The Magellan Courses Experiment

Books Discussed in this Section 
Basseches, Michael (1984) Dialectical Thinking and Adult Development. Ablex Publishing. Norwood, NJ
 Bhaskar, Roy (2002) From Science to Emancipation. Sage Publications, New Dehli
Gebser, Jean (1985) The Ever Present Origin. Ohio University Press, Athens
Gendlin, Eugene (1997) A Process Model. University of Chicago. Chicago
Hansen, Chad (1992) A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought. Oxford University Press. New York
Hartshorne, Charles (1983) Creative Synthesis and Philosophical Method. University Press of America. Lanham, New York
 Heimer, Hans. Integrative Explorations Journal.
 Oliver, Donald and Kathleen Gershman (1989) Education, Modernity, and Meaning. State University of New York Press,.New York
 Ryan, Robert (2002) Shamanism and the Psychology of C.C. Jung. Vega Press. Melbourne
 Suares, Peter (2001) The Kyoto School’s Takeover of Hegel. Lexington Books. Lanham, New York
 Whitehead, Alfred North (1978) Process and Reality. The Free Press. New York
 Wilber, Ken (1999) The Collected Works of Ken Wilber. Shambhala. Boston, London

The Magellan Courses

An experiment in self-organizing,

co-creative transformative education.

~ The illiterate of the future will be those who cannot feel. ~

Early Roots in Theory

At the 2010 Integral Theory Conference, I presented a paper on the emergence of a new type of reasoning that was not based on dualistic categories and therefore not associated with any kind of dialectically structured abstract operations. I called this new type of reasoning, onto-logics to point to a way of thinking that was both based in embodied being (ontos, being) as well as speech (logos, word). Onto-logics is inherently an integrative term, as it combines body, mind and speech as an integrative human activity. Onto-logics can be considered as the integrated movement of body, mind and speech, and by extension, the becoming (i.e. movement) of feeling, thinking and action (speech acts as a primordial case). If our deepest spiritual intuition is of non-dual becoming, then the view from the onto-logical movement is resonant with this intuition. There is no longer a need to excuse our confusions around “ordinary dualistic tendencies” such as the separation of subject and object, the tension between agency and communion, the dialectics of immanence and transcendence, or to appeal to a spiritualized version of ultimate conceptual contrasts such as “emptiness and form,” or “relative and absolute truths.” Although the onto-logical movement emerges from an implicit intuition of non-duality, the re-presentation of this is nearly impossible, given the conventional way in which our dualistic languages work, and the way the logical categories our conceptual apparatus are structured. Therefore, to make the onto-logical movement explicit, we need new types of conceptual categories and new types of language. What is wanting to be transformed is more radical than you might be thinking right now. For example, there is the language of symbol, archetype and myth that offers an alternative to mathematical, scientific and academic styles of reasoning. However, beneath our symbols, archetypes and myths can be found the same dualistic structuring of reality. This is why disembedding from dualistic formulations of reality is so terribly difficult – it has been evolving for approximately 2000 years, with the advent of what Gebser (1948) called the Mental structure of consciousness. Gebser chronicles the advent of the mental structure of consciousness, and its polarity-driven dialectical reasoning, as evolving from “oceanic thinking” – which emerged at the latest stage of the Mythic consciousness. We can see in the writings of Plato and Plotinus, the development of dialectic – as a methodology of reasoning which, as Plato describes, depends upon diaresis, or separation of conceptual parts from the mythologeme, or symbolic narrative. This conceptual separation is the origin of the dipolar construction of all the Indo-European family languages, which mediated thought from Greece to the western world, and from Persia to the Indian subcontinent. It is no coincidence that the kind of East-West dialogue that has benefited interdisciplinary scholarship in so many ways, fails to deconstruct the view of a dualistic world somehow floating above, or fallen from a non-dual reality, since all the discussion is taking place within the Indo-European language family and the intellectual and scholastic trade epitomized by Benjamin as the Axial age. By contrast, we can find, in the pre-Buddhist Tibetan Bon texts, as well as the pre-Buddhist classical Chinese texts (Lao-Tzu, Chuang-Tzu, pre-Mohist Confucianism), completely different conceptual schema and completely different ways in which language functions.

As Hansen (1992) reminds us, the influx of Buddhist scholasticism from India, spread the dipolar construction of discourse through China. This created a prolonged period of tension between the “anti-language” Daoists and their notion of language as “innate guiding discourse”, and the Buddhist-influenced Mohist “analytics” who developed a system of epistemological dialecticism to augment Confucius’ notion of language as “rectifying names” – an intellectual and cultural battle that ended with driving the Daoists underground into secret societies, and the adoption of an uncomfortable authoritarian implementation of an analytic style of Confucianism. Similarly, the Buddhist infiltration into Japan, through Korean scholar-monks, created the various Zen schools depending upon the different degrees of influence of Daoism or Buddhism incorporated into the indigenous mythology and native philosophy. Suares (2001) describes how this trend toward dialectical modes of discourse continued in the east with the development of the Kyoto School through the fusion of Hegelian dialecticism with more conventional forms of Zen by Nishida Kitaro. The increased global nature of “poltical trade” during the pre-WWI era created novel opportunities for cross-cultural interfaces of both contemporary and ancient cosmologies, and catalyzed cross-paradigmatic thinking among free-thinking scholars. Nishida’s famous Logic of Basho, for example, was an experiment in attempting to resolve the subject-object dualism outside of a Hegelian structured dialectically transcendent synthesis, which resulted in one of the first explicit expressions of paradoxical thinking (holding opposite perspectives simultaneously) – fueled by metaphysical insights that paralleled Heidegger’s own meditations on Dasein back in the homeland of Hegel. Synchronously, during the same decade, Carl Gustav Jung, (Nishida was born in 1870, Jung in 1875, and Heidegger in 1889) was becoming aware of the extent in which language and culture over great swaths of time, have over-determined the dualistic construction of the unconscious – noting for example, at the level of shamanism, the archetypes were not dualistically arranged (good/evil; masculine/feminine; upper world/lower world; light/dark, etc…) but more closely resembled the rich and chaotic diversity of the natural world. So impressed was Jung by his insight, that later in his life he expressed the belief that at bottom, humans and the physical world are one.

The deeper layers of the psyche lose their individual uniqueness as they retreat farther into the darkness… Here they become increasingly collective until they are universalized, merging with the body’s instinctual and biological functions and eventually with nature itself. (Ryan 2002 p.26)

In other words, Jung saw the natural self as a whole system which continuously renewed and regenerated through access to deeper levels of subjective content. When this generative cycle is impeded, it turns into a vicious cycle of negative dialectics, espousing some aspects of the self system, while eschewing the remainder. It is easy to see this as the psychological source of dialectical mind. Language, religion and taboo emerge as cultural structures that function to reproduce this cycle of negative dialectics, creating mythologemes based on dualistic ideas from more primordial nondual archetypal, animistic and energetic primes.

The point of all this is, since we can trace our current dualistic condition from pre-dualistic, pre-dialectical origins, it is perfectly reasonable to imagine a human nature evolved beyond the dualistically-conditioned mind and psyche, which limits us to dialecticism and fragmentation. Very late in his life, while he was dying, Gebser dictated his final thoughts to his wife, as a foreward to his final book, Decline and Participation: Concerning Polarity, Duality, Identity and Origin — a compilation of a long, trying lecture tour across Germany. Summarizing his own life,  Gebser says”

“In the end everything is simple”.

Translating and commenting on Gebser’s final reflections Heimer (2003) writes:

This is astonishing statement, by someone who had spent years in developing and communicating complex ideas, including the 615 pages of EPO, [Ever Present Origin] shows that at his life’s end, Gebser had achieved clarity, transparency and the desire to express this to his listeners.

“Of course to say this, appears foolish”.

At the end of one’s life, our fears and inhibitions about appearing foolish and going against the ideas of the majority, drop away. Many great men have held back their innermost convictions, because to voice them would cause problems affecting their livelihood, status …

“Because we sit in a self–constructed cage… our complicated cage–thinking.., cage–security.., the bars of the compulsive images etc. … Now it is clear; the cage we construct is the particular structure of consciousness which is prevalent in our culture.

‘Cage’ is another word for ‘structure’ . Twenty years after the publication of Part 2 of EPO, Gebser is able to survey his own life’s work and summarise it:

“Origin and the presence . . . are equal . . .the whole. … The simple is in us, it is participation”. This is the integral (whole) view. When we can see that our complex theories and concepts such as space, time, causality, the ‘I’, the world, are self–made cages, forms of awareness, then they become transparent and cease to be cages, giving us freedom from our own images and we live in the ever—present. Participation means that we are part of these concepts and images, we are ourselves.

To participate, means to enjoy movement and reciprocity within the generative ground of our universalized becoming and the foregrounding of our being. To participate means to act and to be acted upon, to affect and effect, to mediate both spatial and temporal extension in infinite directions and dimensions. To participate means to be “in the soup”, not somehow above, beneath, behind the action, through the veil of transcendence, assumption of objectivity or inference of subjectivity. To participate means to lose track of cause and effect, agent and object, knower and known, actor and script. To participate requires a pre-conceptual or post-dialectical orientation to reality as “a movement, a happening, a transformation… as events that are constantly transformed.” (Oliver, 1989) To participate means, as Whitehead would have it, is to be in a relationship of feeling among a society of all other entities, human and nonhuman, biotic and a-biotic, within a nexus of shared history.

“The great moral danger,” writes Oliver (1989) “is to lose one’s sense of direct participation.” In this context, direct participation is pre-conceptual and a-perspectival, and therefore either latent or dormant in the perspectivally-structured reality of the modern self and its subject-object world. Participation means a fundamentally different perceptual process of “coming to know.” Oliver (1989) sees the potential of participation in Barfield’s research on pre-literate and animistic cultures:

… there may be a perconceptual process in which the micro world of humans interacts with the micro world of nature, and only at a second stage is this set of unified interactions transformed into a dualistic subject-object world of human observer here and materials [sic] things and figures ‘out there.’ Moreover, through cultural conditioning it is presumably possible either to sense one’s participation in this ‘unconscious’ initial stage of perception or to defend oneself against any apprehension of its existence—the latter being characteristic of … modern people. (p. 89)

To be not an observer, requires awareness of oneself as what Gendlin (1997) calls first-person process which, he reminds us is not a perspective. This process, this transparency, this awareness, that is not an observer and does not observe – which I call View—is the generative process of becoming presence, feeling, image, body, self, concept, time, space … perspectival multiplicity – which only thereafter, the dialectic mind, blind to its own dualistic perversions,  divides along the conceptual fault-lines of the AQAL quadratic. Whether this happens “before” or “after” its association with the dualistic phantoms deposited deep inside the enculturated psyche, doesn’t matter – because from the   a-temporal view of pre-separated origin, these kinds of distinctions cannot be fixed in a static frame of reference.  The problem situation we have, here in the epoch that Gebser identified as late stage Mental structure of consciousness, the problem situation is that we have concretized the evolving products of a generative process into self-made cages, by believing that this world of duality is a necessary property of being, rather than a rolling transformation in a continuum of becoming.

In Heimer (2003) Gebser continues:

The realisation/awaring of the origin is only possible if, when we look backwards and into ourselves, neither the darkness of the magical, the twilight of the mythical or the current daylight of the mental–rational are obstacles (cage bars). Compared to the structure of simultaneity (the ever presence of the past and future in the present), darkness, twilight and daylight are impenetrable and non–transparent walls; where however the three grades of darkness and light of the consciousness structures have become transparent, there also the walls become illusory; a more powerful consciousness, the integral, which life and spirit supporting, transcends and is not overwhelmed by all previous consciousness structures, makes it possible to become aware of the origin, through darkness, twilight and perhaps dazzle, to see the original consciousness, or to use Sri Aurobindo’s term, the universal consciousness. Where this happens, due to its partaking of the origin, our consciousness changes into the integral consciousness and gives up its bar–like compulsive images.”

A Map of the Known Territory

Starting in 2011 I began to compose a map of the known territory, from oceanic thinking (early or latent d­ialectical thinking) to the three stages of reasoning associated with the Mental structure of consciousness – pyramidal (emergent), modern dialectical (Gebser’s efficient stage), post-modern perspectival (Gebser’s deficient stage) and paradoxical (a transitional phase in Gebser’s scheme). 


This allowed me to contextualize various authors in a way that highlighted a best guess as to how and where we might be able to see the emerging process of the new type of reasoning. What I was looking for were works that demonstrated some of the key characteristics that Gebser had predicted[i] as well as the elements of onto-logics that I had distinguished from late-stage dialectical thinking that Baseeches had described (see Figure 2)

I began to consider “what are the processes through which consciousness transforms?” and realized that this was not essentially a meta-theoretical challenge, but a challenge to facilitate embodied transformation. I realized, for example, that although it took a genius like Kant to articulate the then-emerging modern view, and a genius such as Derrida to articulate the then-emerging post-modern view, everyone today who has a conventional Western-style education is a peculiar hybrid of Kant and Derrida – not because they have “thought it out meta-theoretically” but because they are born into the morphic fields of the new consciousness. Therefore, I reasoned, how might one design educational fields that would have the potential of facilitating the emergence of the type of what Gebser called the Integral structure of consciousness?[ii] First, by drawing this map of the known territory (see Appendix , Figure 1) I could help us eliminate the trajectories that seemed to be pointing “in the wrong direction”, and orient ourselves toward the “streams of consciousness” that seemed to be playing a more significant role in the emergence of the new type of thinking called “onto-logical reasoning.” I began to imagine this process of transformative education as a journey into the unknown, where we would be required to struggle without familiar bearings.

I decided to call the experiment The Magellan Courses based on a compelling metaphor of the famous voyage around the world. Setting up what would become the wordpress-hosted classroom (or dojo, as it were) I wrote:

Magellan set out with his fleet of four, the Trinidad, Victoria, Concepcion and Santiago, to sail around the world. Although only a few of the original 247 men survived the circumnavigation, it was the first time in recorded history that humans experienced the world as a whole planet. Until the space age, all exploration of this planet was painstakingly done by moving through the terrain. We had yet to gain a vantage point from space from where we could simply observe its wholeness. Every individual perspective, from every individual hill, hillock and seaway, contributed a piece of the whole picture, and we used the stars to triangulate their relations.

This is a metaphor for the Magellan Courses. Our fleet is comprised of broad domains of special interest. And because we cannot yet completely see the kinds of new consciousness we are working from, we will need to piece together the innumerable points of reference by identifying the stars we will navigate by. For those who survive the trip, success will feel like having closed an epistemic circle, where once was a huge gap of expectancy for what is “not yet here” will be found to have been always already arising. This is the key moment of the onto-logical discovery –

Like Magellan, starting off knowing at least that he had to go west, the map of the various philosophical streams oriented us in the direction of Buddhist dialectics (a soteriological stream) and Western process thinkers (the onto-logical stream). This map, and the metaphor of Magellan’s voyage, combined as a kind of “orienting generalization” to remind us that we were experimenting with something radically new that had to be discovered through radically new terms of engagement.

