Omni-Evolution, Trans-dynamics, and the Anatom

A Discussion With Tom Huston, Part II

The following is part 2 of an excerpt from a discussion initiated by Tom Huston on his Facebook page, edited and embellished for clarity.  Find part one, here.  In this part we dig into the nature of the “anatom” and the “ergodic spine” of an electro-fractal cosmos, and into the trans-dynamic integration between Being and Becoming, and the x-interface−the crossroads of the ontic-epistemic (Brahma and Maya) and the subject-object polarities.


Tom Huston is a founding member of Integral Institute and a former editor of EnlightenNext magazine. His webpage is

David Marshall is a writer and editor living in Chicago.


Tom: As an aside from what you just added [[link here]]…does your view posit an ultimate Origin (I take it that you don’t, given your disbelief in the Big Bang)…or an ultimate Omega? If involution and evolution is just “ebb and flow,” what is the ultimate point? Is there an overall telos to the evolutionary process? Because my own experience convinces me that there *is*, but I’ve yet to find or develop a philosophically satisfying ontology or worldview to explain and situate that experience…

Joel: OK, a bit of the scenic route, so bear with me.

Key to this Rational or Spinoza/Deleuze lineage is the notion of Univocity. This is how nonduality shows up in the Western world (SZ). Univocity comes from Aristotle, through the medieval theology in Duns Scotus, and to Deleuze, who says that it is the “organizing principle” in Spinoza’s work. “A single voice raises the clamour of being…,” says Deleuze. I take Univocity to its proto-ontological (Mathematical) ends (closure) in SpinbitZ, and in my Univocity Framework I show how univocity expands upon the terrain of the Two Truths Doctrine. It is at heart an integration of the absolute and relative “scopes.” The relative scope is the aspect of relation, and the absolute scope is its inverse identical, its polar opposite (nondual). The absolute scope can be seen as a function of relation applied to the relative scope itself, the relation of the ONE of ALL relation, and even the polarity of polarity, in an attempt by the relative scope to reach closure in an ultimate context-defining other. The goal of univocity is integration between the relative and absolute scopes (two truths) into a natural polar dynamic.

This process dynamic of closure, or volution, is also a core ontological (epistemic) primitive, and you can see it all through Mathematics with its closures always “at” infinity, which open always onto new operational fields of identity creation (number evolution), as we also see with Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem, ever opening at every closure.

In SZ I show how the ontological and quantitative (multiple) aspect of the “absolute scope” is infinity, in its various forms. The secret of Grand Rationalism. So infinity is basically the playground for the explorations in SpinbitZ, as it was for the key Western Rationalists; Descartes, Leibniz, and Spinoza, and the whole of Mathematics. What I am doing here, through Spinoza’s core intuitions in his triune infinity (key also to Leibniz’s breakthroughs in his mathematical work), is examining the nature of infinity and how all three of these “Rationalists” approached it as the Rational lineage built to a flash point here in Spinoza, and then got buried under layers of reaction, as would a white hot coal as it melted into a cold block of butter.

The heated interaction between Spinoza and Leibniz on this point of “actual infinity” is particularly instructive. Leibniz was basically at heart largely a Spinozist, in constant tension with his inner Leibniz. He sought out every piece of Spinoza’s work he could find, and took extensive notes on it, even Spinoza’s private letters, such as the famous letter on infinity, which had begun circulating in the underground networks. But in public, Leibniz denounced Spinoza at every turn and obfuscated the sources of these ideas even as he denounced them, because Spinoza was considered a vile heretic (dangerous in any association) by the orthodoxy with whom Leibniz worked closely. Leibniz admitted in his private works that he recognizes that this radical rationality (shadowed in “atheism” to the orthodoxy, as Spinoza is at once called “god intoxicated” and “atheist”) although true, simply will not work for the masses as a popular religion. So he felt that he needed to compromise in key places, bringing it down a few notches (mythic, magic,…), specifically to retain the notion of an absolutely Transcendent deity with the Divine will as the agent of the act of benevolent Creation to which we are all indebted, justifying the need for prayer and devotion, etc, etc, etc.. [[[This could be called the core Statist Battery, the split of co-dependence and it’s resultant power gradient.]]]

In Spinoza, coming to integration with and as infinity, we come to the recognition that “all possibles are actual,” (the principle of the actual-possible) because in an infinite and eternal space and time (at the absolute scope of the ONE-ALL), how could it not be? With infinite space and time, all possibles will have been for an eternity and are simultaneously and currently actual.  We don’t experience this because they are distributed ever anew throughout infinity. This is the essence of Nietzsche’s Eternal Return, as he also enthusiastically recognized Spinoza as his metaphysical or intellectual “predecessor”. For exoteric (public) Leibniz, however, this principle of the actual-possible is heresy. In the formation of his monadology, he publicly denounces it as the “proton pseudos,” or the first lie of Atheism. If all possibles are actual then there is no capacity for God’s Benevolent Alpha of Creation, and consequently nor can there be any Grand Omega of Final Judgement. We can see this Orthodox temporal narrative as a socio-cybernetic polarity and gradient, resulting in a motivational or algedonic pressure, like a carrot and stick for the masses (again the statist battery).

The temporal element is important, but in Deleuze we have an opening to an integration with an orthogonal and implicit (hidden) axis or infinity. This is radical immanence and infinite difference, what I operationally abstract as the “immanent-transcendent axis” (SZ). Deleuze says that the “forces of Representation” (exoteric, transcendent biased, epistemic-bound) are oppositional (dualistic), and the forces of immanence are “intensive,” emptiness/fullness, nondual, or emergent, etc. This opens a new polarity or axis into the scene for understanding these Alpha and Omega points of creation and telos. So we can, in whatever aspects, move away from the temporal (oppositional) and into the morphological intensive forces of immanence. Spinoza’s “sub specie aeternitatis,” (under the light or aspect of eternity) the recognition that eternity is implicit and orthogonal to time such that we can recognize eternity in an instant.  Similarly this shifts the scene to an orthogonality away from this early transitive (mythic) emphasis on the bounded and linear-temporal, to a non-linear (immanent-transcendent, intensive) integration with the eternal. This is temporal univocity, and Spinoza’s answer to the question of the after-life. We come out of eternal life (and death) into time, and we can recognize this orthogonal and polar relationship in time with ever-present eternity and unity at any time before we fall back into the eternal through the transition of “death”.

