Lexi Neale’s AQAL Cube

I was hoping to get to this a little earlier, but I’ve been very busy recently.  Lexi Neale (whom I have no previous or other contact or knowledge of other than this essay) has written a very intriguing and challenging piece on the Ken Wilber blog offering a pretty radical re-interpretation of AQAL Integral Philosophy.  He calls it the AQAL Cube–versus what he sees as Wilber’s AQAL Square.

Warning:  His essay is heavy-duty intellectually and so will be my response.

I won’t bother trying to summarize his entire essay.  It’s quite sophisticated and deserves to be read a couple of times, think about it.  There’s an enormous amount in there.  I’m just going to jump in.

Neale writes:

Expanding the AQAL domain from Square to Cube may also entail expanding existing definitions, and in the course of this paper I will make every effort to clarify how and why an existing definition could be expanded to embrace the new territory being described. I will also try to preserve existing definitions. For example, the two AQAL Squares of the AQAL Cube will not be given “upper” and “lower” designations, because in AQAL Theory these apply to the quadrants of any AQAL Square.  The two AQAL Squares of the AQAL Cube I will henceforth refer to as “below” and “above”; our possessive or material being below, and our non-possessive or non-material being above; or consciousness structures below, and the identity states inhabiting those structures above; or Empirical Consciousness quadrants below and Intuitive Consciousness quadrants above. These differentiations will be further clarified through the course of the paper.

You may notice here a potential re-metaphysicalizing of Wilber’s post-metaphysical turn.  The distinction between our material being and our non-material knowing is potentially very mistaken.  Namely the subtle knowing self is not non-material.  It is rather a different form of materiality–or rather is both consciousness-materiality.   In fact on this point, Neale seems to be contradicting himself by having a quadrant above–quadrants inherently involve materiality.

So on one hand we may see Neale as basically arguing for a renewed perennial philosophy in light of AQAL theory.  The names so far most associated with that trend in integral world are Frank Visser and Alan Kazlev.  The basic idea is that there are worlds above the gross material.  Again calling it non-material is not helpful.  Referring to layers of materiality would be better.  Wilber’s view on this can be read here where he describes how gross material evolution must evolve so that the higher subtle energies-matter can shine through in this world.  This is part of what he calls post-metaphysics or maybe better is called a deeply immanent this-worldly transcendence.

On the other hand, Neale may be onto something.  But how I think about what he is onto is different than how he sees it.  More on that point in a second.

But first…one of the difficulties with Neale’s works is that he is focused on the Quadrants.  Now this is a fair assessment of Wilber’s work.  Wilber tries I think unfortunately to fit all of the pieces of his theory into the quadrants.  Levels and lines are show inside the quadrants.  And as Neale correctly points out this screws up meditating deeply on the difference between states and structures.  Whenever Wilber does a states/stages distinction he reverts to the Wilber-Combs Lattice which as you will note is not a quadrants view.  Pretty much admitting you can’t fit that into quadrants.  Much less types (which as a result don’t show up in Wilber’s work very much).  And so on.

If however, we take an idea that is in Ken’s work but has largely been neglected–though picked up by Mark Edwards among others–quadrivia, then it can change. [Sidenote: Mark doesn’t use the term quadrivia but it’s essentially interchangeable with Ken’s understanding].

For example Neale writes:

For example, the AQAL Cube would be able to delegate State Stages and Structure Stages their own quadrants, by which to map more accurately their vastly different perspectives, rather than be lines in the same quadrant of the AQAL Square.

The AQAL Cube is not necessary for that distinction.  And saying the states have quadrants is probably I think not helpful.  My preferred method  is to think quadrivia:  take a state and then imagine the four quadrants from that state.  Ken’s ideas of the quadrants is that they are four dimensions of any occasion.  The occasion would be in this case the state and the quadrants the 4 dimensions of that state.

Also Mark Edwards and Daniel O’Connor have both pointed out the mis-identification of perspectives with quadrants in Wilber’s work and have shown how you can separate perspectives (modes of being) and quadrants (dimensions of being) out from one another and then relate them.  Within what by Neale’s terms would still be called an AQAL Square.

I think Lexi has picked up on those points and they are wise ones to pick up on, but one can still have a non-AQAL Square view while still “just” having the quadrants.  The Cube in those regards is not necessary.

In simpler terms, I think a lot of his criticism of the AQAL Square is a legitimate criticism of how Wilber too often tries to squish everything from AQAL into the quadrants with unhelpful results.  A more nuanced take (like O’Connor’s/Edwards’) doesn’t I think have those reductions.

So to come back around to the real question:  what is going on with this Cube and does it contribute anything?  I think it does but I think it does in a way different than the author himself does.


