Here's a new piece of writing by Ken (though some of it looks like it is copied from an older text). 

Integral Semiotics

I have skimmed it, but I'm too swamped at the moment to give it careful attention.  I look forward to coming back to this in a few days.

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The only appeal to authority I see Joe is that you accept the Sefer Yetzirah and its Cube attributions as if they are a given. I'll grant that you are making a good case for recontextualizing it in postmetaphysical terms given the SY premises and attributions. It's just that perhaps the SY and the Cube itself could undergo some further development and even transformation?

As some possible examples of the last comment, note that only the consonants are used in the basic  Hebrew alphabet (with the exception of Aleph). Of course that language further developed to add marks in certain places to indicate the vowels, but originally the alphabet was based on consonants. I don't know the historical reasons but some of the metaphysical mumbo-jumbo I've heard is to hide the correct pronunciation of 'magic' words which actually create things out of thin air, so the vowels and their placement was kept hidden. Whatever the reason, what if we add the vowels into the Cube, since there are only 22 places for attributions?

Also I like the idea of the Fool as the number 0 in the center of the Cube to indicate the withdrawn potential and excess full of new possibilities. Which of course would change the entire Cube attribution structure. I like the idea of the World as the Cube as a whole rather than in any particular position, but again it changes everything. As for the vowels, how about them on the axes from top/bottom, east/west, north/south and from the corners? It might work if we uses 6 vowels (including Y) instead of 5, since A is in the center. Granted I'm not going to actually develop these initial ideas, since neither the SY or Cube are my current interest, just throwing them off the top of my head.

Again this would change everything not using the SY as the source for the Cube. And perhaps you'd be right that to stick to the Cube would require a relatively stable model like the SY instead of starting from scratch. But as we can see, when we start trying to fit other models and contexts into it there are conflicts that just don't fit. I guess I get frustrated when we all, not just you, try to fit everything into our theories of everything. And then assume that our theory subsumes or envelops or supercedes other theories in some 'next turning' of the wheel. I'm guilty too and consider this as much self criticism as anything. It just frustrates me sometimes. Sorry if it seemed personal to you.

And as I've stated before, I also wonder about trying to postmetaphysically recontextualize admittedly metaphysical systems. It seems that when we do in some respects our lower evolutionary impulses are activated and we unconsciously adopt the metaphysical premises that arose in those wordspaces. So it is with Wilber's mixed bag of both metaphysical and postmetaphysical enactments. I've spent a lot of time and energy examining the former and lauding the later but it is a complicated and tangled knot.

Hi, David,

David:  Maybe this book is intended to do the same, make way for integral and/or spirituality in academia, so he is trying to appeal to the social constructivists. Still, placing the referent in the LL would be quite an about-face from his previous statements, wouldn't it. He has spent a lot of time deconstructing that position.

Yes, that could be the case.  If so, this move unfortunately would be a bit out of date, since, with the increasing influence of actor-network theory, speculative realism, critical realism, OOO, spherology, and other trending philosophical approaches, not only in philosophy or science but in the humanities in general, there is (in my understanding) definitely a concerted and deliberate move away from any kind of strong social constructivism.

David:  Do you think Wilber's ideas of existing and subsisting are analogous to Bhaskar's levels of ontology? What is missing there in comparison?

When Wilber talks about items ex-isting ("standing out" or appearing of one thing for another), he is addressing what Bhaskar would call the empirical level, or what Harman calls "sensual objects" (using the term "sensual" beyond its usual meaning).  When Wilber talks about subsisting, I think he is positing something similar to withdrawal, but with more of an epistemological emphasis.  I talked about this with Tim in a recent post, so I'll repeat some of that here. Subsistence, as Wilber is defining it, appears to be more of an epistemological than an ontological term: it posits multiple-appearances-for, here from a diachronic rather than a synchronic perspective (the over-lapping of retro-read higher perspectives and various lower or other perspectives). For instance, Wilber argues that atoms might be posited as subsistent elements of reality, but only for the level of consciousness which enacts reality in atomic terms, which then retro-reads that atomic reality back into the past and extro-reads it out into the world for all other beings. Higher beings will enact, and then posit the subsistence of, other elements. Thus, what is "subsistent" changes according to the level and mode of consciousness doing the enactment. To cite an example, on p. 251 of Integral Spirituality, Wilber notes that intrinsic features are not pregiven but are interpretive and constructed; they are "the products of the highest level of consciousness making the claim" (emphasis mine). In other words, in this passage, he still appears to be identifying the being of things with (or at least limiting his discussion of the being of things to) the (epistemological) mode in which they are accessed. Which is a move that Bhaskar, among others, criticizes.  This could be fixed, I think, just by more explicitly acknowledging that what is produced is the sensual or enacted/empirical object (i.e., the appearance-for), not the real object (where the reality of an object or being is understood as its irreducibility to "appearances-for," i.e. its ontic excess or withdrawal).  From this perspective, it is this hidden, ontic excess that is the usually unspoken grounds for the "co-" in Wilber's co-enactments.