So if we think of the Alpha and Omega as a simultaneity or “temporal singularity,” and if we envision a “phase space” or morphological landscape (think Borges’ Library of Babel) for evolution as “hill climbing” (or annealing) toward various attractors of perfection, bifurcations, limit cycles and such, then we can understand this quite differently. But not entirely differently, as we integrate the two orthogonal axes dynamically. For example, even though there is no final end of “the universe” or cosmos to volution, every volution or self-climbing hill will, through time, reach plateaus and peaks and eventually enter dissolution in the course of its indefinite interface with eternity. So, the absolute Omega point of perfection becomes the highest hill in an infinite simultaneous landscape of morphological attractors. Lem’s comic HPLD species, as the Highest Possible Level of Development (an alien god species, of sorts). At any given time there will be regions in the cosmos in these highest states, of which there may actually be infinite forms or types. And intrinsic to the volution process is the real component of the “transcendent bias”, telos, a real pressure or force toward “excellence” (Spinoza). And there is a gradual transition of volution into and through *volition* (autoevolution) into morphological explosion, such as Chardin’s coming Omega Point, or the “Technological Singularity”. I assume we are currently at a very low rung on the “toposophical” ladder (Lem), and that there likely is no single Omega state or Final Point, and also that there is an infinity of them. But in the end, that’s anyone’s guess.

Tom: “If involution and evolution is just “ebb and flow,” what is the ultimate point?”

Joel: This of course must also be addressed univocally, and thus with the doctrine of the two truths in integration. At the absolute scope, as Alan Watts so eloquently elucidates, there really is no point. It’s just a babbling brook, or a madman, or an infinite absurdly beautiful symphony, or grand tragi comedy, an experience just to be experienced. The sense of pure nonsense. But at the relative scope this pure nonsense has infinite meaning, as there are an infinite number of points and regions of meaning voluting into grander and grander semiotic perfection. The Process, as I see it, is fluid, fractal and ergodic, with volutionary cycles at all levels simultaneously. Self-climbing hills within hills within hills, rising vertically (immanent-transcendent) into perfection (transcendence), and in a landscape stretching horizontally (transitive), composed of, or expressing infinite varieties of these fractal teleological (volutionary) self-climbing hills (e.g. evolutionary trajectories). So at any given level, there will be a volutionary or transcendent pressure (telos) where evolution pushes outward into new lines which are simultaneously pulled upwards to a new involutionary coherence and closure.  And these voluting forms, these saltations or punctuated equilibriums, are layered infinitely, ergodically, and fractally, as well as horizontally involuting into lines such as species. The image here, as in Deleuze, is the rhizome, although the rhizome can be too flat for this purpose, depending on the specifics of the local landscape in question.

Tom: “Is there an overall telos to the evolutionary process?”

Again, univocally, at the absolute scope of the infinite and eternal ONE-ALL, there is no boundary in space or time, and no Absolute Transcendent self-climbing hill. This is a corollary to the above question on meaning. There is no motion toward any final point, at the absolute scope, because the cosmos at this scope is infinite and eternal, always already in pointless play. Infinity itself, the absolute scope, the unbound, cannot be treated as a region (bounded) in its own phase-space map, because then the absolute scope becomes just another relation and the distinction has dissolved. The territory of infinity (the formless and boundless) cannot be represented on the map of forms and bounds. So at the absolute scope, one cannot say that the cosmos is moving to a final place, because there really is no final place.  The cosmos as infinite has no boundaries to isolate on any phase space map. With temporal univocity, the cosmos is eternal, it has always been at perfection in infinite locations and always will be. Sub specie aeternitatis and the eternal (simultaneous) return, as all states including the most “imperfect” will always simultaneously be in infinite incarnation. This, BTW, is how I see the issue of reincarnation. From the context of the absolute, my form and all similar and dissimilar forms in the Library of Babel are actually in simultaneous eternal recurrence, always already infinitely somewheres and somewhens in this infinite cosmos.  And there is no real line between any of the infinite recursing forms therein.  In this context, to draw a line through single incarnations as tracing a trans-identity, seems a transitive and infinite constriction of the reality of infinite incarnation…although it is a step up from the finite incarnation of the previous level (mythic).

But at the relative scope, in integration where it all happens as experience, at any given location in the phase space map, every evolutionary opening will have an involutionary pull to a higher closure (meaning and telos), an attractor (essence) towards which it is moving. And at a human scale, these teleological or volutionary self-climbing hills, stretching to infinity in higher scales of action, and in integral form in univocity, are how the absolute is experienced. This is not to say that there are not plateaus and downturns, devolutions, dissolutions, in the phase space, but that the volutionary or teleological pressure is a natural component of a healthy organism (self-climbing hill in this metaphor) and landscape.

Tom: Joel, I still didn’t get time to reply to this today but I just wanted to say thank you for explaining your approach so fully and clearly–it’s awesome…and then some. I’ll definitely respond soon.

Joel: Thanks for your inspiration, Tom. I am really enjoying this thread. Been wanting to dig into those details for a while.

David Marshall: Joel, nice to hear your thoughts on this. I read healthy bits of SpinBitz and enjoyed it. I particularly like the idea about moving beyond ontologically shy postmodernism. Actually, it’s SpinbitZ, isn’t it.

My question is this: You say, “Granted there are deeper and deeper and more primitive forms of “knowledge” or abstraction into mechanism, but I wouldn’t say that the atomic level brings a new epistemic world into view.

But doesn’t any kind of knowledge, however primitive, imply bringing some kind of epistemic world into view or proto-view?

Joel: David, yes exactly. My question is, just how far down the complexity gradient can the meaning of ‘knowledge,’ or ‘semiotics’, or specifically representation (Maya) be stretched without breaking? I can comfortably stretch it to the genetic level, as the proto-epistemic, where genetic codes ‘represent’ phenotypic structures or modes, and the whole of evolution learns from its mistakes and successes as that knowledge and history is encoded into and as the recapitulation of the embryogenesis of the organism. But an atom, in my model, while certainly reacting to its environment from its own attractor, essence, and ‘interiority’ (prehension) isn’t making representations of it to do so. But the key to the power and ‘essence’ of representation (and simultaneously its limitation) is the capacity of abstraction and choice. Evolution does this at a rudimentary level (and anthropomorphizing a bit) with its sending into the world its ‘random’ variations, organismic ideas, in a sense.  Its ‘mind’ is literally on the outside as our living world and biosphere. A ‘choice’ is made in the biospheric interiority, and knowledge for the evolutionary/embryogenetic trajectory is gained by the “differential reproductive success” of these individuals lives through time, as the increasing intelligence, representation, and capacity for choice is directly injected into the flow through sexual selection.

But where is the encoded/abstracted (enfolded) representation of options and a choice among them made at the atomic level? I am working with the most cutting-edge and coherent models for the atom (including my own) that I can find among the heterodoxy, and I see no evidence of representation and choice at this level, or rather no real way to further stretch the meaning of the terms to this level. Sure there is uncertainty from infinite difference and immanent causation (see Bohm on infinite causation), but without representation there really is no choice (although crudely we could call a ‘bifurcation’ a ‘choice’ by the system as a whole).  So I am simply saying that representation at the atomic level is entirely enfolded and these are really just ontic level phenomena. The atomic level, in my view, is pre- not yet proto-epistemic, which I place at the genetic level where we find the first codes and primitive representation. This just means that there is a real distinction between ontic and epistemic (and a gradient between them) and we can’t collapse the two into just the ontic-epistemic.  And yet, with the distinction intact, and the gradient to explore, they remain nondual, univocal, ONE or ontic.

