Friday, June 30, 2006

More on the Acausal Universe

Heru from the Wilber Forum writes a good response to the original post on the Acausal Universe, which I posted there and want to repost here for continuity. He asks a lot of worthy question to help clarify this matter:

"When I got to the end of the post I was struck by the similarities between your view and Wilber's. For example, take Wilber's four quadrants: the internal-individual ("I"), the internal-collective "We"), the external-individual ("It") and the external-collective ("Its"). Wilber says that these "tetra-evolve," or tetra-emerge...that is, one quadrant doesn't cause the other three, but they emerge/arise/manifest concurrently, as four different aspects of the same occasion or movement--or pattern--of the universe. It is similar to Inayat Khan's statement that "the soul is the invisible part of the body, the body the visible part of the soul."

Yes, you're right that Wilber does acknowledge that holons simultaneously develop across quadrants, but he doesn't carry that principle across the board to levels, types, etc. He might have, but it didn't occur to him how important the principle of synchronicty is. Clearly he doesn't see it taking precedence in such developmental processes as evolution. But you're right, he might be open to it for that reason, though it would take some mahjor re-working of his models to do so. He's changed before however, and maybe he can change again.

“Although this begs the question: how could levels not have a causative relationship to eachother? If the body and soul are two aspects of the same totality, don't they interact beyond resonant patterning? Don't they influence eachother?”

This question is best answered in the link above. In brief, it is because levels are actually fragmented viewpoints of the whole, not actually self-existing divisions of consciousness. It is viewpoint that dominates, and the link between fragmented viewpoints is not a causal one, but simultaneousness. To give a concrete example, if I take photographs of a tree from many different angles, none of those photographs could be said to be the “cause” of the others. They each represent a view of the tree that is true from that angle, and each will reveal things about the tree that the others might not, but their link is synchronous, not causal. The only “cause”, one might say, is the choice of perspective from which to view the whole. So materialism is one viewpoint to take a picture from, and poetry would be another. The materialistic view of the tree would reveal many material facts and processes going on in the tree. A poetic investigation of the tree would reveal an entirely different set of “facts” about the tree. Think of Monet's “haystack” series, some 20-30 paintings of a haystack from different views, times, lighting, etc. The poetic view does not “cause” the material processes of the tree to be as they are, nor does the material process cause the poetic view to arise. They represent choices of viewpoint, possible avenues of attention. One can switch between them, but one can't view the tree as both simultaneously, because attention is limited to a single viewpoint at any one time, just as a camera is. You can overlay them on top of one another (as Da does in his photographic work) and create a hybrid image, but this is a conceptual construct divided by time exposure. We exist in time, as part of the fragmentary nature of things. So we compare viewpoints through memory, rather than direct apprehension.

The whole notion of “interaction” between levels, between body and soul, for example, is actually based on the notion that they truly are separate, rather than simply two viewpoints of a unity. Our notion that body must “affect soul, or soul “influence” body, presume that they are different to begin with. The synchronistic view is that they don't influence one another, they are simply viewpoints of a whole, like photographs of the tree from different angles. This makes them much closer to one another than any causal viewpoint could make them. It makes them identical in nature, just altered by viewpoint. As mentioned in the link, causation only appears to be a valid link between objects within a single viewpoint, not between viewpoints. Thus, the shadows in one photograph are caused by the objects in that photograph, and their relation to the light source. But two photographs of the same tree from different viewpoints cannot be analyzed in the same way. The shadows in one are not “caused” by the light source in the other, they are simply simultaneous depictions of the same relationship, seen from different angles. Mixing the two “causes” without compensating for the difference in viewpoint leads to “optical delusions”.

So the point here is that the two levels do not causally influence one another. But by studying their correspondences, one can make inferences about their mutual source, just as by comparing photos of a tree taken from different angles, one could draw inferences about the position of the sun. So it is the overall pattern that is important, not establishing some causal relationship between elements in different viewpoints.

“First of all I really like your differentiation between causation and synchronicity--and explanation of patterning and astrology in the light of Adi Da's views. It reminded me of the hermetic axiom, "as above so below"--or the Christian idea that we are created in God's image; or Indra's Net for that matter: everything reflects everything else. “

Yes, that's a good analogy. This kind of thinking is not unprecedented in the traditions. The problem is that it was not clearly differentiated from causality, and thus we ended up with mythic explanations for the “creation” of the universe becoming standardized, and even at war with genuinely causal explanations.

“Now I'm curious as to how you would apply your understanding to very conventional, earthly issues like disease. Do you see no causal relationship between, say, spiritual or mental dis-harmony and physical disease? Is cancer solely caused by physical agents? And wouldn't the synchronistic patterning still be a cause of some kind? For example, let's say that one develops physical cancer through environmental toxins and this shows up on different levels through various patternings: mental patterns and a spiritual malaise, if you will. Aren't these caused by the physical cancer? Or vice versa?”

I'm not sure its fruitful at all to look for emotional or psychic causes for physical disease. Again, these are just two viewpoints looking at the same condition. You will definitely see some correspondences between physical and spiritual conditions, but they are not causal correspondences. It is just part of the process of getting a “bigger picture” to take into account multiple perspectives. So yes, I would say that if you were looking for strict causes for cancer, you would find them strictly on the physical pain. You would not find emotional or spiritual “causes”. You may find correspondences, to be sure, but I think it is an error to make them the cause of the disease. It's not just witch-doctoring, it's category confusion, viewpoint confusion. One can, say, look for spiritual causes for one's spiritual problems, or physical causes for one's physical problems, but not spiritual causes for physical problems. This is not seeing things right. This is seeing correspondences between physical and spiritual problems, and attributing that correspondence to a causal relationship rather than a synchronistic one.

And no, synchronistic patterning is not a cause. It is a pointer to a source pattern, a clue about the overall pattern, of which these viewpoints are manifestations, but that source pattern is not the cause, it's just the overall big picture, so to speak. The big picture is not of a cause, but of a pattern in attention. God, for example, is not the cause of the universe, but the uber-pattern in which the universe arises, simultaneously at all levels. You will of course find correspondences between levels, because it is a single pattern, but they will look and behave differently, just as the images on a photograph will look different from different angles even when the subject is the same. A picture of a tree at the molecular perspective looks different from the picture of the tree that includes the whole forest in which it lives.

“It becomes a chicken-egg thing. Let's say someone is overweight and they have low self-esteem. Are they overweight because they are compensating for low self-esteem or do they have low self-esteem because they are overweight? And how can there not be a bi-directional causal relationship?”

It becomes a chicken-egg thing precisely because causation is a fruitless way of trying to figure out a synchronistic relationship. The chicken-egg paradox only appears when one is trying to find causal relations across viewpoints (levels). It doesn't occur within the level itself. Chicken-egg paradoxes are a sign of a synchronistic relationship, rather than a causal one. For example, looking for physical causes for cancer does not come across chicken-egg paradoxes, because within the physical viepoint there are indeed causal relations that make real sense. Smoking causes cancer. There's no sense in which cancer causes smoking. But the same cannot be said for spiritual problems and cancer. It makes equal sense to say that cancer causes spiritual problems as it does to say that spiritual problems cause cancer, by which it makes no sense in either case. What does make sense is to say that one spiritual problems are reflected in one's cancer, and vice-versa. They are both the sign of a deeper pattern, and understanding that deeper pattern is the purpose of making an evaluation of oneself, not trying to root out the “spiritual cause” of one's cancer.
And that, in a nutshell, is what my approach to astrology was about – not looking for causes, but for correspondences that reveal the deeper pattern of a person's life. That's what made it interesting. But of course people often aren't as interested in that as in wanting to know what the sources of their problems are and how to fix them.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Unity Through Synchronicity: The Acausal Universe Rides Again!

I'm getting a little behind on things, so please bear with me if I'm taking a time responding to questions. There's a good question from the Wilber Forum about what exactly is non-dual practice that I want to get into, but it may take the weekend. First, I'm going to respond to a couple of really good comments on my last post on The Acausal Universe. Check them out first if you want the context of my answer.

The first issue to clear up is to define what I refer to as “levels”. My use of the term may be different from Wilber's; I'm not really sure how he defines it. I see it as synonymous with “viewpoint”, or really, fragmented attention. The simplest example is that of the material world. Friend points out that the material world is not separate from the Unity of non-dual reality, and treating it as not causally linked to any other level, as separate and distinct, therefore seems erroneous. But what I am suggesting is that the material world is not a separate world or place or thing, it is a distinctive viewpoint. It is the “material” viewpoint, or the “gross physical” viewpoint. The material world does not actually exist, but only the material viewpoint makes it seem so. And so it is with all viewpoints and worlds.

As beings who somehow seem to be grossly born, we have already assumed this gross physical viewpoint. It's not the only viewpoint we have, but it is a distinctive viewpoint that we can all acknowledge. There are many other possible viewpoints, and we take up those viewpoints one at a time, often in rapid succession, but the problem with conditional birth is exactly that: out of the infinitely possible viewpoints that could be taken, we have taken up a material, physical one as our shared commonality. And while born, we may range through many different viewpoints, not just the gross physical, but we can only take up one at a time, just as we can only take up one body at a time.

When we do science, we are taking up the gross physical viewpoint, and the answers we find in science will be answers from that viewpoint. When we write poetry, we are taking up a different viewpoint, and the answers we get are poetic answers, not scientific ones. This does not make either of them superior to the other, but they address different viewpoints, and can't be mixed, because we can't hold both viewpoints in mind at the same time. Science will not supply you the answers to poetic questions, and poetry will not supply you the answers to scientific questions. Both are important questions, and both viewpoints are valid in their own right, and even complement one another. But people tend to be parochial about their viewpoint, and think one is superior to others, and try to downgrade other viewpoints. Scientists (at least those who are strongly identified with that viewpoint) tend to think that poetry is meaningless because it cannot fulfill our need for concrete answers and solutions to material problems, and poets (who are strongly identified with their own viewpoint) tend to think science is empty because it cannot fulfill our need for artistic meaning and beauty.

