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
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).