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).

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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 III(1): Integral Politics? / Action Beyond Reason and Reason Beyond Sensibility

Books Discussed in this Section

Steve McIntosh (2007) Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution,  Continuum Books.

Bruno Latour (1999) Pandora’s Hope: Essays of the Reality of Science Studies, Harvard University Press.

Toward the end of his book Pandora’s Hope, Bruno Latour asks

How sensible is it to cry for Reason when faced with the horrors we witness every day?

The more your own opinion tends toward the affirmative, the more on board you might feel with the usual offerings from “mainstream” integral politics arguing for an integral version of Global Governance. By “mainstream integral” I am referring to integral thought based primarily on Ken Wilber’s AQAL model incorporated into a Spiral Dynamics worldview (often labelled iSD).]  Like the idea of the polis,this sensibility — that Reason and Rule go together — is rooted in early Greek thought. It appealed to Socrates, the summa qua non of the vita contemplativa– who neither labored, worked, nor partook of the unruly sport of the Sophists (those original politicians), and who, in the famous dialogue of the Gorgias gives this vehement rant against the Sophist Callicles that Latour relates in his book

In fact, Callicles, the expert’s opinion is that co-operation, love, order, discipline, and justice bind heaven and earth, gods and men. That’s why they call the universe an ordered whole, my friend, rather than a disorderly mess or an unruly shambles. It seems to me that, for all your expertise in the field, you are overlooking the point. You have failed to notice how much power geometrical equality has among gods and men, and this neglect of geometry has led you to believe that one should try to gain a disproportionate share of things.

It may be worthwhile to compare Socrates’ statement with one from Steve McIntosh’s new book– a primer on Integral Consciousness with emphasis on integral politics:

Without its championing of the movement for global governance, the integral worldview fails to offer the type of powerful new solutions that the previously arising worldviews have provided. But when the new insights of the integral worldview are applied through this political platform, their power to produce lasting cultural evolution becomes evident. Just as the moral superiority of democracy over feudalism served to convince many to adopt the values of the modernist worldview, so too will the evident moral superiority of global governance over a world of sovereign nations operating in a state of nature eventually convince many that the integral worldview is the way forward.

Latour might just as easily be speaking about McIntosh, in his commentary comparing Socrates to the writer Steven Weinberg (whose name I have substituted in the following act):

What these two quotations have in common, across the huge gap of centuries, is the strong link they establish between the respect for impersonal natural laws, on the one hand, and the fight against irrationality, immorality, and political disorder on the other. In both quotations, the fate of Reason and the fate of Politics are associated in a single destiny. … The common tenet is that we need something “inhuman” … [for McIntosh, the natural laws of evolution and the spiral] that no human has constructed; for Socrates, geometry, whose demonstrations escape human whim– if we want to be able to fight against “inhumanity.” To sum up : only inhumanity will quash inhumanity. 

 Not surprisingly, many reader will cry “Foul! Surely the ancients’ emerging belief in the power and promise of geometry is not the same as our trust in the power and promise of the evolutionary spiral!” In effect, however, the two are parallel phenomena, stemming from common assumptions. From the vantage point of modernity, we can surely see that geometry belongs to a different domain than politics; and for the same reasons, that both are the products of scalar constructions, the one a geometry of physical spaces, the other, iSD a geography of worldspaces. But since neither of them rests on the central conviction of the space of appearance– neither of them emphasize the power and promise of authentic political action.

The error in connecting Reason with Politics, stems from a series of insufficiently examined assumptions embedded in the culture of science and scientism which confuses the open space of the body politic with the closed halls in which experts and professionals assemble to conspire towards a politics of Reason. This would make for a democracy with an intolerant and dominant temperament. The speech acts in the open space of the body politic are quite different from those that occur around specific bodies of knowledge. Latour proposes four conditions to free politics from scientism. He writes

… the first specification of political speech is that it is public and does not take place in the silent isolation of the study or the laboratory.

From the point of view of the governors of the body of knowledges, the body episteme, the speech acts of the body politic represent defects, weaknesses, and inaccuracies. The ideas of the body politic arrive disarranged, and tend toward discordance– they are not system-ically assembled. Furthermore, in the open space of the body politic, speech acts are discontinuous and indeterminate– they do not standardize. Therefore, Latour’s second specification is

… that political reason cannot possibly be the object of professional knowledge.

Although political action requires attention to the body politic as a whole, this kind of attention requires a special genius of its own– the ability to embrace all of the parts without generalizing, which is another term for reducing uniqueness. Generalization is a contraction of the polis, a closure of the spaces of appearance, through a process of coarse-graining until there is only a cacophony of background voices in which no single voice can be heard.

This is what Socrates recognizes under the name of a good and ordered cosmos in the qualities required of the expert technician. “Each of them organizes the various components he works with into a particular structure and makes them accommodate and fit one another until he’s formed the whole into an organized and ordered object.

The third consideration Latour points out is

not only does political reason deal with important matters, taken up by many people in the harsh conditions of urgency, it also cannot rely on any sort of previous knowledge of cause and consequence…

In this sense, political reason is no reason at all, since it is foremost action. From the point of view of action, Reason, like Hamlet’s soliloquy, is an interregnum. The dispensation of action without the benefit of expertise or recourse to rational analysis, greatly disturbed Socrates in the Gorgias — yet how accurate his definition of positive attributes of the kind of democracy his fellow Greeks were inventing — attributes that Latour greatly admires

How moving to see, by returning to the past, how close these Greeks still were to the positive nature of this democracy that remains their wildest invention. Of course “it does not involve expertise,” of course “it lacks rational understanding”: the whole dealing with the whole under the incredibly tough constraints of the agora must decide in the dark and will be led by people as blind as themselves, without the benefit of proof, of hindsight, of foresight, of repetitive experiment, of progressive scaling up.