Some people can see the value in both viewpoints, and I think Wilber is one of those people. But there's a fallacy that such people are prone to, a synthetic, romantic fallacy, based on their own conviction of nature is a unity (a conviction I sympathize with), but a unity based on the principle of cauality, rather than synchronicity. They think that God or some higher power (an "erotic force", say) is always intervening and causing things to happen, making things work out for us, making evolution follow certain favorable lines of growth, etc. Or they think that angels and higher beings of a metaphysical nature are working to cause things to happen in this world. Or even that devils and demons are creating havoc among us. They thinks that these two differing worlds or viewpoints must be inclusive of one another, that the “higher” viewpoint must direct the lower, and thus the lower must somehow be subject to the laws of the higher.

When Wilber speak of an “eros drive” that is at the core of the evolutionary process, he is speaking in poetic language of a poetical, metaphysical intuition. This is fine and good. In the poetic sense, and even in the higher sense of metaphysics itself, this is a valid principle, one that I can find sympathy with. I don't doubt that the nature of the universe is "Shiva-Shakti" a Unity of male and female cosmic forces, of consciousness and energy. The problem comes when Wilber tries to crossover with this poetical, metaphysical principle into the viewpoint of science, and insist that this “erotic drive” actually somehow must intervene in physical, biological processes that govern mutation and evolution in the material world, actually causing mutations, in a manner that may be more sophisticated than creationists, but not of a different order. When he does so, he is trying to mix two entirely distinct viewpoints, and the result is not meaningful to either. As I say, try as they may, scientists are never going to find an “erotic force” behind evolution, the way there are gross physical forces of DNA mutations and so on that produce evolutionary changes. Why? Because science sees the world from the viewpoint of gross material objects and forces, and within that viewpoint there simply is no “erotic force”, at least not as Wilber speaks of it. The erotic force of attraction exists in the poetic, metaphysical sphere. In the gross world, that force is simply a symbol, a metaphor, a literary allusion, not a scientific principle. But as metaphor, it has correspondences nonetheless, if one knows where to look.

So there can't be a causal link between these two worlds, not because they are truly separate from one another, but because attention and viewpoint makes them so. Unity is not the senior principle of manifest nature, separation is. Why do I say this? Because viewpoint and attention are separated and separative in conditional nature, and they create the illusion of separate beings and separate worlds. You are right that there is no material world in the true, non-dual universe. But there is also no erotic force in the non-dual universe. How could there be? An erotic force would require separation to exist, that some force would seek to bring it together through attraction. Both the material world and Wilber's erotic force are the result of a shattering of attention, a shattering of viewpoint, from a Single and Ultimate Unity, to all these infinitely modified realms of attention and energy. The material world is one such dimension. The poetic metaphysics of Wilber's erotic force is another.

An infinite number of worlds, dimensions, and levels exist, because an infinite number of viewpoints exist. For the sake of simplicity, however, we like to talk about major categories of viewpoint. But the problem with this shattering of viewpoints, as I said earlier, is that we can only “see” the universe from one of them at a time. We can conceptualize them and create systems which include multiple perspectives, but when we do so, even then we are only looking at the universe from one perspective, a conceptual overview perspective. Our inclusiveness is purely on a conceptual level, we are not actually seeing the world from multiple perspective simultaneously. What rules is not inclusiveness then, but the partialness of viewpoint itself. When we say that we are “developed” in higher levels, it means that we are able to move from viewpoint to viewpoint with greater ease, that we have many viewpoints in our repertoire. But it's like having a huge library of books. We can still only read one of them at a time. We can only think one thought at a time too. It's the same problem we have of only being able to be one body at a time, out of all the billions on the planet. Welcome to conditional reality.

It also needs to be said that viewpoint creates the world it views. Viewpoint is a way of splitting the unity beyond attention into fragments, taking the Whole and making it Many, and then focusing in on just one of those pieces. That focusing of attention creates a whole world. It's the viewpoint that is the fragment, and it creates the objects seen in accord with its own qualities. The physical world is the product of just this kind of fragmented viewing of Reality. Our poetic world is likewise a creation of attention focusing in on that fragment, and makes a world out of it. We exist in only One World, but attention makes fragments of it, and we only know one fragment at a time, one thought at a time, one experience at a time, one body at a time, one partial world at a time. Each of these could be said to be a level, a mini-level perhaps. The physical world is not actually a single thing, a single level, a single body, but a collection of fragments, each of them a separate viewpoint we lump together because of a certain commonality. So we call the “physical world” a level because of that basic commonality, but it isn't really a thing sitting out there, but a viewpoint that creates a world based on the qualities of that viewpoint.

So viewpoints and levels are not causally linked to one another. One didn't create the others. Attention did. If there is a hierarchy to attention, it isn't a causal one, it's a synchronous one. Synchronicity is the product of this fragmentation of viewpoints into a multiplicity of simultaneously existing “worlds”. All worlds exist simultaneously as viewpoints of attention, not as truly separate levels or worlds. But viewpoint makes them not only seem so, but to function in that manner. They are not casually linked to one another, because they do not arise from one another. They arise from the Source, the Unity. So their linkage to one another is through synchronicity, through a sharing of pattern, of recognizable complementary form.

An example: Wilber's erotic force may not exist in the physical universe, but fundamental forces of attraction do exist: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force, etc. These are not the “erotic force” Wilber speaks of, but they share a similar pattern, that of attraction that brings elements together and ends up producing life, bodies, children, even physical sex. So when I say that in the physical universe we don't need to postulate an “erotic force” to account for evolution, it's because the physical forces that correspond to this “erotic force” already exist, and are able to produce “children” by their own innate capability. Wilber's search for some “other” force that can turn raw dirt into a poetry-writing machine fails to take into account that dirt and its constituent forces is already alive with all the erotic force it needs to do just that.

But Wilber's famous question, “How does dirt get up and write poetry” is a false question based in ignorance. Dirt doesn't ever write poetry. It can't. When we write poetry, we are not operating in the physical world. We are operating in a poetic world. We have entered into another realm of existence. That our bodies seem to physically “write poetry” is akin to the famous metaphor about an infinite number of monkeys writing on infinite typewriters producing all the works of Shakespeare. That metaphor is an excellent one, because it represents us, as physical monkey bodies, randomly producing poetry. The joke is that as bodies, we can't product poetry. Only by entering the world of poetry can we produce poetry. And our bodies only go along for the ride, working in synchronicity with our work in other realms. The fact is, if you break it down mechanically, you can't really figure out how we write anything at all. There is no “order” that my writing mind is giving to my physical body to type these words out. They just appear simultaneously. Speech is similar. Almost everything we do happens like this, as a synchronous event rather than as us trying to command multiple realms and levels to work together in some “inclusive” viewpoint.

When I was growing up I wanted to be nuclear physicist studying the great theories of the universe. I was fascinated by Einstein and the whole GUI debate. I didn't end up going down that line, but if I were to give any suggestions to anyone trying to develop the next great idea in physics, the next leap after Einstein, it would be to develop a theory of synchronicity and patterning that could be inclusive of Einstein just as he was inclusive of Newton, worked out to the same degree of mathematical elegance as the theory of relativity. It occurs to me that one might in the end find a way to eliminate the whole notion of causality altogether, even within the physical universe, and explain all seeming causation as just a special case of synchronicity.

So anyway, what I am saying is that from the point of view of attention, these levels and distinctions do exist, and they have to be respected. You cannot impose poetry on science and vice-versa. No, ultimately they don't exist at all, but then why talk about them? We talk about them because we are creatures of attention who live in fragmented viewpoints we switch between, and we can't understand how they realte to one another. We can't have it both ways. We can't talk about them as creatures of attention and then claim that the levels don't really exist, and so we can presume causation crosses all viewpoints. That's simply not possible. The conditional cosmos is the result of fragmented attention, and thus all that fragmented attention creates worlds, levels, views, all of which are distinct, and between which there is no connection except synchronicity. Within any viewpoint things function through causation, or at least they seem to, because they are all held together by a single viewpoint of attention, but not between viewpoints. My writing mind is not causing my physical body to write these words. It just coincides. My deeper mind coincides with my physical brain, it does not cause the brain to think its thoughts. Analyze my brain as deeply as you can, you will never find some “hole” through which my higher mind sneaks in and tells my brain what thoughts to think. They arise simultaneously.

The point here is that if you are looking for a principle that defines “unity” between levels, synchronicity is that principle, not causation. If you understood this, you would be rejoicing, because synchronicity is much easier to observe and understand than causation. Finding a causal relation between levels is virtually impossible. It requires ridiculous leaps of faith and imagination, as creationists are finding. But noticing synchronicity of pattern between levels is easy as pie, once you know what to look for. So what I'm saying is not bad news that the universe is some kind of materialistic reduction program, that physical evolution proceeds without any other factors involved. It's just that all those other factors arise simultaneously, not causally. We are linked together not by causes, but by simultaneous arising. And thus we don't have to waste time looking for mystical causes for physical events. It doesn't mean there is no mystical dimension that is related to the physical, it only means that it is related by synchronous patterning, not by causal reaction and “guidance” from above. The study of the interrelationship of levels and types and patterns isn't a study of causes, by a study of simultaneous correspondences. It is this simultaneous correspondence that is the true sign of unity. Don't miss it!

One more thing: when I mentioned that the Self doesn't appear in the conditional realms, but functions purely as Witness, I didn't mean that the Self is identified with the Witness as a separative point of view. The Witness is not fragmented attention anyway, it is beyond that. It's only that for us, there is no way to relate to the Self in any other practical way, because we are fixated in points of view. When we conceive of the "point of view" of the Self or God, we can't help but think of a point of view like our own, but more inclusive, or bigger, some position from which we could act and make things right. But that's an inaccurate way of thinking about God or the Self. The closest we can come is seeing Self as the Witness, as motionless being, Witnessing all states, all points of view, all worlds, but identifed with none of them. To live as the Witness, and not to try to cause action, but to allow all action to aise spontaneously, synchronistically, is the enightened way of life. Remember, action and causation are karma. The viewpoint which sees action and causation dominant is the karmic viewpoint. Freedom from karma means freedom from that viewpoint, which means mere witnessing spontaneous simultaneous synchronicity of action, just like letting the words come through without "ordering" them.