Getting Started

Knowing from the start how structure influences process, I wanted to design the Magellan Courses from the view of onto-logics. It was crucial that the design of the experiment modelled the anticipated outcome as best as possible. This was extremely tricky in this case, since the outcome couldn’t be anticipated from the start. Modelling the process of discovery, in an educational setting is equivalent to modelling the unknown. First, I made it explicit that the purpose of our engagement was not to manage what we already knew—nor even to ponder the questions we had already formulated. These had to be given up to allow a whole new kind of mind to arise—one that was naïve and curious, better at sensing and observing, more facile with feeling, intuition and imagination, gentle with both sense and nonsense, grounded in the concrete and ordinary while contemplating the fantastic and extraordinary. On our facebook page we practiced a new type of discourse. Absenting the endless dialectical collisions of a perspectival frame of mind, we read each other’s posts and comments as “points of entry” to our own creativity, and found this practice to be enormously generative. Threads flowed inwardly deeply, and outwardly through tears of wisdom and rounds of laughter, silliness and joy. We talked about how palpable the encounter was, how strongly the feeling of saying came through the digital and virtual interface. We co-created, and through us emerged insights, poetry and song.

Lessons from the Field

Each of the Magellan Courses is designed to take a fresh look at the polarities that pre-constitute our understanding. Like a street grid that determines the limited number of routes that traffic can follow, these polarities limit the way we can compose, interpret, or even perceive reality in dualistic terms. A mind structured by polarities is like a system of train tracks where we can only go right or left, north or south. Moving dialectically, means we can add “up or down,” or any number of two-way opposite tracks – but we never get off the track system itself. This is what the AQAL map illustrates – the system of tracks that over-determine the routes of our reasoning. The courses are designed to follow authors who have some of the characteristics of onto-logics, by reading their work together over an 8-week period. There are weekly conference calls, formal posts and comments on the wordpress hosted classroom-dojo, and a facebook back chat where a larger community engages in a wider variety of discussion. The “pioneer” authors, their domain, and the topic addressed are summarized in Table 2 (see Appendix )

The Magellan Courses began on-line in January 2012. By the summer it became clear that there was a need for a real-life venue to support the community. Through the Magellan Fellowship Initiative, we made plans for holding three 4-day retreats at Alderlore[iii] in Northwest Connecticut. Envisioning this initiative, I wrote:

Think of The Magellan Courses as our flagship, and then imagine a real-life embodied “ship of fellows” — this is the Magellan Fellowship– a collaborative envisioned as an international, inter-generational society of fellowship who contribute by being mentors and benefit from receiving mentorship from others.

Our Fellowship is an open, self-organizing fellowship of personal commitment and shared response-ability, in an intimate field of deep interpersonal relatedness and care. This “ship of fellows” is envisioned as a fluid, flexible, living field of human care and concern, where fellows are held in a sacred space of shared endeavors around meaning-making and visioning. In this field, we are better able to develop clear mind, right body and vital spirit– our personal journey toward self-mastery. But it is also evident to the Fellowship that the greatest strength and power resides in the relational ground that unites each fellow into a more excellent whole. The programs offered through the Fellowship focus on discovery and wisdom, and the processes that enrich the qualities of interdependent care, integrated development, and deeply shared trust that arise from basic human kindness and well-being, as generative of transpersonal fields of Love, that are capable of acting in the world in powerful and extraordinary ways.The longer-term mission of the Magellan Fellowship is to develop and deploy a global field of inter-generational fellows to enter into and transform the existing structures of education, politics and business.

From September 10 – November 4, the 2012 Fellowship series, called The Nature of Wholeness, explored the connections between three themes: Gathering Together to Hear the Call, Spirit Becoming Body, and Falling in Love with the Future. A sense of the retreats can be gleaned from the language developed for the inquiry:[iv]

Listening to Being as strings tuned in order to play together.                                                   We gather together because in order to feel we need to be touched.                                  Alone, we are the night, holding onto stars.                                                                          Together we are light reflecting as open sky.                                                                        Naturally, we thrive in fellowship.

In-becoming body, spirit realizes ever-emerging wholeness, fullness and freedom …   … in the dance of energetic primes, primordial elements, archetypes and angels.

Who are we? Where are we headed? The earth knows where we have been. She follows our lead. The sky above, the ground below, are always here. They know us well. We follow their lead. Is Time a riddle to be solved? What are people for?

Over the course of our first year, we learned some valuable lessons for designing emergent systems for catalyzing transformative education. I now see the process of transformation as the crystallization of insights into a newly composed whole, which entails the whole “organism” – self, spirit and soul. The role of the designer is to “seed the field” with opportunities for individuals to gain insight. It is not the designer’s role to steer individuals to any particular insight, or to mine the individual’s own intuition of what is leaning into their own horizon. Sometimes an insight or intuition can seem to be off track, or seem to take the student in the “wrong direction” – but emergent design requires that we drop the notion of “wrong direction” and allow the inherent genius of the co-creative, adaptive process to be generative of the process. To design for co-creative emergent process, means to discover, by trial and error if necessary, the minimum elegant structure[v] for insight-generation. Since this can lead to periods of intense chaos, a community of trust must be developed and maintained through a deep and intimate fabric of mutual fellowship, which includes respect and reciprocity (see the description above). A crucial component of trust is theory-practice consistency; and so it is important to be on the lookout for means-ends conflicts, since they are the way theory-practice inconsistencies show up in community. It is also crucial that we don’t have prior assumptions about what community health or process looks like, or what the “we-space” is supposed to feel like, or how the transpersonal should express itself in a collective endeavor. This is why the metaphor of the Magellan journey is so apt – we cannot expect our usual navigation devices will give us useful answers. In fact, one of the key characteristics of emergent co-creative systems is that the experiences are not reproducible or formulaic – they are uniquely particularized expressions of the universal, arising from causal generativity. To design for emergent transformation, requires designing from causal generative states of awareness. This takes the form of what I call “ritualized inquiry” combined with a deep sensitivity to what is latent and wants to emerge – a sensitivity which arises in the core spaces of one-self(s) as universalized creative energy. It is here, in the fluid flow of causal energetic fields generating fields of self-other-worlds as arising inter-faces, that the designer must live.

Implicit Ontologies and Hidden Metaphysics

Ken Wilber’s AQAL theory shows us how we anchor our understanding of reality in eight different and non-reducible ways. The particular “default setting” we have, is a kind of “implicit ontology” that governs the choices we make from the assumptions about “how reality is” or “how things work.” The philosopher of meta-Reality, Roy Bhaskar, warns us to watch out for “implicit ontologies” and says it is one of the tasks of philosophers to disclose them, and by making them explicit, free us from their limiting assumptions. When we are anchored to an implicit ontology, our thinking and experimenting cannot stray outside its boundary assumptions, and therefore we cannot discover more choices when better choices are needed. When an underlying ontology is exposed however, we can utilize it for as long as it continues to create meaningful choices, or we can hold it up to critical examination, experiment with its usefulness, revise it when needed, and discard it when necessary. This is the way paradigmatic change happens. Still, even a rather wide range of ontological options can be seen to be constrained by a single hidden metaphysical framing. This is the case with the Indo-European language family, which despite the variety of ontological contestants developed within them, remains constrained to the dualistically structured categories and the various dialectical systems which have been developing around them for 2000 years.

Through experiments like the Magellan Courses the hidden metaphysics of modernity are being exposed to more and more people. This is the way that meta-paradigmatic transformation will happen. Part of the process is gaining insight through well-designed embodied practices such as ritual inquiry or insight meditation. Part of the process is the hard work of reading pioneer authors trying to describe to us that which is like trying to describe water to a fish. Part of the process is by recognizing the value in alternative types of reasoning that has evolved in traditional indigenous cultures, and in isolated pockets of wisdom traditions unaffected by the Indo-European language family of cultures. We have found that we already have some underutilized capacities toward post-dialectical reasoning, especially where art, poetry and music is incorporated, as well as the capacity for play. We have also found that one significant way to cultivate a highly developed nondual language is by nurturing our faculty of aesthetic judgment, applying it to themes and issues such as empiricism, ethics and morality. In a course on Shadow, and Shamanism, for example, we explored the extent to which the authentic life depends upon creativity that pours from free, spontaneous and open imagination, rather than determined through a rationally derived system of moral principles.

A large part of the continuing project is just the difficult work of engaging onto-logical thinking to compose a new kind of language. We began to work with new categories directly by  following Hartshorne’s lead in working out new ways for conceptual categories to be related, and new ways to widen our choice field in the process of ordinary existence as everyday becoming. Mostly, we must be ready and willing to throw all our previous projects out the windows that are opening for us. Time and again, during this year of Magellan Courses, individuals have experienced the moment when like Humpty-Dumpty “all their walls came crumbling down” and had to go back to their studios, their businesses, boardrooms, and editing labs to begin something anew. Coaching students through that kind of experience can steal the words from your mouth. Amidst the fractured remnants of the self that they once were, and the life they once lived, I can only remind them, with full sincerity and in earnest, “the Dao is not broken.”

What Needs to Transform

~ The illiterate of the future will be those who cannot feel. ~

The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead said that reality arises through a series of moments which feel into the past moment as they feel for(ward) the next moment. For Whitehead, the action in-between was nothing at all like the tight wire between the physicists’ cause and effect. Rather, Whitehead thought of this feeling-process—which he called “prehension” – as incredibly sensitive, provocative, and loving; and he construed it as the long, long moment of possibility, freedom and choice, in the timeless space of becoming, before the actual occasion is concretized into being. If you situated yourself imaginatively inside Whitehead’s process reality, you would experience yourself as a living center of transformational process. Without a sense of separate self, nevertheless you would feel the act of cause-creating-effect-creating cause… and in the a-temporal pulsations between cause and effect (actual and potential) you would discover vast promise and freedom. The more you prehended your neighbors and relations, the more extensive you would become, until you felt the in-becoming of one body through the simultaneous presence of many bodies. The more stabilized your prehension, over the long slow moment of feeling, the more expansive you would become, until you realized the in-becoming of one novel moment through the simultaneous presencing of many moments.

The role of transformative education is,  in the words of Donald Oliver (1989) “ an integration of the most basic mode … of causal efficacy and the more focused information brought to us by our senses … where ontological consciousness … apprehends both primary perception, which connects us to the process of being in the broader universe, and our sense of immediate occasions in our own lives. (p. 136)

This requires a whole new mind – one which allows the range and diversity of our (humans’) ontological narratives to continuously compose and decompose ourselves as participants in a persistent plurality of novel relations. This demands a whole new view – one which becomes increasingly aware of the metaphysical necessity of plurality, diversity and asymmetry in any cosmology that is authentic to the apperception of a shared unbounded wholeness. The dualistically-constructed dialectical mind cannot achieve this scope where incommensurability of beliefs is a sign of novelty, and novelty is a sign of a unified generative process of shared becoming. As Oliver points out:

In Western thought there is a history of difficulty, even unresolvability, with opposed aspects of reality. We commonly employ two intellectual and practical techniques in our effort to deal with such contradiction. One is domination or destruction: we either attempt to dominate one pole of the antinomy… or we attempt to destroy one pole. … The second strategy for dealing with contradiction is the dialectic: the effort to transform both poles of a contradictory set of metaphors into some new and higher state of understanding. (p.148)

As participants, then, our key role in co-creative transformative education is to “put down our defenses” in order to compose holistic cosmologies which generate persistently advancing comparative interfaces – a process wherein our being and knowing (participating and composing) would become a perfect reflection of the underlying processural continuum expressing itself as our being and knowing, participating and composing. We will have, in effect, like the few survivors of Magellan’s famous voyage, circumnavigated the globe, to discover the world is whole, again.

[i] These characteristics can be summarized as:

  • the Integral structure would require new types of language
  • a new kind of process-based reasoning would arise
  • this process-thinking would account for the perception of space and time (space and time would no longer be “a priori or external features of the universe, rather they would be seen to arise within a generative process of thinking, similar to Bohm’s notion of “thought as a system.”
  • that our understanding of the nature of being and how this relates to the human existential condition would give us deep insight into the nature of time
  • this insight into the nature of time would be experienced as the “ever-presencing” or origin or alternately, the “co-presencing” of all matter and being
  • there would be a de-objectification of phenomena
  • and an accompanying of the de-localization of the subject
  • that dualistic opposites on which all rational thinking is based would be resolved in a view of a unified dynamic field
  • this would entail a new conceptualization of wholes and parts and
  • a new gestalt of figure and ground.

[ii] It is crucial to note the distinction between what is called the developmental level of cognition called “integral” in Spiral Dynamics and AQAL theory, and the evolutionary structure of consciousness that Gebser called the Integral structure. The cognitive level (integral  teal and turquoise) is still within the Mental structure of consciousness, although it often shows up as paradoxical thinking – which is a transitional phase of the Mental structure.

[iii] Alderlore is the home/farm of the author in Northwest Connecticut, as well as the operating location of The Horses of Alderlore Present, and Alderlore Insight Center.

[iv] The full text of the Fellowship Initiative and 2012 Retreats can be found at

[v] I have Ria Baeck to thank for this elegant phrase.

Appendix: Figures and Tables

Figure 1:

Table 1    


Late-Stage Dialectical


Logical Categories                  (thesis, antithesis, synthesis)

Forms of Existence (perspectives, holons)

Onto-logical Categories (anterior, posterior)

Composite Structures (constructivist)

Constitutive Structures (emergent)

Onto-genetic Relations     (orders, phases, transformations)

Synthetic                       (algorithmic)

Integrative                             (relative, relational)

Generative                               (fractal, anisotropic)

Transcendent Whole

Prior Whole                           (ground)

Mutually Generative               (wholes and parts)

Transcendent Knowledge

Collective Knowledge

Implicit Knowing



Creative Imaginaries

Perspectival                         (universal, absolute)

Multi-perspectival (hierarchical)

A-perspectival                                  (a-conceptual, de-ontological)

Table 2

Author/Artist Domain Topic(s) Inquiry
Jason Brown Cognitive Psychology Cognitive Microgenesis Subject-Object
Christopher Alexander Architecture/ Design Nature of Order Subject-Object
Joel Morrison Philosophy/Theoretical Mathematics Morphogenesis of Concepts Transcendence-Immanence; Epistemological/Ontological
Gendlin Psychology Thinking at the Edge        Implicit-Explicit
David Michael Levin Social Philosophy Listening Self Being-Doing
Thomas Arthur Environmental Art Facing Nature Self-Nature
Panikar & Bhaskar Spiritual Philosophy Being and Reality Emancipation-Liberation (self-culture)
Goethe Science Goethe’s Way of Science Empiricism –  Phenomenology
Charles Hartshorne Process Philosophy Metaphysics Absolute – Relative
Bruno Latour Philosophy of Social Science Political Theology of Nature Nature – Society


Basseches, Michael (1984) Dialectical Thinking and Adult Development. Ablex Publishing. Norwood, NJ

Bhaskar, Roy (2002) From Science to Emancipation. Sage Publications, New Dehli

Gebser, Jean (1985) The Ever Present Origin. Ohio University Press, Athens

Gendlin, Eugene (1997) A Process Model. University of Chicago. Chicago

Hansen, Chad (1992) A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought. Oxford University Press. New York

Hartshorne, Charles (1983) Creative Synthesis and Philosophical Method. University Press of America. Lanham, New York

Heimer, Hans. Integrative Explorations Journal.