The two central issues to be dealt with here, in the raising of the AQAL Square to AQAL Cube, inevitably have to do with reductionism and “flat-land” in the AQAL Square. First, I attempt to differentiate our gross “Being” from our subtle “Knowing”, or What we are from Who we are. The problem here is that our material Being is empirically self-evident, whereas our non-material Knowing is self-intuitive. In my developing the AQAL Cube model I used my own phenomenological experience to differentiate what I am from who I am. I therefore invite anyone to investigate this approach, especially in Second and Third Tier awareness where the differentiation becomes more and more apparent in both Upper Left quadrants (Empirical and Intuitive). I will go further into the Three Tiers later. I also observed that the Self as identity States is of a different order of consciousness from the Self-sense as cognitive Structures and intelligences, for which purpose I introduce the hypothesis that our awareness operates in two Domains of Consciousness – the Gross Domain of the Empirical Consciousness with its Structures, and the Subtle Domain of the Intuitive Consciousness with its identity States.

The reference to the Third Tier here is really crucial.  Tiers in integral theory are the supposition that in some special cases the move from one level to another is not just an emergent leap of levels (structures) but also a tier-shift.  Like an octave shift.

Clare Graves called the move from pluralistic-green to yellow-holistic a “momentous leap”.  It is a leap not just from one level to another (say in his system blue to orange) but also a tier shift.  From green to yellow (or postmodern to beginning integral) is shifting from 1st Tier to 2nd Tier.

In Wilber’s color system, moving from Turquoise (advanced integral) to Indigo (and later Violet) is the move from 2nd Tier to 3rd Tier.

Here’s something I wrote on this blog in January of 2007:

The Authentic Self, the Third-Tier is somehow the beginning of the Soul/Subtle state become a stage–while still allowing that Soul exists at each any every stage all the way down. That is not confusing Soul as horizontal state-stage at any structure-stage.

The Authentic Self is the language of Andrew Cohen.  It is used to describe the structural level (around violet) in terms of Self-Identity (i.e. 1st person perspective from within that experience) that in some sense is the Soul as a stage.  I argued then–and still do–that Cohen is really the only one consciously seeking to build the Third-Tier.  But since Cohen’s model is really built around the experience of being the Authentic Self (i.e. mostly 1st and 2nd person modes of inquiry) it does not entail a larger vision transcending and including the 2nd tier.

This is what I think Lexi Neale has done.  He’s given the beginning drawing of the Third-Tier in visual form and helped open it out in 3rd person perspective (the over-arching quality to the work comes from this mode of being).  That is quite an accomplishment.  The only comparable person doing similar work I can think of is Joe Perez and his work on Kronos.

But here I think we need the notion of Kosmic Address.  Kosmic Address is a derivative of integral post-metaphysics.  Namely things do not pre-exist but ex-ist (literally “stand out”) only in the world-spaces and world-views in which they arise.  Address-ing any issue then is to find both the location (quadrant, state, type, perspective, etc.) AND the means whereby that occasion is reached.  Or as Wilber says: “the meaning of a statement is the means of its enactment.”

Having done so, any new level then goes about re-translating/re-depicting all lower levels according to its own insights.  And here is where I part (slightly) ways with Neale.  I think he has come into real insight (as he claims and I take him for his word) of the Third-Tier.  This is where the Soul–or what he is calling The Intuitive Consciousness–becomes opened up as a stage/structure.  He’s then re-read then back into the earlier stages of development where that distinction is not yet available.

Wilber says in Integral Spirituality that that earlier features can be said to “sub-sist” (unrecognized) that later “ex-ist” when they arise in worldspaces (p.250 footnote).  The factors of what are considered intrisinic subsisting features are themselves interpreted from the higher stages.  In other words, it’s all heavily dependent on the stage’s own view (both across if you like any its own level and down).

There would likely not be much to reply to in his work from many integral thinkers because the elements he is describing are not arising in that space. I think what Neale has done is re-read the Intuitive Consciousness vs. Empirical Consciousness down through all the earlier stages.  Which is fine I suppose but actually doesn’t arise in those worlds.  And it doesn’t arise in 2nd tier consciousness.  And it need not. Within the 2nd Tier the kinds of nuance Neale is making simply doesn’t arise.  There’s no way to agree/disagree.  It just doesn’t come up on the radar.

Because only in the Third Tier as one identifies with The Authentic Self (Intuitive Consciousness) does one have an identity in which the ego (empirical consciousness) is objectified and therefore seen.   With the nuance of an Edwards/O’Connor kept in mind then, 2nd-tier Integral is not reductionistic.  It’s just what it is.  Like any world-horizon it is limited.  And like any emerging horizon beyond that one it’s enduring insights will be taken up into a different world (as Neale has done with what he calls the Square).