What I would say exists at all levels (my own self-aware myth about the given) is what I call the “symbiogenesis of subject and object”. This is the Spinozan essence of dynamic stability and growth, and Leibnizian prehension. Also called the “nucleation of observability” in SpinbitZ. It is from this nucleus of the observer (Fuller) in a “point-free geometry” (Whitehead) of pointless “points of view” as conditions of boundary that Wilber’s “all is perspective” finds its ontic grounding.  And this symbiogenesis is also a rudimentary, or deep-level native or primitive intelligence, evolution at the involution of the subject-object interface. It is an exploration of creative learning and direct immanent awareness, unmediated (enfolded) by representational forms (unfolded). It just is, in waves (cosmic vertebrae) before it abstracts, represents and incarnates the flesh of what could be.

Matter is enfolded seed of the flower of its abstraction. Maya is this depth and recursion of Brahma into and through the boundary conditions of abstract relation. And Brahma is the span of the emergent rigor of the cosmic ergodic spine that opens the recursions into the field of infinite difference. In immanent-transcendent waves, literally and empirically a limit-cycle in ergodicity, it enfolds and unfolds from anatom to anatomy, from infinite intelligence or omnirelational awareness of Self, through the representational depths of self as Self-consciousness.

Reading Ken’s quote further, where it breaks down for me is this use of ‘semiotics’ in conjunction with the atomic level (anatom)—in particular this understanding of semiotics as interpretation. And one really *can* stretch the term that far in this sense. An *anatom* (atomism died with the ‘pharticle’ zoo) really *does* (sort of) ‘interpret’ its world (‘filter’ is also a good term). And indeed this is very important, because that *interpretation* (thresholding of “pure” continuity, says Planck) is what we call the quantum. We just assume that the blips on the absorption screens are from classical collisions with particles because we prefer simple (solid, classical) terms. But the screens are composed of anatoms (post-classical chaoplex) that can only com-prehend and ‘speak’ (absorb/emit as “interpret”) in the harmonic quanta of cymatics (“standing waves”). So materialism speaks with the anatomic voice of the ergodic spine, and so this voice sounds ‘quantized’. And it *is* quantized infinitely and ergodically. This quantization is not because it’s all atoms in void (classical solid bias), but because infinite and continuous fluid harmonics creatively and constructively self-interacts.

So where I draw the ontic-epistemic line clearly (for me, and where it doesn’t really exist) in this gradient from the actual-possible to the possible-actual, is with the capacity to abstract or project into the world of coherent representation (knowledge). This is where possibility and choice come in. Auto-evolution. Foresight. Prediction. Memory and anticipation. An anatom simply or directly prehends (i/o), and an organism increasingly com-prehends into the recursive com-plexity (folds into pleats) of projection. Also a note that prehension is practically the same meaning as volution.

David: Joel, when Wilber talks about “semiotic-sentient beings (that go all the way down)” and:

“Further, according to Peirce, it is the fact that each semiotic being—all the way down—has in its tripartite makeup an interpretant that means the holon’s being is determined in part by interpretation, all the way down—and this, he says, is “inescapable”).”

Could he simply be saying that our assertion of these holons can never be free of interpretation (free of our own interpretive spin and enactment), kind of like the paradoxical term “interpretively intrinsic” he uses in Integral Spirituality on p. 251?

His mention of Sellars and the myth of the given in the following paragraph (on page 2) might indicate this interpretation, that “semiotic-sentient beings” = “interpretively intrinsic.”

Joel:  If this were the case, then he would be making merely an epistemic claim. But he is using ontic terms and frameworks, and in my view is really making the ontic claim that all holons have interiors which participate in the reactions to extrinsic factors. That’s really what Leibnizian prehension is all about (Whitehead borrowed from Leibniz here). Leibniz formulated a model of the forces (anatomic, really) superior to Newton’s atomism in this respect. An “atom” can only react to the force of a field if it has an interior capacity to do so. This is loosely interpreted here (no recursive punning intended) as “interpretation”. But I am pointing out that it’s not a representational form and thus not technically “epistemic,” as I am drawing this line as clearly as possible, where no lines really exist. [[ I made this point more clearly in the previous few comments in this thread.]]

David: Yes, he’s also making the pan-interior or pan-psychic claim, on the first page. So, you wouldn’t accept some kind of proto-epistemology or proto-representational form? Is your objection really to pan-interiorism?

Joel: No, I have been discussing a proto-epistemology, and that it’s really a gradient without any real lines, but I am trying to be clear about what the epistemic is and what the ontic is. I don’t want the distinction blurred. And at the same time, one can’t draw any absolute lines here because each one enfolds as the other unfolds. I simply am saying that at the ‘anatomic’ level (as I call it, because atomism has died), and below, the epistemic is fully enfolded. There simply is nothing that I can comfortably call representation or choice going on there. As I have said, however, there is a rudimentary form of interpretation there, as in the cymatic quantization of the anatomic shells (this is a highly heterodox interpretation I am working with, so it may not make much sense initially), which is why the material world appears “quantized”, because when addressed, anatoms simply can only speak quanta in return, so to speak.  But anatoms are not abstracting this into a projected world and making a choice between represented options. They really are just reacting based on their interior enfolded filtering (rudimentary interpreting) activity.

So, roughly speaking, I put pre-epistemic (still epistemic, but fully enfolded) at the “atomic” level (actual-possible), and it unfolds into proto-epistemic at the “organic” and genetic level, and fully into the flower of the epistemic level (Maya, we are just getting here, evolutionarily) with sensation and memory, the sensory-mnemonic interface, and projection into the world of the possible (possible-actual).

So, to reinforce earlier parts of this discussion, “pan-interiorism” is key, for me (though I don’t use that term). When I say that at root, or “all levels,” there is the “symbiogenesis of subject and object,” I am saying that ‘interiority,’ as ‘subjectivity’, “goes all the way down.” (This “all the way down” in deep infinity is basically the meaning of “fundamental” in post-foundational/post-classical Univocal Dynamics, as explored in my book on Sorce Theory, and SpinbitZ II, forthcoming). Badiou, on Deleuze, calls the key aspect of interiority, or immanence, “the ruin of the category of the object.” There is no pure object because the object is always also subject…and vice versa as a Leibnizian “fold” (monad). As in AQAL, and in Spinoza, “mind” as pure interiority, goes “all the way down,” and provides an infinitely full foundation. “Thought” or mind expresses the essence of Substance (infinite difference or immanence), as Substance turns on its modes. The same is true for “matter” or rather, “extension,” in Spinoza. It’s just fundamental nonduality, or dependent origination, real relation, in Deleuze-Spinoza, and the intensive forces of immanence.