Oliver, Donald and Kathleen Gershman (1989) Education, Modernity, and Meaning. State University of New York Press,.New York

Ryan, Robert (2002) Shamanism and the Psychology of C.C. Jung. Vega Press. Melbourne

Suares, Peter (2001) The Kyoto School’s Takeover of Hegel. Lexington Books. Lanham, New York

Whitehead, Alfred North (1978) Process and Reality. The Free Press. New York

Wilber, Ken (1999) The Collected Works of Ken Wilber. Shambhala. Boston, London


Comments on Tom Murray’s “Meta-Sangha, Infra-Sangha: Or, Who is this ‘We’ Kimo Sabe?”

bird flock wiki

The article “Meta-Sangha, Infra-Sangha: Or, Who is this We’ Kimo Sabe?” appeared on the Beams and Struts blog in March 2013. It was one of the last articles posted there before the site’s comment feature was shut down.  This page is for additional comments and discussion of that article.  Have fun!

dear rabbit 1 many feet in circle

marchingbandHolyoke romantic lake dinner

the_madness_of tiger hug

AQAL 2210: A Tentative Cartology of the Future

Books discussed in this Section

~  Alexander, Christopher (2001) The Phenomenon of Life (The Nature of Order Bk 1-4 )CES Publishing, Berkeley, Ca.

~ Basseches, Michael Dialectical Thinking and Adult Development.Ablex Publishing Corp. Norwood, New Jersey.

~  Brown, Jason (2002) The Self Embodying Mind. Barrytown,/Station Hill

    (1991)Cognitive Microgenesis. Springer-Verlag, New York

~ Cook-Greuter, Suzanne Nine Levels of Increasing Embrace. Retrived from

~ Gebser, Jean (1985) The Ever Present Origin. OhioUniversity Press, Athens

~ Gendlin, Eugene (1997) A Process Model. University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

 (1991) Thinking Beyond Patterns: Body, Language, and Situations. University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

What First Person and Third Person Processes Really Are Retrieved from

~ Goswami, Amit (1993) The Self-Aware Universe. Penguin Putnam, New York.

~ Laszlo, Ervin (2004) Science and the Akashic Field. Inner Traditions, Rochester, VT.

~ Roy, Bonnitta (2006) A Process Model of Integral Theory. Integral-Review,

~ Thackhoe, Sonam (2007) The Two Truths Debate. Wisdom Publications,  Boston.

~ Thompson, Evan. (2007) Mind in Life. Belknap Press, Cambridge, MA.

~ Trungpa, Chogyam (2004) The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa. Shambhala, Boston.

~ Wilber, Ken (2007) Integral Spirituality. Shambhala, Boston.

                            (2000) The Collected Works of Ken Wilber. Shambhala, Boston.

AQAL 2210: A Tentative Cartology* of the Future

Or How do we Get from AQAL to A-perspectival?

Note: Cartology: cartography of discourse & meaning

derived from ‘carte’- map ;’ logos’- discourse




As early as 1949 Jean Gebser (1985) predicted that Integral consciousness would have the capacity to render all the previous structures of cognition transparent. Today we have the AQAL map which identifies and contextualizes the eight indigenous or native perspectives of cognition. What is the possibility that there are emergent perspectives beyond the eight indigenous perspectives included in the AQAL framework?  What would these potentially “super integrative” perspectives look like? Can we anticipate future potentials by identifying those who seem to be operating at or near the edges of these integrative perspectives today? In addition, Gebser predicted that Integral consciousness would have the capacity to make new kinds of statements, by engaging new types of thinking that would go beyond perspectival thinking into the realm of the A-perspectival.  According to Gebser, the hallmarks of this new consciousness would include, in addition to transparency and integrity,  dynamics of the whole, space and time freedom, and spirituality.  So the question is “How do We Get from AQAL to A-perspectival- from the ability to contextualize perspectives across the boundaries that delimitate them, to a realm of unbounded wholeness? Writing in No Boundary, Ken Wilber (2000) tells us:

The ultimate metaphysical secret, if we dare state it so simply, is that there are no boundaries in the universe. Boundaries are illusions, products not of reality but of the way we map and edit reality. And while it is fine to map out the territory, it is fatal to confuse the two. (vol. 1 p. 462)


Integral theory is tricky. In many respects, it is a liberation theory – whether it addresses personal, spiritual or social concerns. At its best, integral theory enables us to dis-embedd from limited perspectival frameworks, and open up into more integrated views. However, at its worst, integral theory is absorbed as a metaphysical reality, as a fixed and static limitation on how we perceive, what we can perceive, and how reality arises. When Wilber writes that AQAL is a map of the prison, the integral community should immediately understand there is no prison except for the map. A-perspectivity is the unconditioned situation of living/being without the map. If we can learn to operate from that unconditioned place, then we can create new maps through which new worlds might arise with greater degrees of freedom and open-up our choice field. If we operate from that unconditioned place we will avoid the mistakes of misplaced concreteness that weld ideas into the bars and barriers of our self-imposed prisons. If we operate from that unconditioned place we will have transmuted the prisons of our selves into the playgrounds of spirit.  We will, in other words, enter into the ever-present process of enacting our future.




This article is a series of thought-explorations on the nature of the perspectival world and the possibility of shifting toward a-perspectivity. Our starting point is the world of AQAL – the realm of perspectives. Our journey is through three kinds of “shifts” from each of their perspectival constraints toward a more a-perspectival view. In this paper, I will use the term view to represent relative degrees of freedom away from perspectivity and toward the a-perspectival. View, in this sense, is not a static dimensional object, it is a dynamic relationship toward greater degrees of freedom from perspectivity, which is to say, toward a-perspectivity.


Section I:  On View

How we get from AQAL to A-perspectival …

AQAL is a meta-theoretical map of “all quadrants, lines, levels, streams” developed by Ken Wilber (2000, 2007). A person operating within this framework has the ability to take first, second and third person perspectives. A person might also develop the ability to see perspectives, to be aware of the shifts occurring in her thinking or field of perception. At another stage, a person can develop the ability to honor and integrate the multi-perspectival elements of any object of inquiry, or domain of understanding. This approach Wilber (2000, 2007) terms “methodological pluralism” and describes eight native perspectives or indigenous methodological zones. AQAL is in this sense multi-perspectival, and so our question might be re-framed to “how do we get from multi-perspectival to a-perspectival?” What are some key elements to this shift? If multi-perspectival means the ability to see perspectives and balance alternative perspectives, the first foundations of a-perspectival awareness calls into question the very notion of perspectives and the boundaries that delimitate them. There is simultaneously a post-metaphysical awareness that “reality as it presents itself” is perspectival, and also a growing skepticism about the metaphysical status of the perspectives themselves. The foundation of the a-perspectival is to be post-metaphysical even about the perspectives themselves, to be what is termed “construct aware” as Suzanne Cook-Greuter describes in Nine Levels of Increasing Embrace[1] as 1) realizing that all objects are human-made constructs, including abstract concepts such as space and time and 2) realizing the absurdity or limits of human map making. Shifting towards an a-perspectival view entertains the notion that AQAL is a metaphor, a cognitive narrative, or map composed of a matrix of imaginary boundaries operating within constructs like space and time. Being construct aware then, also precludes dividing up “reality” into two distinct domains “the perspectival” and “the a-perspectival” by similarly drawing a static boundary notion between them. Instead, we can shift toward a process view, as described by Suzanne Cook-Greuter, a view where [we begin] to “understand the underlying process of how meaning is constructed through the invention-construction of ever-more complex theories which are based on the segmentation and reification of the underlying flux of phenomena.”[2] To avoid reifying the notions of perspectival and a-perspectival into opposite domains, I propose using the notion of view to suggest this underlying process. Moreover, view is considered as a generative process — the process which generates the perspectives — while remaining inimical with the “underlying flux of phenomena”. This process view is similar to Gebser’s (1985) notion of the diaphanon  [as] “something is or becomes visible or perceptible through something else… on the one hand the central or ‘deepest’ core, the intensity ‘in’ us that is time-free and corresponds with the pre-spatial, pre-temporal presence of origin. … It is that which shines through and is unfettered by the forms of appearance. “ (p. 157 n.1)


View therefore, is a heuristic notion of a unified generative process which is itself diaphanous, unbounded, whole, time-free, space-free, subject-less, object-less, and a-causal, but which might be said to be the field of potentials from which the perspectival world arises. In an interview with Jeff Salzman for Boulder Integral and posted at Integral Life[3]  Suzanne Cook-Greuter gives a vibrant example of the coming-to-awareness of this kind of process view In the interview, she recounts this experience in two stages. First there is her narrative of the gnawing awareness of the limitations of the perspectival world:

“Whatever I’ve relied on so far, is suddenly suspicious.”

“There’s really nothing I can hold on to.”

“So now what?”

Secondly, there is the growing awareness at the edges of the perspectival world, touching on, intuiting the open, procesural nature of view, in transcendent moments:

“Ah… there is something else… “

“… something totally else…”

“ a new paradigm.

“Before it was differentiation, integration … more and more complex, higher and higher levels of perspectives…”

“… and now it is something totally different.”

View, is not to be construed as a reified construct. Metaphor seems better to suit its expression. View can be intuited through a phenomenological felt-sense, a process through which the implicitly-held view is, metaphorically, like the subtle push of wind at your back; what is there below, behind, beneath everything else. Metaphorically, view is the simultaneous ground of your being and the horizon of your own becoming—it is like the a-perspectival “square” you are always standing on, which you cannot see because you cannot get to a perspective from which it can be seen. Phenomenological experiences of this process view share key characteristics. Consider, for example, the way Ken Wilber’s writings articulated the implicitly held view of an entire demographic community. His core audience accepted his writings as something they already implicitly knew, but did not have an adequate expression or framework to carry this implicit view forward. Although his work is highly innovative, to his core audience, Ken Wilber seems to be articulating what is always already the case. He gives us the tools to enact our own view. This experiencing of the “always already” – that some knowledge or truth comes to us in time but is experience as having been always already the case, I term the “ontological dimensioning of reality, and is a hallmark of the unique temporal aspect of view. Another key feature, illustrated so perfectly in Suzanne Cook-Greuter’s video- interview, is this felt-sense that one is already operating from a view with greater degrees of freedom than all one’s perspectival forms available. In her interview, Cook-Greuter’s transcendent insight is “Ah, there is something else.. something totally different;” yet she is not able to supply the perspectival details. This is a very important aspect of this process notion of view—an awareness that even the most suitable forms— when they finally, do come—are only approximations of the “unformed implicit” which is somehow more precise and acts as a kind of “authenticator.”[4] Why does this encounter with view matter? I believe that if we can learn to “feel into” this view and live from this open, unconditioned space by holding the perspectival world “lightly”, then we can access an infinite field of creativity, and open up our choice field and begin to enact entirely new kinds of realities.  Until then, we are limited by our perspectival constraints and the world that proceeds forth through them. This world has much to celebrate, but at this point in our history, we also have a mandate to learn to do better, for ourselves, each other, and our environment.




Section II: A Tentative Map of the Future


In June 2010 Mark Edwards, Markus Moltz, Jonathan Reams Helmut Reich and Alec Shaerer organized an extraordinary event in Luxembourg. Titled, Research Across Boundaries, this international symposium sought to identify methods that advanced inter-disciplinary studies into research across epistemic boundaries. The facilitators not only asked new questions, they forged new kinds of questions and in the process reformulated knowledge-building in the following way:

Regarding advances in boundary-crossing research many new questions are emerging, among them the following: How “real” are the boundaries delimitating research fields and approaches? How consensual or controversial are boundary-crossing attempts in academic and policy discourse? … Which new research avenues are boundary-crossing approaches?

[From a methodological perspective further questions] relate to method and creativity, contexts and generalization, subjectivity and objectivity, reductionism and emergent complexity, and of course, theory and practice.[5]

In this paper, I hypothesize three kinds of emergent, border-crossings correlating to new types of methodologies, new ways of cognitive reasoning, and new kinds of phenomenological experiences—respectively, emergent methodologies, onto-logics and post-metaphysical views. Each of these carry elements of what Gebser called Integral-A-persrpectival, which include

  • New types of language (what Gebser termed systasis)
  • New types of syntheses beyond dialectical thinking (what Gebser termed synairesis)
  • Thinking in terms of generative process (Gebserian emphasis on dynamics)
  • Processes that generate spatial and temporal frameworks (characteristically, what Gebser named the Diaphanon)
  • Onto-genetic processes that contextualize time.
  • The ontological entanglement of polarities.
  • De-objectification of phenomena.
  • The a-local subject simultaneously nowhere and everywhere.
  • Resolution of opposites into unified field dynamics (Gebser’s priority of the whole.”
  • Re-conceptualization of dualistic pairs into generative orders.
  • New ontology of wholes and parts.
  • New gestalt of figure and ground.


Emergent Methodologies

One class of emergent perspectives are new methodologies that seek to navigate the inside-outside division primarily within the quadrant domains. These divisions are illustrated in the following table of the eight primary AQAL methodologies:

 Domains  Perspective Inside




UL Subjective phenomenology




LL Intersubjective hermeneutics




UR Objective autopoeisis




LR Interobjective social co-construction


systems theory



What is it that delimitates the inside and outside in each of these cases? If for example, I think of the inside UL method, phenomenology, and then I switch to the outside UL method, structuralism – what is the nature of this switching from inside to outside? Similarly, what is the nature of the thinking that switches from hermeneutics to ethnomethodology? from autopoeisis to empiricism? from social co-construction theory to systems theory? In each case the inside tends to describe a dynamic, living process, while the outside tends to describes structural features. However, there is little or no correspondence between the two descriptions. Four new future “super-integrative methodologies” that break through the inside-outside divide might be enacted through the capacity to envision non-reductively, and to “see” the dynamic process and its structural properties as a whole, to “see” that the structural properties are latent or implicit in the living process;  or alternately, to conceptualize 2nd-person structural properties from the inside experiential activity,  and construct a new language wherein the explicit structural properties correspond to the living processes because they carry forward from them.


