Re:  Patterns of Wholeness

I referenced this discussion recently on one of our OOO-related threads, but decided it might be interesting to look at this on its own. Wilber discusses the higher reaches of consciousness as different relationships to or with wholeness.  It might be interesting, in this thread, to discuss wholeness as it is understood at different stages of development.  One of my critiques of Wilber's presentation, on the referenced thread, was that his discussion seems to presuppose a uniform 'wholeness' running behind and through all different stages of development, without (apparently) taking into account the various critiques of wholeness-thinking, and the modifications of the understanding of wholeness, that show up in various postmodern and postpostmodern philosophies or models.

As I mentioned on another thread today, I have sympathy with, and have been a proponent of, views which emphasize the wholeness of reality (Bohm's views, Bon Dzogchen views).  But I have also more recently been developing an integral postmetaphysical pluralism, which could be understood as a challenge to certain forms of wholeness (as you find in modern religious inclusivism, for instance; or in a postmodern Hicksian pluralism, where diverse religious ultimates are all understood as referring to the same basic underlying Reality), so I feel some ongoing tension and irresolution in relation to this topic.

To start, here is a quote from the Integral Life summary of Wilber's discussion:

You've probably heard Ken mention in previous discussions some of the highest structures of cognitive development —- Vision Logic, Illumined Mind, Intuitive Mind, Overmind, and Supermind -— and you may have been left wondering what these structures actually look like from within. Listen as Ken offers a firsthand chronicle of each of these transpersonal stages, describing them as an ever-deepening relationship with wholeness -— that is, thinking wholes, seeing wholes, feeling wholes, witnessing wholes, and being wholes. Ken also describes how these stages have informed and influenced his own map-making and personal creativity, and how the capacity for pattern recognition and perspective-taking have been instrumental in his ability to traverse these highest reaches of human potential....


Views: 663

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

And I might be somewhat reading into or projecting upon Bryant's ideas, but from his analysis of differance he seems to be on this track. For example, when he says that the excess is an "absence of belonging" I get a sense of this active absence, this withdrawn substance which he also describes as an object's latent powers, i.e., its hidden capacity to effect actualizations. It doesn't seem that this object ever assumes a completely isolated assholon aspect because it is never fully actualized, never fully present, never fully whole, even unto itself. It's not even a little assholon. But again, this could just be my preferential translation, and to some degree it cannot help but be.

Balder said:

>>his term, 'cosmic envelope,' sounds like it partakes of the container-like vision of wholeness, but Mark also mentioned an enfolding order suggests it might not be that at all.


This is from an abstract to one of Bhaskar's books:

Bhaskar calls this non-dual world the cosmic envelope (in which the deepest natures or ground-states of all beings sit and are connected), describing it also as Bohm’s implicate order of pure enfolded being, of pure potentiality, of “Platonic anamnesis,” involving “a level of consciousness beyond thought itself.”

Bhaskar's view of nonduality is similar to Advaita Vedanta, but with this criticism:

... when Shankara talked about what I call demi-reality as an illusion, he did not clarify that illusion is real, as real as steel; it is not just the absolute that is real.
Roy Bhaskar with Mervyn Hartwig, The Formation of Critical Realism: A Personal Perspective. New York. Routledge. 2010. Page 204.

Mark Foster

I knew the word absence would cause confusion and hesitated to use it. What I'm talking about it not just an absence, just like it is not just difference. It is not completely absent because the part or object is partly present, partly absent, wholly both and wholly neither.

When Bortoft uses the word, I think what he means is that wholeness is an "absence" for the perception that (mistakenly) looks for the whole as something particular or objectifiable. 

But to respond to the question in general, I'd say absence can be used (at least metaphorically) to refer not only to static things (if, by thing, we mean physical objects), but to processes, activities, feelings, perceptions, qualities, understanding -- to the lack or non-finding or non-experiencing of any expected aspect or dimension of experience.  In integralese, we might say that "absence" usually is employed in the context of 3p languaging of experience, even in relation to 1p phenomena (a 3p manifestation or languaging of 'not').

This post may be of relevance, or more aptly, presence. Mayhaps more neologistically and in Derridaen fashion, presance?

