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.

Views: 2269

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Big Picture metatheorists would be wise to heed Nagarjuna here - or Garfield's representation of Nagarjuna:  "There is no well-defined totality to speak of."

I'm recalling Oleg's critique, which we also discussed awhile back, that the notion of a holon "possessed" of all four quadrants is metaphysical because there is no particular enactment which could disclose such an entity.  The notions either that the universe is objectively composed of holons, or that holons are "composed" of four quadrants, both seem to involve the same metaphysical thinking.  So, speaking of a Kosmic Holon is metaphysically suspect, from this perspective, if we are intent on identifying a definite, well-defined entity that is possessed of all these dimensions. 

But I still don't have a problem with "Big Stories" or the creation of metaparadigmatic artifacts, such as the Kosmic AQAL map of SES, if we are clear about what we are doing: drafting a meta-view, or invoking a vision, or telling a story, rather than representing the Totality.  Maybe it shouldn't be called a holon, but a meta-holon?  A pluron?  (Oh, yeah, you already had a word for that....)

It's only an assholon if it has delusions of grandeur and pretentions of everything. Otherwise holons work fine for me, especially a good, big story. Particularly the greatest story ever told, which of course is always in media res, ad infinitum. See, I even like eternal holons, after a fashion. Perhaps this type of holon might be called a khoron?
A khoron (or core-on) is a hard on for core issues. As I age I get fewer physical hard ons (and someday none) so I need to channel that energy into the subliminal. I'm building my rainbow holon body today (aka The Word) in preparation for infinity (aka Death).

In light/shadow of the last post a reminder from Edwards in the religion and politics thread:

"In the [preceding] figure I draw two holons encountering each other in a moment of relationship. The space between is filled with the interobjective artifacts of that encounter – words, gestures, signs, touch, meanings, displays, roles, communications. Using the developmental ideas of Vygotsky the space between is filled with the mediating processes and artifacts that flow between the two holons. We can draw an holonic boundary around some logical grouping of these artefacts to identify the “mediating holon”. The archetypal mediating holon is the “Word”. The pure expression of communion. It is not coincidental that in the Catholic tradition the very heart of the great sacrament of the Mass is called 'communion.' This is the recognition of the Godhead as manifest through community, through sharing a meal together, through relationship—completely present in the most fundamental act of existence—a simple act of breaking bread together as incarnate beings. The beginning of all experience and all form and all communication begins there. Hence we have 'In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God.' John here is saying that Jesus is the true agent of Mediation, the ultimate source of connection that gives rise to all distinctions and all encounters between “two or three”. So in this figure of two holons encountering each other we have the 'Word' and 'Love' emerging from the space between."

I shall refer to the seemingly everlasting* mediating holon from now on simply as Word.

*For it outlives the person that spoke or wrote it and lasts a good long time, if not forever.

Tying together some of my prior posts above, we saw how image schemas were prototypes that generally fit into any given hierarchy in the middle, with the most particular and the most general at the extremes of said hierarchy. Often the hierarchicalists find the “cause” of their edifice in those extremes, the fundamental thing-in-itself part and/or the fundamental thing-in-itself principle or ideal Platonic form, which by any other name is certainly metaphysical. When we understand though that those embodied image schemas are indeed the origin of that whole-part gestalt that later becomes hierarchical abstractions we can eliminate the metaphysical implications from this postmetaphysical base and keep our holons of various magnitudes to boot.

Of course one way Edwards comes in is by noting that there are also mediating holons, again being a process “in the middle” or in the “space between” holons of the human type. Again with the metaphor of middleness, that which connects the two poles in relationship so that they can never fly apart into metaphysical extremes.

But I also extend that mediating holon diagram with its shared venn diagram space to any particular individual holon as well, however we choose to define said individual holon, in that the parts which constitute this whole boundary contribute to a meaning that is more than the sum of those parts within that particular whole boundary, yet are not themselves completely subsumed in that specific more inclusive boundary. The easiest example most often used even by kennilinguists is how a word is part of a sentence is part of a paragraph is part of an essay, etc. The essay as a holon has an overall meaning that transcends and contextualizes any particular word, yet that word can and does participate in other sentences, paragraphs and essays and is changed by those larger wholes, as well as mutually changing the larger wholes. There is no master narrative that eternally fixes the meaning of that particular word in all sentences, let alone essays. The word in never completely subsumed.

