unique properties and disclosing new spaces unimaginable in any of the levels below. Perhaps a discovery of this kind is why some spiritual teachers prefer not to talk of enlightenment in static terms at all, but describe it instead as a succession of progressively higher realisations. As Buddhist writer and teacher Subhuti of the FWBO puts it while outlining the views of his teacher Sangharakshita:

"With this dynamic perspective, there is no danger of our seeing Enlightenment as a place we arrive at and settle down - a kind of spiritual retirement home. We conceive of it as a way of being which, though immeasurably beyond our present experience, is connected to how we are now by a chain of ever more subtle states that imperceptibly merge into it." [67]

And once again

"If we did not stop [the process of mapping higher stages], we would have to enumerate an infinite progression of higher states. Enlightenment is... but the farthest point on our horizon, over which the Buddhas appear. As we approach nearer to that horizon, however, it recedes from us and the Buddhas appear over it in ever more subtle and glorious forms." [68]

Or from mystic, teacher and writer Andrew Harvey:

"...[T]he state of enlightenment is a state of infinite expansion, of infinite receptivity to Light; the mind that is in the enlightenment field is exploding ceaselessly, endlessly opening up and up. The bird of gnosis, free from the prison of the false self, is free to fly on and on into the Light, into vision after vision, metamorphosis after metamorphosis." [69]

A spiritual life lived in this fashion, then, would be a constant process of dying and being reborn to ever-higher levels of existence. As the culminating structure of each level matures it would become infused with the qualities of the next higher level and would eventually break open to allow development to continue through the new domain.

The idea of the spiritual life as a constant process of dying and being reborn is described throughout the spiritual literature:

"The true man of old knew nothing of living life and hating death. When he was born, he felt no elation. When he entered death, there was no sorrow. Carefree he went. Carefree he came. That was all. He did not forget his beginning and did not seek his end. He accepted what he was given with delight, and when it was gone, he gave it no more thought." [70]

Of course, if there is no reason to believe that this process has an end-point, there is no reason to believe that it has a start-point either. Smith begins his model of holarchy at the physical level for the reason that this is the lowest level that we are really able to study. If, however, the holarchy also extends downwards infinitely (the "turtles all the way down" phenomenon) then development is a process without beginning or end. And although humanity is generally situated somewhere in the mental level, this is simply another level in an infinite number extending upwards and downwards forever. So man is indeed a transitional being, but then all beings are transitional.

Perhaps this is also why some teachers tell us that enlightenment begins in our very next action. As there is no startpoint or endpoint to development then if our very next act is one which will further our growth we are participating in this endless process of enlightenment right now.

Implications for Individual Development

By applying Smith's paradigm to the case of individual development we can make some observations on the most natural method for an individual embarking upon transpersonal growth.

The first step would be to utilise the appropriate mental-level techniques and therapies in order to achieve the stage of the healthy mental-ego.

The second step is to utilise the appropriate mental-level techniques and therapies in order to fully actualise the centaur, bringing all the lower stages into harmony and balance around the new centre of the self, and thus achieving individuation.

The third step is to continue this work while engaging in any other activities which may allow spirit to manifest within the centauric structure.

Then when spirit begins to manifest within the mature centaur, the fourth step is to utilise those techniques and practices which will encourage it to birth itself.

Whether or not stable transpersonal growth can be accomplished without establishing full centauric awareness, and hence without undergoing a full regression, is not really the issue here.[71] it just appears that the healthiest method of development is to bring all stages of the mental-level into balance around the centre of the individuated self, and thus allow spirit to manifest naturally.

There are, of course, many other reasons why centauric awareness should be established before transpersonal growth is embarked upon. Most of these can be brought back to the fact that before the centaur is actualised, some measure of psychological repression must remain, and that this residual repression will inevitably cause various imbalances and pathologies during subsequent growth.

Because the move from mental-ego to centaur involves a re-emergence of holons from all previous stages of the level, a variety of techniques may need to be employed in order to complete this process. Ken Wilber has described a synergistic relationship between the distortions and repressions of various stages [72] whereby higher stages can repress lower ones and whereby distortions in lower stages can predispose higher stages to reproduce the imbalance on their own level. In view of this synergistic relationship, it would appear that the optimum approach to actualising the centaur may be to work with a range of therapies simultaneously, e.g. a cognitive approach to address the mythic and rational stages, a depth-psychology approach to address the magic and mythic stages, and an approach such as breathwork in order to address the very early archaic stages. Obviously this is theoretical and it may be that such an approach would be ineffective in practice, perhaps because of a negative effect on the transference process from having more than one therapeutic relationship ongoing at a time, or for more practical reasons, such as limitations on time and money.

It may also be that if primal-repression is a result of the developing infant attempting to escape from an awareness of his mortality, that there is a place for re-awakening this awareness as a means to facilitate a full and deep regression. This is a tentative suggestion, however, as I am aware that concentrated practices in which an individual contemplates his death can be harmful when carried out inappropriately and without the necessary supports (both in terms of experienced guidance and auxiliary practices). But perhaps there is a place for such practices if employed in a more diffuse form and over a longer period of time, providing there is sufficient integration for the individual to absorb the resulting existential shock.

It may even be that such practices, by lifting primal-repression and allowing repressed contents to surface, could accomplish much of the work usually addressed in therapy, and that this is one function they served in those traditions which made full use of them, such as Tibetan Buddhism. If this is the case, then the contemplation of death could be a very valuable practice for us Westerners to study the effects of.

But not all Eastern paths place great emphasis on the regressive process during growth, although it is a key aspect of many traditional Western paths. If, therefore, there is any merit in the charge often levelled at some Eastern paths of them being world-denying and "ascending" then a deep regression is the antidote to this problem.

And if the contemplation of death does accomplish much of the work required to realise the mental-level self then this would explain why it is said that maintaining an awareness of one's inevitable death greatly intensifies life. For, in addition to rendering each moment more precious, such an awareness could actually facilitate the realisation of the centaur, with its polymorphous sensuality, creativity, mind-body integration and so on. So if Buddha lies in the heights, then Zorba most definitely lies in the depths.

And, more generally, if primal-repression is not so much a structure that is put in place, but rather a tendency within the psyche to repress or "push away" the awareness of separateness and mortality which follows the emergence from an autonomous holon, then the contemplation of death could be a useful practice for an individual at any stage of development to engage with in order to ensure that both the ascending and descending aspects of the path are worked on.

But moving to the next stage; practices for facilitating the emergence of spirit within the centaur may include samatha meditation, loving-kindness meditation and so on.

The techniques for encouraging spirit to birth itself from within the centaur would generally be meditation practices which facilitate the deconstruction of the mental-level self, such as any Vipassana or other witnessing type meditations.