But, to Wilber’s point, as I mentioned, this is a dynamic subjectivity, Leibnizian ‘prehension,’ which actively “interprets” (roughly filters) and interacts with its environment directly, as opposed to mediated by layers of abstraction or projection. There is no representation here (it is fully enfolded), in my view. Just pure infinite omni-relational action and intelligence or order (infinite determinism equals indeterminism). This is the initial layer(s) in the cosmic cycle, the level(s) of “pure” or maximal “atomic” simplicity (electro-static and equilibrated form). It is the vertebral level in the ergodic spine and limit-cycle which gives rise to the quantum at all of them (…Planck, Atomic, Stellar, meta-Galactic…). The deepening into the epistemic comes in sporadically and gradually (silentium universi), between cosmic vertebrae, in the unfolding from pure simplicity (simplexity) into its resonant forms in a cascading, bifurcating, flowering explosion of the conditions of boundary (complexity). It recurses into deeper, thicker, and more enfolded forms of this basic interface, or “double-layer” and structural coupling, to the point of organic, and specifically neural evolution where we find the sensor-effector, sensory-mnemonic polarity and the deepening, recursing forms of abstraction. This is where we find representation, knowledge, and imagination, as opposed to this immanent omnirelation, critically at the atomic level and below, unmediated by abstraction.

So, yes, interiority, and yes, “interpretation” at its most direct level, all the way down. But no representation, no “sign” or code, or common semiotics, or projection into imagination yet here.  And no sensation except the most basic form of directly prehensile touch, at the continuum levels of an all-touching cosmos.

David: Is “enfolded” for you something like the “involved” that Wilber and Aurobindo discuss?

Joel: Yes, I use involution, or closure as well. Involved would mean essentially the same thing as involuted, I assume. But ‘involved’ is too involved in a more common usage so I avoid the entanglement.

David: Also, you seem to accept a certain degree of interpretation or knowledge with atoms; what I am trying to imagine is knowledge or interpretation that is not representational. As I try to imagine it, it seems to me that any form of knowledge would be in part representational. But of course, that’s just my imagining life as an atom; I haven’t studied them much.

Joel:  Knowledge is representational, and it stretches all the way down to the atomic level. But at the atomic level it is fully enfolded as a natural function of ergodic closure from the recursions of deep infinity below that. This is a key branching point. From anima-motrix opening into anima-matrix. And it begins a cascading, bifurcating, recursive gradient, evolution into involution, from ontic (enfolded-epistemic, culminating prominently at the “atomic” level) up into its identical opposite, the epistemic (enfolded ontic): Through the proto-epistemic self-assembling recursions and branching in the crystallogenesis of the mineral world, budding through loops of replication and code (mimesis) in the externalized biospheric mind fields of organic evolution, and blossoming into involutionary return to the interior focusing of the electric flow in the individual brain and mind, with its perceptual and conceptual abstraction, and now the planetary nervous system, the noospheric canopy and closure in opening to the virtual.

The key to understand the significance of the anatomic closure, is that the emergent properties of the ‘atom’, which we will get into below, are radically different from dynamic “objects” (such as organisms) at our common molar complexity level of operation, as they are different from the forms *immanent* to the “atomic” level (subatomic fleeting resonance ghosts of the “particle zoo”). At no other level of action than these anatomic monadic planes does a trans-dynamic form come into being with an apparently or effectively indefinite lifespan. This is key. The anatom level is effectively the ‘Being’ level, or what amounts to the same in a Process integral view, because this ‘Being'(s) is a result of the ‘purification’ or ‘perfection’ of Becoming (flux) from the level beneath it. Stasis is dynamic perfection or closure (a trans-dynamic omega and alpha). And this trans-dynamic (opening) closure of the “atom” occurs as one “vertebrae” or polar maximum on the limit-cycle backbone of the recursing attractors we know as constants, resulting in the harmonic periodicities of the phenomenon of “solidity” and all of classical “particle biased” and *effectively* timeless physics centered at these self-similar stasis levels (islands of stability). The “particles” above and below the atom (and between all anatom/monadic levels) are radically ephemeral in comparison, sometimes existing for mere nanoseconds. And according to the empirical self-similar scaling relation, there is a Being (monadic, classical physics) level at the stellar scale as well, which is why the stars are similarly stable with the self-same orbital spacing (anima-motrix), the planets moving in pure (radically equilibrated, electrostatic) “gravitational” orbits, instead of the vortical (“dark matter” shadowed electro-dynamic) flows at the galactic and hurricane levels. So ‘matter,’ in this classical solid sense, is simply this: flux maximally equilibrated and focused into relative stasis. This is a focus of force into inertia and mass. And the platform (matter, matrix, or ‘mother’) for the continued embryogenesis from anatom through anatomy.

I can, however, stretch my definition of representation or knowledge to *include* the “atomic” level, as I will explore. But, as I show in SpinbitZ with the Principle of Absolute Reversal,*** such naturally justified stretches of fundamental terms (shells)–on the polarities that allow their embryogenetic differentiation–can unwittingly transform them into their immanent, yin, or shadow poles, and often into inversion and opposition (enantiodromia: Jung, Heraclitus). In this inversion at the anatomic simplex (atom), ‘knowledge’ (mimesis-mediated relation) turns into its opposite, unmediated or ‘pure relation,’ as the ‘pure’ object emerges at once as the ‘pure’ subject (superject). Generally, for simplicity, I would retain the distinction of my terms by allowing them to just be where they naturally unfold into full meaning at the conceptual level, while allowing the gradient to flex when needed for reception. There is no “correct” way to map this, but I’ll draw the lines (de-finition) in the continuum of bends, folds, cascades, and bifurcations which best resonate with my own context.

[[*** “Absolute” in SZII is more clearly a function of ergodic closure.]]

In this discussion, I have been placing ‘interpretation’ at the “atomic” level, as essentially prehension: General level or direct subject-object fluid and deeply harmonic inter-actions (roughly: touches, graspings, bonds … before the edge of self-assembling heaps into new dynamic and self-replicating higher wholes, organization into organism and mimesis). Interpretation at the atomic level is more like direct, continuous, omnirelational, and creative or emergent inter-assimilation by the “pure subject” of its “pure object.”*** ‘Thought’ or interiority dynamically focused as and on ‘Extension’ or exteriority: Spinoza’s attributes come into a new and clear relation with immanence in his ‘simplest bodies,’ revealing the trans-dynamic monad spinning at the core. The ‘purity’ of the simplex (stability) flashes into emergence from the ergodic continuity of maximal complexity and fluidity (‘purity’) of the level below it. The anatom is then the ontic simplex, pure symbiogenesis of subject and object. This is why it is effectively perpetual. All its force is focused into a maximal dynamic integrity of interior and exterior. Because of the ‘purity’ of its integrity in dynamic terms, the anatom is neither capable of, nor in need of representing its world. It is not deficient in representational relation, but rather infinitely full with real relation (Brahma). And real relation is the seed for its identical opposite in abstract relation (Maya). Representation occurs in a cascading bifurcation into abstraction, away from pure relation. This is both its freedom and limitation. The ontic simplex simply and purely interacts. With the anatom, deep continuity self-flows and self-resonates self-consistently and with maximal self-focus and self/Self-integrity. This level is maximally ouroboric and continuously self-regenerating.