David:  Also, I believe I have heard people say things like, "CR is panpsychic, too." Is that true?

To my knowledge of CR, which still isn't that strong, CR is quasi-panpsychic.  CR acknowledges that there may be a way that we can speak of lower-level entities engaging in informational exchange, translating their realities in various ways, etc, but CR is resistant to describing this in terms of a universally distributed "consciousness" or "psyche," which it sees (in humans) as an evolutionarily emergent capacity.  As I've noted elsewhere, I don't think this is really a strong divergence from Wilber, since consciousness is used as a kind of shorthand, and he acknowledges distinctions among 'prehension,' 'irritation,' etc.

But more to the point: I think this panpsychism argument (in relation to charges of the epistemic fallacy) is a bit of a red herring, because the argument about the epistemic fallacy is not a critique of a particular kind of ontology (say, an idealist one or a panpsychic one), but a critique of the postmodern tendency to avoid or deny ontology, or to reduce ontological questions to epistemological ones.

David:  Or is Bhaskar's withdrawal referring to some God's eye view of that phenomenon, beyond what anyone will ever enact?

Bhaskar's withdrawal is a transcendental deduction, rather than a simple "God's eye" assertion about reality.  Basically, and to put it in more Integral terms, it asks, What must we presuppose minimally, on an ontological level, about the nature of the world, to make sense of enactment, and of the operation of our injunctive, experimental, and enactive modalities? 

PS: I realize that within the 22 Hebrew consonants some them them do double-duty as vowels: aleph, he, vav and yod. But the vowels were not assigned their own letters like English, hence our 26 letters instead of 22. I even wonder if this is so because if there were more letters then they wouldn't fit into the Cube! As an aside, the hermetic (GD) Tree of Life paths between Sephira were definitely changed to fit the 22 Tarot trumps.


Yes, attempting to postmetaphysically recontextualize an existing tradition is a challenge.  With these various existing top-down theories, it's not feasible to retrace all of the centuries of insights, claimed revelations, and necessarily inspired "tweakings" to  arrive at any kind of "proof."   Which one is correct?  One of several different copies of some 2,000 year old document?  One of the many translations thereof?  Some Rabbi's 500 year old interpretation of one of the copies?  Some group's claims of privileged access or succession?  Some 19th century organization's tweaking of some version of the model?   Trying to trace the top down development of the model may be fine for narrative or historical reasons, but as any kind of proof of validity or demonstration of its pragmatic value today, these efforts are pointless. 

The approach I'm taking is to form a hypothesis (my Integral Cube of Space Hypothesis) and to see if the model (based off of one particular mystery school's rendition of the cube model) is reasonable and useful.  As I wrote on my discussion page:

It is my current thesis that the Cube of Space can be used as a post-postmodern model for understanding the world. As I develop this thesis, I would like to use this discussion page as a continuously updated resource for others to explore my writings and research on the topic, as well as provide a forum to address any questions and challenges.  I hope you will challenge me!

Demonstrating a model's validity involves research and comparison with existing literature as well as demonstrating its usefulness in the here and now.  However, if I'm attempting to make a connection that's too strained, then I hope someone will point it out.  Challenging me on the specifics is helpful.

You write:

The only appeal to authority I see Joe is that you accept the Sefer Yetzirah and its Cube attributions as if they are a given. I'll grant that you are making a good case for recontextualizing it in postmetaphysical terms given the SY premises and attributions. It's just that perhaps the SY and the Cube itself could undergo some further development and even transformation?

I don't accept the particular cube attributions that I'm using as authoritative.  I take them as my hypothesis.  What this means is that the burden is on me to demonstrate that they are reasonable and useful in different situations and domains.  This is a much higher standard or burden because I can't adjust the cube each time to make it fit a given situation.  If the data does not fit the cube model, then either:

  1. I don't understand the problem space sufficiently to perform a mapping. More research is required.
  2. I don't understand the cube elements sufficiently to discover the connections to the problem space being examined. More research is required.
  3. I'm examining the problem domain with the wrong state-space.  Ex: I'm looking at things in the time-domain rather than the frequency-domain.  Look for another equivalent state-space.
  4. The two domains or models are incommensurate.  I'm trying to compare apples and oranges.
  5. I'm attempting to use the model in domains or problem spaces where it does not apply. 
  6. My hypothesis is incorrect, as the model itself is flawed, internally inconsistent , lacks parsimony, has conflations or is otherwise insufficient to the problem space.  Consider revising, changing, reconfiguring, or abandoning the model.

There are other concerns as well.  What if the only way the data "fits" the model is at such a high level of abstraction that the information is not very useful?  Enough of these and any model becomes just another box of platitudes.

A model needs to state its givens (the fewer the better), but everything else must then be demonstrated.


theurj said:

PS: I realize that within the 22 Hebrew consonants some them them do double-duty as vowels: aleph, he, vav and yod. But the vowels were not assigned their own letters like English, hence our 26 letters instead of 22. I even wonder if this is so because if there were more letters then they wouldn't fit into the Cube! As an aside, the hermetic (GD) Tree of Life paths between Sephira were definitely changed to fit the 22 Tarot trumps.