Okay, I planned to write so much more on other aspects of the comments from below, but will have to wait a little. Thanks so much for your comments. Don't imagine I find them bothersome or irritating. People who disagree with me often provide the best stimulus to working these ideas out. So thanks to all of you who bother to poke their heads in here.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Acausal Universe; Wilber, Da, Evolution, Astrology, and the Pattern of Synchronicity

In an earlier piece on Wilber and evolutionary theory I promised to follow up on its relationship to Adi Da's theory of patterning, and the further relationship of the two to astrological principles of causality and synchronicity. Some background is necessary.

As mentioned in an earlier piece on the astrological view of the universe as an endless series of cycles, I got my start in astrology on something of a lark. As a strong skeptic and disdainer of all things astrological, I felt at a certain point that I should actually look into it and see if there was anything useful or meaningful or even true about it. Rather than simply read the literature, which seemed rather puerile for the most part, I simply used astrological software to plot out star patterns, using a charting method of my own devising, to see if there really were significant correspondences between star patterns and life patterns, studying most directly the life of my Guru at the time, Adi Da. What I found defied rationalistic explanation, and I began to formulate ideas and theories about how these correspondences could be meaningful, and deducing from the patterns what the underlying meanings of various astrological patterns were. In some respects these meanings confirmed traditional astrological literature, but at other times they stood in stark contrast, and implied a different understanding than the literature seemed to hold true.

After a year or so I wrote up a very long paper detailing some of these findings, along with a set of “test predictions” which could be used to verify their value, and sent it to Adi Da. His inner circle were quite excited about it, and told Adi Da what I had done, but he wanted to see nothing of it until time had proven or disproven the predictions I had. After another year or so, so many of the predictions I had made had come to pass that they felt comfortable presenting my work to Adi Da, and he approved of it, asking me to be his personal astrologer. After spending retreat time with him, he modified and expanded the function to simply “studying his pattern”. During this time, he also gave a significant amount of instruction on his view of the universe as an endless series of patterns emerging in consciousness, and a fair amount of that instruction involved astrology and my use of it in relation to him and his inner circle.

Adi Da's view of the conditional cosmos is, essentially, that of a machine that constantly spits out patterns. In his view, the entire cosmos is a single pattern that is endlessly modified at every level and viewpoint, which, while always appearing differently in every time and place, yet retains the same basic patterning. Therefore it is possible in his view to study any kind of phenomena at the level of pattern, and if one compares it to any other phenomenal pattern, the correspondences will reveal the something about the greater pattern of the universe itself. In his view, astrology is just one particular way of studying a pattern and seeing its correspondences with other patterns. One could do the same thing with tea leaves, or lines on one's palm, or the birds in one's backyard. Any patterning correspondence studied with enough attention and depth will reveal the same universal patterning, and yield insight into what is going on everywhere else in the cosmic pattern. This is in fact what Adi Da liked about my approach to astrology. Many people in Adidam speculated that he approved of my approach to astrology because of my devotion to him, as a way of drawing me into relationship to him, etc. Some of that may be true, but primarily it was because my approach to astrology was based on looking for real correspondences rather than just superimposing rote meanings on the star patterns and the patterns of the life of whomever's astrological pattern I was looking at.

I know I've written many critical things about Adi Da, and I've promised at various points to say positive things about him, so let me be clear here: Adi Da is definitely something of a genius in relation to spiritual matters, and has exceptional nuanced insights into higher matters. This is certainly evident in his literature, even when it gets overshadowed by his megalomaniacal pretensions. His theories of patterning, largely unpublished, are examples of this. His way of “teaching” me about astrology, however, had nothing to do with actually working through the details of astrology itself. In that respect he had no interest at all in astrology, and left such things entirely to me to work out on my own. He would give only the broadest kinds of instruction, let me report on the details of his pattern, and then respond positively or negatively, giving me feedback as to what seemed right and what didn't. This gave me a great deal of freedom to develop an understanding of astrology that was my own in most respects, and yet based on his general principles of patterning. (I have to say that this was somewhat of a unique situation in Adidam, and not generally the way things worked around there. It's too bad, because while it lasted it was a very good and productive way of going about things that could have produced a more open and liberal Adidam. But that's water under the bridge).

One of the issues that came up fairly early on in my use of astrology involved causation and influence. As mentioned, my original approach was made sheerly on the basis of actual empirical study of the astrological patterns themselves and how they corresponded to an individual's life. I at times tried to read astrological books to get a better sense of what the signs and planets “meant”, but I couldn't help but quickly become nauseated by them, and felt somehow “polluted” in reading their conclusions, or should I simply say, presumptions. When Adi Da made me his astrologer, I was utterly deficient in any traditional knowledge of astrology, and had to do something of a crash course, forcing myself to read the literature and on the fly trying to adapt it to my own understanding of things. I tried to hold back the fort against this assault, but in the short run my own understanding became overwhelmed by the sheer mass of the modern “astrological mind”, and some of this began to bleed into my reports to Adi Da. On one occasion while speaking about these matters directly with him, I kept making the faux pas of speaking about various planetary “influences” in the manner that almost all astrological books describe the workings of astrology. Adi Da then gave a fairly long instructional talk dispelling this whole notion of “influence” explaining that the stars and planets have absolutely no astrological influence at all on human life or anything else for that matter, that this was no how astrology worked. Instead, astrology simply studied patterning itself and its correspondences, not some kind of subtle or psychic “influences” that stars and planets might supposedly have.

This was quite a relief and a confirmation of what I'd been working towards, and it helped me toss away much of the traditional “theory” of how astrology worked. I began to realize that astrology is really a non-causal approach to understanding the way the universe worked. Instead, it worked through the principle of synchronicity. It's signs and symbols were not evidence of causal forces and subtle influences, but of deeper patterning correspondences that appear simultaneously on all the levels of the psyche, from the gross material to the higher spiritual to the personal unconscious. Each astrological symbol represents a pattern that could appear at every level, in a form corresponding to the features and characteristics of that level, from the material to the personal psyche to the universal. At each level, the same symbol would manifest differently, yet in the same primal pattern. The interaction between symbols could be described at each level also, and yet in none of those levels was there a causal linkage.

The pattern that emerged did not describe some subtle force that was causing all these patterns to be linked together. Instead, it described a universe in which causation only appeared within a particular level or viewpoint, but between viewpoints there was no causal linkage, only the synchronicity of pattern itself. This makes sense because viewpoint has nothing to do with causation. A viewpoint cannot create a cause within any of its levels, or across levels. Viewpoint is only a modification of attention itself, which is at root the witness, not an object or an effect upon an object. Viewpoint is governed by synchronicity, not causation, Within any viewpoint, say the gross physical, one can only find causes that are gross physical. One will never find causes emanating from another level. So higher pyschisms do not appear within the gross physical as actual physical forces that influence events directly. They have no influence, any more than the symbolic meaning of stars and planets have an influence on us. They have a relationship of synchronicity, not influence. So the symbols of astrology may coincide with varous personal and material patterns, but they do not represent a causal pattern, or a force producing a causal effect.

The patterns of causation are entirely different from those of synchronicity. In causation, one looks for effects, whereas in synchronicity, one looks for correspondences. This is why science is always completely frustrated by patterning arts such as astrology. They try to endlessly convince people that astrology has no basis in causation, that there are no detectable physical influences emanating from stars and planets that could possibly affect human affairs. Astrologers in turn accuse the scientists of being merely materialists who do not understand that there is a psychic world of influence that is invisible to their methods, which occurs on the level of the psyche. They assert that planets and stars do in fact emanate influence on a psychic level that they can feel and detect and respond to. They even will assert that the whole physical plane is actually being created and its activities caused by psychic influences at a deeper level. In this, both scientists and astrologers are wrong. There is no psychic influence on the patterns of the material world, there is only a psychic correspondence to these patterns. The universal linkage between all these levels or viewpoints is not a causal one, but an acausal pattern of synchronous correspondences. That is why astrology manages to “work” in some sense. It is also why it doesn't “work” all that well. It can't determine causal relations and definite results as science does because there are none between levels. There is only a patterning correspondence. So astrology is limited in fitting patterns together, and that kind of work simply does not produce exact results. Its real value comes at the level of integrating the psyche, such that one can see the same pattern operating at all levels, rather than figuring things out at a causal level such that one can manipulate and extract the maximum gain from one's causal actions. Astrology isn't the art for that kind of exercise – science and politics do much better. People generally come to astrologers for practical advice about what to do, or simply hopeful information that things will get better for them. It generally fails at both these things, though it may have some surprising successes as well. But really, the real value of astrology is the integration of the psyche through a non-causal understanding of one's own pattern and its relationship at all levels to all other patterns. Studying astrological patterns in this fashion has real value. The problem I encountered in practicing astrology is that not many people are actually interested astrology for this purpose. But that's another story.