[[*** ‘Pure,’ here, simply means *maximal,* as in the maximal involution or enfolding of quantitative and energetic complexity in the ergodic closure to the anatom as each vertebra of the cosmic spine. ]]

My view of the “atom,” from my work in heterodox physics, is quite causally and dynamically detailed, inheriting, cultivating, and catalyzing many great bodies of cutting edge interpretation, e.g. from Rado, Lebau, Prigogine, Bohm, Borchardt, etc.. But it is quite distinct from the orthodox branch, critically because it is not Finitist but Infinitist (e.g. Speculative Realist), among other differences. It is fully inline with the re-emergence of the ancient core intuitions and the empirical data, however, and this is the root of the tree. I don’t believe in many of the categories we take for granted in the flimsy branches of modern orthodox physics, such as the ‘photon’ and even the electron (mostly). And the denizens of the particle zoo are not “particles” or fundamental (atoms or even anatoms), in my opinion, but just various fleeting fluid/cymatic manifestations (e.g. solitons and vortices) in specific repeatable types and situations.

From all experimental evidence I have seen, and taking cues from the detailed heterodox models that predicted these findings entirely independently (experimentum crucis), an “atom” is a fluid dynamic and deeply cymatic “simplex” or “trans-dissipative structure,” as I call it (taking Prigogine’s concept to its recursing involuting ends). And it is the maximal complexity of this deep level of continuity (“quantum coherence”) beneath the atom that allows the atom to form (complimentarity). I detail this as the immanent-causal factor, a sort of closure in ergodicity, which explains the empirical self-similar scaling relation found independently by people like Fournier, Oldershaw, and myself. At these levels (in the cosmic ergodic spine), form seems to involute maximally from continuity (fluidity) into quanta (atoms, Planck units, etc, the recursive core of solidity). This empirically derived self-similar relation (key to the wave-particle duality and quantum) is about the difference in size between an atom and star, or between a Planck scale anatom and an “atom” (~1020 in orders of magnitude). And the self-similar attractor (dynamic form) at these levels is what the ‘anatom’ really represents. It’s the same basic monadic form at all these levels. And this form does not appear at all (fully formed and monadic) between these levels. You don’t see these effectively perpetual suns, or atoms, or Planck units—with their tightly regular radiative force gradients, orbital dynamics, and spacing—at the scales between the Planck scale, the atom, and the sun, such as at the size of a house, or any of the ‘particles’ below the proton, or in the galactic levels. There is a very clear open window of anatomic form between these levels, and rather than the pure simplex of the anatom, what appears here are lesser varieties of *approaches* to the simplex form in higher level multiplex or molar fluid vortex flow patterns (dissipative, not trans-dissipative, dynamic, not trans-dynamic, and effectively perpetual).

The archetype or attractor here at this intermediate level of rudimentary cosmic forms between the monadic or anatomic levels (vertebrae), is the vortex, like a galaxy or hurricane. These forms are more evoluting fluid forms than fully involuted ‘solid’ (stabilized) ones (such as the atom, star and Planck unit). The proton (anatomic nucleus), for example, appears to have an indefinite lifespan. It has reached a purely (or maximally) involuted or ‘self-involved’ form. A process-perfection and simplex. This is key to its capacities for representation, or lack thereof. Generally speaking, its maximal internal coherence and simplexity (anima motrix: Kepler) means that the anatom does not “compromise” its internal form by modifications in *mimesis* of the external world. It is fully involuted or self-involved in its own continual regeneration in direct homeostatic relation to the variabilities of its environment. Pure subject-object.*** The modifications of the internal structure in response to the external world (prehension) of the anatom are purely direct and not mimetic. Prehension not pretension. At this level, there is no imitation of the external world through either code replication or sensory-mnemonic mediation. It is a pure level of omnirelational interaction and homeostatic adaptation, the pre-epistemic enfolded in deep infinity.

[[*** I might have to hijack Whitehead’s ‘superject’ meaning herein a persistently completing (trans-dissipative) ‘occasion’ in maximal dynamic equilibrium. ]]

Mimesis, then, is another key into where I am drawing the line between the ontic and epistemic, Brahma and Maya (roughly). When, in this gradient of increasing complexity we begin to see mimesis in its crudest forms, we come to the proto-epistemic, which I place most clearly in the biosphere (no real division here either), where the enfolded genetic code can be said to “represent” a phenotypic unfolding. This, I consider the clear base-level zone in the gradient into mimesis and Maya. And we can see it starkly, for example, in the eyes of an owl showing up on the wings of a butterfly, or in the form of a bug resembling a thorn, leaf, or stick. The biosphere abounds with the play of mimesis, albeit in an externalized and diffuse form, and even self-replicating molecules would be a crude form of mimesis. This is very different from the anatomic levels, which don’t mimic anything and are just themselves in “perfect” internal harmonic and dynamic relation. And this is why they can all be considered identical, even though they also have intrinsic enfolded individual detail which, in part, accounts for the “randomness” of the quantum reaction. The maximal amount of complexity focused into the simplex is the key factor to its dynamic perfection and spatio-temporal integrity.

The anatomic form, the “pure” form of maximal involution, is harmonically quantized concentrically, from Schrodinger’s wave equation to Bode’s Law (and likely at the Planck level and below), in the same self-similar form. In its cyclical (cymatic) fluid-dynamic structure, it enters a tight frictionless feedback loop analogous to (and likely involving) a screw-pinch in plasma dynamics (such as we see in its self-similar counterpart, the electric sun, e.g. Don Scott), but at the maximal fidelity, continuity, coherence, and compressibility of this “aetheric” and “superfluid” level, which enables its approach to a trans-dissipative (near-permanent) trans-dynamic form. So the harmonic quantized shells (standing wave patterns) that form around the anatomic nucleus (subject) are really the “music of the spheres,” the electromagnetic fine-structuring of these self-saming recursive forms as the prehending (not pretending) sensor-effector interface at the simplex level. Simply put, this is the level of non-action, or flow in the Tao. Nothing is emulated at this level. No actions are taken. Flow and inter-action just is. So, non-action means simply being in integrity with all levels to this base (which is fundamentally already in flow below).

This harmonic quantization of electronic shells is a key aspect of the real quantum. In terms of “interpretation,” and “communication,” this fluid-cymatic quantized ‘membrane’ (loosely speaking) is the univocal “ear” and the “voice” of the anatom. The anatom listens and speaks in harmonic quanta. This is a filtering into an internal self-equilibrating and complex form, which is the dynamic and active prehensive subjectivity and homeostatic essence of the anatom. So when an anatom absorbs energy from an impinging electromagnetic wave, it can only do so in these harmonic quanta (“photon”), because the quantization is intrinsic to the nature or form of the integrity (superject) of the anatom, or its attractor and essence.