Development through the various transpersonal stages could then be facilitated by any of the techniques, practices and activities of spiritual growth, and would culminate in the realisation of the causal witness/supermind/pseduo-nirvana stage.

Growth beyond the stage of the causal-witness could be accomplished by a continuation of the contemplation practices employed thus far, or perhaps by one of the more active techniques of enquiry such as koan practice, to help the individual break his identification with the transpersonal self.

None of the above is claimed to be offering any new insights on development, but rather are an attempt to clarify how I see them in relation to the one-scale model.

Brief Return to the Dynamic-Dialectical Paradigm

Having now outlined the map of individual development suggested by the one-scale approach, we are in a position to summarise the implications of this model for our understanding of Michael Washburn's dynamic-dialectical paradigm and the general Romantic view.

Firstly, and as mentioned earlier, I suspect that the dynamic-dialectical paradigm mistakes the resurgence of libinal energies occuring during regression in the service of transcendence with the kundalini awakening experienced upon entry to the transpersonal level - and that this constitutes a type of pre/trans fallacy.

Expanding upon this, the one-scale model would suggest that the infant begins life embedded in the pre-personal Ground, as outlined by Washburn, and that this Ground is the unrestrained flow of libidinal energies around the body. [73]

During the process of regression these energies are once again awakened and, after overcoming any obstructions to their free movement around the body, eventually stabilise into the harmonious flow of bio-energies associated with the centaur.

Then, as the centaur matures, we would expect a rudimentary form of spirit to manifest within it. However, I suspect that in the dynamic-dialectical paradigm, this initial form of spirit is taken to be transformed libidinal energies.

There are two reasons why it is natural that the dynamic-dialectical paradigm should reach this conclusion. Firstly, because the stabilisation of libidinal energies and the manifestation of spirit occur around the same time, and possibly even with a certain amount of overlap, they could be easily confused. And secondly, if it is correct that the dynamic-dialectical paradigm recognises no stages higher than the mature centaur, it would therefore be hard pressed to explain the appearance of spirit in any other way.

Thus the one-scale paradigm would tend to support Wilber's view that Washburn conflates two separate entities within the term Ground - the prepersonal libidinal energies, and spirit. However, the one-scale model also gives a very clear and coherent way for us to see precisely why this confusion occurs, and if this critique is correct, Washburn's paradigm is still held to be an excellent map of development up to and including the mature centaur.

Some Implications for Collective Development

As we noted earlier, a key aspect of Smith's model is that an individual derives her internal mental structures from the society in which she lives (although I would say from the worldspace in which she lives). This being the case, we would therefore expect the dynamic of individual development to be mirrored in the development of society as a whole. This, of course, is also the principle on which Ken Wilber's work on collective evolution is based, although we have arrived at it by a slightly different route, and we would expect Smith's paradigm to offer a different view of the process.

In the one-scale model the first event that we would expect to find in collective evolution would be akin to that of "hatching" in individual development, i.e. the severing of the mental-self from the autonomous holon of the biological stage. As discussed by Ken Wilber in his first book addressing collective evolution, Up From Eden, this event corresponds to the various Eden myths [74]. In Smith's paradigm the self-contained nature of Eden is a symbol of the autonomous holon, and mankind's ejection from Eden is a symbolic account of the death-rebirth aspect of the process.

Next, we might look to see if development proceeds through a dynamic that displays aspects of both transcend and include and of primal repression. Well, once again referring to Up From Eden we see that this does appear to be the case. In fact the section from which we quoted earlier to demonstrate Wilber's acknowledgement of a repressive aspect in individual development actually occurs in the context of Wilber arguing for just such a process in collective development also. Drawing on the work of Norman O. Brown and LL Whyte, Wilber points out:

"[I]n their various writings, Brown and Whyte are talking about not just what happens in infants today, but also what happened to a collective mankind about 4,000 years ago. Mankind had simply progressed to the point where the rapid growth of body consciousness allowed it to reach far beyond the physical bounds of the body. At the same time, it was confronted with an ever more intense realization of, and reflex against, death. Instead of integrating the previous typhonic or body realms with the newly emergent ego, the ego simply repressed the typhonic realms, dissociated the mind and body, and thus distorted and deformed both." [75]

This event in mankind's collective history is referred to as the European dissociation, and Wilber is clearly here arguing that such an event was a natural and inevitable aspect of collective development in the same way that primal-repression is a natural event in individual growth.

Although Wilber now tends to distance himself from the idea that repression could be a natural facet of early development -concentrating instead on the transcend and include aspect - once again in Smith's paradigm we have an explanation for the European dissociation within the bounds of a developmental framework.

And this brings us to where Western society finds itself today - a largely rational-stage culture beginning to make progress towards the integral-stage of its development.

In the one-scale model we would expect this transition to be driven by a lifting of the collective primal-repression put in place by the European dissociation, followed by an integration of the re-emerging worldviews.

We should therefore not be surprised to experience a resurgence of sexuality and instinctual life in our society as the repressions placed upon them throughout history are gradually lifted. In addition to this, we could also interpret the emergence of various Romantic movements such as the neopagans as elements of the collective moving to recontact these alienated levels of the world and psyche.

However, in this one-scale model the mental-level holon is more than simply a collection of individuals and the social structures generated by them - it is the entire worldspace of a society and therefore includes the environment as well as the rules, concepts and ideologies upon which that society is based.

The integral worldspace is therefore one in which all the previous worldspaces are integrated into a harmonious, self-regulating system. It is the integration of all worldspaces which share a common base, and as such we would expect it to be a planety structure.

Furthermore, as existing worldspaces are integrated we would expect them to be transformed in the process. For magic-stage cultures this would involve an influx of rational-stage elements, while for rational-stage cultures the previously mentioned process of regression, perhaps facilitated by a direct influx of elements from existing magic-stage cultures.

But because this process of regression involves the entire gross realm, we would need to take a slightly wider view than seeing it just as a social phenomenon (although obviously this is a large part of it) - it would involve all the worldspaces sharing a common base. Exactly how a worldspace could undergo regression is not clear, but i'll hint at two possibilities, the second more speculative than the first.