On a very basic level, this is how Gendlin’s  (1991, 1997) Process Philosophy construes all language to operate – making explicit what is already precise, but latent or implicit in the living process, through a never-ending continuum of carrying meaning forward. The practice he calls “focusing” is designed to create more precision (correspondence) between the inner “felt meaning” which is a living experience, and the explicit events which are forms, patterns, and instances of languaging. This is also similar to what Evan Thompson (2007) is attempting in expanding Varela’s previous notion of “naturalism neurophenomenology” with Kohler’s principle of isomorphism.

Yet, according to Varela … the naturalism neurophenomenology offers is not a reductionist one. Because dynamic systems theory is concerned with geometrical and topological forms of activity, it possess an ideality that makes it neutral with respect to the distinction between the physical and the phenomenal, but also applicable to both. … Dynamical descriptions can be mapped onto biological systems and shown to be realized in their properties …, and dynamical descriptions can be mapped onto what Husserl calls eidetic features, the invariable phenomenal forms or structures of experience. …

In this respect, [naturalism] neurophenomenology is reminiscent of Wolfgang Kohler’s principle of isomorphism. … Koheler writes: “The principle of isomorphism demands that in a given case the organization of experience and the underlying physiological facts have the same structure. (pg 357)

Thompson acknowledges that we are merely at the beginning of a complete breakthrough, with much work ahead:

… we find ourselves needing to use certain concepts, most notably that of the lived body, that are essentially mixed or heterogenous, in the sense that they cannot be factored into the dichotomous categories of the physical and the phenomenal, or the objective and the subjective. (pg 359)

Both Gendlin and Thompson point to the “lived body” as the phenomenal ground of experience. This suggests that they position themselves in the UR domain, (where the physical body presents) even as they are integrating across the inside-outside boundaries within the UL and UR domains respectively. Greater insight is required to envision a truly “triple-braided” (to use Varela’s term) methodology where the latent and the implicit are de-coupled from the structural components identified as “the body” and grounded in process dynamics.[6] What characterizes these hypothesized super-integrative methodologies, would be their ability to frame entire domains of inquiry (such as ecology, economics, evolutionary developmental biology, cognitive science) in terms of unified processes that demonstrate isomorphism—or the property wherein all the structural elements are generated by the process field. Alternately, such a methodology would prescribe a  framework wherein structures are homologous to discrete transformational phases or generative orders of the underlying process. This attention to dynamic isomorphism, or structural homology characterizes what I envision as  “Process Eidetics”, Zone 9 in the following table.

  Emergent Integration Inside




9 Process-Eidetics ? phenomenology




10 Mixed Discourse ? hermeneutics




11 Enactive Naturalism ? Autopoeisis




12 Isomorphic Fields ? social co-construction


systems theory



Process Eidetics is a methodology that would have the capacity to language the phenomenal and structural features of a domain simultaneously. Thompson (2007) writes from the edge of this new hori-zone, as for instance, when he depicts an autopoietic individual from both its inside and outside aspects: “Interiority comprises both the self production of an inside, that is an autopoietic individual, and the internal and normative relation holding between this individual and its environment. (p.79) Thompson also sheds light on a kind of temporal frame integration  across inside-outside categories, as carrying forward from “Varela’s strategy [to] find a common structural level of description that captures the dynamics of both the impressional-retentional-protentional flow of time consciousness and the large-scale neural processes.”(p. 329)  Essentially, all four hypothetical hori-zones labeled 9-12 in the previous table, represent methodologies that are able to integrate the inside-outside perspectives in each of the quadrant domains. This enterprise can quickly become intellectually very ambitious, as when Thompson (2007) goes further to introduce the notion of generative phenomenology—which would entail an integration not only within the UL or UR domains, but also somehow achieves to thread the elements of the intersubjective LL into one coherent dynamic process:

“Generative phenomenology concerns the historical, social, and cultural becoming of human experience. If static phenomenology is restricted in scope with respect to genetic phenomenology, then genetic phenomenology is restricted in scope with respect to generative phenomenology: the subject matter of generative phenomenology is the historical and intersubjective becoming of human experience, whereas genetic phenomenology focuses on individual development without explicit analysis of its generational and historical embeddedness.” P. 33


 If the examples above are indicative of future successful super-integration, then each new methodology would be able to describe (language) conceptual structures that are homologous with experiential, phenomenological or dynamic systems processes. These homologies may be derived from process phases, temporal or phenomenal iterations, generative orders, or, dynamic isomorphism, or through some as yet to be conceived correspondence. [7]



Onto-logics can be generally considered as a kind of reasoning that works with polarities in a different direction than dialectical reasoning. Dialectical reasoning creates new (syn)theses from opposite pairings. Ontological reasoning works in “reverse” – through creative envisioning or insight, ontological reasoning “discovers” prior wholes from which the opposed pairs have been teased out. Consider for example, Gendlin’s (1991) notion of “pre-separated multiplicity” which dives directly into this kind of inquiry:

This is a more complex pattern than “one” or “many.” Our concept also includes (is defined by) the implicit way these may function. And since there is a move from pre-reflective to reflective, our concept must include that move as well. Our concept includes how a can come, the effect of separating, and how each can again bring its own . (pg. 91)


The concepts let us thing the many that are never separated, even when we separate those we can. The concept opens a field of further distinctions. We will make some of these distinctions, but we can think the concept as a whole field of further distinctions. In advance, without making them. We think them as the pre-separated multiplicity. (pg 92)


According to Gendlin, the implicit is a field of pre-separated multiplicities. The one is carried forward into the many, in the very same process as the internal (implicit) is forwarded to the external (explicit). This is nearly identical to the process philosophy of Jason Brown whose microgenesis of  cognition describes cognition as an orchestration of waves (and their attenuation) from core to surface through whole-part (i.e. one-to-many) transitions, effectively describing a single process dynamics for the mutually embedded emergence of both subject and object in a process field. (See Roy 2006).  In this general sense, onto-logical reasoning establishes a prior whole by collapsing the interior-exterior domains, or by collapsing the singular-plural domains into a prior whole, hypothesized as four additional hori-zones:


  Onto- Logic Singular




13 UNITIVE ?! Process Eidetics ?


Mixed Discourse ?


16 HOLISTIC ?! Enactive Naturalism ?


Isomorphic Fields ?



  Onto-logic Interior




14 CENTAURIC ?! Process Eidetics ?


Enactive Naturalism ?


15 KOSMIC ?! Mixed Discourse ?


Isopmorphic Fields ?



Currently at best, we can identify some of these general tendencies toward onto-logics and their respective hori-zones:

  • Zone 13: A UNITIVE onto-logics sees the singular-plural polarity arising from a dynamic prior whole through an interior process, such as an epistemic process. In this case the prior whole tends to be conceived as a kind of consciousness, as is the case with with Amit Goswami’s Self Aware Universe.
  • Zone 16: A HOLISTIC onto-logics sees the singular-plural polarity arising from a prior whole through an exterior force, such as evolutionary process. In this case the prior whole tends to be conceived as a living organism, like GAIA or Errvin Lazslo’s Akashic Field.
  • Zone 14: A CENTAURIC onto-logics sees the interior-exterior polarity as arising from a prior whole with a singular nature, as formulated, for example, by the Tibetan philosopher, Tsongkapa[8]; whereas
  • Zone 15: A KOSMIC onto-logics see the interior-exterior polarity arising from a prior whole with a multiple nature—the counter argument made by the Tibetan philosopher Gorampa.[9]


Generally speaking in this way, Wilber’s writings can be seen to have moved from UNITIVE to KOSMIC; as his earlier metaphysical notions were essentially rooted in a more Eastern spiritual concept of subject-permanence, absolute Consciousness (Plotinus’ “One-without- a- second”); while his more recent metaphysical notions of a tetra-emergent holarchy is treated as an originary whole with a multiple nature. A future 2210 cartology of horizons would include this and other insights into the entangled nature of interiors and exteriors, wholes and parts, and allow for entirely new ways of envisioning realities. Still, at the edge of our own future, we find ourselves grasping for an adequate ontology of interior/exterior and one/many relations, and their phenomenal expressions as subject/ object and whole/part.


Emergence theory, for example, runs straight into the difficulty of re-conceptualizing whole-part relations non-reductively, since where emergence describes events wherein new wholes emerge from prior multiple parts, philosophers of science wrestle with the nagging problem of supervenience. For instance, Thompson’s (2007) appeal to the notion of nondecomposable systems (“a nondecomposable system is one in which the connectivity and interrelatedness of the components give rise to global processes that subsume the components so that they are no longer clearly separable” pg. 420) – a classic example of onto-logical reformulation – has logical difficulty with whole-part constructs (“In such a system, the distinction between preexisting parts and supervening whole becomes problematic. Not only does the whole emerge from the components, but also the components emerge from the whole.” (pg. 420)


Thompson’s argument (2007) is also  immersed in the subject of relational holism and the question of ontological versus epistemological emergence, is a good example of the tension between the UNITIVE and HOLISTIC zones

The concept of relational holism was introduced largely in connection with nonseparability or entanglement in quantum mechanics, in which the state of the system is not constituted by the states of its parts and only the whole system can be said to be in a definite state. … On the basis of nonseparability, a umber of philosophers have argued that the quantum mechanical systems are holistic or mereologically emergent. Silberstein and McGeever have proposed that nonseparability is a paradigm of “ontological emergence.” By this they mean (i) that is is a kind of emergence that belongs to a system or whole in itself, as opposed to being an artifact of our theories and models; and (ii) that it violates the metaphysical doctrine of (atomistic) mereological supervenience, which states that every property of the whole is exhaustively determined by the intrinsic properties of its most fundamental parts. Silberstein and McGeerver’s question with regard to complex dyamic systems is whether they, too, exhibit ontological emergence or only epistemological emergence. (pg 428)


In A Process of View of Integral Theory (Roy, 2006) I describe in process terms, how the ontological might be clearly distinguished from the epistemological. I argue that the epistemological is a dynamic field of structural enfoldments that can best be described in terms of generative orders. This gives rise to the notion of onto-genetic process, as a way to reformulate some of the inquiry around these questions. For instance, the Process Model suggests that in a conventional cognition, articulation (of the affect level) is onto-genetically prior to protraction (of the world); but this is not the same as suggesting that  something like an affective stratum is ontologically prior to “the world.” In addition, the Process Model describes a phenomenological experience called “ontological dimensioning of reality” in which a subject has a ”clear and precise” idea/feeling that one state(reality) is ontological prior to another (state)reality although they are received(perceived) as the reverse in linear time. This points out the entangled temporal dimension of the ontological and may shed light on complex studies taken up by researchers such as Thompson. The Process Model also offers a paradigm that can successfully reformulate whole-part relations through thinking in terms of generative orders, in the form of (for example) the seed > tree > seed, a progression in which wholes give rise to parts which give rise to wholes, and in which parts and whole are both ontologically anterior and posterior to each other; and in which interiority and exteriority are ontologically entangled. More than any more extreme effort to parse the questions into a more extremely complex arrangement, the Process Model argues that this shift into thinking in terms of process dynamics and generative orders is required to carry forward and language the difficult conversions from old perspectival constraints to new horizons with greater degrees of freedom. This view can be found in pre-Buddhist Bon thinking (see Roy 2006) but also is emerging in exceptional voices in Western texts. (See, for example, Christopher Alexander’s (2001 2003a, 2003b, 2004) four-volume work “The Nature of Order.”


In various texts I glean the emergence of process-oriented, onto-logical thinking that has the capacity to cross the interior-exterior and whole-part boundaries of the primary AQAL domains for example, in the following excerpts:

In his online article What First Person and Third Person Processes Really Are[10] Gendlin writes:

  • First person process is not a perspective.
  • First person process involves something I call “implicit understanding.”
  • First person process has been widely misunderstood as being inside an externally-observed body. External and internal are not actually divided.
  • What is implicitly understood is much more than we could separate out one by one… the next event can change the implicit many. So the one-many relation is really a one-many-one relation.
  • The many are not thought separately. They change implicitly without ever having been formed.
  • Implicit functioning goes beyond the ancient pair ‘the same and the different.’


Onto-logical thinking can push beyond the conventional boundary notions of “body” and “consciousness”,

Since we understand and think with the body, the meaning of the word ‘body’ is changing. No longer does ‘body’ mean just the chemicals that are left when we die. The body is not only what is defined in physiology. Now ‘the body’ means the living body that functions implicitly and with IU… and IU is an implicit consciousness. [11]

 tackle the conventional dichotomous relationship of figure and ground,

The IU is often called the ‘background’ so named from the visual experience of ‘ a figure and the background around it.’ The IU contains a great many ‘figures.’ The IU is very precise and governs what is next. Now the word ‘background’ changes to mean something precise and central.[12]

 and problematize the whole-part relations of a holarchy:

Dynamic co-emergence means that a whole not only arises from its parts, but the parts also arise from the whole. Part and whole co-emerge and mutually specify each other. P. 38

Through these kinds of reading and writings, I have begun to envision the key features of a mature version of onto-logical reasoning. In his book, Dialectical Thinking and Adult Development, Michael Basseches (1984) distinguishes late-stage dialectical reasoning from earlier dialectics as shown in the table below, to which I have added a column corresponding to onto-logical thinking.



Late-Stage Dialectical


Logical Categories (thesis, antithesis, synthesis)

Forms of Existence (perspectives, holons)

Onto-logical categories (anterior, posterior)

Composite Structures (constructivist)

Constitutive Structures (emergent)

Onto-genetic Relations (orders, phases, transformations)

Synthetic (algorithmic)

Integrative (relative, relational)

Generative (process dynamics)

Transcendent Whole

Prior Whole (ground)

Mutually Generative (whole and parts)

Transcendent Knowledge

Collective Knowledge

Implicit Knowing



Creative Imaginaries

Perspectival (universal, absolute)

Multi-perspectival (hierarchical)

A-perspectival (open, diaphanous)



Through differentiation and integration, dialectical reasoning has produced  more and more complex, higher and higher levels of perspectives. Although I hypothesize that late-stage dialectics can achieve the kinds of super-integration required to build new methodological hori-zones, I suspect that in the future we will come to realize these as unnecessarily complex, in the same way today we see that Ptolemy’s epicycles were unnecessarily complexified by his geo-centric view. I believe at the core of the next true paradigmatic shift, is a new onto-logical view (which is to say, a post-metaphysically held process ontology); and this shift toward onto-logical reasoning might be a paradigmatic leap that will situate ourselves in a new view where we will be able to create understanding that is less complex but more coherent, meaning that is less discursive but more sharable, and world-enacting narratives that are less totalizing but mutually enriching across domains.