When anatoms interact they do so through these dynamic and harmonic self-stabilizing interiors (anima motrix). This quantized complexity is responsible for the periodicities of the elements, and the dynamic integrity and structuring of the chemical bonds and active capacities of self-assembly (rudimentary life, intelligence, and evolution). So, in this way, there is general level “interpretation” as each anatom reacts out of maximal, trans-dynamic integrity directly with its neighbors, as it *integrates* and reconfigures extrinsic energies into its own dynamic internal structuring in active and direct reaction (prehension). But there is no intermediate or mediating stage in these interactions where we can see mimetic encoding of the patterning of the outside world into the interior. There is a structural coupling between interior and exterior, as it is the properties of the medium at these levels that allows for the anatomic emergence. But there is no internal image, however crude, of the outside world. The internal structuring of the anatom does not *represent* the outside, in this sense. It has no internal pattern matching behavioural heuristic for the external world [[unless you count the prehension of bonding harmonics]]. It’s just pure internal integrity (subjectivity) that integrates with the outside world according to its internal and external dynamic demands. And indeed it’s this maximal enfolded integrity (pure subjectivity) which allows the anatom to emerge into its maximally objective and stable form. This is why I say that this level is purely enfolded epistemic, and purely unfolded ontic (and critically, not collapsing the possible infinite levels below).

This being said, as I mentioned at the beginning, there is a way to stretch the terms, specifically ‘mimesis’ or ‘representation’ to this level, however tenuous a stretch that may be. There is a ‘closure’ in the ergodic externalized ‘perfection’ of the aetheric continuity at these pre-anatomic levels which can be seen to be ‘represented’ by the internalized perfection of the emergent anatom that it engenders. The “pure subjectivity” (focus:Thought) of the anatom is a directly emergent reflection of the “pure objectivity” or externalization and diffusion (flatness: Extension) of the aether. The perfection of flatness flashes into the perfection of focus. This could be said to be the first form of ‘mimesis,’ which, due to its perfection (omnirelational directness), has become its opposite (Principle of Absolute Reversal, SZ, or enantiodromia). So the pure subject has no object but itself. It therefore has no representation that does not just collapse or ouroborically feed into an identity.

David: “But it seems to me also that the Wilberian/Whiteheadian view of atoms getting together to form molecules etc. would necessarily involve or imply some kind of proto-communication between atoms. Is that right, in your view?”

Joel: Proto-communication, yes, as in a transfer of energies in harmonic inter-adaptation. This means that there are new emergent complexities in the overlap and dynamic interaction between anatoms. That’s what chemical bonding is, the attractors and possibilities that appear in these harmonic interactions. Each anatom has an intrinsic active structuring which is directly “communicated” and “felt” (prehension) in the emergence of self-assembling possibilities in the interaction. But there simply is no mimesis involved in this direct interaction.

David: “If it is, I would also have trouble imagining that communication between atoms as completely non-representational.”

Joel:  Explained in detail above, but to reiterate, I am defining representation as fundamentally centered on mimesis or abstraction. Does the entity in question form an abstraction of the outside world in its interior? Or is it just interacting from its intrinsic complexity (simplexity)?

David: But perhaps they’re not really suggesting that kind of communication. Is Spinoza’s view something like theirs on this issue as well?

Joel: Although I can’t say for sure, I really think they are mostly just working with Leibniz’s prehension as it occurs in Whitehead, and without a clear model for the atom (orthodox physics doesn’t have one) they are allowing their generalizations to be a bit too general for me. That’s fine. I can see how the terms stretch like that and how an atom can be considered interpreting and communication and sensing. It’s just the intrinsic capacity to actively interact. That’s what Leibnizian prehension is. Spinoza was a bit vague, really, on the subject of what he called “simplest bodies”. But it’s clear enough he did not use them reductively or atomically. Everything in Spinoza was an expression or modification (mode) of deeper dynamic Substance (infinite difference), and every mode has a dynamic essence, what we’d call an attractor in complexity science, roughly, as described above for the anatom. So Spinoza’s view fits quite well with Leibniz’s more evolved (if sometimes confused) view here.

Big Bang, Mythic Physics, and Ken Wilber in the Ontic Shadow

A Discussion With Tom Huston, Part I

The following is part 1 of an excerpt from a discussion initiated by Tom Huston on his Facebook page, edited and embellished for clarity.  Find part two, here.  In this part we discuss the Kan’tian post-modern legacy of the “ontic shadow,” the Big Bang bust, and the move from mythic to nondual-rational (univocal) transvolutionary cosmology.

Tom Huston is a founding member of Integral Institute and a former editor of EnlightenNext magazine. His webpage is

David Marshall is a writer and editor living in Chicago.


Tom: Ken Wilber on the many faces of physics (though he seems to be missing some of those faces, eh, Joel?):

Ken Wilber: “The fundamental fact realism and positivism keep overlooking is that different levels of being-consciousness (and different methodologies) bring forth different worlds. It is not—as the “myth of given” maintains—that there is one, single, pregiven world that is interpreted differently by different worldviews (although that of course can happen), but rather that these different levels of being-consciousness bring forth different worlds themselves—there is a red world, an amber world, an orange world, a green world, a teal world, a turquoise world, and so on, and each of them has different phenomena with different ontologies. Atoms—which have subsisted since shortly after the Big Bang—don’t ex-ist until orange, where they are pictured as a little planetary system with sun‑nucleus and planetary‑electrons. At green, the atomic world now appears to be composed not only of electrons, protons, and neutrons, but mesons, bosons, leptons, and other sub-subatomic particles. At teal, these numerous particles are brought together in a unified synthesis known as the “8-fold way”—with the discovery of the Higgs boson particle giving added credibility to that paradigm. But at turquoise, an entirely new paradigm of super-high-energy colliders has suggested theories known variously as “string theory,” “M theory,” “super-string theory,” and “a theory of everything”—where the universe is seen as composed of 11 dimensions, which gives rise to “multiple universes” or “multiverses.” String theory is the only theory that promises to be a “theory of everything,” pulling together items that previous physical theories were unable to do—but it is so complicated and so abstract, it is generally agreed that no empirical experiment will ever be able to be devised that could prove or disprove the theory. Physics, now far removed from the “empirical queen of the sciences,” has become the “abstract theory of the sciences” par excellence, with a deeply Pythagorean worldview.”

Joel: Because ontology for Wilber remains in shadow, he makes subtle conflations between the ontic and epistemic aspects. Take this, for example:

“It is not—as the “myth of given” maintains—that there is one, single, pregiven world that is interpreted differently by different worldviews (although that of course can happen), but rather that these different levels of being-consciousness bring forth different worlds themselves—there is a red world, an amber world, an orange world, a green world, a teal world, a turquoise world, and so on, and each of them has different phenomena with different ontologies.”

In my view, the Rational is just the Mythic become self-conscious.  And regardless of the myths of how the one world of reality (ontos) is given, including Wilber’s own myths about the given as broken up into epistemic or interpreted worlds at all levels, my preferred myth is that there is just one world (Brahma) which is indeed interpreted differently into ontologies, or epistemic worlds (Maya).  Onto-logies are not the ont-ic.  As I show in SpinbitZ, ontologies are epistemic forms, and epistemologies are ontic forms. There is a recursing polarity here that can be very confusing, especially when the distinctions get blurred. Anyway, this ontic-shadow inherited from Kant and post-modernity is something that I criticize Wilber for, among other things such as his academic flatland and woefully inadequate representation of Spinoza, and failure (along with most everybody else in integral theory after him) to reach the nondual (real and integrated) form of rationality.