Recent posts in this thread relate here. I also see that type of reasoning in Tom's Whole All in that it is completely available to any present consciousness since it is the Whole in the here/now expressed in any individual part. It could also be construed that Bitbol might agree, in that the whole, while unknown it itself, not only manifests in the part but is also fully known there with some kind of apprehension or apperception.

And which also goes to Wilber's higher levels, in that they too have full and direct access to the Whole* also admittedly using Yogacara-Madhyamaka methods.

* I.e., assess to the assholon.

Doesn't OOO do this as well?  It takes on the notion of limited access, on one level, but it also rejects it on another: it claims to directly know reality as it is in its most general: a vast collection of withdrawing objects.  Though here it is reason, not contemplation, that gives access to the universal truth of reality as such.

If I'm not mistaken Bryant uses Bhaskar's transcendental deduction to posit objects as ontological things-in-themselves. So it is a speculative, working assumption (premise) and indeed makes ontological claims. And yet it leaves open even the thing-in-itself, because it too is withdrawn and unknown not just from an observer but from itself, at least in totality.* So while it does assume ontological reality it doesn't claim universal access. I don't mind anymore (like I used to) the ontological speculation, just the ontotheological claim to universal access.

Plus this speculative realism is itself not an absolute or final claim, always open to revision and allowing of plural interpretations. Hence the movement has not just agreement but quite active disagreement. There is not One, final Whole view of it, or of reality as such. All of which tends to differ markedly with views claiming direct and complete access to the Whole, which then include and transcend all other views a la your paper, for example.

* It is possible that it grafts this withdrawn nature onto the ontological, given the rather large and convincing evidence that we cannot know the thing-in-itself epistemologically. Even Bonnie admits as much. Whether this transference is valid onto the thing-in-itself is indeed open to question. Still, even those that posit a means to apperceive or realize reality as such describe it in terms of withdrawal. Or at least some do. Hence I'm using some aspects of Bryant consistent with the inclusion of some of these other views.

I might have to call the above approach, paraphrasing The Farmer in the Dell, as O-I-O-I-O, combing aspects of I-I  and OOO. Which, btw, Bhaskar himself seems to have done as well to the dismay of some of his early students. And which parts of Bhaskar Bryant doesn't address. And recall Bonnie's description in one of the later posts in the mind and nature thread about the ontological realization as "openness...experienced as a dynamic opening-up-to what is absent, what is be-coming."

It could also be construed that Bitbol might agree, in that the whole, while unknown it itself, not only manifests in the part but is also fully known there with some kind of apprehension or apperception.

Do you mean Bortoft, rather than Bitbol?  Bortoft does say the whole manifests in and through the parts, but I don't recall him saying it is "fully known."  How do you understand "fully known," here?  What would such a claim constitute (especially in relation to the whole)?  And (thinking aloud here) is the issue with whether we fully or partially know the thing-in-itself (whole or part), or is it with positing in-itselfness to begin with?  Hicks, for instance, posits a Real-in-itself, but insists that it is always only incompletely (or distortedly, conditionally) known, experienced, and described.

Tom, do you have any thoughts on or response to the passage by Bryant below?  I posted it earlier hoping you might give your take on it.

Balder said:

In my opening post, I mentioned Wilber seeming not to acknowledge that wholeness thinking itself comes under critique, at least at certain stages of cognitive development.  It may be that he believes the higher stages he is describing are ones beyond the point at which all such critiques have been dispatched.  Since the critique I will reference below comes from some fairly cutting-edge thinkers in philosophical circles, such as Badiou and Deleuze, among others, I believe it's nevertheless worthwhile to explore this critique -- as it appears to me to represent an emergent complexity view that is on the far side of at least the more common or conventional mereological theories or forms of "thinking the whole." 

Although I often express various objections to aspects of Bryant's work, I am going to use it here.  If certain forms of thinking the whole have evolved and become self-conscious for us, this critique appears to be a re-circling of such wholeness thinking (as Thomas puts it) such that it explodes certain (say, linear or container-like) modes or formulations of it.  The following quote is from the section of his book titled The World Does Not Exist.  (See the whole chapter for further context and further development of this argument).