The first possibility is that the emergence of new technologies such as the television, the computer or the internet are allowing the environment of modern societies to re-gain certain characteristics of earlier cultures such as animation and participation. In his book TechGnosis, author Erik Davis argues that modern technological advances are actually drawing out the magical elements hidden within modern western culture, leading to the emergence of a new worldspace synthesising magic and rationality:

"In his book Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality, the anthropologist Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah argues for the existence of "multiple orderings of reality": different cultural frameworks of knowledge and experiences that build, in essence, different kinds of worlds. Tambiah compares and contrasts two basic frameworks found in human culture, one based on causality and the other on participation. Causality boils down to the pragmatic rationalism of science: The detached individual ego divides and fragments the welter of the world according to objective and explanatory schemes based on neutrality and instrumental action. In contrast, the world of participation plunges the individual into a collective sea that erodes the barrier between human agency and the surrounding environment. In this world, which I am associating with the magical paradigm, language and ritual do not objectively delineate the world but help to bring it into being; objects are organized according to symbolic resemblances and the rhetoric of dream rather than the dry and objective classifications that pack scientific texts or corporate reports. All cultures and societies display different mixtures of these two orientations. The world of participation dominates archaic and oral cultures, while moderns inhabit an everyday world defined by the technoscientific logic of causality. But though our cosmology is scientific, our cultures, psyches, and collective rituals are not. The technological civilization that now blankets the globe is actually seething with myriad forms of participation: massive sports events, global pop music, networked video games, fashion fads. In fact, media technology may actually be amplifying the collective resonance that lies at the psychic heart of participation. This was Marshall McLuhan's view anyway. McLuhan was convinced that electronic media were eroding the logical, linear, and sequential worldview that dominated the modern West. He believed that this "causal" worldview [not to be confused with Wilber's causal level] was itself the product of technology, especially alphanumeric characters, the printing press, and the techniques of Renaissance perspective drawing. But with the spread of new media technologies like the phonograph, radio, and television, the older paradigm of literacy and logic was breaking down. With its new bias toward image, orality, and simultaneous participation, the electronic environment was conjuring up the collective psyche of earlier oral cultures. "Civilization is entirely the product of phonetic literacy," he wrote, "and as it dissolves with the electronic revolution, we discover a tribal, integral awareness that manifests itself in a complete shift in our sensory lives." McLuhan described the emerging electronic society as "a resonating world akin to the old tribal echo chamber where magic will live again." [76]

While in a speech made in 1972, the science fiction author Philip K. Dick pointed out that technology is even allowing our worldspace to become re-animated:

"... our environment, and I mean our man-made world of machines, artificial constructs, computers, electronic systems, interlinking homeostatic components - all this is in fact beginning more and more to possess what the ... primitive sees in his environment: animation. In a very real sense our environment is becoming alive, or at least quasi-alive..." [77]

So this is the bare outline of one possible way in which the gross-realm may be evolving into the integral (centauric) stage. There is, however, a second possibility - not mutually exclusive with the first - which is slightly more speculative.

This second possibility is relevant if we accept that the gross-realm has some kind of autonomous psychic existence, analogous to the psyche of an individual. For if it does, then we might expect the regression of the gross-realm to proceed by a series of events somewhat akin to those experienced internally and symbolically by an individual making the same transition.

In other words, it may be that when primal-repression lifts in the gross-realm, that we experience a consequent uprush of archaic forces into the world. Certainly individuals experiencing a regression often dream of wars and revolutions as different psychic barriers are broken down and the repressed energies integrated into the emerging self.

Individuals also dream of natural disasters, and particularly of floods and violent storms, and we are beginning to experience such phenomenon in the world around us. In fact experts tell us that we can expect them to worsen in the years ahead. Although no doubt these events can be traced back in a linear manner to particular causes, it may be that most fundamentally they are symptoms of a worldspace undergoing regression.

So these are two suggestions as to how the regression of a worldspace might proceed. They are intended only to show that such a process is possible and are not really fundamental to the model as a whole.

One additional point for us to note is that in forming the culminating holon of the level, the integral society would be a non-hierarchical, yet self-regulating system. This tends to suggest the absence of a rigid structure to society and possibly the absence of any overiding State machinery at all, which is approximately the same as Smith's view as I understand it.

Having made the distinction between society and a worldspace, we should really return to the European dissociation and point out that this too has a wider meaning as the repression of lower-stage worldspaces during development. I take this to indicate such things as the repression of nature by our industrial society as an outward manifestation of the "inner" repression of the instinctual life of the individual. Conversely, we might expect the related regression to involve a resurgence of nature. [78]

The Omega Point

Taking the relationship between an organism and its component cells once more, and talking somewhat loosely, we see that the emergence of the autonomous holon of the biological level is the point at which the identity of all the member cells co-mingle to form the unified self sense of the organism. By moving up the holarchy a level, we might wonder if a similar unification will take place in the self-sense of humanity with the emergence of the integral society. Such an event sounds very much like the emergence of a "global consciousness" or "global mind", and maybe even something akin to Teilhard de Chardin's Omega Point marking the culmination of noospheric development. [79]

Collective Death-Rebirth

Although a little harder to accept, this interpretation of the one-scale paradigm suggests that just as the mature centaur eventually breaks open to transpersonal development, an integral worldspace would do so also. It also suggests that a process of death and rebirth will be driving this transition.

Clearly such a scenario sounds more than a little apocalyptic, possibly involving a complete break-down of society and the world in which we live.

Amongst transpersonal thinkers it is usual to interpret descriptions of such apocalyptic transformations as symbolic accounts of the spiritual rebirth of the individual, with the literal readings perhaps being left to those of a more fundamentalist mindset. But I think there has to be a collective analogue of the individual death-rebirth process, and that such an apocalyptic view is reasonable when placed in the context of the overall structure of development suggested by the one-scale model. And it also does not seem completely unreasonable, we could add, based on the current global situation.

One interesting aspect to this is the possibility that humanity will undergo a series of transformations corresponding to the four archetypal stages of death and rebirth outlined by Stan Grof, with the initial intrauterine state being representative of the integral society.

Turning to another map of the same process, it could also be that humanity will experience collective versions of the stages of transformation outlined by Michael Washburn [80].

Although perhaps a daunting prospect, this view of collective development is ultimately positive, pointing not to a cataclysmic dissolution of society, but a series of events leading to its rebirth in spirit.

Evolution - A Macro View

Atoms joining together to form cells, cells joining together to form organisms, organisms to form worldspaces and worldspaces to form manifest existence. This is the overall progression of evolution in this interpretation of the one-scale model.

Each level proceeds through a series of hierarchical stages until the final stage of the level, at which point the hierarchical structure collapses as all lower stages become integrated around a new centre, from which the next level is eventually born.

In this essay we are equating individual development with a movement through the holarchy, with internal stages following an identical pattern to the development of the holarchy as a whole. In this regard, the two points at which we are claiming the hierarchical structure of the psyche collapses and re-integration occurs are, in the mental level at the stage of the self or centaur, and in the transpersonal level at Aurobindo's supermind or Wilber's witness.

Smith points out that when a holon views its own component holons it tends to see them as objects, whereas when it views holons within which it is itself embedded, it sees them more as processes. In individual development this allows transcended levels to be objectified in contemplation and their dynamic to be analysed.

When this is done, an individual understands that what appeared to be a hierarchical structure whilst he was embedded within it is actually a non-hierarchical entity, a system. And he sees that the impression he formally had of being able to make progress within it was an illusion. Real progress is achieved through a shift of identification outside of the system altogether.

