Mark Edwards, in the first of a series of interviews with Integral Leadership Review, distinguished between a theory of everything and a theory for anything:


“I liked Clifford Geertz's distinction between a 'theory for' - which explicitly refers to the search for an imprecise but also useful form of knowledge and a 'theory of' - which harkens back to the grandiosity of the positivist search for complete explanations and exact predictions. As far as the 'everything' bit goes, I see integral theory as a set of lenses that can help me get a handle on any event rather than every event. By this I mean that I want to bring integral theory to the ordinary events of life rather than trying to fit everything into the theory. Hence, I have referred to my work in the development of an integral holonics as a 'Theory for Anything' as opposed to a 'Theory of Everything'. Although, I still find even the TOA version rather extravagant.... In any event, being aware of such distinctions is an example of how integral theory can gain from post-modern critical analysis of TOEs. The post-modern critiques of overarching theories are very relevant to this whole discussion and theorists working in this area need to be aware of such valid criticism.”


In Edwards' Integral World series called “Through AQAL Eyes” he explores this differentiation. In part two he notes the implications of the holon of everything often depicted in Wilber's diagrams:


“My contention is that, despite warnings by Wilber to the contrary, holons are often mistakenly assumed to be some sort of separate quasi-objective entities which develop against the background of the Four Quadrants.... This dualistic notion of how holons fit into the AQAL model derives from two main misconceptions. The first is that reality is 'composed' of holons and objective holonic categories. The second is that the AQAL model, particularly in its Theory of Everything (TOE) presentation of the Four Quadrants of Kosmic Evolution, is often regarded as a spatial-temporal map of Kosmic reality. The result of these interpretations is the view that a holon is some objectively definable whatsit which spirals and develops within a vast Four Quadrants map of evolution. This common, and almost unconsciously, accepted perspective of the relationship between the holon construct and the AQAL framework is in dire need of review.”


The only problem I see with Edwards' analysis is that 1) he correctly makes the case that the kosmic holon is reified as a spatial-temporal map of everything yet 2) still allows that we can retain the TOE holon. Whereas the point is that we can never get outside ourselves to posit such an whole of everything because that very idea is itself part of the dualistic, metaphysical problem that must be eliminated. When we see the holon as an interpretative lens rather than the entire thing-in-itself we in fact eliminate such a metaphysical construct, and to continue to allow it, while diplomatic, is not only not necessary but contradictory to his argument.

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Ed: And this 2D image is supposed to be 3D if you relax the gaze, unfocus. I cannot make it jump out, never could with these kinds of images. Must be brain damage. Does anyone else see it in 3D. If so, how do you do it?


Put your finger about half way between the image and your eye. Focus on it and let the image fall away to the background. Now very slowly move your finger towards the image keeping your focus on your finger. There is a certain sweet spot focal length that each image has where the 3d effect will emerge. The image you provided is not the best to start with, the ones Christophe posted are better. The cool thing is, once you stabalize the focal length, you can look at the 3d image just like you look at your finger. If you change the focal length the 3d image disappears.


Thanks e, the most useful tip yet for helping me to see the 3D quality. But even in the samples at the site Christophe linked I can only see the general shapes of the embedded objects, not the clear picture of them as the "answer" depicts. And I still cannot apply it to the 2D flower of life diagram above. Practice and patience...

Here's a good image of interlacing spheres to get my idea of holons across. The small green sphere, for example, could be a word. The medium red sphere could be a phrase. The largest yellow sphere could be a paragraph. The word and phrase share some common space within the paragraph during their participation within it, yet they are still free to be parts of other larger holons instead of being completely subsumed by some assholon. Thus the image could be extended indefinitely with multitudes of interlacing holons a la Indra's net. And per Edwards' notion we choose to zoom in our lens to any particular holon for purposes of definition and pragmatic use, thus temporarily bracketing all the extraneous and infinite other holonic relationships in which the part/wholes partake. The image is copyrighted per below.