And similarly, his uncritical acceptance of the given unconscious myth of Big Bang Cosmogeny and String Theory is telling of his stance in the exoteric. Both of these models are fundamentally unfalsifiable. The Big Bang is literally formed of layers and layers of evasive maneuvers (fudge factors) that have allowed it to escape falsification after falsification. And String Theory is just experimental math using parameters arbitrarily termed “dimensions” and yet with no connection whatsoever to reality. The math exploded into an infinity of possible (and likely impossible) stringy “universes” with no capacity to empirically determine if any of them correspond at all to the real world.

I agree with Wilber’s *general* take on quantum mechanics and all the New Age narcissistic garbage relating to consciousness around it, however, and his final sentence here is moving in a good direction, if severely understated: “Physics, now far removed from the ’empirical queen of the sciences,’ has become the ‘abstract theory of the sciences’ par excellence, with a deeply Pythagorean worldview.

But I’d say it’s not really a Pythagorean worldview, which would be MUCH better. It’s just relying heavily (and confusedly) on mathematics, and still at a pre-rational level of meta-mathematical understanding or integration, as I show in SpinbitZ.

Really Wilber just needs to take Rupert Sheldrake’s lead and jump aboard the Electric Universe ship. It’s really taking off now. But Wilber is too enslaved by his need to fit into the academy to rock that boat. This is why his Integral Politics is so stunted and naive. It has no edge. No guts.

If we could see the Big Bang theory for what it is, it would look like Frankenstein’s monster of the theoretical world.

Tom: Joel, you said, “Regardless of the myths of how the one world of reality (ontos) is given, there is just one world (Brahma) which is indeed interpreted differently into ontologies, or epistemic worlds (Maya). As I show in SpinbitZ, ontologies are epistemic forms, and epistemologies are ontic forms. There is a polarity here. Anyway, this ontic-shadow inherited from Kant and post-modernity is something that I criticize Wilber for…

Are you saying that there is, somehow, a ‘thing in itself’ independent of consciousness/cultural epistemic construction? For Ken, his approach isn’t just Kantian and postmodern, but has a strong component of Buddhist Madhyamaka philosophy as well. It’s basically radical Subjectivism or Transcendentalism–which Ken gets from Adi Da’s Vedanta, also–thrown into a four-quadrant Indra’s Net of epistemic/ontic “perspectives.” So he does believe there is only one reality, or Brahman, but the ever-shifting kaleidoscope of perspectival “worlds” appear within it (Maya). But of Brahman nothing can ultimately be said, because it transcends the appearance of multiplicity, though its nature can be semiotically “pointed to” as Transcendental Consciousness or Absolute Subjectivity.

So, put simply, both subjectivity and objectivity (left and right quadrants), or consciousness and matter/energy, are 100% co-dependent and co-arising and co-creating. But there is a nondual Ground that underlies both quadrants, which is neither mental nor physical but rather is the empty, aware context in which all phenomena exist and subsist. In other words, as they say in Tibetan Dzogchen, the absolute is the “root” or “source” of both subjective and objective phenomena–it is void, like empty space, yet it also has the quality of awareness, or knowing…a nondual root-source of “aware space” from which, within which, and *as* which all phenomena appear as temporary modifications of that primary “substance” or “suchness,” like images in a mirror.

In the full posted text originally linked to above, Ken is discussing differences between Critical Realism and Integral Theory and says:

“These levels of being-consciousness (red, amber, orange, green, turquoise, et.) are not different interpretations of a one, single, pregiven reality or world, but are themselves actually different worlds in deep structure (an infrared world, a red world, an amber world, an orange world, a green world, a turquoise world, etc., each of which is composed of Nature’s or Kosmic habits tetra-created by the sentient holons at those levels, as are atomic, molecular, cellular, etc. worlds).

“The deep structures of these worlds are the nondual epistemic-ontic Whole occasions, but this doesn’t prevent them from being fallible when it comes to humans’ attempts at disclosing and discovering and describing the real characteristics of the Whole; i.e., the surface epistemic-ontic approaches are fallible (which is one of the reasons that multiple methodologies—epistemologies that co-enact and co-create correlative ontologies—and vice versa)—are so important: the more methodologies used, the likelier the deeper Wholeness (the deeper unity of being-consciousness) will be accurately disclosed and enacted in more of its dimensions.

“These deep features of the real are—a la Peirce—not eternal pregiven realities of a one world, but Nature’s habits that have been engraved in the universe through the interaction of semiotic-sentient beings (that go all the way down—including quarks and atoms—which is why there are proto-conscious-feeling-knowing beings present from the start to actually create habits—they are living and conscious beings capable of forming habits!—instead of prehension-free ontologies that have no living choices, and thus must blindly obey laws, something both Peirce and I, among others, find unintelligible. Further, according to Peirce, it is the fact that each semiotic being—all the way down—has in its tripartite makeup an interpretant that means the holon’s being is determined in part by interpretation, all the way down—and this, he says, is “inescapable”).”

Later in the piece he critiques Sean Esbjörn-Hargens for not taking literally enough the idea that *real worlds* (and not merely epistemic ones) are enacted by different stages of tetra-emergence. But you are saying that this is an “ontic shadow,” and yet you also say that “ontologies are epistemic forms, and epistemologies are ontic forms.” So…my question is: How does that differ from Ken’s view, particularly when he says, “The deep structures of these worlds are the nondual epistemic-ontic Whole occasions, but this doesn’t prevent them from being fallible when it comes to humans’ attempts at disclosing and discovering and describing the real characteristics of the Whole…“?

Are you pointing to his emptiness/consciousness/transcendentalist bias, as we discussed in a previous thread, where you described it nicely as “The tendency to idolize the formless form over the forms of the formless”? Because if so, I think you are definitely onto something there, but I’d like to better understand how you arrive at that. If you could parse out where you agree/disagree with Wilber in what I’ve written and quoted above, that’d be helpful.

Joel: Tom, I don’t consider myself an expert on Wilber by any means, and frankly I’ve acquired my understanding of his philosophy more through osmosis than study, working at II and IL for those few years graphically on and around his concepts, and subsequently existing in the diffuse virtual integral community culminating here and now. I’ve only read bits and pieces of his books. And I was never a devotee because I already had my own Spinoza/Deleuze lineage I was expanding into. Even though his ontological forays always seemed a bit empty for me, I really thought his epistemic work was strong and simple when I discovered it, and there was a great historical vibe to the movement in general, so all of that was exciting when I got into it.