I’m just not sure defining the distinction between the two as one of vertical (higher vs. lower) is an especially helpful one–particularly in the lower than 3rd Tier levels.

Greater depth equals less span.  This is a deep work hence it has very little in the way of span.  The best it can do is come up with a paradigm-injunction to reveal its own worldspace, thereby satisfying the necessities of a Kosmic Address, and begin its process of unpacking the world it reveals.  That’s something to be sure.  It’s deep.  But I keep making the point that 2nd-tier integral (properly understood) is not reductionistic because the kinds of distinctions Neale is making are not necessary to achieve (2nd-tier) integral work in the world.

My experience via Cohen’s work in Enlightened Communication is that the 2nd-tier state/stage distinction begins to breakdown–or rather breakthrough (be transcended)–in the Third Tier.  So I’m not entirely convinced that Neale’s way of distinguishing between structures as the empirical and states as the intuitive identity is the right way to go.  Or at least if it’s going to work it needs to be clarified relative to the higher evolving structures like indigo-violet in Ken’s color scheme.  I think he needs another term than states.  Because again prior to Third Tier I think it is much more helpful to think of states as horizontal to vertical structures.  This accounts for the Mother Theresa syndrome of extremely deep state mysticism combined with a lower level structural value system (i.e. women belong in a subservient position to men).

Otherwise as Lexi says, Ken’s discussion of vertical enlightenment (i.e. highest available structures) and horizontal enlightenment (the state-stage path) and saying integral enlightenment is the combination of the two is redundant.  Neale has to do one of two things (or perhaps both).  Neale’s understanding of enlightenment means he either has to reject people who show state-stage enlightenment (horizontal enlightenment in Ken’s frame) as not enlightened.  Or he has to elevate people to higher structural-stages that they haven’t reached because they clearly show some signs of enlightenment–even if that is coupled with clearly lower levels of structural evolution.  Again the Mother Theresa example.

In Third-Tier Experience (as stage not just state) the state/stage distinction comes differently,  I can appreciate that Neale understands this, but I’m very leery of bringing back in the notion of a Subtle Domain as existing up above material reality.  At least as anything more than simply an urge–a de-metaphysicalized Subtle Domain it would need to be for me.

Though to be fair, maybe Neale is arguing just that:

the Intuitive (Subtle) Domain is not really an entity in itself but is an emerging overlap, a dilating field of reference between the Empirical (Gross) Domain and the Universal Consciousness (Causal) pervading it, or becoming involved in it.

A last point is that in terms of the 24 perspectives (3 persons x 8 perspectives/person), I could use some clarification as to the relation of perspectives (or masks/persona in Neale’s formulation) and other forms of quadratic drawing.  Namely it heavily emphasizes identities.  In 1st person, perspective #5 (Distal Self, Intuitive Me) is how the Intuitive Self sees itself. Instead of the body and behavior of the Imtuitive Self.

Again I would say that is more quadrivia than quadrants–and I’m not sure then the distinction between upper quadrants and lower quadrants is the best way of framing this.  As upper quadrivia versus lower quadrivia—primed to the context of self-identities/persona–then that frame is really genius in my mind.  Otherwise however I think Naale is flirting with the same “bricking” quality in the Third Tier as Wilber’s has in the 2nd.

If they are seen as quadrants (not quadrivia) then there is a real danger here I think of de-materializing, de-socializing trend–a kind of Gnostic heresy.  Just to be clear though this only applies if perspectival persona are taken to be the only form of quadrant drawing.  This part of Neale’s essay is unclear to me.  He might not be doing that.

I think it would help to clarify Identity as the Occasion of Experience and then imagine the Four Quadrants (in both Intuitive and Empirical Versions) as if they were four drawings of identity.  Except normally the quadrants are: Intentional, Behavioral, Cultural, Social Dimensions of Experience.  Not forms of Identity.  To shift to Identity is for me quadrivia–imagining.

Though again Neale does call 1st person Perspective #6 Behavioral Persona.  That might be for me stretching the notion of Persona, but I guess the deeper question (for me) is whether he is equating dimensions of experience with persona.  Or persona as the means whereby all dimensions show up.  If that’s the idea, then I would disagree.  If it’s just one way of sketching it out, then I think it’s very illuminating.

As evidence that he’s thinking of it more in the way I’m discussing there is this:

We can now take a “Whole Cube” approach to any situation, where we can address the Four Quadrants on each of the six directional faces to take a more comprehensive directional bias:  Not only the Intuitive Identities Quadrants and Empirical Structures Quadrants, but also the Individual Quadrants, the Collective Quadrants, the Subjective Quadrants, and the Objective Quadrants, as shown in Figure 11.