So how does this relate to Wilber's take on evolution? Primarily, it's that Wilber, in confusing the levels between material and metaphysical processes, is also confusing causal processes with acausal processes. In other words. By assuming that some kind of psychic influence must be at work creating mutations at the physical level of the evolutionary process, he is confusing psychic influence with a causal process, rather than seeing it as a synchronous patterning correspondence between levels, as it should be understood. Wilber is treating his subtle “erotic force” as if it actually creates causal effects in the material world, which it simply doesn't. In trying to find holes in evolutionary theory to fit his causal force into the mutation process, Wilber is confusing levels, and making the same mistake that creationists do when they try to see God as the Creator in a causal manner. God is not actually the causal Creator of the physical universe. The physical universe simply arises within the same synchronous pattern as all other things. The “Source” of the universe in its totality is not objection causation, but subjective synchronicity. So at one level, there is a great erotic force in the universe, and at another level, there is physical evolution. Neither one “causes” the other, but their work proceeds in synchronous correspondence with each other, and with all other levels or viewpoints, as an expression of the universal or total pattern of the universe itself. Even to speak of one level emerging from a lower or higher level is misleading, of one uses the term “emerging” as expressing a causal relationship. It does not. The emergence of levels from one another does have an ordering to it, but it is not a causal ordering, it is acausal in nature. Not understanding this leads to tremendous confusion and delusion as to the processes of nature at every level. It makes it almost impossible to correctly “read” nature as a whole, or to proceed with the process of real integration, which is essentially not a causal path of development, but an acausal path of attention itself recognizing its source, its source pattern, and the pattern of all arising.

Causation is karma and bondage. The viewpoint of causation simply creates more karma and more bondage. Causation itself is the “wheel” of bondage, the wheel of causes and effects that never ends, that has no beginning, no resolution, and not final answer. Looking at consciousness and the totality of things through the lense of causation creates endless distortions and delusions. At any level, the universe works by a causal process, meaning karma. But between levels there is no causality, only synchronicity. This is the key to becoming free of the karmic process. The “integral overview” if we must call it that, which leads to freedom, is an acausal overview. It does not look for subtle causes that produce effects on the material level. Instead, it looks for the pattern that unites everything at every level. That pattern is quite simple, really, and yet the meaning of it is not in the pattern itself, or in its cause. It's meaning is in its subjective source.

That's enough for now. Perhaps more later on the specifics of astrological pre/trans issues.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Reply to Wilber on Metaphysics of Evolution

Just read Wilber's reply to Jim's post on the Lightmind Wilber Forum and I must say, a pretty nasty piece of work. Is Wilber aware that by getting so hysterical about his critics he is putting people off, even if he is right? I'm not a Wilber scholar, I don't even know where these source materials are or what Wilber's full argument is. I'm willing to give Wilber the benefit of the doubt that he has not been using materialist scientists to support his metaphysical views, only to point to holes in evolutionary theory that he has alternative explanations for, but even giving him all that, I still find his response on the issue of spiritual development to reveal an “undeveloped” character. Ouch, that must hurt.

It's easy to get all red hot and rajasic over some critic, and to attribute the worst of intentions to them, and to write them off completely. Getting righteously hurt and pissed sure can feel good in the short run, but it just creates deeper problems in the long run, not just with relations, but within oneself. Why would anyone want to do that from the start? Why not respond to critics from sattvas, with a balanced, unthreatened, non-defensive posture of helping them see the error of their ways, if that is the case, or finding one's own errors, if that is the case. (It's usually both). It's not then end of the world if a critic is wrong, or even hostile, or makes mistakes (as Jim has acknowledged). No need to attribute the worst of intentions to one's critics, even if they have to you.

Wilber says reputations are at stake. That's just an easy rationalization for taking out the flamethrowers. Wilber's reputation is not at stake. His theories are at stake, that's all. So what if he's wrong on a few counts? No one has a reputation for being perfect. The problems with his reputation come from him, not from his critics, from explosions like this that give the impression that Wilber is imbalanced and insecure about his theories. At least that's the impression I get, and I'm pretty much an outsider to the whole I-I world and this debate within it.

One thing I'm surprised to learn is that the Ken Wilber Forum is actually part of Frank Visser's website. I had assumed that it was part of Elias' Lightmind. That's how I found it, wandering in from the largely defunct Daism Forum. Anyway, I've been writing here about Wilber, mostly in a critical vein, but not pretending to have any scholarly credentials or deep understanding of Wilber, and confining myself for the most part to his usage of non-dual concepts and terminology, where I think he does make big mistakes. I've also commented on his approach to evolutionary theory, which I think he makes category errors in, of trying to insert metaphysical views into scientific theory, and not respecting the category differences. I'd like to respond to Wilber's blog post purely in that vein, not using Jim's critique, but relying only on Wilber's own words and ideas, which I understand are not comprehensive, but I assume to represent what he thinks in summary about evolution. I'm not trying to argue with Wilber's scholarship, in other words, but with his ideas themselves.

So, Wilber's theory is that there is an immanent driving force within all beings from the tiniest amoeba to the most advanced human that thirsts for greater and greater inclusion, and ultimately, perfect realization. Why does Wilber think that? Well, let me speculate that first of all it's because Wilber himself feels this thirst. He also notices it in other people. And as he looks at the various structures and processes of nature, he sees a similar pattern, of growth and complexity and greater self-awareness, and thus assumes a similar drive within the consciousness of each being. This seems natural enough. It is “common sense”, which is my assessment of how Wilber operates in most things.

But is it true? Common sense has a way of being proven wrong over and over again, particularly in scientific matters. Aristotle created a whole universe of false views out of what he assumed were common sense observations and notions of how the world operated. My sense is that Wilber is making similar mistakes, mixing his metaphysical sense for the way human beings are with the way the physical universe actually operates. Yes, this metaphysical drive exists in us. And maybe something like it exists in all beings. But that doesn't mean that this metaphysical drive is the driving force behind physical evolution, or any physical process, other than that it seems it must if Wilber's holonic theories are correct. So to defend his theories, Wilber feels that he most postulate an erotic force or drive that is the real fuel for physical evolution itself. The problem is that Wilber has not adequately explained how this “drive” is anything other than a purely metaphysical drive, or how this metaphysical drive we all seem to share relates to the physical mechanisms of evolution, and physical life altogether.

I can sympathize with Wilber's view that such a drive exists. I experience it. Most people I know experience it in some form or other. But it remains a metaphysical drive. I also experience physical drives, such as the drive for sex, for children, of whom I have two, for food, for money, etc. These are not metaphysical drives, however, they are physical drives. As it happens, however, we all tend to superimpose our metaphysical drives on top of our physical ones. Thus, we don't just want to have sex, we want sex to be more than just physically fulfilling, even more than just emotionally fulfilling, we want sex to be metaphysically fulfilling. We want it to satisfy our highest urges. The problem, of course, is that it doesn't do that. Why? Because sex isn't a metaphysical act, it's a physical one.

I know some people will yell “tantra!” at the drop of this hat, but tantra isn't about sex, it isn't about physical drives at all, it's about transcending physicality, or identification with the physical, and even identification with the metaphysical. Sex is primarily about reproduction, one way or another. Even when it isn't about reproduction, its features are present because of the complex process of natural selection. Whatever metaphysical we have associated with sex, is all in our minds, unless the reproductive act of sex is given greater evolutionary selective power in the process. Physical sex is simply there to make children, and whatever way the body can get you to have sex and make babies is immaterial from its point of view. If you do it by believing in God's plan or an erotic metaphysics to the universe, fine. If not, anything else will do just as well. In this sense, the physical act of sex is utterly detached from our metaphysical drives. What counts is making babies, because only they pass on our genes and contribute to physical evolution. And the genes that help us do that, whether they are metaphysical genes or not, are what gets passed on and makes us “evolve” as a species.

Money, too, is something that people impose metaphysical drives onto. They dream of money solving all their problems, when in fact the only problems that money solves are money problems. Even people who make more than enough money to support their largest physical needs still have a drive to make more, because they are pursuing a metaphysical drive, not a physical one.

Similarly with sex. Human beings have an intense, "always on" sexual drive, that makes them want to have more and more of it, regardless of whether reproduction is even possible. This is because humans have evolved a need for supportive parenting of their offspring, because of how long it takes human intelligence to develop from infancy onwards. That is why humans have developed a pair-bonding attachment pattern through sexuality, in which the parents tend to stay together to protect and feed and acculturate their children through their vulnerable years. Unlike with most species, fathers stick around to help, and the primary reason they do is because of the sexual bond they have with the mother, which allows them to have sex any time they like, because human females are sexually active and available at all times, not just at certain times of the year or certain times of the month. So ironically, humans end up with a nearly constant obsession with sex, even though their actual reproductive sex is usually limited to a handful of incidents in a lifetime. The sexual drive, even in its most promiscuous fashion, is there to support reproduction, even when reproduction is impossible.

So it is natural that human beings begin to attribute metaphysical notions to all this "extra" sex they are having, which seems not to be directly about reproduction. That is why religions obsess about sex and feel the need to explain it by metaphysical drives and universal male and female energies and powers that aren't obvious to the senses, even when there is a very simple evolutionary reason behind it that requires no metaphysical explanation. It's also why they try to control and regulate it, even suppress it, because they feel that when they are doing so, they are relating to these metaphysical powers of the Gods. And who knows, maybe they are. But as with all traditional religious explanations for how things work, particularly in sexuality, these notions have to be compared to the actual biology and physiology and evolutionary forces involved, and not assume that the metaphysical explanation is either the best one, or even the correct one. Any such notions have to be tested against biology, or they have to be discarded or re-thought.

The thing is, the particular metaphysical erotic drive that Wilber postulates to be guiding evolution seems to exist almost entirely in humans. Animals don't pursue metaphysical needs through physical means, at least that we are aware of. They respond only to their most immediate physical needs food and safety, and once those are satisfied, enough is enough, and they are done with it. As Adi Da says, at that point they simply enter into spiritual contemplation, and stay in such a mode until they are either threatened, hungry, or it's time to make babies. Once that is done, they go back to contemplation. Their metaphysical needs are not confused in their mind with physical needs. They intuit a natural order to these things, and don't confuse them. And part of that intuitive order is a basic understanding that the physical world is not a place that can satisfy our metaphysical needs for spiritual contemplation. In that sense, animals are actually smarter and more spiritually inclined than humans, because they don't pretend that the physical world can ever satisfy us. They know how crude, rough, and unfair it is. When they want metaphysical satisfaction, they simply sit apart in silence and relax into a meditative state. Any cat knows this. But human beings, with their metaphysically minds, seem not to, and constantly try to create a metaphysics out of the material world, that can somehow allow them to have their cake and eat it too.