With the transcendence of the gross realm at the centaur/psychic boundary this allows the realm to be contemplated as an object, at which point it is seen that a shift in identification from mind to consciousness is the key to progress, rather than chasing after worldly goals.

And with the transcendence of samsara it becomes clear that progress within that domain also was an illusion, and that what appeared to be a great chain is in fact a wheel of birth and death. The key to liberation is then understood to be a shift of identification from consciousness to emptiness.

Although it is seen that this shift in identification can happen at any point within the system, it occurs most easily and naturally from the "peak" stage. However, this is sometimes forgotten once the level is transcended and the individual sees that the shift could happen at any point.

This holarchy can be visualised as a nest of three-dimensional containers representing the nested autonomous holons of each level. Thus we have a "Russian dolls" type model with atoms inside cells inside organisms inside realms inside manifest existence, with higher-order holons also a possibility.

As well as allowing transcended levels to be objectified, development also allows them to be identified with, giving rise to various type of mystical union, such as gross-realm, subtle and causal.


Smith defines immanence as the "appearance of higher-order properties within lower-order holons" [81]. In other words, as a holon participates in the activities of a higher-order holon, the properties of that holon become immanent in the lower-order holon itself.

As an individual progresses through the mental level, this takes the form of the various stages of mentality; magic, mythic, mental-egoic and centauric; whereas in the transpersonal level it takes the form of the various stages of consciousness development; psychic, subtle and causal.

But one aspect to spiritual growth which these stratified developmental models are not very effective at conveying is that when transpersonal stages of the holarchy are contacted, rather than simply "sitting upon" the existing mental level, a downward movement is initiated whereby they begin to actively transform and refine the lower levels.

Peter Collins has pointed out that one of the limitations of the structural-hierarchic paradigm is that it allows for no modes of thought higher than vision-logic, whereas many mystics testify to more powerfully unifying ways of thinking becoming available to those who synthesise intellect with spirit. I'm not sure if this one-scale paradigm will be any more effective at modelling this aspect of development, but having acknowledged that I consider this to be a possible weakness in the paradigm, I believe that the one-scale model may still offer some insights into this "downward movement".

Returning to the "Russian dolls" analogy; the type of process we are looking at is as follows: we have seen that when the autonomous holon of any level is completed, the properties of the next higher level naturally begin to manifest in fusion with it. In fact we could go further than this and say that when this autonomous holon is realised most completely and harmoniously, it appears to actually act as a conduit for the properties of higher levels to flow downwards into its own member holons, transforming them in the process. So for an individual completing the centaur and embarking upon transpersonal development, we might expect this process to involve the transformation of her mind and body.

I believe the passage we quoted earlier from Wilber's Atman project illustrates just this type of process:

"This mature centaur is the point, I believe, that transpersonal energies begin to rush into the organism, even transfiguring it physiologically. This whole level - which is a disidentification with the total bodymind - marks the highest potential that can be reached in the existential or "gross" realm. It is very much what Jon Lilly (following Gurdjieff) called "state +12," which is "blissful state; cosmic love, reception of grace [higher energies], heightened bodily awareness [super-sensory]; highest function of bodily consciousness." [82]

This descent adds an extra complication to our map of spiritual development, for now it needs to include the steps involved in the refinement of lower levels in addition to those involved in contacting higher ones.

As a slight aside, we should note that although this downward movement of higher properties is easiest to visualise as it relates to spirit, for it to be consistent with the principle of holon substitution it would need to be operative on lower levels also. For example, as a living organism begins to develop mental structures, do these transform the physical structures of that organism? Well, in some sense we could say that they do, most noticeably in the way that repression becomes anchored in the musculature of the body, or the way that psychological states can affect the immune system, to give two examples - certainly neither of these effects can be explained on a purely biological basis. But clearly the capacity for higher levels to transform lower ones accelerates when spirit enters the picture.

Moving to collective evolution, we might wonder what the affect would be on humanity of the gross-realm reaching the integral stage of its development. Because our worldspace is the holon which sits between ourselves and spirit, we would expect that as it becomes an autonomous holon, not only would transpersonal energies begin to flow into the realm itself, but it would also act as a conduit for them to flow downwards into all the individual members of the realm also.

Briefly, I think this mechanism may allow us a framework within which to accommodate the type of incredible transformation of human life envisaged by several more visionary mystics, and most notably Sri Aurobindo and the supramental transformation. [83].

Aurobindo saw that for every higher development of consciousness there is a complementary descent of spirit into mind, body and eventually even into matter, and that this descent transforms and spiritualises these structures in the process. Aurobindo also envisaged a collective transformation during which the whole of mankind would be similarly transformed. The scope of this transformation could be said to be rather extreme, involving the immortalisation of the human body and the replacing of physical organs with centres of energy. [84]

We could suggest that Aurobindo is basically foreseeing the world evolving to the psychic stage of development, which is something we would expect to happen in the one-scale model. Being a higher-order holon on the same scale as the individual, a similar pattern of transpersonal development would be expected to occur in both.

In Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda gives an astonishing description of manifest existence as being an interacting system of three distinct types of realms: gross, astral and causal. [85] From the one-scale model, we would say that the astral and causal realms "started life" as gross realms, and then evolved into more subtle forms. Certainly the description given by Yogananda of the astral realms sounds much like Aurobindo's vision of humanity's future.

In this view, then, development first brings forth a gross realm or realms. Spirit or consciousness arises as the emergent from the interactions of these realms, and then begins to flow back into them (downwards, inwards) by a process of immanence and allows them to evolve to higher forms. To the extent that it is able, consciousness also flows into the members of each worldspace, endowing them with awareness, intentionality and individuality, where previously only conditioned patterns of thought and behaviour existed.

This would suggest that the gross-realm is itself conscious in some sense, although what this means, I am not sure.

Because consciousness is an emergent at the transpersonal level of the holarchy, it is therefore a single entity on that level. However when its immanent form in human individuals is viewed from the perspective of the mental level, consciousness appears to be many separate entities residing in many separate organisms. But upon shifting our identity to this consciousness, we realise its singular nature and thereby feel ourselves to be residing within all beings. [86]. As mystic and teacher Muz Murray describes his own initial experience of awakening:

"In those moments I lived and understood the meaning of the esoteric dictum, 'As above, so below'. Every single cell of my body seemed to record and intuit the experience, retaining it like the negative film emulsion in a camera. I was aware that every cell had its own limited form of consciousness, although collectively they were all still subject to a single controlling consciousness which was mine. And it seemed to me that the whole of humanity was in the same condition: each 'individual' believing in his own separate mind, but in reality being in-dividual (that is, indivisible) from a single controlling consciousness - that of 'Absolute Consciousness' itself." [87]

If this view has merit, then the degree to which it is possible for us to be conscious while at the mental level is dependent first and foremost upon the ability of our worldspace to mediate consciousness, and therefore upon its stage of development.