Again, as Neale says in the beginning this is a beginning sketch and therefore everything can’t be fleshed out, so I want to give him space for that.  But it’s interesting that in one way he talks about the Intuitive as higher/above and the Empirical as lower/below and yet puts both of them on the same Cube thereby relativizing (if I understand it rightly) the whole higher/lower thing.  As he says the distinction (according to his pov) between the states considered horizontal and the stages considered vertical is meaningless.  If so, does that undercut his own higher/lower schema relative to the Intuitive/Empirical Domains?  I ask because creating the higher/lower distinction will tend towards a view I think whereby the empirical is basically controlled by the Intuitive.  He uses the metaphor of car (empirical) and Driver (Intuitive).  I’m not sure that’s the right analogy–except in the experience of awakening to Third tier Consciousness.

But again there’s other elements of what he has to say that would undercut his own analogy, e.g.:

From moment to moment on any binary-perspective lattice, one of the two octants can be preferentially dominant; meaning that we can also take a reversed perspective, including a reversed Self perspective, when the dominant pole as witnessing “subject” becomes the recessive pole as witnessed “object”. For example, Soul-as-witness (first person Intuitive Upper Left, turquoise altitude) prehending or engaging a recessive pole such as Lower Mind (first person Empirical Upper Left, red altitude), while selflessly chopping wood, can be reversed as Lower Mind prehending Soul in a sudden insight of awesome power. For that same lattice-coordinate the two reversed perspectives produce a totally different experience.

That is I think a very profound articulation. Still it could be right but only in the space which it is right.

Also I wonder if he needs to be careful I think to talk about the two poles as witnessing/witnessed.  What about dialog? Maybe giving and receiving is better?

What I’m saying is that I think in order to translate this work down to 2nd Tier requires using quadrivia and talking about it “as if” there were four upper quadrants (qua quadrivia) and four lower.  That can be done from within the 2nd Tier.  I think in a sense he is already doing that–it’s latent in the language.  As in 2nd person #6:

Although not linguistically differentiated from the Second Person Empirical Self, it implies relating to the behavior of another person.

Neale describes this as the Three Persons but he’s really doing Perspectives–i.e. modes of taking up positions relative to other beings.  “Relating to the behavior of another person” means the 1st person the one doing the relating approaches (via 2nd person perspective, in this case in Neale’s language in empirical domains) to the upper-right behavior of another (2nd person relative to the 1st person doing the acting but from within his/her own perspective, the first person being approached by another, 2nd person to that 1st person).

Again I think more perspectives and quadrivia than persons and quadrants. Again though his work is very subtle and discriminating and both are there.

The last point I want to make which to me is the central insight of the work involves what drives the formation of Tiers–and why I made all this fuss about 3rd Tier versus 2nd Tier in the first place.

In the First Tier, the Intuitive identity States are fused with the Empirical Structures they inhabit, resulting in identifying with Gross Domain materiality, mortality and survival. In Second Tier the Intuitive awareness learns to differentiate from the Empirical Domain as Subtle awareness, resulting in differentiating a spiritual identity. Even though the Integral Level of awareness is indigo in Third Tier, the true integration of the Empirical and Intuitive Domains in Universal Consciousness is not completed until ultra violet in the Enlightenment process. I therefore propose that the three phases as the fusion, then the differentiation, and finally the integration of the two Domains define the three Tiers. This would suggest that one strategy to help nourish the entire Spectrum would be to encourage the discussion of the Intuitive Domain of Consciousness.

Second-tier in other words differentiates states and stages and then relates them via the Wilber-Combs Lattice.  Third-tier as I said before in some ways moves beyond that (re-integrates).

But here again I have a slight disagreement with Neale (again I think).  I think he is treating the levels in Wilber’s spectrum as an already essentially built structure.  Again there are some (for me) worrying tendencies towards a re-metaphysicalizing.   As Wilber says what we know draw as the level violet to ultra-violet may in the future become built as multiple stages.

They really aren’t there.  Yet.  And to the degree they are in an individual they are very deep but very thin.  Plus they have no technological-social-behavioral-cultural matrix upon which to manifest those tendencies at this point in Kosmic development.

Still, this point about how the Tiers evolve I think is a stunning insight.  It also seems to me not necessary to have to accept the idea of 2 planes (Empirical and Intuitive) in order to accept the Tier-driver hypothesis.  States and stages can be subsituted for Empirical and Intuitive.  In the first-tier they are the same.  Or rather since they are fused, they don’t show up at all really.  That was Wilber’s brilliant insight in critiquing Perennial Philosophy.  In 2nd-tier they are differentiated.  In third they shift.  My sense of the shift is that is not (metaphorically) best described as above/below, but that’s a point of debate I’m open on.  What I think is not helpful for sure though is reading that above/below distinction back down through the levels and then critiquing the earlier levels for being “reductionistic” when in reality, it’s more like, that information simply isn’t available in that world.