What Wilber seeems to be doing when he infers that a metaphysical eros drive is behind our physical evolution is projecting his own metaphysical drive, and the drive of most humans, onto the physical world, even onto our own physical bodies, even though that's just not the nature of the physical universe. It's true that since human have become cultural beings, our evolutionary process has changed to some extent, in that we now evolve not just physically, but culturally, and that our cultural evolution has a strong influence on our physical evolution, in that humans who can't thrive culturally are less likely to survive and pass on their genes than those who do. But that doesn't mean that the actual mechanism of physical evolution has changed, or that some metaphysical force has taken over the evolution of our bodies. Even if there is such a force influencing human culture, its influence on evolution is still limited to what its impact is on our survival and reproductive ability to pass on our genes to offspring. And yet, we humans of today are not mere physical creatures, we are clearly metaphysical creatures with a drive for metaphysical satisfaction, and we try to gain that satisfaction within the material universe. Which to a Buddhist understanding is the source of our self-inflicted misery. Our culture is a metaphysical creation, in which all kinds of simple physical drives have been superseded by metaphysical superimpositions, such that we don't pursue physical drives for purely physical satisfaction anymore, we pursue them for metaphysical gratification. And that pursuit is what the Buddha called "tanha", or craving, which creates an endless circle of seeking and dissatisfaction that never ends.

The problem with Wilber's evolutionary theory is that it seems to be guilty of this same confusion between physical drives and metaphysical ones that has made our entire culture a total mess of never-ending craving. He wants physical evolution to be based on a metaphysical drive, rather than a physical one. He wants to find some loophole, some small quantum window that will allow him to drive this metaphysical bus into the material world. He hasn't found it, and people have been looking for this loophole for thousands of years, and yet they haven't found it either. Wilber is not the first to propose this. Something like it has been proposed endlessly for most of human history. But it still hasn't been found, and the desire and the need that it be found is not itself a substitute for the finding of it, nor is it evidence that it must exist.

Wilber says that science keeps promising to plug the holes in evolutionary theory, and that it never does, and has been promising this for the last two thousand years without success (which is a rather exaggerated timeline for the history of science. Darwin didn't come along until 150 years ago, which seems about the time that science began to make promises about unraveling our evolutionary history). But Wilber neglects that religion has been promising far more for far longer, and delivering far less. Wilber talks as if science hasn't made any progress at all in the past two thousand years, or even in the last 150, when in fact it has made incredible, truly miraculous progress. Just because it hasn't answered every last problem or issue doesn't mean its answers haven't been getting more and more meaningful, valuable, refined, and trustworthy.

Whereas the metaphysical answers to the physical world's operating processes have been shown time and again to be wildly fanciful, false, absurd, and sheer projections of human hopes, desires, fears, and our own internal metaphysical drives. Yet Wilber pretends that the rational response to science's shortcomings is to postulate another metaphysical answer, this time a more refined one, but only slightly so – an erotic drive. I don't want to ridicule this idea as many scientists would. Many would not ridicule it, but even those who would, would probably see it in its proper place, as a metaphysical theory, not a scientific one. It thus doesn't have any direct relation to physical theories, or physical evidence itself. What equations govern it? What phenomena requires its existence? Wilber doesn't say, because thus far there are none.

Thus, the presence of gaps in our understanding of the physical process of evolution doesn't rationally lead to metaphysical theories about how those gaps can be filled in. That is an irrational leap, and not of the transrational variety, but of the pre-rational variety. It's a regression, in other words, even if Wilber thinks not, because he has tried to formulate a transrational theory. What he doesn't understand is that ALL metaphysical superimpositions upon rational, physical processes are regressions, regardless of how high-minded they are. They lead to a false application of rational physical science, based on metaphysical theories which have no place in physical science.

When scientists promise that these gaps in evolutionary theory will be filled with scientific materialistic theories and evidence, Wilber acts as if they have no credibility, when in fact they have huge credibility, since over the last few hundred years scientists have shown a remarkable ability to fill all kinds of huge holes in their theories and ideas and evidence with purely scientific knowledge. They have a far better record of coming up with answers than any other process, especially metaphysical answers such as Wilber is proposing. They are narrowing down the holes to such a point where there really isn't much reason left to think that science can't fill most of them through physical explanations alone. Sure, there is plenty to speculate about as to what and how those holes will be filled, but it sure does seem like science can answer them far better than any metaphysical explanation can, any “eros drive”, unless you just want to call the whole physical universe and its laws an “erotic drive”. Fine. Call it Yahweh while we're at it. The fact is such a theory isn't needed. The scientific materialists are right on that count. The physical universe doesn't need a supernatural explanation to explain itself or its processes within its own context. Nor does physical evolution.

This strikes Wilber as wrong, because it leaves his own metaphysical drive exactly where? I'd say, right where it always was, in dualistic frustration. The attempt to make our metaphysical drive concrete by grounding the physical world in it, and seeing our own evolution as the product of this drive, is simply part of the impulse to make the drive itself physical, concrete, reified. But that's the problem. Metaphysical drives are not concrete. They are bound to be frustrated by our attempts to reify them. A sound metaphysics gives up on this attempt. It stops trying to impose itself on the physical world. It stops trying to associate itself with the goals and drives of the physical body. It stops looking for tiny loopholes to climb through. Wilber's invocation of quantum uncertainty principles as one of those “loopholes” that his erotic drive can thrust its sweaty head through is desperation personified. Didn't Wilber once attack pseudo-spiritualists for trying to use quantum theory to make a home for their pet ideas of a transrational universe? Now he seems to be doing the same thing. The problem is a little laughable if one examines it. Quantum theory is about random processes, and the uncertainty principle is about the ultimate unknowability of random processes. And yet Wilber wants to use these to make claims that he knows what actually goes on within them, that some erotic drive is behind this random and unknowable process. Again, why not just say that Yahweh is behind it all? It makes as much sense.

The facts remain that physical evolution seems eminently explicable by physical law, without the need for an outside metaphysical process to explain how the physical process works. Wilber's problem is that he can't seem to locate his metaphysical drive within the physical universe, so he just postulates that it must be there, and if there are holes in physical theory, that must be the place where his metaphysical drive is hiding! This is the worst kind of reductionist logic, far more reductionistic than scientific materialism itself. Scientific materialism is a sane form of reductionism, in that it explains material processes within their own realm as being self-sufficient. And I agree with it at that level. Science is more than adequate to explain the physical world and its processes, including perhaps evolution. Not that there is no metaphysical relationship between the physical universe and our spiritual nature, but that it is not necessarily a causal one, in which the spiritual oversees and causes the physical world to behave as it does. That's just not the nature of the relationship between the physical and the spiritual, and the lack of an obvious spiritual forces needing to be accounted for to explain the physical universe demonstrates this with brutal honesty.

I wouldn't stop there, however. I have no problem acknowledging a metaphysical drive, even the notion that the entire physical universe is the creation of our metaphysical drive at some deeper level. I just notice that the physical mechanisms thus created, via Big Bang or expanding bindu, are self-sufficient in and of themselves. They are psychic and conscious all by themselves. They don't need to operate by some “other” psychic mechanism. The world our universal psyche has created, once we enter into it, has no need to operate by some other kind of psychic drive or force than itself. The material universe, in that sense, is a psychic phenomena, and all its observable laws are psychic ones.

Which means that no additional forces are needed, only a different understanding of the forces we already observe. We have to step back in order to see the psychic nature of it, and understand how metaphysical forces shape the universe through these very mundane physical laws and processes. But once we step back inside it, and try to examine its physical processes, those metaphysical forces no longer appear as "metaphysical". That only applies from the metaphysical perspective itself, not the physical one we live in and speak of as evolving. Here, we are subject to brute material reality and its laws, and that has to be accepted and understood as offering us no metaphysical hope for satisfaction. The Buddha made that clear with his Four Noble Truths. Ironically, by offering us no metaphysical satisfaction, the physical universe becomes our greatest teacher, pointing us beyond all manifestation to the underlying truth that is neither born nor come to death. But that is an understanding of non-dualism that Wilber himself rebels against, in the hope of creating a metaphysically satisfying life within the dualistic domain, that simply isn't possible.

So even if Wilber is trying to introduce a trans-rational metaphysics into the physical world, rather than say a pre-rational mythos, he is still making a category error that ends up in a regression to the pre-rational. This is why he gets so pissed off! He thinks he's getting pissed off because somebody said something unwarranted and unfair about him. But really, he's getting pissed because his theory leads to a pre-rational emotionalism, a need to ground a metaphysical drive in the physical world, which is essentially a pre-rational need. And because that never produces satsifaction, and cannot by the very structure of reality ever be achieved, it leads to immense frustration on the part of the religious theorists trying to make it work. It's not just Wilber who ends up this way, it's virtually all of religious metaphysics, and often with far more violent results.

Using someone's "unfair" criticism as a pretext for losing it is just a way to let off the steam building up from this pre-rational drive. Even worse, it is a way of hiding from and projecting onto others the intrinsic flaws in Wilber's theories. Wilber wants to keep his whole theory from unraveling, but he can't, because physical reality itself gets in the way, and that's unbearable for Wilber to face up to. Like all spiritual realists, he tends to be at war with the physical world, and incapable of feeling at ease with its lack of metaphysical obedience to the ideas he wishes controlled it. I'm not sure if it's really necessary to explain evolution by an erotic metaphysical drive in order to support Wilber's whole map and theory, I'm not that well versed enough in Wilber's theory to say, but he certainly acts as if it is. What if physical holons have no drive to evolve? What if they were just built and governed by physical law in such a way that evolution would become inevitable? What if their consciousness is not really directed towards evolution at all? What does any of that really matter? It doesn't change our own metaphysical needs one bit, it only suggests we stop trying to fulfill them through physical processes, including physical evolution.