Related to the above, I was reading from our old Gaia thread on "transpersonal psychology" and found this post of mine, relevant to this thread:

In Chapter 6 of Goddard’s Transpersonal Theory he reiterates something I said in the Krishnamurti 2 thread about Gebser. Previous structures are not holonically subsumed into the next higher structure. The lower structures continue to develop laterally within the dominant higher structure. However successively higher structures up to the mental-ego are by nature “divisive” or exclusive into a higher-lower polarity whereby one pole is dominant, and higher tends to at least consciously (epistemologically) subsume the lower. Nonetheless ontologically the repressed (and previous) pole (structure) continues to develop but unconsciously and it is not until the so-called centaur structure (Geber’s IA) that we begin the return arc of integration of our formerly repressed structures. This conscious return then finds those previous structures having gone through their own developments unbeknownst to us so that they are not the immature magical and mythical worldviews they were on the upward arc of development. Add in the conscious ego’s recognition and integration of them and we get an IA structure that holds all of the structures as they are without contradiction.

Here are some relevant excerpts from the above referenced chapter 6. Keep in mind that he is using astrological signs as metaphors, not as a literal, pre-modern belief system. There is also something here for those interested in Balder's paper on inclusivism and post-postmodern* pluralism:

One of the most noticeable features of the astrological paradigm is its grounding in cyclic rather than linear time.... Nevertheless, time's one-way arrow—both as irreversible entropy and the seemingly contrary emergence of ever more complex systems—is still with us. Consequently, a satisfactory model of nature and consciousness must appropriately combine both cyclic and linear time.

The hemispheres, quadrants and each of the twelve principles signify a unique yet multivalent archetypal configuration. The zodiac can be viewed as a cyclic process of development beyond its function as a twelve-fold typological schema. In terms of a simple cycle conceived in pre-modern cyclic time within a largely 'fated' cosmos, movement is traced from Aries (spring equinox) all the way around to Pisces and then back to the Aries point to begin a new cycle—the “cycle of eternal return”. But rather than pure cycles that illustrate simple change and development within an established pattern, the cycles are actually spirals depicting emergent properties mapped as an evolutionary trajectory with reference not only to the two horizontal axes (Horizon and Meridian) but also to an implicit vertical axis. Viewed in this way, we can represent different levels of consciousness mapped as ascending spirals of evolutionary development or as descending spirals of regression through time. Psychological astrologers are normally inclined to view the optimal development of the 'self' as an upwardly spiralic cycle unfolding from Aries all the way through to Pisces. Aries (the first principle) is then more primal than, say, Virgo (the sixth principle), but in subsequent cycles of development, the new level of Aries would optimally signify a higher level of development than the Virgo stage of the previous cycle. But no principle, or person manifesting the principle, can be said to be innately higher or lower than any other by virtue of its simple location on the two-dimensional wheel.

In fact, it is centrally significant that in mapping our 'softer universalist' (chapter1, p15) astro-transpersonal model we cannot meaningfully say of archetypes (i.e. in this case, the twelve signs/houses) that any one stands 'higher' than any other as they do in Wilber’s holarchically nested model where, for example, conceptual reason stands higher than, and fully enfolds, mythic imagination. Yet there are indeed earlier and later stages and levels of development, evolutionary and devolutionary trajectories, optimal and pathological expressions, lesser or greater dimensionalities, For example, psychologically speaking, a lower level of the first sign Aries includes instinctual precipitous action and aggression while a higher manifestation would be pioneering courage, strong and appropriate assertiveness. Astrologers have called these higher and lower expressions or manifestations of each archetype, the higher and lower octaves of a sign, house or planetary configuration which in terms of spatial modelling, require mapping along an axis at right angles to the two axes describing the zodiacal circle.