From the above table we can quickly sketch out the different types of narratives composed by dialectical, late-dialectical and onto-logical thinking. A dialectical narrative would be organized as a Hegelian transcend-and-include theory, wherein composite structures would be hierarchically arranged in a constructivist manner, (i.e., where if the lower levels are destroyed, all the higher levels are also destroyed), and the lower levels would be synthetically included so that the higher structures subtend the lower structures algorithmically, which results in concepts of  transcendent wholes and notions of ultimate transcendent knowledge, and absolute (universal) truths.


A narrative told from late-stage dialectics starts by positing foundational forms of existence and their relations rather than from a “pure” theoretical abstraction based on logical categories. These forms themselves are construed as the primordial ground, from which new forms emerge. The primary forces are iterations that result in complexifications of relationships as the forms self-organize into a hierarchy of levels. All forms on the same level are co-emergent and share co-dependent and relative, multi-perspectival worldspaces, the whole of which can only be known collectively. Higher levels are related to lower levels through ever-more increasingly complex meta-theoretical types of organization.


Onto-logics contrasts sharply with either of these two narratives by starting with an open, fully transparent understanding of mind as the creative faculty through which new world-realities arise. Onto-logics starts neither with a set of super-ordinate transcendent logics, nor from the positing of pre-given structures. Rather, onto-logical thinking begins in full awareness of the task of thinking in terms of creative imaginaries whose potentials it is to call forth, carry forward, or newly enact a re-envisioned reality. This onto-logical process approach in which a narrative is in a sense born outside of time, requires that we assign an anterior and a posterior pole (an arrow of time) internal to the narrative which carries forward through process dynamics where generative processes prescribe both the arrow of time, and all other relevant constructs, as well as describe process dynamics that are generative of all the relevant structures. As a result, the structural forms are related both back to the processural continuum, and as such, can be traced back to origin, as well as to the transformational dynamics that give rise to the generative orders from which the structures arise. The ground of the onto-logical narrative therefore, is not “in the world” but arises implicitly from a “knower” whose inherent situatedness in the world (in the Heidegerrian sense of Dasien’s world-dwelling) authenticates her as a valid percept-or (one who receives percepts).




Post-metaphysical Views

The journey into our future is not merely an intellectual one. Though my emphasis so far has been theoretical, if I had to answer where my intellectual ideas and theories come from, I would have to say that they are first and foremost embedded in the experience of view – aperceptions of open awareness, the ontological dimensioning of experience, and in phenomenological experiences where certain aspects of the perspectival world drop away. Throughout history traditions have interpreted these categories of experiences to the realm of “spirituality” where in more recent times, modern people have relegated them to psychiatric syndromes or neurological anomalies. For me, enacting our integral future, means that these categories of experiences, associated with what Wilber calls “state changes” will be re-integrated into post-metaphysical notions of view. We will, I believe begin to see various types of trans-personal or other kinds of state-change experiences as the dropping or falling away of, or the disembedding from certain perspectival constraints. Transpersonal awareness, for example, is awareness where the person-hood domain, the perspectival constraints that delimitates “the person” fall away, allowing a new reality to arise in awareness. View in this sense, is an indicator of degrees of freedom from perspectival constraints. It may also indicate a shift from the standard structural architecture of conventional states.[13] As these “spiritual” experiences are reinterpreted and integrated into the perspectival arena, they will themselves become named as unique kosmic addresses in our perspectival world.[14]  In our hypothetical cartology of the future, four types of post-metaphysical views emerge into the perspectival realm and make their way onto our map of hori-zones:

  VIEW Self/Other




17 NonDual UNITIVE




  VIEW Self/Other




18 Kosmocentric UNITIVE




  VIEW Figure/Ground




19 Co-depednent Arising HOLISTIC




  VIEW Figure/Ground




20 Spontaneous Arising HOLISTIC





Our hypothetical AQAL 2210 classifies horizon 17, “the NonDual” as the view from which Self/Other and Body/Mind dichotomies resolve through a shift in view; horizon 18 “the Kosmocentric” as the view from which the Self/Other and Society/Nature dichotomies through a shift in view; horizon 19 “Co-dependent Arising” describes the view from which the dichotomous relationships between Figure/Ground and Mind/Body are resolved; and horizon 20 “Spontaneous Arising” describes the view from which the dichotomous relationships between Figure/Ground and Society/Nature are resolved. The accounts of individuals having spiritual/ metaphysical experiences that reveal these views is growing exponentially. We hardly have a language to share what these experiences are, much less to successfully describe their meaning(s). But they happen to people everywhere, and more frequently as time goes on.  At the core of each of these expressions, I believe, is the vague intuition of the realm of the aperspectival, which is always like a calling at our backs, as we ever-present ourselves with new perspectival elements up front. Each of these views depends upon greater degrees of freedom from certain boundedness. Each entails spaciousness, and time freedom. The NonDual implies an a-local subject and its non-separateness with all of reality. In the words of Ken Wilber (2000)

We have also called this non-dual awareness “Absolute Objectivity” as a kind of sign-post, for when you completely go “behind” the pseudo-subject, what you now call your “self”, you will find only objects, which is the clearest demonstration that the real Self, the Absolute Subjectivity, is one with the universe it knows. (vol 1 pg 306)


 Kosmocentric implies a non-discriminating awareness—such as Trungpa(2004) describes as an astronaut free-floating in space.

The metaphor is being in outer space. If you are an astronaut, for instance, and you decide to step out of the ship, you find that you are neither pulled nor pushed in midair. If you are high enough for planets, you are not falling down and you are not falling up. You are just swimming, floating in space. … You are just floating in space somewhere. You are not coming, you can’t say that; you are not going, you can’t say that. You are just somewhere there—you can’t even say that! (vol 6, pg 470)

Co-dependent Arising implies the temporal freedom of simultaneity, and Spontaneous Arising implies equanimity of existence and non-existence.[15]


Are these, afterall, the fundamental degrees of freedom at the horizon of our view as we slip into our aperspectival future(s)? from which of course, we would already be slipping free… .


[1] Retrieved from

[2] Retrieved from  pg31

[4] Gendlin (1991)speaks of the implicit as being more precise than the language that carries forward. When Anne Klein and Tenzin Wangyal (2006) both describe the Bon-Dzogchen non-conceptual notion of authenticity as open awareness which is not a consciousness,  as well as the process of authentication, I believe they are expressing a sophisticated, deeply-held understanding of view.

[6] In the following section we will see that Gendlin eventually does see the need to re-conceptualizes the notion of “the body” through his process philosophy approach – a move toward onto-logical thinking.

[7] For a sense of these new hori-zones, I would highlight Jason Brown Theory of Cognitive Microgenesis (zone 9); Enrique Dussel’s work ont Transmodernity (zone 10): Evan Thompson’s Naturalilzed Phenomenology (zone 11) and a some significant further development of Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network Theory (zone 12).

[8] Thackhoe, The Two Truths Debate

[9] ibid

[11] Gendlin, What First Person and Third Person Processes Really Are, Retrieved from

[12] Ibid.

[13] See, for example, the notion of structural enfoldment in the cognitive occasion in Roy (2007)

[14] In his earlier work, Wilber considered the higher perspectives associated with state-changes as part of the cognitive line. This became controversial as his critics argued that people from earlier cultures had access to higher states, without having evolved higher cognitive capacities. Thereafter the states were assigned a loose correlation across the stages in what came to be known as the Wilber-Coombs lattice.  If we interpret state-changes as the dropping away of existing perspectival c constraints as this paper suggests, then this would explain how people at any cognitive level can experience state changes. On the other hand, this paper also suggests that the temporary freedom from perspectival constraints experienced in state changes provide the potential for entirely new types of perspectival structures (or new types of structural arrangements in a process field) to become stabilized to the extent that they become identified as higher levels in the cognitive stage line. This would be consistent, then with thinking of higher level perspectives, associated with state-change insight, to be third-tier cognitive levels. This interpretation would also explain how meditation might accelerate cognitive stage development.

[15] Although there is an extraordinary amount of Buddhist scholastic literature around these notions, it may be impossible to entirely grasp their inherent views outside of an injunctive or soteriological practice, or without having a state-changing experience where the relevant perspectival constraints drop away allowing one direct phenomenological experience of the view.  Holding both notions of co-dependent arising and spontaneous arising together, is another challenge entirely. Which one is given emphasis has created inter-scholastic debate among Eastern traditions for centuries.

A Process Model with a View : Section III (On View)

Bonnitta Roy, A Process Model with a View. Presentation for First Integral Theory Conference 2008 at JKF University where it received an honorable mention for academic achievement in integral theory.

In this final section we turn to the third meaning of perspective and the ontological notion of view as distinct from the epistemological notion of perspective.  This is a crucial distinction since view connotes the  a-perspectival realm of being and the currently emerging  Integral – a-perspectival epoch that Gebser describes in his seminal work, The Ever-Present Origin. According to Gebser,  a-perspectival being possesses the peculiar character of the achronon, which is “time-freedom” or “achronicity.” The process model illustrates the achronic nature of the ontological realm by drawing a third axis perpendicular to the axes that prescribe the epistemological plane, whose vertices are labeled “anterior” (the point of the arrow pointing through the back of the page) and “posterior” (the point of the arrow coming directly out of the page) as in the following

The illustration shows the phenomenological arrow of time associated with the epistemological field (and the occasioning of the cognitive). This epistemological arrow of time is responsible for the sense of “now” in a localized “here-and-now”. The achronistic character of the ontological now is captured in some of Ken Wilber’s most poetic writing, as in the following examples:

It is always already undone, you see, and always already over. In the simple feeling of Being, worlds are born and die—they live and dance and sing a while and melt back into oblivion, and nothing ever really happens here in the world of One Taste.  … And I-I will be there, as I-I always have been, to Witness the rise and miraculous fall of my infinite easy Worlds, happening now and forever, now and forever, now and always forever, it seems (2000b, p. 623).

… in that unitary seamless sizzling Now, which is this very moment before you do anything at all, it is, quite simply, over. Which means, it has, quite simply, begun (2006, p. 346).

The ontological now is also exquisitely captured in these lines from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets

Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past.

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.    (Quartet 1, Burnt Norton)

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time

(Quartet 4, Little Gilding)


The feelings expressed in these passages can be found in literature from all over the world. They point to a poignantly spiritual experience that I call an “ontological encounter”, or alternately, the “ontological dimensioning of being.” This “ontological dimensioning of being” is so constitutive of human experience, that it often goes unrecognized. For example, at one time in our lives we do not have the cognition of object constancy. But once we develop to the level of concrete operations, we experience objects as if they had always and already existed. This is a curious and important aspect of human experience – the ability to experience or come to know about something in time and the simultaneous experience of this something having existed for all of time and perhaps for all of time to come. In the ontological dimension, time present, time past, time future are all somehow entangled in a singular ontological encounter.

The process model illustrates this characteristic of the ontological with the vertices “anterior” and “posterior”. The posterior aspect is that which is experienced in time and the anterior aspect is that which is experience as eternally present. It is important to note that while we tend to concretize the ontological dimensioning of reality – a process, a verb, not a noun or thing—by assigning to its anterior aspect the cognitive categories of pre-given existence, this is rather superfluous epistemological content that is added onto the ontological experience, not content that arises within the ontological dimensioning of reality.

The second defining, a-perspectival characteristic of the ontological dimensioning of reality, is it’s a-spatial nature. This is experienced as an opening into, or an opening up of space. Heidegger writes of this as the opening of Being, of alethia, or a new kind of non-epistemological truth, that is “that opening which first grants the possibility of truth”. Similarly Gebser writes of an a-waring “where the world is space-free and time-free” and “the whole becomes transparent” and “the diaphanous becomes truth.”

At its most basic form, the ontological dimension is a capacity for opening, and therefore view can be thought of, fundamentally, as degrees of freedom. View therefore, does not refer to the fullness of perspectival cognosis, but to the opening up or into, the freedom and liberation of gnosis. Alternately, where all the fullness evolving in the epistemological field correspond to the Buddhist notion of vijnana, the experience of gnostic revelation that entails view corresponds to the Buddhist notion of prajna. Finally, we can interpret view and the degrees of freedom in relation to the Dzogchen narrative of the principle of EVAM, where E represents the dynamics of  the opening of “space” to entice and accommodate the creative arisings of VAM, and alternately, VAM represents the dynamics of creating and “filling up” space, and enticing E to further self-liberate as space.

This then, is the real meaning of the Dzogchen admonition to “be mindful of one’s view”, that is to be mindful of the capacity of open-ness and degrees of freedom required to accommodate perceptions and perspectives, actual and cognitive occasions alike,  in a fully open and truly self-liberated view.


By giving us a framework to language the difference between perspectives and view, the process model hopes to facilitate further exploration and inquiry into the various types of ontological encounters reported by great spiritual visionaries and tantric yogis; as well as create a framework to design transformative practices through a Process Model with a View that has the capacity to render transparent the categories of mind and nature and engage the whole as

‘being-in-Being’-in becoming.


i Note: this presensing correlates with the presencing at the bottom of Otto Scharmer’s U-Process, which requires one to unravel the structures of the self, and access a deeper originary source.

ii Note: this is the level that Gendlin asks individuals to access during his “Focussing” method of inquiry. However, his description of the location of this level is incorrect—the affect and image levels are prior to the body and therefore are not bodily felt feeling. Merleu-Ponty and his followers make the same mistake in their attempt to anchor language phenomenologically as “embodied”. Language is not at its most fundamental level “embodied” but “enfolded” deep within the cognitive occasion.

iii Curiously, this is the same argument that underlies the complex scholastics between Tsonkhapa and Gorampa as described by Sonam Thakchoe in his new book The Two Truths Debate—I as the two Buddhist scholars attempt to explain the difference between conventional mind (relative truth) and Buddha-nature (absolute truth).

A Process Model with a View Section IIb (The Actual Occasion)

Bonnitta Roy, A Process Model with a View.  Presentation for First Integral Theory Conference 2008 at JKF University where it received an honorable mention fo academic achievement in integral theory.

II.b. The Actual Occasion   

Structural Enfoldment and the Holomovement  


In this section we explore the question How real are our grand narratives?”  In Integral Spirituality, Wilber veers into Humean idealism in making the following statement: 

Put bluntly, perception, prehension, awareness, consciousness etc., are all 3rd person, monological abstractions with no reality whatsoever. [emphasis mine]. As far as we know, or can know, the manifest world is made of sentient beings with perspectives…” (255). 

