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.  



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