With this in mind, we note that the ability of a holon to mediate higher-order properties undergoes a non-linear jump when it becomes the final, autonomous holon of the level. We would therefore expect a significant increase in the consciousness of humanity as the world moves towards a more integral form.

And, conversely, the consciousness which humanity experiences before this point is seen to be a murky form of Consciousness itself, dimmed by the relative inability of our pre-integral worldspaces to mediate it fully.

And there is one further point which I think will affect the view of the supramental transformation offered by this paradigm: it suggests that all individuals would participate in this transformation, regardless of their stage of mental-level development. This conclusion is reached if we accept that when spirit flows into a lower-order holon, for example an organism, it flows into all the cells of that organism and not just those existing within the more advanced structures. It would therefore seem that when spirit flows into a worldspace, it would flow into all organisms within that worldspace, simply by virtue of them being members of the space.

And we can make a similar point with regard to any understanding of the Omega Point which follows from this paradigm. For when the identity of the cells within an organism co-mingle to form the unified self-sense of that organism, we would expect all cells to participate in this process, and, once again, not just those existing within the more developed structures. So should any event like de Chardin's Omega Point ever occur, we would expect all individual organisms to participate in this "global mind" and not just those of a certain stage of mental-level development.

It may even be the case that transpersonal development is currently only available to those individuals who have "outgrown" the mental level because of the fact that our worldspace is still pre-integral. Should it reach the integral stage then I think the parameters of human spirituality will be very different from the current ones.

I am fairly sure that Smith would disagree with most, if not all, of these points, as he holds the view that higher-consciousness will only, and could only, ever be reached by a minority of individuals.

Returning to the quote from Muz Murray given above, we can now clarify the exact nature of the Omega Point in the one-scale model. Here is the quote again:

"In those moments I lived and understood the meaning of the esoteric dictum, 'As above, so below'. Every single cell of my body seemed to record and intuit the experience, retaining it like the negative film emulsion in a camera. I was aware that every cell had its own limited form of consciousness, although collectively they were all still subject to a single controlling consciousness which was mine. And it seemed to me that the whole of humanity was in the same condition: each 'individual' believing in his own separate mind, but in reality being in-dividual (that is, indivisible) from a single controlling consciousness - that of 'Absolute Consciousness' itself." [87]

If consciousness is an entity which descends from the transpersonal level into lower-order holons, then we can see that when these lower-order holons join together to form an autonomous holon, consciousness has a tendency to unify. So, for example, although consciousness is able to inhabit cells on an individual basis, because the cells are part of an organism, it tends to unify so that the organism feels itself to possess a single awareness.

The Omega Point is then the equivalent of this phenomenon in the autonomous holon of the mental-level, the integral society. At this point humanity begins evolving as a single entity rather than as a fragmented collection of individuals.

The Autonomous Holon and the Mandala

An observation that we can make about the position of autonomous holons within the overall sequence of individual development is that they coincide with stages of development often symbolised by the mandala. In fact at these stages the image of the mandala often appears spontaneously in consciousness to symbolise the emerging non-hierarchical integration of psychic potentials around the new centre.

The first of these points occurs at the completion of mental-level development, at the stage of the centaur, or self, and features most prominently in the work of Jung [88].

The second is encountered at the completion of transpersonal development and is studied in most detail in Vajrayana Buddhism.

In both cases the mandala represents the psyche now structured in a non-hierarchical form with (previously) lower stages integrated in a spatial arrangement around a new centre. It seems natural, therefore, that this symbol should arise in consciousness in conjunction with the emergence of the autonomous holon, which is also the integration of all lower levels into a non-hierarchical form.

The mandala symbolising the completion of mental-level development was held by Jung to represent the synthesis of what he held to be the four functions of the psyche; sensation, feeling, intuition and thinking. [89]

And of the varieties of mandala which symbolise the completion of transpersonal-level development, perhaps the best known is the mandala of the five Dhyani Buddhas found in Vajrayana Buddhism.

In each case the final stage of development is represented symbolically as the integration of four functions or qualities around a unifying principle. At the mental level this principle is the self, and at the transpersonal level it is consciousness.

Because the qualities integrated within an autonomous holon are the previous stages of that level, and the qualities integrated within the mandala are represented at each of the cardinal points, we might therefore look to see if there is any correspondence between these two sets of psychic potentials.

Well, in Jung's mandala of the self, there appears to be quite a close match between the four functions of sensation, feeling, intuition and thinking and the mental-level stages of uroboric, magic, mythic and rational awareness. The only possible doubt is in equating intuition with the mythic stage. But as the mythic stage is a halfway house between feeling and thinking, intuition does not seem an unfair way to categorise it.

Moving to the transpersonal level, the case for the mandala of the five Dhyani Buddhas representing the integration of all transpersonal stages is not so clear-cut. This is because the qualities traditionally ascribed to each of the Buddhas do not lend themselves particularly well to investigating correspondences with the psychic, subtle and causal stages in Wilber's schema, or the intuitive mind, overmind and supermind in the work of Aurobindo.

But although there may not be clear one-to-one correspondences between the Dhyani Buddhas and the stages of transpersonal development, there are some other pointers to such a relationship.

For example, each of the Dhyani Buddhas is traditionally associated with one of the four skandhas of rupa (form), vedana (feeling), samjna (perception) and samskara (mental activities), with the fifth skandha, vijnana, representing consciousness, being placed in the centre of the mandala as the unifying principle. [90][91]

In fact each of the Dhyani Buddhas actually represents the sublimated form of the associated skandha. And because each of the first four skandhas corresponds loosely to one of the stages of the mental level [92], then we could say that each of the Dhyani Buddhas represents a sublimated form of the stages of mental-level development.

So again it appears that transpersonal development is a higher-level analogue of psychological development; and perhaps even a process of sublimating the material of the psychological stages, or the elements of the gross personality. As Lama Govinda puts it "Thus, each of the skandhas, which to the average person may be a source of error and of enslaving attachment, is changed into an instrument of liberation." [93].

In fact Lama Govinda goes further than this and states that the skandhas are actually transformed into the factors of enlightenment, the integration of which, as we have seen, forms the autonomous holon of the transpersonal level. [94]

It would therefore seem that the mandala of the five Dhyani Buddhas represents a higher form of Jung's mandala of the individuated self.

This conclusion is strengthened when we note that each of the skandhas appears to correspond to one of Jung's four functions of the psyche, with rupa (form) corresponding to Sensation, vedana (feeling) corresponding to Feeling, samjna (perception) corresponding to Intuition [95] and samskara (mental-activities) corresponding to Thinking.