Wilber seems to ignore or even purposely reject the basic Buddhist metaphysical view of the world as being an endless wheel of desire and craving, with no particular evolutionary goal in mind, just endless birth, change, growth and development alternating with chaos, dissipation, degradation, and death. Our true metaphysical need is not for some great inclusion of these things, but for a quenching of that very desire, a nirvana that ends the metaphysical craving altogether, and which gets us off the wheel of endlessly looking for one within a realm that never provides any such thing. There is no sense in which one will find some erotic drive for unity in nature itself, or even within our own minds. Nature and the mind only wish to perpetuate themselves by whatever means. Nature has its own methods, and mind has its as well. Truly, our real drive for freedom exists beyond all of that, beyond the physical world, beyond the metaphysical world, beyond every thought and every mind. Whether it includes anything or nothing is only found within the quenching itself, not in any dualistic analysis of things as they appear or seem to be or as we wish they were.

And by the way, Ken, if you read this, no hard feelings one way or another. These are just ideas, and nothing is at stake in them. I may be right, I may be wrong, as you might be. Don't take any of this personally. Best wishes to you, and try to stay out of trouble!

Non-dual holes in Wilber's pre/trans fallacy

Wilber's pre/trans theory is one of his earliest and most successful “scores”. It's a major part of his AWAL thoery, and on the surface, it's a fine principle to acknowledge. In the wider world of knowledge and discussion of religion, it certain has great merit. Again, it's basically a form of common sense, and in common situations, it works fine. Wilber's deconstruction of Joseph Campbell's theories of mythology has much merit to it. But let's be honest, JC just isn't all that bright a guy, and his understanding of mythology, while a great contribution to the field, isn't terribly profound. Wilber is right to criticize Campbell's view as lacking discrimination between pre-rational and post-rational. Why do I say this? Because Campbell is a rationalist himself, as Wilber points out, using the rational mind to uncover the hidden wisdom within mythology.

But that's the problem with Wilber's pre/trans theory; its only really valid application is to rationalist academics and people like us: sophisticated religionists from a rational-minded culture who are trying to figure out life, and religion, and higher spirituality. For people like us, who are basically functioning from the rational mind, the pre/trans-rational fallacy is a huge stumbling block that needs to be understood, and we need to be sure we don't make this common mistake. The problem comes when it is universalized as a comprehensive understanding of the ordering of the universe, and a map of all knowledge is created on its basis, such as AQAL.

The AQAL map puts all mythology beneath the rational mind, and all “higher” wisdom above the rational mind. This makes sense if you are basically seated in a rationalist point of view. But assuming that reality is so structured is a much bigger step, and making that leap assumes faith in ourselves as true exemplars of the pattern of reality. I'm not trying to downplay the importance of the rational mind, as Campbell does, but I don't see it as central and profoundly necessary as Wilber does. It's necessary to me, Wilber, Campbell, and others like us, because it's such an important part of the life we live, but that doesn't mean that it is central to reality, or the structure of development itself in the universe.

This again ties into the problems Wilber has in assigning non-dualism to the “top tier” in his AQAL map. As I've suggested, non-dualism isn't on the map at all, much less on the top tier. Putting non-dualism on the top tier introduces all kinds of fallacies, including that it requires him to put it in the “trans-rational” category, and since mythology is in the “pre-rational” category, the two simply don't mix. In other words, from Wilber's point of view there's no way to go from mythical to transrational to non-dual without passing through the rationalist stage.

There are big problems with this ordering, however. First of all, most non-dualist traditions are heavily steeped in mythological language and archetypes. We need only mention Shiva, Shakta, Rama, Krishna, celestial Buddhas, etc. Wilber tries to explain this away by suggesting that those who were involved with “higher” wisdom, especially of the non-dual variety, treated these mythical references with dispassionately rational understanding that they were simply representations of higher wisdom, and not to be taken literally or even figuratively. They were able to discriminate between the literalist interpretations of the pre-rationalist mythologizers and the trans-rational meanings contained in these mythic archetypes.

What then are we to make of these words of Ramana Maharshi, one of the pre-eminent non-dual Adepts of our time, and rightly acknowledged by Wilber as such:

Q. Are the Gods Ishwara or Vishnu and their sacred regions Kailasa or Vaikuntha real?

M. As real as you are in this body.

Q. Do they possess a phenomenal existence, like my body? Or are the fictions like the horn of a hair?

M. They do exist.

Q. If so, they must be somewhere. Where are they?

M. Persons who have seen them say that they exist somewhere. So we must accept their statement.

Q. Where do they exist?

M. In you.

Q. Then it is only idea – that which I can create and control?

M. Everything is like that.

Q. But I can create pure fictions, e.g., hare's horn or only part truths, e.g. Mirage, while there are also facts irrespective of my imagination. Do the gods Iswara or Vishnu exist like that?

M. Yes.

Q. Is He subject to cosmic dissolution?

M. Why? Man becoming aware of the Self transcends cosmic dissolution and becomes liberated. Why not Iswara who is infinitely wiser and abler?

Q. Do devas and pisachas (angels and demons) exist similarly?

M. Yes.

Q. How are we to conceive of Supreme Consciousness.

M. As that which is.

Now, according to Wilber, Ramana would have to be guilty of a pre/trans fallacy here, in accepting the literal existence of mythical beings such as Iswara and Vishnu, and acknowledging that they have bodies and live in heavens as real as our bodies and our worlds. The catch of course is that Ramana understands all this from the non-dual perspective, which knows all such things as arising within the Self. Still, he is literally saying that Gods and angels and demons exist every bit as much as we do. What to make of this?

Also, consider the experience of Papaji, who became one of Ramana's chief disciples, and probably the most widely acknowledged realizer among them. From the time he was a little boy, Papaji had almost daily visions of various Gods and Goddesses. He literally spent hours almost every night playing with these Gods and Goddesses, and his brothers and sisters remember him talking and interacting with people they couldn't see. This continued on into his adulthood, his spiritual practice consisting of constant remembrance and invocation of Rama and Krishna. When he first met Ramana he was not impressed, because he didn't seem very devotional, and he left in disgust to spend a few weeks on the other side of Arunachula playing with Krishna and other Gods and Goddesses. It wasn't until he met Ramana again and bragged to him about his visions that Ramana told him that any God he could see couldn't be the real God, that Papaji began to have his doubts about his experiences. And within a few months, Ramana had provoked a crisis in Papaji which led to his sudden awakening.

But until that awakening, Papaji couldn't help but take his visions literally. Who could blame him? I wake up every day and see my wife, and have for the last 23 years. She doesn't seem like a vision to me, she seems to be solid reality. Similarly, if I woke up and saw Krishna every day, I'd take him as real also. It's not as if Papaji were stuck in some pre/trans fallacy. He wasn't just contemplating mythical archetypes and confusing them with everyday reality. He was experiencing archetypal figures as part of his everyday reality. He wasn't schizophrenic or psychotic either. He was a high-functioning officer in the army, a quartermaster with huge responsibilities and a highly rationalistic mind capable of sorting out and dealing with huge numbers of details of everyday life. And yet when his day was done, he would go to his quarters and play with Krishna and other Gods and Goddesses all night.

Papaji saw through the illusory nature of these Gods and Goddesses not by using the rational mind, but by using non-dual wisdom and awakening beyond them. His rational mind told him these Gods and Goddesses were perfectly real, that they did in fact exist and that the world did in fact include real Gods and Goddesses, which were not merely mythical representations of higher wisdom, but were actually embodied beings of a supernatural form.

So there's a big difference between Joseph Campbell and Papaji. Campbell assumes that the myths contain higher wisdom of an archetypal nature, and that the mythic cultures knew how to “decode” these things. Campbell fetishizes the mythic principle, giving it more importance that it deserves, simply because non-dual realizers managed to appear within its culture. Wilber points out that mythic cultures mistakenly take these archetypes to be real characters, and that leads to all kinds of trouble. He sees the realizers as transcending the mythic culture within which they arose, but he assumes that they had to enter a rationalist stage before doins so. He assumes that all of mythology is based on a pre-rational understanding of things, except for those who see through the masks and are able to “read the code”. But what if these mythical archetypes aren't just pre-rational concoctions, or trans-rational symbols? What if those archetypes have a living psychic reality, one as real as our own lives and world? What if there is indeed interaction between these worlds? This would certainly blow the pre/trans fallacy out the window, at least as a universal model for the nature of the larger world. It would still apply within the culture of rationality, and even there only in relation to purely belief-oriented "fundamentalist" mythic viewpoints, but outside that culture, it may make little or no sense, and I mean not even rational sense.

The truth is, non-dual realization has traditionally appeared within mythic cultures for thousands of years, and it has yet to make any verifiable appearance within the modern rationalist world. I'm not suggesting that non-dual realization is incompatible with rationality. It's clear that modern realizers are quite capable of rational discourse and functionality. And yet Ramana's words and Papaji's experience suggest that they don't particularly buy into the importance of the rationalist pardigm, even as a stepping stone to realization. Great realizers have appeared in the past without passing through the “pre-trans” phase, but have instead realized non-dual reality wholly within mythically based cultures, and not by coming to some rationalist point of view about these myths and moving beyond that, but by taking the myths as real, and yet transcending all appearances nonetheless. I'm not suggesting some superiority for mythological religions, but they seem to be no obstacle to non-dual realization, and do not seem to require some highly rational phase of development to be passed beyond into non-dual realization.