As any developmental line—of an individual or culture—proceeds from one archetypal configuration through another, each subsequent astrological category does not (as already said) stand higher than the previous category even though optimally a higher level is reached. The emergence of a subsequent dimension (e.g. Taurus following Aries; Gemini following Taurus) is a product of a certain relative limit reached, a certain learning that takes place in terms of the former at a particular level; but rather than being subsumed in a ‘superior’ subsequent (horizontal) archetypal structure, the former structure optimally continues to grow and develop along with the subsequent archetypal structure once the breakthrough to the new level has occurred through the subsequent structure (i.e. Taurus, Gemini et al). Rather than stage/structure 1 being subsumed into stage structure 2 etc. the ‘higher’ is the total structure of 1 and 2, with 2 as the leading-edge of further development (Fig. 5.). In this way the important height dimension of perennialist models is preserved without their overly objectifying and essentialist structuralism. Unlike Wilber’s deep hierarchical structures, the astrological formative principles and categories go all the way from the ‘bottom’ to the ‘top’.

Nevertheless, as the neoJungians claim, development does in fact proceed through repression and subsumption (but only on the Outward arc); that is to say, mythic imagination, in fact, eventually gives way to conceptual reason through the dominance of the prevailing paradigm which affects further developments while marginalizing earlier dimensions which will need to be later redeemed. Most importantly, an adequate map must reveal the dynamics of this repressive process of stratification without logically enframing the subsuming process as if it were genuinely integrative. Athough Wilber argues that repression and patriarchy are simply ‘unfortunate’ deviations from the optimal pattern of successive differentiations and integrations, it is interesting that his holarchic model, even if unintentionally, actually enframes and legitimates the hegemonic West, male dominance, and the historical logocentric imbalance by mapping cosmos and consciousness through a sequence of holarchically nested containments. But clearly, the astrological picture is no stranger to the hierarchical or height dimension of Wilber's 'Great Chain' conception, a philosophical viewpoint that has tended to arouse many suspicions.

* I have to admit this term gags me, as it presumes to be the next level beyond postmodernism without understanding that pomo has several varieties, some being in fact “integral” as measured by some metrics outside kennilingus, the latter being infected per above by its unconscious, “nested” prejudices. The term itself seems to partake in the latter's own inclusivistic hegemony.

I'd like to refresh this idea of “higher octaves” noted above. One understanding is that a lower “level” like aries (red) continues to develop within itself while higher levels like reason (orange) overtake and subsume it. This within a level octave phasing can be described by kennilingual fusion-differentiation-integration, or spiral dynamics enter and exist with a stabilized node between. (But this doesn't have to be in an subsuming inclusivist way per above.) Another sense in that when a “cycle” of levels has run its course, e.g. a “tier” say from red to green, another tier or octave is begun, aka second tier.* So there is some validity to kennilingus (I've never disputed that). And of course this second tier hinges around what we might label Gebser's integral-aperspectival level, which itself has its own developmental phases from entry to stable to exit. (Or does it?) So there is lateral, translative and legitimate debate about exactly what constitutes this new level and how it operates, even how levels are organized via nested holarchies or otherwise, since apparently there are new rules (to be enacted) that have heretofore been unavailable. The “real and false reason” thread gives a good genealogy of the various ways this legitimation process is playing out.


*E.g., in spiral dynamics yellow is aka a higher octave of the very first vmeme. See this faq, for example, which says:


Graves also began to see a similarity between GT (yellow) being and the first level, AN (beige), since both look to individualistic survival. Thus the designation, A'N' rather than GT to suggest the possible repetition of a basic theme.... Successful living at each level produces the new existential problems and energy to look to the next system. Graves' letter pairs include the first tier of AN through FS; the second tier of primes A'-N' through F'-S'; the third tier of double-primes (A''-N'', etc.) and so on.... The repeating pattern of 6-on-6 was a hypothesis; not a demonstrable fact.**


Interestingly, turquoise is a spiral octave above purple, as is coral above red. We might see some of these earlier and repetitive dynamics playing out in this legitimation battle for defining, and thereby controlling (or not), the higher (v)memes.


** Incidentally, this 6-on-6 structure seems remarkably similar to Goddard's ideas.

This recent Corbett piece reminds me of some of the geometric forms earlier in this thread, and the ruminations thereon.

Also see Edwards et al. latest work on inter-bridging and syntegrality listed in this post.

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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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