This is a post-modern humanistic version of Humean idealism, since Hume’s radically solipsistic stance didn’t even allow for the independent existence of other selves. 

Yet another version of philosophical idealism, is based on the thought of Kant, who studied Hume’s philosophy, and felt he improved it. Kant imagined a really real world “out there” of actual noumenal entities—but said we had virtually no direct access to this noumenal realm. But Kant believed that the laws of numbers and logic were also part of the noumenal, and therefore had great trust in the power of the rational mind to re-present the noumenal realm in symbolic, epistemic ways. The modern version of this view from cognitive science has been called “the correspondence theory” of cognition—that the ur-reality of subjective phenomenon must somehow “map directly” onto the real-reality of an objective world; so that the goal of cognitive science becomes the attempt to describe the “rules of  translation” that might accurately re-present  the actual in the phenomenal.  

The process model does not agree with either version of idealism. The process model does not maintain that all of reality is consensual reality co-created in intersubjective space; nor that all of reality is merely a perceptual illusion of the self, in the Humean sense; nor that there is a boundary between a noumenal world “out there” that we have no access to, except through representational faculties of rational mind.  

In fact, the process model was written to point to a view where there is no sharp cut between self and world, subject and object, body and mind, perceptions and reality, “in here” and “out there”, phenomena and noumena, ur-reality and that which is really real.  

What the process model says, is that we are inextricably part of the “noumenal” or “actual” or “really real”  world through our very being-in-Being (which is, more precisely, always and already a becoming-into-being). This is an ontological view – Kant would have considered it a transcendental knowing—and therefore, even in the Kantian context, would not be expected to have a correspondence to the phenomenological reality. But when he shifted to the epistemological question of “how can we know the world”,  Kant’s notion of the inaccessibility of the noumenal became inextricably entangled with his philosophy. 

From the view of the process model, there is not a separate “world out there” that can or cannot be known; nor a knowing subject “in here” that somehow, some way, must apprehend a world. According to the process model these aspects of “world” and “subject” arise as a cognitive occasion, which is not a person, nor a subject, nor a mind, nor a self or sentient being. According to the process model, and its process philosophy, the cognitive occasion is a duration of a particular kind of enfoldment in a processural field. The dynamics in this processural field is the fundamental nature of reality.  

These dynamics create constellations of enfoldments (and their traces), which endure (and retreat) in the moment-to-moment occasioning of “world”, “subject”, “mind”, etc… but more precisely as experience of enfoldment such that, for conventional experience, self is enfolded inside mind, which is enfolded inside body which is enfolded inside an objective world with other selves. In this narrative, there is no boundary between the “really real” processural field, and the cognitive occasion that arises as certain kind of phase transitions within it. This view is neither idealist nor realist, since there is no longer a dichotomous moral to the story. 

But how real can this meta-narrative be?  

The discerning reader (or the skeptic) will still ask “ Are there actual occasions, other than cognitive occasions, i.e. enfoldments of the processural field that do not share the same conditions of structural enfoldment that prescribe the cognitive occasion?” 

These kind of questions about reality and meta-narratives, do not only plague philosophers. In Copenhagen, 1927, Neils Bohr and Warner Heinsenberg contemplated the implications of quantum mechanics, and while their discussions and opinions on quantum matters subsequently came to be known as “the Copenhagen interpretation”,  but according to the online Stamford encyclopedia, their individual opinions actually varied quite significantly. Heinsenberg concerned himself primarily with epistemic uncertainty, and the limitations of knowledge; whereas Bohr’s more Kantian view, contemplated the relationship between symbolic representations of knowledge (mathematics, linguistic narratives) and the supposed noumenal reality of the world.  

The point they shared, however, was a nagging feeling that quantum mechanics – the implications of which required one to think of “things” as both waves and particles—depended too much on the epistemological operations of scientists, rather than exclusively on the actual physical operations of the objective world, then they cared for. In other words, they suspected that the quantum explanations that physics provides were not a direct portal to the fundamental properties of the actual and the real—the objective world “out there.” 

In 1952, Bohm formally presented an ontological model of quantum theory, which in effect says “what you see is what you get” – a kind of epistemological naivité. So, for example, according to Paavo Pylkkanen,  

Bohm’s interpretation assumes that the electron is both a particle and a wave before measurement. In the measurement we see the particle aspect. The wave aspect guides the particle aspect by giving rise to a new potential, the quantum potential. (161) 

In other words, the implication from quantum theory of the fundamental wave-particle duality of reality, did not disturb Bohm in such a way that it created an epistemological gap between the investigator(subject)  and the (objective) world as it did for Heinsenberg and Bohr. For Heisenberg, this gap—epistemological indeterminanacy—was “in” the subject;  for Bohr, the gap—between  noumena and phenomena—was “in” the world.iii 

Bohm’s vision was that one could close these gaps through a deeper understanding of the system as a whole. His insight was that in order to be coherent, thinking had to come from the view of the whole, which in this case, required one to take the point of view not of the subjective investigator, nor the objective reality (the measurement) but from further back, outside the system as a whole, and think from the kind of processural order that might gives rise to both the investigating subject and the experimental outcome as one coherent “movement”.  As with the process model, this view from the whole, therefore, has to be an ontological view—one of the becoming-into-being of the parts of the system from the whole.  

In the case of the electron, Bohm might say (in lay person’s terms) that both the electron and the investigator are entangled in one coherent state at every juncture in time, yet they are entangled in one state prior to measurement– an indeterminate state– represented by  the wave-particle duality of the electron and the investigator’s epistemological unknowns, and in a subsequent state, they are entangled in a determined state, where both the electron particle-ness and the relevant information has been determined. The indeterminate state is the state of un-actualized potentials, and the determined state is the state of realized actuals. This is the basic “movement” in Bohm’s theory as well as in process philosophy in general.  

According to Bohm, “movement” itself is fundamental to reality. He envisioned a “holomovement” of two processural orders, the one an implicate order, the other an explicate order. In Bohm’s holomovement, the implicate is ordered—that is, has a certain shape or architecture, which he envisioned as being enfolded. The dynamics of his holomovement prescribe the unfoldment of this enfolded order to generate the explicate order—the realm of phenomenal experience and conventional reality. Bohm also maintained that in this process of unfoldment (from the implicate to the explicate) that the informational content of the implicate order (the rules that give it a particular shape)—that this information was in-folded into the explicate order as it unfolded from the holomovement. 

In other words, Bohm creates a scenario where the processes internal to the implicate order govern, in a sense, what unfolds in the explicate order. According to Bohm the implicate is a higher-order reality than the explicate—which led him to the necessity of positing  an entire series of  ever more subtle levels of still-higher implicate orders. 

In their most fundamental aspects, the process model and Bohm’s holomovement are surprisingly similar. Both consider movement or process as fundamental—that reality is fundamentally processural; and the dynamics of enfoldment are the significant features of the process/ movement in each theory. However, the process model completely inverts Bohm’s theory, inviting us to imagine a processural field that has no such boundaries as between implicate or explicate, and does not require an order “outside or beyond” but runs according to its own nature – its processural dynamics  that generate the actual and the real. 

 The process model hypothesizes that the dynamic features of the cognitive occasion must be consistent with the dynamics that give rise to any postulated actual occasion—of whatever nature one imagines that to be, without imputing onto the actual occasion the particular set of conditions of structural order that give rise to cognitive occasions as discussed in the previous section. An actual occasion might be considered to be a truncated path in a cognitive microgeny, or something significantly or even entirely different than the generative patterns of the cognitive. However, the process model hypothesizes that just as in the case with the cognitive occasion, any actual occasioning occurs through phase transitions in the processural field that generate dynamic enfoldments (and their traces).  If these enfoldments are construed as structural shapes of intricate dimensions in the processural field, we arrive at the uncanny coincidence between this process theory and the kinds of enfolded  intra-dimensional shapes that comprise the Calabai-Yau manifold in string theory.   

Calabai-Yau Enfoldment. 


With respect to an individual human being, however, in the final analysis, the only “thing” that differences the cognitive from the actual, is that the former imputes (enfolds) the sense of “realness”. I have described elsewhere how this sense of realness arises within the values stream of the microgeny of the cognitive.  (Integral Review Journal, Issue 3, Dec 2006 pp 118-152) 

 In the process model, this processural field itself,  corresponding to Bohm’s implicate order, has no shape, and no epistemological content, therefore no “information content” to somehow “pass on” into its processural descendents. In the process model there is no boundary that separates orders at all—there is only the dynamic processural field, and its phase transitions that create constellations of enfoldments (and their traces).  

Whereas Bohm considered conventional reality as an explicate order that unfolds  from a separate (implicate) order, the process model sees conventional reality (cognitive occasioning) as well as allows for non-cognitive actual occasionings as an enfolding process of the processural field that is the totality.  What these hypothetical non-cognitive actual occasions might be represents new process thinking beyond the scope of this paper that I am currently working through. I hope to demonstrate the possibility that the phase transitions in the processural field that do not fully articulate as cognitive occasions might represent a constellation of dynamic interactions that can be interpreted in terms of what Stuart Kaufman calls a “fitness landscape” and may correlate with Kaufman’s realm of pre-adaptation.  


A Process Model with a View : Section IIa (Processes of the Epistemological Perspectives)

Bonnitta Roy, A Process Model with a View.  Presentation for First Integral Theory Conference 2008 at JKF University where it received an honorable mention for academic achievement in integral theory.

Section II : Processes of the Epistemological Perspectives  

 II.a. The Cognitive Occasion   

Cognitive Microgenesis and the Structural Enfoldment of Self  


The AQAL matrix is a very convenient tool for identifying the methodologies of inquiry across various domains of knowledge. AQAL analysis has proven to be  remarkably successful approach for incorporating methodological pluralism in one’s work. The first two issues of AQAL Journal are filled with examples of this kind of rigor.  

However, the AQAL matrix is less successful at describing one’s own Being-in-the-world—how the self experiences itself in its own situatedness. For example, although I may be able to feel my mind taking on or switching between different perspectives (first, second, third), I don’t experience my mind or myself as a 4-quadrant matrix splayed out in 4 directions, UL, UR, LL, LR. My most basic attention doesn’t “shift” up, down, right, left, when I take on different perspectives—it doesn’t “move around” in two-dimensional matrix space.  

Rather, I feel I am a core self inside a mind, inside a body inside a world shared with other (core/self/mind/body)s; and I feel that these enfoldments (core/self/mind/body/world) arise and change in time and in space. This enfoldment is the nature of conventional experience and can be represented as follows: 


Notice that the progression lays down levels of interior-exterior relations, such that the core is felt as a deeper interior than the self, which in turn is felt as a deeper interior than the mind, and so on until we experience a fully “exteriorized” objective world in space-time dimensions. The experience of “other” selves is similarly an “exteriorization” of an internally accessible experience of “self” onto exteriorly appearing/existing agents. How far one goes in assigning “selfhood” to other exterior agents various according to culture and individual, as both human and non-human animals can qualify, as well as inanimate objects in  such as dolls in the case of children, or amulets in the case of  shamanistic projection.  

Notice also that what type of enfoldment determines what kind of experience arises, such that the above sequence is a formula that represents conventional waking reality, but what would the formula for conventional dream state look like? Or for lucid dreaming? There needs to be different formulas for pre-conventional experiences such as the urobic period and the period of primary narcissism; for non-normative states such as autistic, schizophrenic, and neurophysiological rarities where people loose the apperception of time or place, or of having a body or mind. There would be a different formula for the state of “flow” that artists and athletes report; and still different formula for deep meditative states, transpersonal experiences, unity experiences, out-of-body experiences, near-death-experiences, and other experiences of altered states. What would the formula for deep dreamless sleep be? 

The point is, with respect to an experiential center of reality—whether that be a fully realized subject, a pre-subjective surrogate, or a trans-subjective witness—each of these arise through a process of structural enfoldment that lay down progressive layers of interior-exterior relations through whole-part  (one-many) transformations in a space-time dimension. These three conditions, then, the condition of interior-exterior, the condition of whole-part (one-many), and the condition of space-time are the conditions of structural enfoldment under which the experience arises. These conditions can be mapped as a set of perpendicular vertices,  which represents the aspects of interiority-exteriority as the horizontal vertex, and the tendency towards being one (unity) or many (plurality) as the vertical vertex. It is easy to see that this arrangement creates the conditions of the AQAL matrix in which the quadrants are horizontally delimited by the conditions of interiority and exteriority and vertically delimited by the conditions of singular (one) and plural (many). We can imagine these vertices as describing a process field which creates successive structures of enfoldment along the direction of an arrow of time.  


  The above diagram then, represents the epistemological field, and the process of structural enfoldment in time, which generates the cognitive occasion. What kinds of structures might these be—and is there any evidence that cognition arises in this way? 

According to neurophysiologist Jason Brown,  cognition arises in just this way, through a process of cognitive microgenesis, in which each stage in the process lays down micro-structures of cognition. The process model reminds us that these structures are enfolded in the epistemological field. Brown micro-stages are described as follows: 






                                  >Object(world) Space 

These “steps” can be summarized as follows: 

Core: The unarticulated core is aspectless.  

Presence: … is the spontaneous potential of a cognition—the simple feeling of being. 

Affect: Cognitions that articulate to affect stage are primordial feelings, like a deep intuitive feeling that has not yet attached itself to an image or word. For example, it is common to wake up from a dream with a clear “feeling” of the dream without being able to ascribe images or words to the dream. For example, instead of being able to say that in the dream “I opened a door,” one would be pressed to say “it was as if there were a door and I opened it.” The affect level “meaning” is clear, but it is only after the fact of awakening that we are required to search for appropriate or sufficient symbolic or linguistic forms for it—and the measure of sufficiency of those attempts can be gauged against the clearly present affect. Affect-level cognitions are not to be confused with “emotions,” which are more complex structures. 

Image: Image stage cognitions are like dreams that have an image form, thinking in pictures or symbolisms or various sorts, and visual hallucinations (pathological or otherwise); images that are not yet associated with or alternately have become dissociated from, the concretizing operation of object perception. 

Object(body)Space: Further articulation of the cognitive process generates the spatial dimensioning of the kinesthetic body and its perceived “dominion”—that of the will (willing my finger to move, for example). 

Object(world)Space: The furthest articulation (or discharge) in Brown’s theory of microgenesis. This is the point where cognition has articulated to object orientation that constitutes a world. 