This supports my contention that non-dual realization can begin anywhere on the AQAL map, on whatever ladder or map anyone might propose, and that it can complete itself without passing through any other necessary steps. Yes, most Adepts are at least marginally rational, but that's only the Adepts we know about because they have left a written record behind, or talked about their realizaiton, which is a way of self-selecting for rational capabilities. Other Adepts seem to never leave the jungles or forests. They may have little or no rational capabilities. And what of non-humans? There's plenty of traditions which acknowledge various animals as having achieved non-dual realization without of course having the higher rational and conceptual capacities of humans. Some traditions claim a human birth is necessary, but I know of no realizers themselves who make such claims. They merely point out that those who are born in human form need human Gurus, and suggest that those who are born with other forms get Gurus of that form. The point being that non-dualism isn't part of the evolutionary map, that you can get off the map at any time, and that in fact you must if you want realization. Even those who literally see Gods and Goddesses must get over that, not through rationalism, but through non-dual truth. And this is the case for everyone. Those who are situated in the rational mind won't get past it by contemplating transrational integralism, but by contemplating non-dual truths. Since we are situated in the rational mind, it's fine to use that rational mind to contemplate non-dual truth. That's why it's good to think and read and talk about these matters to some extent. And its fine for realizers to use the rational mind of words and rational arguments to present non-dual truth to us. Non-dual reality can be communicated by whatever form of communication is available to living beings of whatever capacity. So there's no need to vilify the rational mind. But let's not pretend it's of greater inportance than it is, just because it's important to us. It's a kind of narcissistic parochialism to assume others, even to assume that human beings need to become rationalist first before they can become prerational.

But once we have become rationalist, we can't just toss it away. That would be a true mistake. We have to approach non-dualism using our rational minds, just as those in a mythical culture needed to approach the non-dual using their mythical minds. That's why it worked for them. And for us - and I assume anyone reading this blog has got to be seriously immersed in the rational mind, or they couldn't possibly get this far – there are excellent arguments made about non-dualism by realizers who use very rational and logical arguments for it. Not because rational arguments are universally necessary, but because that's where we are in the scheme of things. Wilber has that much right. He just doesn't quite understand that where we are on the map has nothing to do with how ready we are for non-dualist teachings, it only describes the method to be used for communicating them. Likewise, there's no social class or culture or intellectual pedigree or color scheme necessary for understanding and responding to non-dualism. Nisargadatta was not exactly one of the leading figures in religion before he became realized. Papaji never bothered reading books. Ramana was barely educated. Hui Neng was illiterate. The list goes on.

So the basic point is that Wilber's misunderstanding of non-dualism and its relation to his AQAL map, or any map, really, leads to all kinds of problems, including pre/trans problems.

Likewise, the words of Ramana and the experience of Papaji suggests something very unsettling to us rational minded characters about the nature of even conditional reality. If Gods and Goddesses really do exist, we need to somehow take that into account, just as we take such scientific truths such as global warming or holes in the ozone layer seriously. Maybe we were unaware of their existence of importance before, or dismissed them as merely mythical creations, but what if they really are in some way real? Shouldn't that require that we not place “mythicism” in some pre-rational scheme? We could certainly place mythic beliefs in a pre-rational category, but mythical realities seem to belong in a rational category, as being real factors in our lives. Seems silly, I know, but perhaps not so. Common sense only makes sense of what we already think we know. It doesn't apply to things we don't know about yet, or things we only think we know about.

The point is that we shouldn't assume that cultures based on principles that seem “lesser” to us than the rational mind are dwelling solely on unreal things, or mistakening psychic archetypes for literal realities. Of course, it doesn't mean that all mythic practices are real and necessary. Most seem to be bullshit in one form or another. But a lot of our culture's practices seem to be bullshit also. We shouldn't judge other cultural forms as being bullshit without acknowledging the universality of bullshit. Clearly science beats out mythology as far as physical processes go. But perhaps there are truths in mythical beliefs about Gods and Goddesses that are actually true, not just as psychic metaphors, but as literal truths. I wouldn't really know, but I wouldn't necessarily doubt it either.

This plays into Da's whole theory of universal “patterning” as the basis for conditional reality and its ordering, but that's a topic for another day. Still, it's an approach that offers a lot of advantages over Wilber's system. Til then.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Wilber's Non-dual Misconceptions

I listened to some Wilber video clips form his website, such as this one, and got a better sense of where Wilber is at with non-dualism. I see big problems withhis understanding of non-dualism, but they are fairly common misunderstandings, and not very hard to spot. Basically, Wilber seems to approach non-dualism as if it is just one aspect of a larger dualistic reality. He sees reality as composed of two realms, the dual, and the non-dual. The problem is, by seeing things this way, he's acknowledging that he is basically a dualist, because only a dualist could see reality as composed of two sides or aspects. So he's reduced non-dualism to one aspect of a larger dualism. And this is where his “integral” approach runs away with it all. He wants to transcend and include everything, so naturally he wants to include non-dualism in dualism, and dualism in non-dualism. The problem is, by doing so, all he ends up with is dualism.

He doesn't think that's the case, naturally. He thinks he is doing what the Mahayana and Vajrayana adepts were doing (or at leat what he thinks they were doing), in other words, finding a non-dual realization that is compatible with dualistic life, that is compassionate and practical. He thinks of non-dualism as a kind of “blank” experience in which there is no capacity to function. He sees “nirvikalpa”, or the formless non-dual samadhi, as a kind of trance state. And there's some basis for thinking that way. There certainly are trance-like nirvikalpa samadhi, in which attention is drawn into ascended conditions of formlessness. But these are not non-dual realization, they are just strong intuitions of the non-dual that may arise in the course of practice. True non-dualism is “formless”, or nirvikalpa, but is not a trance. In non-dual realization, it's true, no objects arise, but that doesn't mean that what we would otherwise call “experience” doesn't arise. It's only that the non-dual realizer doesn't perceive any objects in the midst of experience. There is no sense of being separate from what dualists would perceive as the field of arising objects. So the non-dualist realizer can seem to “do” all the things we thinnk we do in the world of objects, and yet not perceive a single object in any of this. This is not hard or contradictory to the non-dual realizer, it is simply the way reality is. What we perceive as objects and experience, the non-dualist know as himself, non-separate, formless, and objectless.

But prior to realization, it's true that we perceive everything through the mind, which is the seat of dualism. Perception itself is a dualistic means for knowing. Even our intuitions of non-dual reality are processed in the mind, and we thus somewhat naturally see even non-dualism as a dualistic phenomena to be integrated with dualism. We may go into trances where we get a glimpse of the non-dual, and then afterwards wonder how we can “integrate” this with our dualistic experience. This seems to be Wilber's project. But the hitch here is that it's impossible, and not even desirable, to accomplish this. Non-dualism can't be made into dualism's bitch. It won't compromise. It won't teach us how to be better dualists, or how to make nice with dualism. The conflict between dualism and non-dualism is intrinsic to the dualistic mind, and the dualistic mind will ALWAYS find a way to domesticate non-dualism, to make it behave, to make it conform to the dualistic mind's understanding of things. And this seems to me to be what Wilber is doing. He is trying to conform non-dualism to his (very bright) dualistic mind. He is finding a “problem” in non-dualism (it's aloof or insensitive, uncaring attitude towards dualistic suffering, as he sees it), and thus suggesting that pure non-dualism is actually a mistake, a taking of one side of things to an extreme, and he proposes the “solution” of balancing non-dualism with dualism, creating a compassionate attitude that feels and loves suffering separate beings even while transcending their separateness. This is a noble aim at least, but unfortunately a misguided one.

Adi Da wrote about this kind of thing extensively, and I don't know if Wilber was influenced by Da's writings on the subject, but it would be just like Wilber not to acknowledge the debt if it were owed. Da called this the “dual sensitivity” of spiritual practice, in which as the devotee matures they become increasingly sensitive to both the transcendental nature of reality and the suffering of conditional existence, one's own and everyone's state. This isn't a wrong observation in my view. It was actually one of Da's better insights, and he expressed it much better than Wilber. But if the implication Wilber is trying to make is that this dual sensitivity somehow implies that non-dualism is “lacking” something on the order of “compassion” for suffering beings, he's wrong. The problem is that Wilber conceives of “compassion” in dualistic terms, as a form of identification with the sufferings of another, the Clintonian “I feel your pain” approach. This is how dualists see compassion. Non-dualists see compassion quite differently, as identifying with the Divine Nature of every being, regardless of whether they are aware of their Divine Nature or not. So when a non-dualist sees someone suffering, their compassion is not to go up to them, cry as Wilber suggests, and tell them “I feel your pain”. Rather, it is to go up to them and tell them that they feel their Divinity. The non-dualist sees no suffering, only Divinity, even in those who are convinced they are suffering.

Wilber's view is rather Christianized. The Christian notion of compassion, exemplified by the image of Christ absorbing the world's sins on the cross, is a mythical form of dualistic apologetics. It is NOT a non-dual view, not even a mix of non-dualism with dualism. It's got incredible sentimental power in the dualistic mind, however, which I think explains that kind of Christianity's mass appeal. Wilber seems to have been influenced by Huston Smith, an esoteric Christian academic who I think may have some relationship with Wilber, who sees compassion as this crying, weeping empathy for the sufferings of others. Wilber is right that non-dualism does not empathize with the feelings of suffering that people have, but heis wrong that it shows no empathy. As said, the non-dualist empathizes with everyone's Divinity, not with their suffering. The non-dualist can't empathize with suffering, because the non-dualist feels none. Oh, sure, the non-dualist feels pain which he is pinched, he feels emotions of sadness and loss at the death of loved ones, but there is no suffering associated with it for him. Those emotions, those physical sensations of pain, are naturally produced in the body-mind, but the non-dualist is not identified with the body-mind. So his body may feel the emotion, and the physical pain, and it may naturally express it, but the realizer remains aware that he and everything are one Divine Nature, even the pain and sorrow that are occasionally felt.