Published in: on June 23, 2009 at 8:37 pm  Comments (8)  
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meta on meta calculus: quick first reax

As a quick first blush reaction to the process of writing in this new format of integral calculus (need better term for it….hmmm), a couple of points.

1. It helps if I write them straight through in one sitting with little to no breaks.  The second post I think suffered a bit from a number of delays that came upon me in writing it, forcing me to compose over a few days.  There is a kind of zone that I felt take over when I began that I don’t (at least yet) automatically fall back into upon taking back up the keyboard.

2. I should have thought of this, but didn’t, but the biggest learning so far has been that the process is itself is unending (just like the arising of the Kosmos it is supposed to be pointing to).  That is, whatever the length of any post I take as soon as I step in the stream at one point (the stop operator Wilber calls it, signified by the / symbol) and work on some perspective/dimension then that immediately puts me in touch with all kinds of other perspectives and dimensions.  (Other holons in Wilber’s language).

3. Which means the writing begins and ends whenever I choose–both times.  Beginning / and Ending /.  The stream is purely cascading as Wilber says and I’ve more and more began to experience that arising in my own consciousness as I write in this manner.  Elliot Bejamin, whose domain is Integral Mathematics, once told me that he would wake up and do a math problem as a means of meditation.  He found deep symmetry, beauty, and aestheticism to the process. That’s something what the experience of doing these posts is for me.

Published in: on January 4, 2009 at 9:58 pm  Comments (2)  
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AQAL Quote for the Day

From Footnote #48 Excerpt C Vol. 2 of the Kosmos Trilogy:

    48 The postmodern pluralist, who situates truth in local cultural contexts, self-contradictorily denies cross-cultural realities while allowing cross-individual realities, whereas they both face the identical problem: how two individuals anywhere can reach mutual understanding is the only mystery here. How two people from different cultures can understand each other is trivially different from how you and I can understand each other: the extraordinary leap is between any two minds, not any two cultures. If there are enough cross-individual realities between holons to constitute a cultural identity (as claimed by the postmodernist), then there are enough realities between cultures to constitute a global context (as denied by the same postmodernists). The fact of the matter is, nobody understands how “you” and “I” become a “we,” wherever that happens–and to privilege cross-individual cultural “we’s,” as the postmodernists do, while denying all others, is merely green-meme [read: pomo} absolutism.

I think trivially different is not the right phrase.  Understanding between two different cultures does add another (often complicated and complicating) layer to understanding, but the general point is correct:  it is different in degrees not kind (contra cultural island-ism) from the regular mysterious question of how anyone understands anyone else, whether they are members of the same culture or not. 

Published in: on August 11, 2008 at 8:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Possibly Best Post on Integral Ever

From my buddy Juma Wood.  If at all interested in this topic, this is a must read.  Every word of it.

A snippet:

As the old Wilber guard scrambles to find distance from its toxic personality cult, there is a danger of watering down the central insights of the integral model: namely, that every moment arises in four fundamental dimensions (or eight, splitting it finer with IMP), that worldview determines vantage, and that collapsing the context into any of these areas produces partiality by definition.

This last point is where I’d hope the conference would veer itself: the basic Integral Model is the starting point for each and every perspective or action. It is what Hargens in the WIE interview meant when he said that integral was ‘content-free’ (to which critics might agree, but replace the word with ‘empty’). The model should not be asked to do more. That is the work of other theory, other work. Torbert’s work, for example, fits well within this context, including many if not most of the central insights and promises. But it should neither attempt to replace the integral model, nor assume it operates outside its scope.

This is not a debate of either/or, but rather effectiveness and applicability. The integral map does well when it is static, over-arching. It is the scaffold into which the pieces take shape and arrange themselves rightly. There is no ‘integral politics’ or ‘integral ecology’ or ‘integral art’. These are each arenas within which wisdom and approach are exclusive to the field of study, but through which insight and integration can be gained with other disciplines once having oriented properly, via the integral map.

Which is to say this works on (at least) two levels.

One, the model simply clarifies/organizes what already is taking place within a discipline.  This is why the best stuff applying integral (see here for economics, here for biology) are from those already well versed within the confines of the discipline to which they offer up an integral simplifying/clarifying view (but simplification). Those who read Integral (read: Wilber) first and then think they have reached the end have the mental cart before the horse.  Then end up spouting on all manner of topics without being grounded in the knowledge community first.