In applying to politics a “context of truth”, “mainstream” integral politics reproduces Socrates’ category error. The role of reason is to in-form politics; yet reason alone has no capacity to re-form the body politic. The body politic re-presents, by allowing for, by opening the space of appearance for, innumerable presences, the “who-I-am” that announces itself through subject-to-subject encounter, the limiting quantum of action. Given the appropriate space of appearance, this body politic, this re-presentation that occurs, occurs in a thoroughly spontaneous and ad-hoc manner, which Latour describes as a kind of “fermentation process”

The stunning beauty of the Gorgias is that this other context [other than the context of facts, reason and truth], is clearly visible in the very lack of comprehension Socrates displays for what it is to re-presentthe people. I am not talking here about the modern notion of representation that will come much later, and that will itself be infused with rational definitions, but about a completely ad hoc sort of activity that is neither transcendent nor immanent but more closely resembles a fermentation through which the people brews itself toward a decision– never exactly in accordance with itself, and never led or commanded or directed from above.

How drastically this sensibility differs from the sensibility of integral theorists like McIntosh who writes

Others who have considered the future evolution of global governance believe that such global systems will not arise in a formal way through the ratification of a constitution, but rather through the gradual accumulation of treaties, nongovernmental organizations, trade agreements, and global economic institutions. However, while the incremental accumulation of issue-specific global systems is generally positive, I do not believe that we can achieve the full benefits of a world federation … without the effective implementation of democratically enacted global law with jurisdiction over individual persons. Even if such jurisdiction over individuals is limited by the mandate of restricted federal authority … for global law to be effective, nation-states will be required to relinquish some degree of their presently unrestricted sovereignty. And the only was that nation-states will likely be persuaded to give up some of their sovereignty is under a scenario wherein their relinquished sovereignty becomes reinvested in a higher authority. That is, to bring about the bright promise of a world without war, oppression, environmental degradation, or human suffering, a world federation will have to me adequately empowered empowered by the master lawmaking authority [emphasis mine] of a democratically enacted global constitution.

McIntosh writes with a weighty sense of self-assurance, which comes from the fact that his arguments are all well reasoned, and firmly based in what he terms “the integral reality framework.” Within this framework, McIntosh can prove that political reason, effective-action, jurisprudence, and the rights of higher authorities scale up like nested sets in a transcend and include manner— from the microscale of consciousness, through scales of cultural values, to the global scale of a world federation (and even on to the nature of Spirit– the scope of which is outside this paper). His framework, the AQAL/iSD grid, is the geometrics of integral. To his credit, McIntosh writes of the possibility that “pushing power up” through the advent of a global constitution would allow for more power to be “pushed down … to the level of the people;” and he claims that this “power down” should empower and strengthen traditional cultures to “better develop their own forms of modernist cultures– the kind of homegrown modernism that would complement and preserve the uniqueness and evolutionary genius of their own particular versions of traditionalism;” but at the same time, paradoxical to what his values may seem to be, he asserts

But when we contemplate forming a union that encompasses the large populations of the Third World, from and integral perspective we can see that a simple one-to-one vote system would likely create major problems. If global law were to be made by a world legislature elected exclusively by a population size [a curious euphemism for “majority vote”] this would effectively hand over power to the large populations of the Third World. And because these populations are still largely centered in traditional consciousness, the ethnocentric morality that generally characterizes this level of development would make for  predictably one-sided laws.

So much for the “evolutionary genius” of the Third World’s own forms of modernist culture. To be sure, we would not want to cede global authority to a federation of ethnocentricllay-minded folk. Might not it be ethnocentric in any sense of the word to assert the following?

Thus a significant challenge for any would-be global democratic [democratic, that is, without either a one-to-one or majority vote] entity is to provide a certain degree of protection and insulation for modernist economies and modernist and postmodern cultures from the now significantly larger populations centered in traditionalist consciousness and below.

McIntosh recommends a tiered approach to membership in a world federation which precludes nations that do not have a requisite degree of modernist consciousness or that have not yet become democratic. Democratic in what sense? Presumably, not in the sense of one-man-one-vote, nor in the sense of majority rule, nor apparently in the sense that all participants are allowed a space of appearance– for under these conditions, the world federation itself does not pass muster. McIntosh seems to confuse democratic with demographic when he describes a tricameral federalism of checks and balances that is designed to

provide for democratic representation of all people within the federation while preventing the more populous countries from completely controlling the government and redistributing the world’s wealth and since economic development roughly traces the development of consciousness [a spurious assumption!] the disparities in wealth must be given sufficient insulation to prevent the natural course of evolution …

Of course, in his case, McIntosh’s economic demographies are prescribed by the evolutionary prime directive, namely “the principle which recognizes that every stage of the spiral of development needs to be nurtured and respected,” except that along the way we need to cut and paste entire populations on whom the “natural “evolutionary spiral depends (if there really is such a thing) according to an absolutist and elitist and ethnocentrist framework we have fashioned so carefully as to be rational, perhaps, but not sensible.If what remains after several tiers of segregation is still tagged as a democracy, it will most certainly be one with an intolerant and dominant temperament.