Now when we take examples from a human holon this seems a bit harder to grasp. Say our brains for example, where the lizard brain is enveloped by the limbic brain which is enveloped by the neo-cortex. We cannot see how the part, lizard brain, can exist without benefit of the whole in which it is now embedded, which now completely subsumes our lizardness. This seems so from the nested hierarchy of physical size and containment, but is this in fact the case? Certainly not. The lizard brain can completely take over the entire body-mind when necessary in those fight-or-flight situations of imminent threat to life. Even here the part’s function will depend on the specific context and not be completely determined by said whole, at least on occasion. Indeed there are times the tail wags the dog, as every man with a hard penis knows all too well.

All of which brings me back to khora and khorons, how to posit the imposition, eff in ineffable in a way that is not either extreme in a metaphysical dichotomy, that resides somewhere in that space between, in media res. For now I can only refer to the “what ‘is’ the difference” thread with perhaps more later.

I want to explore this idea that the image schema arises in the middle of an Aristotelian hierarchy. But realize that I'm feeling my way as I go, much like in a dark room with arms outstretched, slowly, one tentative step at a time. This is inquiry in process/progress rather than a final academic paper with firm positions and arguments. I prefer this way of exploring a topic as it reveals the progression within and as the process rather than finished product or thingness in itself. Anyway...

The image schema is pre-rational and close to the things-in-themselves, yet not exactly, but obviously close enough that we can function well within our environment. And it is at this level of awareness that we bodily understand whole-part relations, or by another name, holons. Yet when we look at the later, abstract and nested hierarchy of any class of category our image schema's prototype will be in the middle of this later hierarchy. I.e., the holoarchy (if you prefer this term) will be constructed from this prototype holon down to the most particular and up to the most general types. So there is not a nested envelopment from the lowest or smallest within the highest or largest. There is the fundamental image schema holon which connects the lowest and highest, the most particular with the most general. (And keep in mind that the "most" low or high are not absolute holons that every stop, as we discover or enact new lows and highs all the time.) At this point I just ask: what implications does this have for the nested holoarchy ideas and graphs as usually depicted, even by Edwards above?

This looks more like how holons interact to me, which includes but transcends nests and displays multiple venn relations. Funny how its mapped on a 4-quadrant diagram.

The flower of life is another pictorial representation of such relationships. It is a significant figure in religious and occult iconography with several metaphysical and mathematical meanings. I copy below from the wikepedia article and assert we can recontextualize the religion postmetaphysically though a holonic theory for anything as enactive lens rather than Platonic ideal. See the wiki for much more.

"The Flower of Life is the modern name given to a geometrical figure composed of multiple evenly-spaced, overlapping circles. They are arranged to form a flower-like pattern with a sixfold symmetry, similar to a hexagon. The center of each circle is on the circumference of six surrounding circles of the same diameter.

It is considered by some to be a symbol of sacred geometry, said to contain ancient, religious value depicting the fundamental forms of space and time.[1][2][3][4] In this sense, it is a visual expression of the connections life weaves through all sentient beings, and it is believed to contain a type of Akashic Record of basic information of all living things.[5]

There are many spiritual beliefs associated with the Flower of Life; for example, depictions of the five Platonic Solids are found within the symbol of Metatron's Cube,[citation needed] which may be derived from the Flower of Life pattern. These platonic solids are geometrical forms which are said to act as a template from which all life springs.[citation needed]

According to Drunvalo Melchizedek, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the stages which construct the Seed of Life are said to represent the seven days of Creation, in which Elohim created life; Genesis 2:2-3, Exodus 23:12, 31:16-17, Isaiah 56:6-8. Within these stages, among other things, are the symbols of the Vesica Piscis, an ancient religious symbol, and Borromean rings, which represents the Holy Trinity."[1][2]