The Process model adds two crucial steps: 

>Intersubjective Space  

  >Subjective Unification 

Intersubjective Space is the notion of pre-constitutive structures that Sean Hargens describes in his infamous Intersubjective Musings where he writes: 

Intersubjectivity-as-context: the context created by multiple intersubjective structures (i.e. meshworks) which are constitutive of the subject and create the space in which both subjects and objects arise (e.g. physical laws, morphic fields, linguistic, moral cultural, biological, and aesthetic structures). These cultural contexts, backgrounds and practices are nondiscursive and inaccessible via direct experience.  

Subjective Unification is the crucial step in which the self in the process of becoming, concretizes as a unified entity of being – the subject qua ego

 We can add these categories to our process diagram as follows: 


If instead of focusing on the stages as structures, we adopt a more processural approach, we can further describe the microgeny of cognition as a coherent generative process that undergoes phase transformations in a field of dynamic operators with the following characteristics: 

 1) The dynamic operators are represented by the valences “interior-exterior”  and “one-many”. 

 2)  The duration of the process from core to world, constitutes an arrow of time, and the direction of the process, from core to world, constitutes spatial extension; thus creating a local here-and-now or spatio-temporal dimension. 

3) The transformations from core to unification can be described as phases changes in the generative process as follows:  

1) emergence – the initiation of the cognitive occasion and the “presencing” of sourcei  

2) articulation – the further articulation of the presencing as primordial affectii 

3) withdrawal (of agency) – this is the first real stage toward exteriority, as the central, now articulated presence, withdraws  (or contracts) to become the witness or viewer of images (dreamings) 

4) further withdrawal of agency is simultaneous with the exteriorization as/ of a “body” and with it comes the transformation of primordial presencing as will or drive—which are body-based dynamics 

5) protraction is the phase that creates a fully exteriorized world, and along with it, spatial extension wherein will/drive transform into their exteriorized form, intention. 

6) projection characterizes the “movement” back toward interiority, as the original aspect of interiority is now projected onto/into other fully exteriorized body/objects. This projection  also has the quality of reflection—wherein one’s interiority is reflected into/onto another(s). 

7) the final phase transition is unification where the fully realized subject emerges as the unit of being that stands in for its becoming—and under conventional experiences, henceforward goes on to be the “subject” that navigates experience, rather than the subject that arises as the cognitive occasioning of reality. 

According to Jason Brown, each cognitive occasion is actually a symphony of innumerable “waves” of microgenies and their “traces” back as they return to the core. The core is the well-spring of renewal and source of novelty, while traces that persist in the processural field establish patterns of habit, repetition and stasis that is responsible for the appearance of stability, memory and the duration of the “specious present.” 

Alternately, in purely process terms, we can say that each cognitive occasion arises through the mutual interactions of innumerable phase transitions of varying momentum (representing the stage at which the “outward” movement discharges) and attenuation (representing the traces that persist in the “inward” return) that create an “ecology” of structural enfoldments in a processural field.

A Process Model with a View : Section I (Three Meanings of Perspective)

Bonnitta Roy, A Process Model with a View.  Presentation for First Integral Theory Conference 2008 at JKF University where it received an honorable mention for academic achievement in integral theory.

Section I  

Introduction: Three Meanings of Perspective  


As a way to get into the workings of the process model, I want to make the distinction between three meanings of perspective I glean from Wilber’s writing. The first meaning of perspective, relates to perspectives that a subject has – which means they entail a cognitive subject already in existence. Because this meaning pertains to how we know what we know about the world, I like to refer to it as the epistemological perspective, or EP.  This epistemological meaning has two parts:  1) one that corresponds to methodological pluralism, and the kinds of narrative perspectives we adopt during intellectual inquiry that name the eight methodologies, and their indigenous perspectives – phenomenology(inside) and structuralism(outside) the UL subjective domain, cognitive science(inside) neurophysiology(outside) the UR objective domain, hermeneutics(inside) and ethnomethodology(outside) the intersubjective domain, and social autopoeisis(inside) and systems theory(outside) the interobjective domain—and   2) a meaning that corresponds to  the perspectives a subject can take, i.e. a first person, second person, or third person (I/we/its) perspectives.   

A significantly different meaning of the term perspective  in Wilber’s writing is a metaphysical meaning, as when he says that the “kosmos is composed of perspectives all the way up and all the way down.” The metaphysical meaning of perspective, or MP,  appears not to depend upon a knowing subject (aka a human being)—but to be a statement about reality itself. According to Wilber, these are the perspectives that are related holonically, as a result of the process of transcend-and-include.  

The third kind of perspective is fuzzy in Wilber’s writings. It occurs most explicitly in Integral Spirituality, although it has precursors in some of his earlier writings. This is the meaning of perspective that Wilber attempts to correlate or conflate with the Dzogchen meaning of view.  Here Wilber incorporates the concepts of emptiness and form and their non-dual integration, with the notion of emptiness and view-as-perspective and their non-dual integration. 

The deepest Buddhist teachings—Mahamudra and Dzogchen—maintain that the nature of the mind is not in any way different from the forms arising in it. It is not just that there is Emptiness and View, but that Emptiness and View are not two—exactly as the Heart Sutra maintained, when Form now means Forms in the mind, or View: That which is Emptiness is not other than View; that which is View is not other than emptiness. (pg 140) 

The process model, however,  attempts to move from the notion of perspective to the notion of view by making a sharp distinction between the epistemological field through which the categories of knowing arise as perspectives in a cognitive occasion; and the ontological dimension of view which is a-perspectival and of a different sort entirely. According to this understanding, then when Wilber writes 

Therefore, choose your View carefully. And make your View or Framework as comprehensive or integral as possible, because your View—your cognitive system, your co-gnosis, your conceptual understanding, your implicit or explicit Framework—will help determine the very form of your enlightenment. 

The process model sees this as  a crucial category error  that results from conflating (or confusing) the framework of cognition and its epistemological perspectives, with the ontological, a-perspectival aspects of Being. This category error arises when we overlay the static structures of our epistemic framework onto the ontological experience of Being. This ontological experience is an a-perspectival, a-temporal and a-local arising which is addressed in the final section of this paper. The next two sections deal with the epistemic and metaphysical meanings of perspective through adopting and adapting the theories of Jason Brown and microgenesis and David Bohm notion of the holomovement. The process model attempts to describe the same underlying dynamics that generate both the cognitive occasion and the actual occasion, in ways that are consistent with the core of both Brown’s neurophysiology and Bohm’s physics. Fundamentally, these dynamics can be described as generative processes that create conditions of structural enfoldment through interior-exterior “movements” and whole-part transformations. The details of which we now turn.

Integral Manifesto Pt V(4) The Shape of Human Action/ Shape Shifting Through Time

Modeling the Sphere of Human Action provides a compelling way to re-interpret the various constellations of human actions, thought of as cultural stages in the Spiral Dynamics model. Consider the following diagram from

Stratified Democracy

The above is an illustration of “Stratified Democracy” and the “emergence of governmental structures over time” based on a quantitative description of the assumed distribution of thinking throughout the world population over time. The descriptions under the heading “political systems and power distribution ratios” can be seen as ranges of geo-social spatial values. From the perspective of this series, each of the “colors” are considered to be “spheres of authority” in the  realm of Human Action. “Purple” for example, while considered by the Globals Values Network,  to be a level in the evolution of cultures, this series considers “purple” to be one of a constellation of forms that constitute the totality of Human Action. Each constellation arises from its own set of geo-social spatial, technological and economic dynamics, and therefore can be seen, when the relative scales of its natural units are plotted in the Sphere of Human Action, to have a unique natural shape. The entire constellation of forms, is evolutionary in the sense of  generating “ecologically adaptive forms” — each subsystem must be both internally adaptive with respect to the three  domains of human action, to maintain its structure, and also have the capacity to adapt into the system that is the whole of Human Action.

We can map these different subsystems as hypothetical shapes in the Sphere of Human Action as follows:

Constellation of Human ActionIt is important to note that what is being portrayed is the relative scale among units — there are no absolute “values” to consider. If we look at the temporal narrative procided by Spiral Dynamics, wherein the arrow of time goes from beige, to purple, red, blue, organe, green and then yellow, you will note that in this particular hypothetical illustration, I have allowed t-units to scale increasingly throughout “time.” This would be consistent with the rise of the types and reach of various technologies, including languages and knowledges, from tool making nomadic families, through the agricultural civilizations, the great civilizations of the Renaissance, the agricultural and industrial revolutions, and on to today. Through “time” however, both e-units and g-units are in flux,  with e-units intially out-pacing g-units, until the “orange” phase, where the introduction of representative democracy gives rise to both opening of geo-social space and the industrial revolution enables a  significant redistibution of wealth, creating the middle class. At “green” t-units soar, completely outpacing and therefore supporting mutually re-inforcing forces between -e-units and g-units. This is the period of the digital revolution and information technologies, as well as significant advances in scientific technologies (including medicine), associated with t-units, the emergence of the pluralistic society,  associated with g-units, and the enormous accumulation wealth on a global scale, associated with e-units.

We can map the trajectory of g-units, e-units, and t-units directly onto the diagram of the waves of values in the following manner:

Strat&FlowThis provides us with a hypothetical picture of the relationship between the interaction between the natural units of Human Action, and the various types and reach of the subsytems supported in the Constellation that is the whole of Human Action. Here it is important to note, that g-units fall between beige and blue periods, not because there are fewer forms (there are actually more forms of collectivities) but because greater and greater numbers of people are aggregated into and constrained by collective identities. In earlier periods, “red” seems to be a dominant “form” –having broad reach– but it actually represent a great number of discontinuous tribes and bands of people, each with their own particular “shape” of action, lumped together as a single “meme”. This is an unfortunate error in the values-memes scenario, where lack of understanding about the distinctions between indigenous, nomadic, agricultural, and strongly place-based groups, tribes, bands… has led to a conflation of their uniqueness into a single “type”.

The dotted lines represent a hypothetical future scenario of what might be the case following very recent events. It is a scenario wherein through investment in technologies (rapid rise in t-units) e-units will be able to recover without sacrificing the proliferation of new actor-roles (represented by continual rise in g-units).

What about the normative aspects of the Sphere of Human Action? Consider the following diagram:

res_robIt illustrates how overall “movement” toward the lower right, is associated with periods of increasing “robustness” in Human Action. These are periods where connectivities and loyalties are aggregated and reified, there is a sense of assurance and stability in familiar forms of engagement and exchange, primary cultures become hegemonic and increasingly cooperative at the expense of periferal cultures who experience decreasing opportunities to appear as actors on the global stage. There is a sense of overall coherence and inevitability to the system, a sense that development is in one direction only– along the same trajectory taken by the primary powers. These are the periods in which “global managers” — attempt to optimize their gains. We shall see in later posts, that an over-reliance on optimization resulting from a over-maximized robust system, actually creates the conditions for the system’s eventual demise. On the other hand, overall “movement” toward the upper left is associated with periods of increasing “resilience” — the ability of the system to adapt to shock and surprise, because of its variability. Robust systems are predictable, but resilience systems have more alternative resources to deal with unpredictable events. Transformation towards the upper left– towards increased resilience– entails increased discontinuities, inventiveness, innovation and novelty of forms– associated ecologically with long-term resilience to collapse; yet from a normative standpoint, these are times of uncertainty.

A naturalized evolution of the cultural memes would see the emergence and dynamics between subsystems– spheres of appearances of human action– as part of an overall constellation or ecology of types, which contribute both robust dynamics and resilience dynamics to the Sphere of Human Action. Systems such as Spiral Dynamics emphasize the robustness of the system — based primarily in the absolutely robust notions of mainstream integral theory– and fail to incorporate the equally important– perhaps the more critically important– notion of resilience dynamics. From the standpoint of evolution, whose over-arching dynamics tend toward variation of form, resilience, rather than robustness, can be seen to be the correct evolutionary imperative– not a series of nested sets that sum up to one single optimized form. Indeed,  Buzz Holling, the founder of Resilience Theory, made just this statement: That from the view of evolution, variety, is more important than stability or equilibria.

The supposed “pull” of the teleological imperative in iSD, relies exclusively on the role of top-down, integrating dynamics; and fails to incorporate the crucial roles of bottom-up dynamics that proceed at different scales and are never completely transcended, because they are always operating toward the direction of resilience. This is the most salient feature of the last generation. The exclusive focus on optimization of Human Action (as well as optimization in eco-system management)– forces that, as we shall later define them, are associated with a single type strategy– has led to the conditions of environmental crises, world financial crises, proliferation of terrorist acts, and global instability. The normative desire humans have for rationally coherent, theoretically robust world, carries with it a dire warning: “Be careful what you wish for!”

Finally, we can adopt the principles of the natural units of Human Action, to the many worlds described by James Rosenau, by assigning relative scale values to each of the worlds as summarized in the following table:

economic technological
Insular Local + (-) (-)
Resistant Local (-) (-) (-)
Exclusionary Local + (-) +
Affirmative Local + + +
Affirmative Global (-) + +
Resistant Global + (-)/+  * (-)/+  *
Specialized Global + (-)/+  ** (-)/+  **
Territorial Global (-) (-) +

This table demonstrates that each Rosenau’s worlds, has a particular “shape” in the sphere of human action, if we mapped it according to the relative scales assigned above. For Insular Locals, g-units scale greater than both e -units and t-units; Resistant Locals are “adverse” to growth in any direction; Exclusionary Locals affirm increasing scale in both the geosocial and technological direction, but resist movement in the e-unit direction.;Affirmative Locals are comfortable facilitation all scales of Human Action, they  affirm growth of e-units and t-units and forego scalar increase of g-units… and so on.  If we compare this matrix of worlds with thee diagram illustrating the direction of robustness versus resilience, it is easy to see that the model of the Sphere of Human Action suggests that future scenarios based on the worldview of Affirmative Globals are not sustainable, because although they maximizes the conditions of robustness,they fail the test of resilience. While a futures scenario based on the worldview of either  Exclusionary or Affirmative Locals would be sustainable, because of the resilience that would be provided; but living in a Exclusionary World entails so much discontinuity, that it is probably unimaginable with respect to human nature. We will return to various futures in latter posts of this series.

Integral Manifesto Pt V(3) The Shape of Human Action/ The Natural Units of Human Action

Like Max Plank reasons in Susskind’s imaginary narrative, I began to reason how the three domains of human action — geo-socio spatial, technological, and economic– could be conceptualized as “perfectly related natural units” of human action that could be dynamic operations in a complex system. I also realized that when natural units that are perfectly related are mapped as coordinates, they produce discrete shapes that morph dynamically, as variables are entered into their equation, as in cybernetic modeling. So, for example, the three sides of a right triangle are perfectly related, and therefore, as you vary one or two of the lengths of the sides, the other side(s) vary in a way that preserves the perfect equation: a(squared) times b(squared) = c(squared). I began to sample drawings that represented the shape of human action by scaling the three natural units in 3-dimensional coordinate space as in the following illustration:

shape of action

Questions flowed from envisioning the Shape of Human Action in this way.