If it is so vital for flat ontology to establish that the world does not exist, then this is because the world must not be treated as a milieu in which beings or objects are contained as parts to a whole. In short, if flat ontology is to truly be flat, then it is necessary to establish that the world is not a container within which beings are found. Alternatively, it must be shown that the world is not a super-object composed of all other objects as sub-multiples that form a harmonious whole consisting of beings as complementary and inter-locking parts. As such, following Badiou, there is not world, but rather worlds. The universe, which is really only a manner of speaking, is a pluriverse or multiplicity of universes. Here, then, it is important to observe the role of the definite article in the thesis that “the world does not exist”. Generally when we speak of “the world” we mean this as shorthand for the totality of all that exists. The thesis that the world does not exist is the thesis that no such totality exists nor is it possible for such a totality to be formed. Rather being consists entirely of objects and collectives.

There are two ways of arguing that the world doesn't exist, the first of which has already been hinted at in chapter five in the context of mereology. Within the domain of formal reasoning, Z-F set theory shows the inconsistency of any attempt to form a totality or whole. Set theory provides a variety of resources for contesting the consistency of any totality or whole, however, here I'll focus on the power set axiom. As we've already seen, the power set axiom allows one to take the set of all subsets of an initial set. Thus, if we have a set composed of elements {a, b, c}, the power set of this set would be {{a}, {b}, {c}, {a, b}, {a, c}, {b, c}, {a, b, c}}. At the level of formal reasoning, if the power set axiom spells the ruin of any whole or totality, then this is because it reveals the existence of a bubbling excess within any whole or collection.

This is a variation of Cantor's Paradox. Cantor's paradox demonstrates that there can be no greatest cardinal number precisely because the power set of any cardinal number will necessarily be larger than the cardinal number itself. In a stunning inversion of the ancient thesis that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, the power set axiom reveals, to the contrary, that the parts are always greater than the whole. As I argued in the last chapter, from a certain perspective each object is a crowd, containing within itself a plurality of other autonomous objects that very likely “know” nothing of the object of which they are parts. Any whole that does manage to establish itself is, as Deleuze has put it, a “One or Whole so special that it results from the parts without altering the fragmentation or disparity of those parts, and, like the dragons of Balbec or Vinteuil's phrase, is itself valid as a part alongside others, adjacent to others”.[288] What the power set reveals is the bubbling pluralism of “the” world beneath any unity or totality. Any totality or whole, in its turn, is itself an object or One alongside all sorts of other ones.

At the formal level, the real force of the power set axiom lies in the manner in which it reveals the possibility of a multiplicity of relations and objects within any collective. It will be recalled that any exo-relation between objects is potentially itself also an object. If we ask the strange question, “when is an object?” we can answer this question with the hypothesis that an object is when exo-relations among other objects manage to attain operational closure such that their aggregate or multiple-composition becomes capable of encountering perturbations as information in terms of their own endo-consistency. On the one hand, the power set axiom reveals the possibility of a plurality of other objects within any collective. On the other hand, the power set axiom discloses the possibility of alternative exo-relations among objects, not present in the whole from which the subsets are drawn. Finally, the power set axiom reveals the possibility of withdrawing objects from their relations to collectives so that they might function as autonomous actors, either entering into other collectives, subsystems, or going it alone within the order of being.

If, from the standpoint of formal reasoning, the Whole is not, the One is not, or the world does not exist, then this is precisely because these subsets, these other possible objects and relations populating the power set of the Whole or alleged One are neither counted nor countable within the Whole or One. In short, every Whole or One contains an excess within it that is not itself treated as a part of the Whole or One. Put differently, such subsets are included in the set from which they are drawn, without belonging to it. Yet it is precisely this absence of belonging or membership that spells the ruin of the Whole, One, or World.

What this description doesn't seem to quite get at, though, is Bortoft's vision of the whole.  This critique may, indeed, spell the ruin of linear conceptions of whole as (hegemonic) super-container, but the only possible whole(s) identified here are those which exist alongside other objects -- precisely Bortoft's "counterfeit whole."

Reply to Discussion


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?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

Notice to Visitors

At the moment, this site is at full membership capacity and we are not admitting new members.  We are still getting new membership applications, however, so I am considering upgrading to the next level, which will allow for more members to join.  In the meantime, all discussions are open for viewing and we hope you will read and enjoy the content here.

© 2021   Created by Balder.   Powered by

Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service