But whether each Dhyani Buddha represents an identifiable transpersonal stage or not, they very definitely do conform to the overall pattern of development of any level of holarchy as outlined by Smith; that is: a linear progression of qualities followed by their non-hierarchical integration around a unify principle. As Lama Govinda puts it:

"[T]he position of the Dhyani-Buddhas in the mandala is not only concerned with a spatial arrangement and their mutual relations, but also indicates a sequence in time, a development or unfolding of spiritual qualities in the process of meditation, which comprises the totality of the human consciousness and all its faculties as indicated in the five skandhas." [96]

So although this is not a straightforward textual reference to show that each of the Dhyani-Buddhas represents a discrete transpersonal stage, there does seem to be enough evidence for us to use this as a working hypothesis. And certainly in the context of the overall pattern of development emerging from Smith's paradigm, it looks quite promising.

And considering that Smith has shown this to be the pattern of unfolding of every level of the holarchy, then the mandala begins to look like a blueprint for the cosmos. Or, to use Ken Wilber's terminology, it could be said that the mandala describes the deep structure of the cosmos.

So in addition to representing the various stages of individual development as a mandala, we can represent all other stages in such a form also. In other words it appears that the cell, the body [97], the world and manifest existence as a whole [98], can all be represented as mandalas. [99]

Another feature of the autonomous holon which ties in closely with this view is the manifestation within it of the properties of the next higher level as it matures. We can therefore see why it is said symbolically that Buddhas are born in the centre of a mandala. As Jung puts it:

"The centre of the mandala corresponds to the calyx of the Indian lotus, seat and birthplace of the gods. This is called the padma, and has a feminine significance. In alchemy the vas is often understood as the uterus where the "child" is gestated." [100]

So the autonomous holon is the alchemical vessel. In bringing the stages of one level into balance, the properties of the next level magically manifest within it. Jung actually showed that in Christian versions of the mandala, it is Christ the lamb, symbol of both birth and death, which is situated within the centre.[101]

So the mandala appears to represent the basic pattern of development which runs through evolution at all levels. The sequential arising of a series of elements, followed by their integration around a new centre, followed by the birth of a new order of being within this unified structure. This may also be a summary of the alchemical process, the opus alchymicum. [102]

And on a large scale, it could also be said that the next level is metaphorically born from the culminating structure of the previous one, with the biological level born from cells, the mental level born from organisms and so on. In this way we can represent the holarchy as a series of mandalas as follows:

Click on Image to Enlarge

Returning to Individual Evolution

Looking once again at individual spiritual development, we now have an understanding of the process as the unfolding of successively deeper mandalas of our being.

First, we complete the mandala of our psychological self, bringing the four functions of sensation, feeling, intuition and thinking into balance with one another. As this process reaches fruition, we would expect qualities from the deeper transpersonal level to begin to manifest within ourselves. Eventually, with further inner work, the mandala would give birth to spirit, and initiate the process of completing the mandala at a higher level.

Then, as our transpersonal development matures, our task is to bring all the factors of enlightenment into perfect balance; rapture, energy, investigation, calm, concentration, insight, equanimity and thus initiate a deeper-level death-rebirth resulting in moksha.

And as deeper mandalas unfold we continue to perfect, balance and integrate the previous ones, thus making them into perfect vehicles for the supramental light to flow down, transforming our personalities, bodies and cells.

And if the psyche is structured as a mandala, then this means that it exists in a strict hierarchical form only during intermediate stages of growth. At the culmination of a level the hierarchy is collapsed and all previous stages brought into equal balance around a new centre. This means that in the centaur the physical organism and the mind are at the same level.

In a similar way, at the culmination of the transpersonal level, the centaur, psychic, subtle and low causal play an equal part in the stage of the witness. And because of the nature of the centaur outlined above, we can therefore deduce that this stage is actually a non-hierarchical integration of low causal, subtle, psychic, mental-ego, mythic, magic and uroboros (organism)! This is the Svabhavikakaya.

So while we are engaged in mental-level development we are a mind inhabiting a body, but when we realise the centaur, we become a body-mind. Similarly, while engaged in transpersonal development we are spirit housed inside this body-mind but when we reach the culmination of the level we become a body-mind-spirit. I think this understanding of the non-hierarchical nature of the individual is the best foundation on which to build a world affirming, fully embodied and integral transpersonal psychology.

Returning to Collective Evolution

In Smith's paradigm because all holons exist on a single axis and share analogous features, we would expect the mandala to have some meaning in a collective, as well as individual, sense.

Perhaps the most famous image of a collective mandala is the symbolic description of the New Jerusalem from the biblical book of Revelation [103].

We can speculate therefore that this mandala of the New Jerusalem is a symbolic representation of the integral society, one in which rationality is balanced with sensation, feeling and intuition on a collective scale, and one in which spirit is in the process of being birthed.

So a very brief summary of the steps involved in collective evolution as seen in this one-scale paradigm are as follows:

1) Integration of all worldspaces currently in existence

2) The resulting integral, planetary society can be symbolised as a collective mandala

3) Spirit begins to manifest within this worldspace

4) Teilhard de Chardin's Omega Point

5) A death-rebirth, perhaps involving collective versions of Grof's BPMs

6) Integral worldspace is reborn in spirit

7) Spirit begins to flow downwards into individuals within this worldspace, perhaps initiating Aurobindo's Supramental Transformation.

(Note: The order of these stages is not fixed)

Seen symbolically then, development as a whole appears to be a process of us completing the mandalas of our individual lives and thus contributing to the completion of successively higher versions of our collective mandala also.


This has been a necessarily brief introduction to my interpretation of Smith's one-scale model of the holarchy. However, it should hopefully still suggest several reasons why I believe this model is worthy of further exploration.

Amongst other benefits, it offers the possibility of integrating both existing major paradigms of individual development (the structural-hierarchical paradigm of Ken Wilber and the dynamic-dialectical paradigm of Michael Washburn) within a developmental framework, as well the work of such other important figures as Stan Grof, Teilhard de Chardin and Sri Aurobindo.

It offers an explanation for such features of development as the pre/trans fallacy, the death-rebirth, the transition from gross to subtle realms, and the various types of mystical union.

And it accomplishes all this with a holarchy that follows an identical pattern of development on the mental and transpersonal levels to that operative on the physical and biological levels. Furthermore, this holarchy turns out to be compatible with the structure of the cosmos as outlined in various Eastern cosmologies.


1. Worlds within Worlds can be found on Smith's website, the URL of which is The direct link to Worlds is:

2. A One-Scale Model of Holarchic Existence can also be found on Smith's website, at the following link:

3. ibid.