  • What were the appropriate scales along the indivudal axes?
  • What is the meaning of increasing distance in the g direction?
  • What does increasing technological scale in the t direction represent?
  • What is happening in the “real” economy, with respect to the whole of human action, as it plots further along the e dimension?

Answering this question, meant assigning both values to the units, as well as meaning to a system whose purpose was to model real-world conditions and actual lived experience. I reaalized that the model had to map the kinds of distinctions and transformational dynamics that authors like Neil Brenner, Saskia Sassen and James Rosenau had written about the emerging epoch, as well as being able to contextualize the partial truths represented by other kinds of models like Spiral Dynamics. In other words, the natural units had to be multi-scalar, their values had to scale for fragmenting dynamics or discontinuities, as well as integrating dynamics or interconnectivities; these natural units had to provide for emerging identities, both upward and downward causalities, and the many worlds described by Rosenau, as well as the cultural levels– re-envisioned as speheres of influence– and their historical emergence as described by Spiral Dynamics. The solution was easy to see in their words; and so I define the natural units of the shape of human action as follows:

g-units scale “up” toward increasing discontinuity (less inter-connectivity)

e-units scale “up” toward increasing aggregation (greater inter-dependency)

t-units scale “up” toward incresing variability (more types, kinds, forms as well as greater reach)

In meaningful terms, increasing the value of g accounts for the opening of geosocial space, the emergence of new identities, the undoing of old connections and ties, the lossening of culturally embedded roles and expectations, the movement of peoples across previously impervious boundaries (both physical, social, and cultural), the shifting of power from the aggregated elites to the discontinuous and uncoordinated populous. From the standpoint of complexity theory, this is the condition for chaos and the emergence of novely. From a normative standing, increasing g-values represents the times when people feel uncertain and at risk of the unknown when more and more individuals “bump into” each other at the level of “raw” encounter, given that the old, familiar ways of characterizing and categorizing people are shattering. Society is perceived to be (and therefore reflexively, is) in a state of epochal flux and flow. In order for individuals to purposefully actualize or even reluctantly accomodate such shifting patterns of identity, the domain of g requires a capacity for forgetfulness and forgiveness, and the ability to begin anew.

On the other hand, increasing the value of e entails the aggregation of various human resources and capitals associated with labor and economies. The aggregation of human resources beginning, as Arendt claimed) with the division of labor inthe family, and the extension of hierachical laboring to communal laboring and finally collective labor, through the creating of inter-dependencies of all types along with powerful abstract mediators (currency, commoditites) that allow capital growth and accumulation at increasing hierarchical scales, from a share economy, to a barter system, to mafia-style commitments, and all levels of exchange economies– commodities, currency, securities. Along with increasing aggregation and interdependence, this domain of e requires a robust network of interconnections to function, so that proper amounts, value and order of exchanges can be adequately traced with sufficient guarantees for reciprocities and reliable “accounting” of events. The domain of e, in other words, requires sufficient capacity for memory and retribution.

In the domain of technology, increasing the value of t-units represents proliferation of technologies, with respect to both diversity of kind, and extent of reach– just as in the metaphor we assigned to technology previously, as the river both widening and branching at the same time. And just as the main channel of the river, current technologies tend to cut deep grooves of habit and stasis in the realm of human action; but also, like the ever-branching arms, technology continually breaks down old routes and breaks into new routes. Eventually arms can become major channels, drawing more and more “water” resulting in old channels drying up and becoming fossil evidence of bygone eras, or silt up until they are completely invisible.Unlike the other two domains, t can increase dynamics in both directions, through openings and the creation of new opportunities, as well as through the proliferation of old form to such extents as to create (temporary) closings. Because of its exploratory, inventive and uncertain nature, the domain of t requires sufficient capacity fo inquiry and exculpation. We can now begin to speak of the dynamics involved in the internal relations of these three domains. Whereas t relates to both  g and e through feedback and feed-forward loops, with the ability to increase and/or diminish momentum in the other domains, g and e themselves  alone might seem to be related as complimentaries , i.e. the more you have of one, the less you have of another– in which case it would make sense just to reduce them to one scale, with rising g-values representing movement in one direction, and rising e-values representing movement in the opposite direction. However, this would be too simplistic a model, since it may be the case (as I will argue in subsequent posts) that in the realm of human action, under certain conditions,  increasing g-values results in a geo-social “fabric” that can accomodate increasing e-values, and alternately, increasing e-values can result in conditions that allow for rapid increase in g-values. In other words, under certain condition, g-dynamics and e-dynamics may be nutually interferring, while under a different set of conditions they might in fact be mutually supporting. The difference in conditions might well turn out to be how technology is engaged as the third dynamic. We can represent these dynamics as a simple flow chart:

Flow Chart­_BG

It is important to recognize that the unit-values are performative, not ostensive units — in other words, the terms and their values represent not some thing but something going on: they are descriptive of activies such as adding or subtracting social ties, investing or liquidating money, connecting to a public utility grid or cutting the power line once and for all and high-tailing it to the backcountry. This willl become even more evident in the later posts on actor-network theory.

With this in mind, we can create logical formulations that represent the internal relations between the natural units as follows:

g=t/e     e=t/g      t=eg

The following are scenarios that give the reader a sense of the internal dynamics of this Sphere of Human Action:

  • As new openings in geo-social space emerge, and individual as sel as collectivies realize more degrees of freedom, technological innovation also increases with new kinds and forms of technologies being developed, and, as a result, economies become more distributed (e-units decrease). According to our formulations above, the conditions for this scenario would be where growth in technological scale lags behind growth in geo-social spatial scale, since for e to decrease where e=t/g, g-units would have to scale faster than t-units. In this case, there are counter-acting dynamics between g and e units.
  • A prolonged period of accumulation of capital in a global economy, along with a proliferation of technologies to support the globalization of finance, results in a “shrinking” worldspace, the hegemony of western economic values and techne, and the marginalization of indigenous peoples and subcultures. If g = t/e, then conditions for this scenario are when technological scale lags behind economic scale. Increasing the reach of technologies to individuals and subgroups, to an extent where t-units succeed in out-scaling e-units, allows for the proligerations of new geo-socio spaces, and the excelleration of new identities arriving onto and the propulsion of subcultures onto the global stage.
  • If t=eg, then the simultaneous growth and redistribution of capital resources (in its widest sense) creates a fertile condition for the exploration and invention of new ways (technes) of being. Alternately, envisioning new ways of being should create the condition in which both geo-social spaces and economic distribution can mutually support each other.

I believe the reader will find each of the above scenarios, accurate depictions of dynamics occuring in the world today.

Integral Manifesto Pt V(2) The Shape of Human Action/ Working from the Whole: A Process Methodology

Books Discussed in this Section

Eugene Gendlin (1997) A Process Model . University of Chicago

Christopher Alexander (2002) The Process of Creating Life (Book Two of The Nature of Order). The Center for Environmental Strucutre, Berkeley, Ca.  and PATTERNLANGUAGE.COM

Loenard Suskind (2006) Cosmic Landscape. Little, Brown & Co.  New York, Boston.

There are quite a number of studies that link aspects of human action with complexity theory. Each of them falls short of what is required of our new paradigm, since they are written from within a single disciplinary forte, and therefore limit themselves to just one of the domains of human action. Most of these attempts focus on economies and economic dynamics, but many are emerging from the social and technological arenas. Each attempt struggles to reconcile the two-fold character of human action — to reconcile the rational, mathematical, and linear aspects we can “collect” from the study of human action, with our non-rational (or irrational), nonlinear, paradoxical natures. For example, a completely robust model of the macroeconomy can be derived from rather conventional analyses and prove to be successful to some extent in predicting economic indicators– but it will fail to predict the outcomes of  real-world socio-political events. Similarly, rather straightforward narratives about technology can me modeled in theoretical terms, but the real-life associations between humans and non-humans always add surprises and unexpected events that do not fit the narrative. Recent trans-disciplinary attempts have begun to treat hybrid systems, such as socio-economic, socio-technological, socio-political economy, and the like. In these instances, more of the territory is brought into the picture, but none have achieved a comprehensive, holistic model. It seems to me that the mistake all of prior efforts share, is their attempt to build the whole by interweaving the parts. Rather, I am attempting to begin from a view of the whole, and to derive the parts. I have started with a basic model representing the whole of Human Action — the three inter-related domains of geo-social space, technology, and economy– a static model that might generate the system and its dynamics, and subsequently, to subsystems and all the relevant features of the particular, right down to what has been hypothesized as the limiting quantum of action– the subject-to-subject encounter.

The process of reasoning from an envisioned whole down to the particulars that are in need of unifying through a holistic theory, is called abduction. Abduction proceeds from a fundamental insight into the nature of the territory that needs explication, accompanied by a holistic vision as to the nature of the goal — in this case, a new paradigm of Human Action.  Abductive reasoning is guided not by conventional logics — although the end product must comply with them– but is steered by a clear, precise, and accurate implicit “gauge” inside the thinker, that continually measures the working out of the details as they proceed to deliminate their part of the whole. For me, felt images are primary material, then a feeling for the process dynamics of their operation, then the logical relations, and finally the evidence comes into play– evidence which conveys both positive and negative feedback as to whether a certain direction one has taken (among options presented) is on the right track– or not.

This process, of working from the whole implicit in one’s insight, toward the deep structures of a system model that “preserves the whole”, and then onto the subsystems and their structures and internal relations, is similar to the creative process Gendlin describes in his exegesis on Process Thinking. Gendlin relates the situation in which the “whole” of the process (the territory, the path, and the goal, as it were) is already implicitly known, and whose explication can be guided by a “bodily felt feeling”, or more precisely, the “felt implicit process” that is directing the explicit work. Gendlin has identified many details of his process thought, including steps such as the emergence of direct referents and felt shift, doubling, crossing, absent context and present context, and slotted rituals— all of which will seem familiar to theorists who have worked this way. Gendlin also defines categories of transition “objects” that bridge the implicit with the explicit. Gendlin’s primary argument says that although the implicit is in some sense “vague” because it is unformed, has not yet been given an explicit shape, it is nonetheless more whole and more precise because it is that against which we measure our working toward an appropriate explicit formulation.

Christopher Alexander describes this same kind of process methodology that works from the whole, with a sense of feeling-logics as its guide, in many different ways and at many different levels throughout his four-volume work The Nature of Order. His way of reflecting on the question of the whole process–“How in practice, can a person keep paying attention to the whole; how can one achieve successful differentiation and structure-enhancing transformations at every step of a living process?”– deeply engages the reader with his very beautiful writing

… wholeness and “deep structure” are enormously difficult to see. Especially in a complex, real-worl case, the task of finding the most structure-enhancing step available is therefore, in practice, extremely hard. Our current modes of perception are not always tuned to seeing whoeness in the world around us; and the exact definition of the structure of wholeness– the system of centers at all scales, with their attendan degrees of life and coherence– is cumbersome and hard to grasp when we try to grasp it by analytical means. yet in order to move forward, and to find aggreement in larger, communal projects, it is imperative that we do have a workable and practical method of seeing wholeness, and assessing the degree to which any proposed next step does increase the life and wholeness of any evolving structure. Otherwise there is no effective way of choosing the next step forward in any given process.

As to how this is to be done, Alexander writes

The living process can therefore be steered, kept on course toward the authentic whole, when the builder [of the model, ie.e the theoretician] consistently uses the emerging feeling of the whole as the origin of his insight, as the guiding light at the end of the tunnel by which he steers. I am suggesting that if the builder [theoretician] at each step of a living process, takes that step which contributes most to the feeling coming from the work, always cnooses that which has the more profound feeling, then this is tantamount– equivalent– to a natural process in which the step-wise forward-moving action is always goverend by the whole.

From which Alexander formulates an essential rule

In any living process, or any process of design or making, the way forward, the next step which is most structure-enhancing, is that step which most intensifies the feeling of the emerging whole.

From my own view of the Whole of Human Action , for all the internal relations (from a structural view) or alternately all the internal dynamics (from a process view) to “preserve the whole”, then there could be no externalized factor, no essential “unknown” that acted as a a kind of disparate part, or coupling mechanism. I therefore began to understand that in this whole system I was envisioning as Human Action, all structures must be co-creative, and all realtional dynamics must be internal to the system. In other words, the system, “Human Action” must operate “enactively” — a term coined by Varela and Thompson whose essential meaning is “to lay down the path by walking.”

This insight in turn, led me to realize that what I might achieve this dynamic and holistic model by representing the three domains of human action (the geo-socio spatial, technological and economic) as natural units of human action that were related to each other as in a perfect ly. Perfect relations are equations that require no outside information to solve their parts. Ohm’s Law (V=IR) for example, prescribes the perfect relations between voltage, resistance, and amperage– and constitutes all the dynamics of electric flow. In a perfect relation, all member-constants vary with each other is specific ways, but their holistic association never varies. Similarly, Einstein’s paradigmatic shift regarding space and time was intuiting their perfect relation, e=mc(squared).

It also began to occur to me that all newly emerging paradigmatic shifts bringing about holistic systems, might require the ability to bring the structural parts into perfect relation through a process methodology. Loenard Susskind wonderfully re-creates just this kind of ability in his imaginary narrative of Max Plank, working on the renormalization of the variables of length, mass and time, into the perfect relation whose pivotal missing link turned out to be not a variable at all, but the Plank constant. I will end this post with Susskind’s tale

Recently I made the most wonderful discovery of a completely new fundamental constant of nature. People are calling it my constant, Plank’s constant. I was sitting in my office thinking to myself: why is it that the fundmanetal constants like the speed of light, Newton’s gravitational constant, and my new constant have such awkward values? The speed of light is 2.99 x 108 meters per second. Newton’s constant is 6.7 x 1011 square meters per second-kilogram. And my constant is even worse, 6.626 x 10-34 kilogram-square meters per second. Why are they always so big or so small? life for a physicist would be so much easier if they were ordinary-size numbers.

Then it hit me! There are three basic units describing length, mass, and time: the meter, the kilogram, and second. There are also three fundamental constants. If I change the units, say, to centimeters, grams, and hours, the numerical values of all three constants will change. For example, the speed of light will get worse. It will become 1.08 x 1014 centimeters per hour. But if I use years for time and light-years for distance, then the speed of light will be exactly one, since light travels one light-year per year. Doesn’t that mean that I can invent some new units and make the three fundamental constants anything I want? I can even find units in which all three fundamental constants are equal to one! That will simplify so many formulas. I’ll call the new units natural units since they’re based on the constants of nature. Maybe, if I’m lucky, people will start calling them Plank units.