[When such healthy coherence is achieved within different disciplines–and again this is a sorta second-order type move it in no way replaces or substitutes for the canons and methods already established within the disciplines themselves–then they could finally cross-fertilize with a common language.]

Two, the model is a mental yoga.  This is what Juma describes as every moment arising in four dimensions and to collapse the context is inherently partial.  Wilber often cites the Bhagavad Gita and Krishna’s famous admonition to Arjuna:  Remember the Lord and Fight.  That is, Remember the Truth about the Spiritual Nature of Reality and yet you still have to battle in this world of division.

To play off that notion, we are always going to be collapsing the context–that is always having to specialize and enter the disciplines and one or the other of these dimensions (principally) on their own terms.  Nothing ever is achieved otherwise.  But in so doing one can not forget the prior move and the ground.  Or else there is nothing integral and it will simply be whatever the general tendency therein reduces it to (modern, postmodern whatever).

So weirdly put (but not weirdly intending): Remember the Quadrants and Collapse the Context could be the rallying cry.  And by remember not some nerdy mental recollection but rather remember the space of consciousness in which the four co-arise.  Actually think-feel them.  Remember that you are purposefully entering one and then worlds open up within those  (quadrivia).  Embrace limitation from the position of transcendence.

As a final note, Juma is appropriately loving and critical to all sides in this debate, aware of the strengths, but not (over)hyping the value.   What Heidegger called the basic stance of dasein as Care.  He models Care in this post.  And others would do well to heed what he is saying.  Integral will bumble and stumble along as it has to date until his message gets through in a serious way.

Published in: on July 6, 2008 at 3:37 pm  Comments (4)  
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Levinas and AQAL Integral

I can’t and won’t do a summary of Levinas’ brilliant difficult crazy (in a good way) Totality and Infinity. If you want such, here. All I will say is that totality is the world of events, facts, theories, science, politics, business.  The world of violence, the world of compromise, the world where everything is turned into a One.  This includes mysticism btw.  Where the many, the parts are placed and rubbed away in the machine.  All of which is necessary and yet brutal as hell.

Infinity is the repose the transcendence of this Unicity by the face of the Other.  By enjoyment in the daily activities of life.  In habitation, the feminine, the use and enjoyment of implements, food, and again the encounter with the truly Other.  Who comes to us below from on high as Levinas would say.  Infinity is peace and pluralism (according to Levinas).

What I’d like to do though is compare Levinas with AQAL integral thought. The Lower Left Quadrant, the intersubjective in Wilber’s philosophy owees its existence most profoundly to two thinkers:  Heidegger and Habermas.

The intersubjective in Heidegger was the clearing within which beings arose and communicated.  It was a historical turn to phenomenology (away from the mentalist idealism of Husserl).  It was a great and enduring insight but flawed in numerous ways.  Not the least Heidegger’s embrace of Nazism.

Habermas retains Heidegger’s intersubjective but sees it rather as the domain of communicative intersubjective reason and therefore a new grounding for the modern project taking into account (and yet not being limited by) the critiques of postmodernity concerning monological early modern philosophy (as in Adam Smith, Locke, Hume, Descartes).

Now I don’t want to diminish any of those accomplishments, particularly Habermas’ (and Wilber’s), especially in an American context which struggles to understand the phenomenological and the intersubjective both, over relying on the individualist anglo-american strain (along with pragmatism) as well as scientistic thought and religious fundamentalism and euphoric individualist experiential lines.

That said Levinas stands in deep criticism of both Heidegger and Habermas from the intersubjective but as a phenomenon of affect and relationship rather than communication (Habermas) or practices (Heidegger).  For Levinas this intersubjective, what he calls the philosophy of the neuter, still reduces distinctly unique individuals into a large whole.  The return of Totality in other words.  With Heidegger especially we see the results of the reduction of the many to the one in politics (Fascism).  Levinas as a Jew was particularly disturbed by his own reliance (in his earlier philosophy especially) on Heidegger.

Levinas also stands in anti-mystical strain of Judaism, promoting the distinction, dualism, and relationship of philosophy to the oneness of mysticism, whether classical (e.g. Neoplatonism) or more recent (i.e. Hegelianism).  Totality includes Spirit or History or the classless society redeeming all of history through an end to history.  Infinity stands opposed to all these machinations.

In that sense Levinas has a valid criticism of integral thought and AQAL in particular.  It is part of Totality to the degree it focuses particularly on maps, theories, convergences, etc.  Even the intersubjective of AQAL is still for Levinas insufficient in the regard of the encounter with the Other.