4. Comment from Andy: I myself would not say this; I would say the process is driven by evolution of autonomous holons as much as by social holons. Thus so-called "leading edge" individuals may have a great impact on the evolution of society (a favorite example of Wilber's), even though the ideas or inventions of these individuals are in turn shaped by society. However, the social holons do definethe higher stages of each level, so one could surely develop an interpretation based on them as the primary driving force.

5. Worlds within Worlds, Section 1.4

6. Because of this major difference in the structure of the two types of holons, Smith reserves the use of the term "transcend" to cover only the relationship between the autonomous holon and its component holons. In this essay, however, I will use the term to cover the relationship between both types of holon and their juniors.

7. Comment from Andy: This is a disagreement we have over terminology, but in this case I think terminology is important. As you know and point out, I use the term"transcend" differently from the way you do. Your use of the term transcend to refer to the relationship of social holons to social or autonomous holons that they include is basically the way Wilber defines it, and thus does have a rationale in a discussion where you are concerned with Wilber's model. But then to distinguish this relationship from that existing between autonomous holons and their components, you describe the latter as "non-hierarchical". This is really inconsistent. We all agree that cells are higher than organelles, molecules, atoms, etc., and that they of course include them, so by definition they must have a hierarchical relationship to them. It's a different hierarchical relationship from that of molecules to atoms, and a more complex one, so it needs a different term to describe it, but to call it non-hierarchical is misleading.

You have to understand that hierarchy only refers to a higher vs. lower relationship, the "transcend" part of "transcend and include" (though as you know, I prefer "transform" to "transcend"). The "include" part only applies to nested hierarchies, which is what holarchies are. But not all hierarchies are nested. For example, a typical political, social or military hierarchy, where some people are ranked higher than others, is not a holarchy. The President of the U.S. does not include me or other Americans, even though (by the rules of that particular hierarchy) he is higher than we are.

So we simply describe the relationship of holons embedded within social holons as holarchical, while the relationship of holons within an autonomous holon is a mixture of holarchy and non-holarchical hierarchy. In fact, I think everything you have in the version you sent me would be more or less correct if you just substitute "holarchy" (or holarchical) for hierarchy (hierarchical)--adding a brief explanation of the difference. For example, I would re-write the middle sentence in the 3d paragraph of this section in some manner like this: "For whereas intermediate holons have a true holarchical structure, with lower holons nested within higher ones a la Wilber, autonomous holons exhibit a mixture of holarchical and non-nested hierarchical structures, with some holons embedded within higher-order holons while some holons exist freely, embedded within nothing higher than themselves except the culminating autonomous holon itself." You could then refer to the former type of organization as pure holarchical, and the latter as mixed nested and non-nested hierarchical, or mixed hierarchical for short. That's not quite as neat as hierarchical vs. non-hierarchical, but it captures the situation perfectly, and at the same time nicely illustrates the difference between holarchy and hierarchy. All holarchies are hierarchies; not all hierarchies are holarchies.

8. Shambhala Interview, Part II. This interview can be found on the Shambhala website, at: rviews/interview1220_2.cfm/xid,2314244/yid,32758606

9. Comment from Andy: Excellent point. I agree with you that those who worry about the political implications of putting societies above their members tend to forget that societies consist of much more than political organizations. Societies do definitely constrain us, but they also provide us with new freedoms, just as tissues do with cells.

10. Carlos Castaneda, Journey to Ixtlan (1978) p8

11. Ken Wilber, The Spectrum of Consciousness (1993) ch8

12. Worlds within Worlds, end of chapter 6

13. A Brief History of Everything (1996) p226

14. Comment from Andy: You should be aware that Ken Wilber would consider this view (subtly) reductionist. If I understand you correctly, you are saying that spirit is created from a bottom-up process, presumably beginning with physical energy or subatomic particles. You may postulate self-organizing phenomena that allow holons to leap, so to speak, to new forms of organization, but this is still a reductionist view in most people's eyes (including both people who accept this view of our origins and those like Wilber who don't). The only alternative is to say that spirit, or the highest level of consciousness, was always there, and this is basically Ken's view. In Worlds I have tried to avoid taking sides in this issue, as either position has obvious problems (though my suggestion that consciousness lies outside the holarchy entirely is basically a top-down view). The problem with the bottom-up view is how something is created from nothing; the problem with the top-down view is how the highest form of being could have always existed.

15. Ken Wilber, Collected Works IV (1999) - Integral Psychology

16. "each time the self encounters a new level..., if first identifies with it and consolidates it; then disidentifies with it (transcends it, de-embeds from it); and then includes and integrates it from the next higher level.", ibid. p42

17. Ken Wilber, Collected Works IV p527

18. ibid.

19. ibid. p467

20. Michael Washburn, The Ego and the Dynamic Ground (1995) p16

21. The Pre/Trans Fallacy Reconsidered can be found at the following link:

22. Ken Wilber, The Eye of Spirit (1997) p162-163

23. Ken Wilber, Up From Eden (1996) p221

24. ibid. p221

25. ibid. p222

26. The Pre/Trans Fallacy Reconsidered

27. The Ego and the Dynamic Ground p108

28. The Pre/Trans Fallacy Reconsidered

29. Collected Works IV (Integral Psychology) p671 n8

30. Ken Wilber, Eye to Eye (1996) ch7

31. The Eye of Spirit p177

32. Up From Eden p26

33. Ken Wilber, The Atman Project (1985) p18

34. ibid. p45

35. ibid. p47

36. ibid. p45

37. C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1995) p222

38. The Atman Project p59

39. Silvano Arieti, Creativity: The Magic Synthesis (1976)

40. It would perhaps be better to use the term "constrained" to describe this situation rather than "repressed", as "repressed" tends to suggest the presence of pathology, which is not necessarily the case.

Also, it should be pointed out that by joining together to form higher stages, holons from lower-stages are able to participate in more complex structures and processes. The downside is that the individual then has less access to the lower levels on their own terms - for example, once the more structured modes of thought associated with the mental-ego have emerged, the individual then has less access to the fluid modes of cognition associated with the primary process. In effect then, Wilber is describing the "upside" of the situation, and Washburn is describing the "downside". While Smith's paradigm, in my view, has the ability to accomodate both.

41. The Atman Project p74

42. A Brief History of Everything p226

43. Eye to Eye p237

44. As mentioned in the main text, I disagree with Wilber's own match of his transpersonal stages against Aurobindo's. Wilber's categorisation is as follows:

AurobindoWilber's Own MatchMy Match of Wilber
higher mindvision-logic (centaur)early/mid centaur
illumined mindpsychiclate centaur
intuitive mindsubtlepsychic

(Collected Works IV, p308)

Briefly, the reasons behind my categorisation are as follows:

Starting at the supermind, Satprem describes this stage as follows:

"Indeed, we had noticed that by stepping back in our consciousness, by a slight movement of withdrawal, we entered an expanse of silence behind, as if a portion of our being were forever gazing upon a great white North. Turmoil, suffering, problems are outside (or inside?) everything, a thousand miles away, free of any concern, reposing on velvet snow."