From a recent Bryant blog post:

"This is the point behind the borromean critical theory I’ve been talking about. The knot of borromean critical theory (not to be confused with Lacan’s knot), is meant to emphasize that the three orders simultaneously overlap and interpenetrate and are autonomous. It is a logic of the both/and, not the either/or. What it tries to reject is any of the three orders as being treated as foundational to the others. The order of the symbolic (S) is the order of signs, signifiers, language, meaning. [...] The order of the imaginary (I) is the order of phenomenological lived experience. The order of the real (R) is the order of the physical, natural, or material investigated by biology, physics, chemistry, and neurology."

In another post it seems he places the referent in the Real and not with the Symbolic. And that the Real seems limited to the material or corporeal*, unlike the incorporeal Symbolic. Something to think about with commentary coming.

* "With the Symbolic we get the 'semiotic reduction' which attends to how discourse, narrative, language, signs, and the signifier structure the world.  Here we bracket the referent (the Real) and the lived (the Imaginary), and instead just attend to the diacritics of language in parsing the world."

In this post there can be signifers/signifieds with no referent, like 'god.'

A few quick points on my last post above. Bryant's Borromean diagram with interlocking domains visually depicts both overlap and interpenetration as well as autonomy, expressive of his strange mereology. It demonstrates that a domain or paradigm has its own validity criteria and yet given the interpenetration there is some crossover between them. In this way they can balance each other's reductionist claims. And when all three are taken together as a unit or holon their integration is itself an emergent property. In this way it is both akin to and different from the AQAL diagram in that the quadrants or zones, while autonomous, are nonetheless not interpenetrated like the Borro. The latter is more consistent with the open/closed nature of dynamic systems and their boundaries.

Also the diagram has a space in the center which ties all 3 domains together. I’ve speculated that it is the withdrawn but I’ve yet to see Bryant directly address this. Nonetheless it provides for this excess in all domains, not just the Real. There is no place for this interpenetrating key in the AQAL diagram and perhaps even why there doesn’t seem to be any concept related to it. Except for maybe the Causal, but it is interpreted in a traditional, metaphysical sense instead of the postmetaphysical sense seen in the likes of Bryant or Derrida.

There’s more to say later about the referent being in a different domain than the other semiotic elements. And on the notion that the Real is corporeal  while other domains not so much, or at least not entirely.

Nice explication of Bryant's Borromean model, theurj.  Yes, I agree that the overlapping aspect of the rings is useful -- for instance, it helps mitigate a potential issue in the AQAL framing which I discussed a few years ago in a thread called, "Hands Off My Quads!"  The principle of non-exclusion, together with the neatly separated mapping of the quadrants, can be read in a way that it becomes entirely inappropriate for one paradigm to make pronouncements on, or to criticize, the findings of another.  Whereas I think there is, indeed, enough of an overlap that such cross-domain criticisms and commentaries can be made (though within limits, which is what I think Wilber's heuristic principle suggests).  In other words, both autonomy and interpenetration.

About the ring at the center being associated with the withdrawn, yes, I also see it as a possible "marker" for the withdrawn (which, interestingly and significantly, also is inseparable from the three domains), but I haven't been able to find confirmation of this in Bryant's writings (and have seen some contradictory indications, as well).  I think the center ring can be related to the black "dot" which Winton places at the center of his semiotic lemniscate (and which we might also relate to Morrison's vertical ontic axis).

This quote may help to shed some light on Wilber's LL real object and how that perspective is not solely constuctivist.

"I am not saying that language creates reality. Far from it. Rather, I am saying that what counts as reality... is a matter of the categories that we impose on the world; and those categories are for the most part linguistic. And furthermore: when we experience the world we experience it through linguistic categories that helped to shape the experiences themselves. The world doesn't come to us already sliced up into objects and experiences: what counts as an object is already a function of our system of representation, and how we perceive the world and our experience is influenced by the system of representation. The mistake is to suppose that the application of language to the world consists of attaching labels to objects that are, so to speak, self-identifying. On my view, the world divides the way we divide it, and our main way of dividing things up is in the language. Our concept of reality as a matter of our linguistic categories."  John Searle


I am always surprised when people talk about anyone knows what the word refers too! So is Wilber and Searle saying that reality is socially constructed or that whatever cockamamie idea one has about reality is found within a cultural worldview? The latter seems so obvious to me.

Isn't the latter itself a statement about reality ("the way things are")?

The concept is defunct. I am not saying that everything arises from human beings delusions. Within the dreams of separation it is posited that some thing exists in some manner below (esp. 5b). Since what counts as reality is relative to the worldspace enacted, which relative enacting is correct? How would/could we know? Has anyone on this list found "something that exists independently of all other things"?


5. Philosophy .

something that exists independently of ideas concerning it.
something that exists independently of all other things and from which all other things derive.

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What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

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