Levinas book is a great work of philosophy.  It’s a contemplation of being of life.  I see life differently, feel differently, am differently molded and aware (not unlike the experience of reading Being and Time by Heidegger).  This is phenomenology at its best.  Existentialism at its best.  It is totally impractical as a philosophy which is its greatest gift to leave the world of practical, to leave it unredeemed, unintegrated for a time, to rot elsewheres.  To not enter into some special absorptive mystical state (though that has its place no doubt) or continually focus on consciousness to the neglect of affect and bodily perception.

When Levinas has to be push through the grinder of Totality (which of course he must eventually) he turns out in AQAL terms green.  The cover of the book is helpfully that color.  His emphasis on radical pluralism, fear of integration as tyranny, nonviolence, the Other, all this is green pluralism.  Better politically at pointing out what is currently missing and wrong then offering any solution.

But the work isn’t imo best understood in that light.  It is better seen as a movement, as I said before, to drop from all that totality and enter a different sphere and way of life for a time.  Most primally in relation with the Other.  Without all the distinctions, necessary though they are, without too much drama, subplots, and the like.  Without having to fix or be fixed.

It confirms my general sense that Western thought is much subtler when it comes to the dualistic world.

On the other hand, my long held feeling concerning Wilber’s work is that the primary most fundamental most profound element in all of it is true but partial.  That everyone is true, everyone is partial.  As a way of life, a kind of MO.  That being said my excursions into the un-integral (mercifully) of Levinas is in this spirit.  Perspectives in Wilber-5 are the reason behind true/partial and the AQAL system is simply a certain configuration of data streams and mapping of the arising of worlds.

A both/and on this one is not to use this work to only criticize Wilber as overly Hegelian, totalistic, hegemonic, doing violence to the Other, overly mental.  That’s too easy and not particularly helpful and has already been done.  Rather it would to retain an integral sense and yet a non-integral sense simultaneously.  Each with their own spheres, own times and places.  A remembrance of the Other, the Many, the plural, the different even in the midst of our (necessary) work of Totality.

Published in: on June 13, 2008 at 11:29 am  Comments (1)  
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Meditation on Integral

There’s a wise saying that goes: For something to be true, it has to be false.

Meaning, for something to have value there must be times, places, and in contexts in which it is not valuable. If something is always right then it is never particularly right. It is never right specifically about anything.

This I take to be the prime lesson of the work of Ken Wilber. That the mind tends towards the absolutizing of relative truth. Making what is a valid interesting pov on a certain subject(s) into the final, end all truth for all times. The mind can de-absolutize (negate) while still holding the true nuggets of wisdom (preserve).

It is ironic but not unexpected (though still sad) that Wilber’s own work has been interpreted by too many as the final truth. Enacting the very disease it was originally designed to cure.

[Long time readers will likely recognize that these thoughts grow out of the series of dialogues (sometimes heated) between myself and Matthew Dallman. Also my current reading of NT Wright, his scholarship, and what he calls his view of critical realism.]

These are provisional thoughts only, and I’m not totally satisfied with them, but I want to float them & get some feedback.

Where are the limits of integral (AQAL specifically for the purposes of this post)?

One answer I’ve offered before, which I still stand by though I think is by itself insufficient, is a 3rd-tier worldspace. From experience though I don’t want to tout that fact or own it in some egoic fashion. The difficulty there is that such a worldspace is so rare and so new in the Kosmic grain, that it is almost content-less. At least in terms of description in rational language like I’m employing here.

And I don’t mean the more intra-integral jockeying over fairly abstract/arcane micro-subpoints of the theory. e.g. Mark Edwards has done better with the social-communal holons, emphasizing the 2nd person pov better, and so forth. That’s true as well, but not what I’m after here.

Nor even a more general point about how the map is not the territory and any theory is just that and should not get in the way of our experience of life. Christop Schaub has a number of good posts on this theme from Integral world (one here).

I mean more specifically from within an integral space in the realm of thought and study. And with a spirit that finds the limits as a joyful experience, not to cut down, to claim as “conquered” or whatever. But to be grateful and humbled to know that one is now free in participation with this learning, having really and truly absorbed its great lessons and enduring wisdom.

First off, where I think AQAL is most clarifying, most enheartening. (For me a requirement is that a theory not just make clearer the world, but make me be able to love it more honestly, experience it in a raw-er fashion).

1)Within fragmented academic disciplines.

–Here I believe AQAL is very helpful for categorizing the different sub-theories within a field (e.g. religion or sociology). Often especially through the use of the quadrants/perspectives. Also stages. Sometimes called “indexing”.

–This tendency has been dissed by some by I continue to believe this is vitally important. There will not generally be good cross-fertilization of scholarship until the different disciplines are within fairly centered within themselves.

2)Politics, social thought.