But it's not as if realizers go around crying and weeping all the time over the death and suffering of things. There are billions of living beings dying every second all around us! The non-dual realizer is not going to mourn each passing amoeba, even though to him they are each as alive and filled with Divinity as anyone one of us. Nor do spiritual practitioners generally go around in a state of agony and sorrow about their suffering. Wilber, I suspect, has developed some kind of weird idea about his own chronic health problems, which leads him to think that the immense pain he experiences on a regular basis (he has a metabolic condition that causes him to feel a lot of physical pain as a consequence) is some kind of “spiritual advancement” into this “dual sensitvity”. Could it be that Wilber is making more of this kind of thing than he would if he enjoyed good health like most of the rest of us? Is he merely trying to glamorize his own unenviable health problems into some kind of spiritual advancement? After all, there's no reports among most spiritual realizers of having experienced great pain like this during their sadhana. Most have been healthy and relatively happy people. But dualists have a kind of love affair with pain and martyrdom, because they think that bliss is the other side of pain, and so that both must go together. And this is true of conditional pleasure and bliss, it really does go hand in hand with pain and suffering. But non-dual bliss is not the opposite of pain or suffering. It's wrong to even call it “bliss”, because it gives the impression of being a polar opposite to suffering. It isn't. From all accounts it is simply unspeakable happiness that cannot be countered or contradicted or undone. Yes, it is “unaffected” by both pleasure and pain, but not because it is insensitive, but because it sees all as bliss, even pleasure and pain.

The problem with so much of Wilber's program is that it is really about Wilber himself, and not about the universal truths he professes to be trying to discern. One gets the impression that if Wilber were in good health, he'd say that spiritual life is about being in great health, not about feeling pain and misery. I sense that Wilber's whole system is designed not really as a universal one, but as a description of his own mental state, his own aspirations, and the aspirations of the milieu of people he has surrounded himself with. I'll get into some of that later, in discussing his pre/trans theory, but for now I'll confine myself to the non-dual issues.

Listening to Wilber, I can't help but wonder, if he thinks so highly of the non-dual traditions, why he hasn't tried to incorporate more of them into his system? But then I guess he leans more towards the forms of Buddhism that seem to support his view, at least superficially. And yet when I listened to his “non-dual intro rap”, it was clearly Advaitic in nature. Why doesn't he take more seriously the clear teachings of these non-dualist Adepts, who clearly don't support his ideas? The problem with Wilber seems to be that he is basically a dualist, yet a very ambitious dualist, one who can't help but see the non-dualist teachings as being the closest to the “ultimate” truth, and therefore he feels he has to incorporate them into his map and overall philosophy. But why doesn't he look at the models used by real Adepts for doing so? Advaita has such teachings, Ramana and Nisargadatta have such teachings, and they could have been used by Wilber to make his own system less contradictory and more realistic. But the problem is, they wouldn't be Wilber's system anymore. They'd be an Advaitic system, or a Buddhist system, and that's not really what Wilber wants, even if it would be truer. I'm sure he would be insulted by that statement, but I think it's simply true, and humblingly so. Of course, the other problem he has probably encountered is that the traditional systems don't support his developmental, “integral” model that well. But the biggest problem is that they don't see the non-dual as having the kind of relationship with the dual that he would like it to have. They understand that the non-dual isn't just some aspect of reality that has to come into balance with the dual. They understand that the non-dual is reality, and that the dual is not. Wilber simply cannot let go of dualism, he likes it so much he wants to take it along into the non-dual, and teach the non-dual how to “live with” the dual. The traditions would regard this as amateurish folly, and I can't help but agree. It's a folly that's characteristic of the times we live in, however, especially among our cultural milieu of cosmopolitan spiritualists.

Da's problems arose from similar ambitions to combine the dual and the non-dual in a supposedly “unprecedented” seventh stage realization. Da went way overboard with that, and Wilber has been much more modest in his work, but seems to be heading down that road anyway, if at a much slower and safer pace. He's even making out like he's a Guru now, or some integral hybrid of that archetype. It's a little sad. He clearly isn't qualified to be a Guru, but that doesn't seem to stop almost anyone these days. I was kind of hoping Wilber would have more integrity than that, but it must be hard for him seeing all these doofuses out there teaching, and he has to be satisfied with being a mere pundit. So some of that is bleeding in. It's too bad. As a pundit, Wilber isn't bad, if far from perfect. As a Guru he's just an example of the Peter Principle in the spiritual world: too many people rise to the level of their incompetence. As a pundit, Wilber is at least competent to debate, to stimulate conversation, to put forth ideas, etc. As a Guru, he's woefully inadequate to the task, but I guess in the world of spiritual teachers these days, who's going to notice? The loss is to Wiber's integrity, and even if he doesn't yet feel the loss, the day will soon come. I don't see Wilber crashing like Da, or getting insanely megalomaniacal, but the fate of charismatic figures is not a pretty one, and Wilber is, indeed, the leader of a charismatic movement, and less and less of an intellectually honest one. Well, lessons don't come cheap in this lifetime, so more power to him, however it comes out.

Friday, June 23, 2006

More on Evolution and Wilber

More dialogs on integral evolution. A continuation from below:

Jana wrote:

But Ken is not ordering anything, he is observing a priori order that has been noted throughout the centuries by thinkers.

This conversation requires the strictest discipline and a full glossary of agreed upon terms...I am not sure if I am up to such heavy duty philosophizing.

Ken said in 93 that ever since the Big Bang Theory cosmology has made "idealists" of us all. If you can accept the Big Bang Theory you can accept anything.

Notice his diplomacy at using the term idealists rather than mystics...just that one word choice says alot.

Personally although Ken obviously has a passion for order, I do think that he is quite at home with chaos as well. Remember his comments on how second tier growth of his organization was just as much about falling apart as it was putting things together...he rather revelled in the chaos of it at the time.

Can I suggest some reading of Stuart Hameroff and how proteins are formed through quantum processes.
And also Eric Lerner, The Big Bang Never Happened for a plasma physics understanding of cosmology.
And a farout meditation on chaos by these three dudes:
Chaos, Creativity, and Cosmic Consciousness by Rupert Sheldrake, Terence McKenna, Ralph Abraham

Perhaps it is our job in our lifetime to figure out just how holozoic the universe actually is and the difference between consciousness, energy and matter.

Ilya Prigonine proved that order emerges not in spite of chaos, but because of it. He found that growth and evolution involve open systems undergoing temporary dissolution, in order to reorganize at a higher level of complexity and function. “The perturbed mind is a mind in the act of rediscovering the Nature outside of culture.” Terrence McKenna. A direct Gnostic experience of reality requires that cultural filters first be dissolved—“The kind of activity which dominates the instability phase introduces a directness, a vector which already indicates in which direction the new structure maybe expected.” Erich Jantsch, The Self Organizing Universe.

“The earlier concept of a universe made up of physical particles interacting according to fixed laws in no longer tenable. It is implicit in present findings that action rather than matter is basic…This is good news, for it is no longer appropriate to think of the universe as a gradually subsiding agitation of billiard balls. The universe far from being a desert of inert particles, is a theatre of increasingly complex organization…a stage for development in which man has a definite place, without any upper limit to his evolution.” Arthur M. Young, The Reflexive Universe

Broken Yogi replied:

Well, first off, if you can accept that Wilber is not ordering anything, you could also probably accept him as the true Avatar of the Age. This is a guy who has spent his whole life constructed the most detailed, organized maps of everything in the universe, and coming up with grand organizational theories about how it all works. If you don't call that "ordering", then I don't know what could qualify.

But as for evolution, I think that many of the thinkers you mention are also guilty of category confusion, of mixing metaphysics with physics. I think there's a good reason for this that has to do with evolution itself, which is that for that last 50,000 years or so, since the beginnings of what might be called human culture, our minds have been evolving in a completely different way than our bodies have, or that the rest of nature has evolved. Cultural evolution, intellectual evolution, spiritual evolution, social evolution, has leapfrogged beyond the mundane confines of gross physical evolution. It has truly entered a "metaphysical" level of evolution, and so naturally we, as intellectual creatures, can't help but see the process of evolution in metaphysical terms. When we look at gross human evolution, it somehow just seems "right" to us that evolution should involve some kind of "intelligent design" or some kind of metaphysical principle of consciousness that guides it, because that is how our minds are evolving. Yet when we do physical science, we don't find any evidence for that. Instead we find this rather mundane and somewhat random process of simple mutation and natrual selection. We somehow imagine that can't be right, because it isn't how we live. We live in a metaphysical reality made by mind that evolves along a wholy different order of things. Intellect, culture, society, spiritual intuition, religious thoughts, do not evolve the way physical organisms do, but we think they must. It's hard facing up to the fact that the mind operates by principles not otherwise found in nature. It's a different order of evolution, and we have a hard time distinguishing between the two. Science is a discipline, however, that requires us to distinguish between the two, and not impose a metaphysical explanation on the physical world. Likewise, metaphysicians like Wilber should have the discipline to both resist scientific impositions on metaphysics, and metaphysical forays into science.

I think there's a way through this, but its not something Wilber is yet clear about. As far as big bang theory goes, I have no problem with it on a scientific level. I think its as accurate as physical science can get. Onthe metaphysical level, I think bindu theory has the right answers. In this view, our entire physical universe is actually just a bindu of light that expands when attention is put on it. As it expands, the light forms all the galaxies and planets and every form and element, including our bodies. This happens in consciousness, and it doesn't take any time at all, it creates time through attention itself. WIthin the universe, it appears as if the universe exploded out of a singularity and took billions of years to get to this point. From the point of view of consciousness, it was just a bindu expanding through attention - one of an infinite number of bindus, any one of which expands into a universe when attention is put on it. When attention is withdrawn from the bindu, it contracts back down to a point of light. It depends on attention. One can transcend attention, and all bindus, or one can buy into the bindu world and act as if it is real. What's important to realize is that we are inside the bindu, and inside the bindu the laws of the bindu apply. So it looks entirely like a real world that exploded out of a singularity, and all physical laws and investigations will only confirm that diagnosis. So science is right at the level of physics about the big bang. And metaphysics is right about this being a bindu of light. But metaphysics is not right about any of this at the level of physics, nor is physics right about things at the level of metaphysics. They are each trying to impose their own view upon the other.

Its a similar principle with evolution. Metaphysically, evolution does work as a oonscious, intelligent design. But physically, it doesn't, it works by random mutation and natural selection. One has to step out of the world to see how evolution works metaphyisally.