- Satprem, The Adventure of Consciousnesss (1993) p230

I think that the supermind as described here by Satprem is equivalent to Wilber's causal witness, and not the absolute as Wilber ranks it. Wilber's correlation also leads to his absolute being equivalent to two distinct stages in Aurobindo's map.

Moving back a stage, Satprem describes the overmind as "[T]he world of the gods, the source of inspiration of the great founders of religions." (The Adventure of Consciousnesss p182), which appears to be equivalent to the subtle stage in Wilber's schema, the stage of subtle sounds and forms, and not the causal as Wilber himself ranks it.

The illumined mind I rank as equivalent to the mature centaur, rather than the psychic because, as far as I can tell, it is a stage in which the individual is still identified with the gross mind, but prone to transpersonal experiences and moments of inspiration. Satprem describes this stage as being accompanied by a flowering of creativity, which also tends to suggest a centauric connection.

45. The Adventure of Consciousnesss p224

46. ibid. p226

47. The Atman Project p58, 59

48. The Adventure of Consciousness p227

49. ibid.

50. The Spectrum of Consciousness p60

51. Margaret Mahler, Fred Pine and Anni Bergman, The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant (1975)

52. "Just before the experience of (re)birth, people often encounter the motif of fire. This is a somewhat puzzling symbol. It's connection with biological birth is not as direct and obvious as are many of the other symbolic elements... at this stage of the process, the person can have the feeling that his or her body is on fire, have visions of burning cities and forests, or identify with immolation victims."

- Seymour Boyerstein (Editor), Transpersonal Psychotherapy (1996) p507

53. ibid. p509

54. The Adventure of Consciousness p77

55. A.H. Almaas, The Pearl Beyond Price (1998) p68

56. The Eye of Spirit p177

57. A Brief History of Everything p235

58. Jack Kornfield, A Path With Heart (1994) p147

59. Ken Wilber, One Taste (2000) p55-57

60. ibid.

61. Wilber himself correlates pseudo-nirvana with his own subtle stage, and not the causal stage as I am doing.

The reason for this is that Ken holds pseudo-nirvana to be "the mistaking of subtle or archetypal forms, illuminations, raptures, ecstasies, insights or absorptions for final liberation" (Collected Works IV p131)

However, I think from Kornfield's description we can see that pseudo-nirvana is the mistaking of the causal witness for final liberation, and that Ken is actually here describing the corruptions of insight, which I would agree should be mapped alongside the subtle stage (Achan Sobin S. Namto, Insight Meditation (1989))

62. One Taste p209

63. A Path With Heart p147, 148

64. ibid. p151

65. Kornfield describes the experience of moksha as following directly from an experience of "no way out", which is equivalent to the third of Grof's perinatal matrices. (A Path With Heart p150)

66. Comment from Andy: The conclusion that there is no endpoint is not really related to the one-scale model, but rather your interpretation of bottom-up evolution (see my comments above [14]). If evolution begins from the lowest forms of existence, and keeps moving on through the creative emergence and combination of new holons, then yes, there seems to be no end to the process. But the one-scale model, like Wilber's, can be consistent with a view that consciousness is eternal, and has guided evolution all along, as a return to its source. Whether this view implies an endpoint is hard to say. From our perspective, it would seem that there is an endpoint, namely, realization of the highest level. But in Wilber's view, this is not simply the highest level, but all the levels, everything, in a sense in which it might be argued that the very issue of an endpoint disappears.

67. Subhuti, Sangharakshita - a new voice in the Buddhist tradition (1994) p73

68. ibid. p73

69. Andrew Harvey, The Way of Passion (1994) p17

70. Ralph Metzer, The Unfolding Self (1998) p141

71. In The Eye of Spirit Wilber cites a study which shows that approximately half of all individuals engaged in transpersonal development had not undergone an initial period of regression. (The Eye of Spirit p164) 72. Up From Eden ch15

73. In his work, Washburn does not strictly equate the libidinal energies with the Ground (The Ego and the Dynamic Ground p121), but these two entities are close enough for our purposes.

74. Up From Eden p26

75. ibid. p224

76. Erik Davis, TechGnosis (1998) p175

77. ibid. p187

78. Comment from Andy: In this section, you argue that "the dynamic of individual development [would] be mirrored in the development of society as a whole." This is a complicated issue. To the extent that individuals' experience results from participating in societies, I agree that such a mirroring process should be evident. We have to be careful, however, for looking for out-and-out analogies between individual processes and social ones, as you seem to do in your discussion of the European dissociation. Remember that societies are social holons, so they are not strictly analogous to individuals, who are autonomous holons. Just because individuals experience repression and transcendence does not mean that we should expect societies to do so, also. (They might, but this is not a specific prediction of my one-scale model). What we could claim is that certain social events or properties arise which, through individual participation, result in individual repression. In a very general sense, for example, the increasing intellectualization that communication among large numbers of people makes possible demands an increasing repression or at least suppression of emotion.

As support for this idea of regression or going down, you discuss evidence for a return of participation. I think you have a good point here. I think some of the things we see in society today result from a breakdown of rationality or intellect, or a loosening of its hold on emotions and other lower faculties. However, while this breakdown may herald a higher integration, a la Washburn, it could also just be a pathological sign. A somewhat similar breakdown occurred near the end of the Roman Empire, and did not turn out to result in what most of us would regard as a higher society.

79. Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (1975)

80. The Ego and the Dynamic Ground ch7-9

81. Worlds within Worlds ch2

82. The Spectrum of Consciousness p60

83. The Adventure of Consciousness ch17

84. ibid. p264

85. Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi (1993) ch43

86. That is, residing within all the beings in our ever expanding sense of the cosmos.

87. Muz Murray, Sharing the Quest (1989) p7

88. C.G. Jung, Psychology and Alchemy

89. ibid. p49

90. Vessantara - Meeting the Buddhas (1998)

91. Occasionally the position of the skandhas of form and consciousness are transposed.

92. The Atman Project p83

93. Lama Govinda, Creative Meditation and Multidimensional Consciousness (1990) p46

94. ibid. p43

95. Lama Govinda defines the skandha of perception as "the group of perceptions of discriminating awareness and representation, which comprises the reflective or discursive as well as the intuitive faculty of discrimination." (ibid. p46)

96. ibid. p60

97. ibid. p94

98. ibid. p65

99. The uroboros often symbolises the mandala (Psychology and Alchemy par. 165)

100. ibid. footnote 125

101. ibid. p62

102. ibid. p165

103. Revelation ch21

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