–Whenever we get done as people (locally, nationally, globally) to make decisions, the value systems immediately emerge. Without taking into account stages here, the tendency is strongly towards one traditional political pov/camp and the fight to demonize the other.

3) Religion (or the question of values more generally).

–When religious groups describe their beliefs, outline their goals, annunciate their ethical positions, perspectives (horizontal and vertical) again clarify and enhearten.

4)Mysticism. (not as substitute for experience/praxis but for understanding & embodiment of).

–More than a vague sense of spirituality or contemplation either though.  The actual path outlined by the shamans, saints, sages, and siddhis for millenia now.

–It should not come as a surprise that the view of stages originally grows out of mystical communities.

5)Cosmologies/Philosophy of Science

There may be others I’m forgetting. Commentators feel free to fill in any gaps I left.

If the saying goes that there is altitude and aptitude, then the foregoing is basically altitude only.  Or at least the recognition of altitude–and the clarification that recognition brings.

There’s an aptitude-praxis of ILP, 321 Shadow & God. All very good. But not an aptitude/methodology yet for this other thing I’m trying to point towards. Don’t have a word for it. Something more than spiritual state and psychological technologies and the mental yogas described above.

It does circle me back to humanism, praxis in the world.

As a classmate of mine said, one tradition of thought runs through Hegel to Nietzsche (and I add James Mark Baldwin, Teilhard, Piaget-Dev. Psych., Habermas, and Wilber). This is the tradition of modern, postmodern, post-postmodern/integral. The stages, the post-metaphysical construct, the evolutionary outlook (Evolution as Manifestation of Spirit), all come from this strain. The 5 contexts I named earlier in which this strain (for me) works best.

The other tradition (in Western Christianity) goes from Augustine to Wittgenstein (?), to Radical Orthodoxy, to N.T.Wright. It is the strain that seems a commonality to human nature. Augustine’s “On Christian Learning” is a pivotal text in this stream.

Whatever it is, that this stream offers is this point where AQAL is generally not suited in my mind. For one, it’s not aiming at this dimension.  It already is out there and the intellectual wheel does not need to be re-invented. But I think that “not aiming at this dimension” aspect should be described in the form of say a disclaimer.

Otherwise there tends to be a reliance on certain texts intuitively grasped as crucial and enlightening without the criteria for this or that text being so dominant made clear.

To step back for a second, the praxis in AQAL is to ask first:  where is everyone right?  So I think I’m just following that logic out beyond its generally assumed to be existing boundaries.

On the other hand, I don’t want it to appear there is an unbridgeable gulf between the two streams.

Figures that work as intermediaries between those traditions in my mind: Gadamer, Ricoeur, Dilthey.  Even these however are still interested in a more structural (though still hermeneutic question):  how do we understand each other?  What are the conditions–like Kant’s categories of the mind–that allow for humans to understand each other and to understand texts?  Questions before the actual undertaking of the reading and interpretation.

Another route that I took on occasion–that again I still think is right just not all I want to say anymore–is that the humanities/canon (fill-in-the-blank with whichever term you prefer) are the inside of the interior from a quadratic view.  That the perspective model just reminds us to take these perspectives and does not replace the actual doing, contemplation, practice, study in this tradition.

I think the combination of these two traditions is a source of great creativity and in this case 1+1=3.  Something emerges that is more than the sum of the parts.

What I found writing my manuscript on Integral Christianity was that I had to know the history of Christian mysticism thoroughly on its own terms.  From the inside.  But that AQAL lens opened it up to an even greater degree and allowed this dimension/lifeworld to connect with others.  With science, with economics.  Something a traditional humanistic-only lens did not provide.  But without that grounding, AQAL only lacks in specific content.  Lacks flesh on the bones.

For the moment I want to let even that view go. Again, not because I think it is wrong, just not a full immersion into this other strain. Still only comes half-way there.  Still seeing the “other” through one’s own lens.

[Although to be fair, the Great Books programs and so on that are oft discussed in this context, to me still exhibit some of these patterns of systematization.  One I generally see these programs not acknowledging.  But that’s neither here nor there for right now.  For those interested, I think this article gives a very good overview of all the sides].

I’m very busy at school, but am setting as intention, particularly for this blog, to explore this other side, as it were, more deeply.  It’s not my native disposition to be sure.  I’m a historian, theologian, long range political thinker by trade.  I see systems, patterns, evolutionary traces and future projections.  But the creation from the inside, that is harder for me.  The cleansing of that lens for the time of “tree touching” (as opposed to forest seeing my normal disposition) is very difficult for me.

The likely entry way for me will be the writings of N.T. Wright.

Published in: on October 3, 2007 at 10:52 pm  Comments (9)  
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