Jan Jagodzinski has an interesting article in the International Journal of Zizek Studies (4:1) called "Struggling with Zizek's Ideology." This excerpt addresses some of the issues above from another angle, or is that (folding, rotating) vesica piscis? Herein we find the embodied and khoronic imagine schemas which require a differential mathematics:

"Of all theorists (for me), it is Berressem (2005, 2005/6, 2007) who has gone the furthest to show that the topologics and the chronologics of the Deleuze/Guattarian system require an understanding of an order of mathematical systems (as explored in Simon Duffy, 2006) quite different from Lacan/Badiou. The gap of the void becomes unnecessary, replaced by an irrational cut, eliminating the transcendental hierarchy that negativity sets up via Hegelian logics, forwarding immanence. His topologics taken from Leibnitz where the fold and the cut are operable in his differential logics, lead to a mathematics of ‘problematics’ rather than ‘axiomatics’ (Smith 2006a,b). They point to the multiplicity of the immanent ‘postmodern’ dynamic sublime that can be misread as simply yet another retention of the multiple as One, as Badiou and Žižek do, by failing to grasp the significance of non-Euclidean ‘projective plane’ (Berressem 2005/6, para. 3-4). It is not the formlessness that the sublime implies as the limit of form, rather it is the very proliferation of forms, rather than their absence that is at issue (Crockett 2007). This is the dynamic sublime that Deleuze reveals to us—the unconscious of the BwO— the non-repressed dimension of physics as opposed to psyche, where machinic coupling by ‘intelligent’ matter comes together through the complexities of connective, disjunctive and conjunctive syntheses. It offers a space/time of unbelief through the proliferation of potentialities rather than possibilities. Badiou and Žižek can form a road team, disputing each other, but nevertheless remain travelling companions since there is an agreement on the void, of creation ex nihilo and the positivization of negativity—‘subtraction’ in Badiou’s system, but Deleuze can’t join them. Badiou’s topologists retain Lacan’s set theory, rather they update Lacan’s own arsenal of Venn diagrams, Möbius strip, the klein bottle, the torus, and Borromean knot by harnessing the set theories of Cantor-Grothendieck-Cohen, which speak to the mathematical ontological sublime of the multiple. We have inverse positions: the Hegelio-Lacan mutant vs. the Spinoza-Bergson-Hume-Nietzschean Mutant. Primordial creation of the Absolute à la Schelling/Hegel —OwB vs. BwO—the Bergsonian élan vital of creative evolution as the starring into the void of Nothing vs. starring at Something.

From where do these mutants arise? The Deleuze/Guattari mutants emerge from a productive sense of desire while busily working in the factory. Where is this factory? At zero level of BwO—the level of the physical molecular body of affect, which is the level of imperceptible multiplicities and intensities. This is as the location of the non-subjective unconscious of the dynamic sublime (see Campbell 2006). This strikes me as the feminine space of Kristeva’s chora; its flows are the ‘part’ object relations as theorized by Melaine Klein, the half-open threshold of Irigaray’s ‘mucous,’ and the skin ego of Didier Anzieu (1989) and Esther Bick (1968). It is also the place of abject (the Lacanian lamella) and not an object of the signifier (Berressem 2007). It is the spacio-temporal dimension of primary narcissism prior to repression, a time of Aion not Chronos—a place of creative a-significations and potentialities. It is the sublimity of wonder, not yet the sublime terror of the Thing—but thing-ness in its becoming. It is a place of laughing and crying by a non-differentiated embodied pre-ego—zoë as opposed to bios. We tap into this dimension through the Spieltriebe wherein the viscera and nerves become affected. It is a place of memory traces and loss. The lalangue of the mother tongue is felt here as well—as the grain in the voice. The ‘autonomy’ of aesthesis from where the New can emerge is potentially here too. There is a lack of limit — the non-all of a body in differently distributed variations where the process of becoming is continuously happening. This is not a phenomenological space as a consciousness of something; this is the felt unconscious of things themselves—unmediated. Such a ‘void’ for Lacan/Žižek, as the kernel of the Real, remains negative, a no ‘fly’ zone" (15-6).

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.

© 2024   Created by Balder.   Powered by

Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service