But I always felt that Wilber radically misunderstood this core thinker in the Rational tradition (Spinoza), and was influenced by the Western tradition to the point that his rational line is a bit malformed, or undernourished, from my view. Academia and the Western exoteric tradition (orthodoxy) has long suppressed a full understanding of Spinoza’s radically heretical view into a nondual Rationality. Layers and layers of misinterpretation from a pre-rational center obscure the received Rational view. As Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty say, the “secret of grand Rationalism” is “positive infinity”. This is the fullness in emptiness we discussed earlier, as you mentioned, only more explicit and fleshed out in ontological form. The common (pre-rational) tendency is to simply fall into the abyss in a “disastrous regress.” This return from the absolute in regress, from emptiness now into a fullness, and a capacity to reason and integrate positively with infinite immanence, is key to the complete or nondual Rational structure. I bring this strongly into fruition in my own work, really opening up Spinoza/Deleuze’s core insights to a new plateau. As Deleuze says, “substance now turns on its modes” as we come to integrate the relative and absolute in conceptual clarity (univocity and nonduality). But the key with Spinoza and reaching the nondual understanding of Rationality especially in its mathematical aspect—which deals with our deepest ontological self-similar primitives—is this coming to grips with the nature of infinity. This is because infinity is the quantitative or multiple aspect of the absolute, and nonduality (univocity) is about integration of the relative and absolute. This is critical to a nondual and completed form of Rationality (univocity).

Anyway, the point I want to make here is not that Ken is wrong, but that he has a bit of atrophy here from the shadow cast into creative ontology and immanence in the Western Rational tradition. I encountered it in Wilber, especially in his old work where he would constantly qualify any ontological claim, saying effectively that ~ “after Kant we can’t really do metaphysics and ontology.” It was as if Kant had convinced the academy that to make an ontological claim was to do so absolutely; as if making a claim about the absolute were the same as making an absolute claim; as if all of reality were somehow absolutely unknowable, instead of merely relatively knowable. Existence is, rather, the absolute coming to know itself through self-relation. All of ontology is therefore relatively knowable. The “thing in itself” is not other than ourselves in other configurations of Self. All “knowing” is mediated relation, and naivety is the infinite ground of nativity. So we *can* know the thing in itself *relatively*.  And even though we can only know our immediate experience absolutely, there is no mythic absolutization of the concept of knowledge and hence no demand for anything but knowledge as relation between the known and knower, and hence there is no Kantian divide.

So to me, in Deleuzian terms, Ken remains rooted (emphasis, or gravity), but not entirely stuck, in the Representational (Maya or the epistemic), with a bit remaining of the Kantian chasm. And his AQAL model is a great general epistemic (top-down) lens to maintain the proper orientation for at least an *approach* to a nondual or univocal balance to the core categories of plurality and boundary (I/IT) in relation to the fields of knowledge. As such, it is mostly an epistemic top-down (transcendent-biased) framework for organization of these epistemic fields. And your comments on the Eastern aspects of his work, especially the Transcendental and Absolute Subjective aspects fit this interpretation as well. I use the term transcendent-biased in SpinbitZ, and on this diagram (below) he’d also have a bit of an “idealism skew,” even though on paper, or technically via AQAL, there is a balance and a mechanism for maintaining it:

Star_of_complexity_mism-idiI also see that Wilber is (or was) overcoming that ontic-shadow and digging in, moving strongly in the anti-Platonic direction towards more of a balance with immanence and complexity, such as with his integration of Process philosophy and Sheldrake (who I also find a bit top-heavy). But with his gravity strongly in the mythic, or perhaps we could say the “royal” or exoteric (transcendent) emphasis, it’ll be interesting to see how far he goes.

In general, as I go through these Wilber quotes, and as I have seen elsewhere, I am seeing that Wilber wants to extend the epistemic all the way to the atomic level and below. I don’t think it makes sense like that and rather see it enfolded at these levels and not really coming to the fore until we get to the capacity of representation. Granted there are deeper and deeper and more primitive forms of “knowledge” or abstraction into mechanism, but I wouldn’t say that the atomic level brings a new epistemic world into view. In general, Wilber doesn’t have a clear ontological framework (relatively) and rather chooses a heap approach with collecting and organizing as many epistemic methodologies as possible to triangulate on the reality.

Here’s a good example:

“The deep structures of these worlds are the nondual epistemic-ontic Whole occasions, but this doesn’t prevent them from being fallible when it comes to humans’ attempts at disclosing and discovering and describing the real characteristics of the Whole; i.e., the surface epistemic-ontic approaches are fallible (which is one of the reasons that multiple methodologies—epistemologies that co-enact and co-create correlative ontologies—and vice versa)—are so important: the more methodologies used, the likelier the deeper Wholeness (the deeper unity of being-consciousness) will be accurately disclosed and enacted in more of its dimensions.”

I disagree that the deeper structures are epistemic, except in the sense that the epistemic could be said to be enfolded recursively in them as potential. Rather, for me, the epistemic emerges distinctly with abstraction and mental representation. So Wilber’s use of epistemic-ontic is a bit vague for me, even though technically correct.

And here…

“These deep features of the real are—a la Peirce—not eternal pregiven realities of a one world, but Nature’s habits that have been engraved in the universe through the interaction of semiotic-sentient beings (that go all the way down—including quarks and atoms—which is why there are proto-conscious-feeling-knowing beings present from the start to actually create habits—they are living and conscious beings capable of forming habits!”

Despite Wilber’s acceptance of entities that have been falsified, such as quarks (not many people know this [[see Krisch 1987, 1990, and note that this is experimentum crucis for Sorce Theory]]), I certainly would not consider an atom a semiotic-sentient being. Semiotics is firmly rooted at the level of symbolic representation which doesn’t come into play until we get into the animal kingdom with the formation of the brain and specifically with language. Of course one could argue for a semiotic relationship between the ‘symbols’ of genotype and the ‘meaning’ of the phenotype, and I do indeed flesh out this gradient in SpinbitZ as a function of deep evolutionary learning and intelligence. But it’s too much of a stretch for me to call an atom a “sentient-semiotic” or an “epistemic-ontic being”. So I would say it’s more precise to say that the deep structures are ontic and they emerge in a gradient eventually into epistemic forms, becoming clearly so at the level of animals and humans. Also, habits would simply be “attractors” in the world of complexity, and these can come in long before sentience and much earlier than semiotics, which we could crudely see starting with genetic evolution, perhaps.

“…—instead of prehension-free ontologies that have no living choices, and thus must blindly obey laws, something both Peirce and I, among others, find unintelligible. Further, according to Peirce, it is the fact that each semiotic being—all the way down—has in its tripartite makeup an interpretant that means the holon’s being is determined in part by interpretation, all the way down—and this, he says, is “inescapable”).”

Again, these words take on new meanings as we follow the gradients down into the rudiments of complexity. There is prehension at the level of the atom in the sense that the atom is a dynamic entity which must equilibrate to its energetic surroundings. The atom has a rudimentary homeostasis; a strange attractor, and a Spinozistic essence. But it’s a stretch for me to call that semiotics or sentience. I can make the stretch and follow the gradient, but it feels a bit fuzzy, blurring the distinctions of otherwise clear terminology.

Also, there is a bit of a false-dichotomy here, between beings that “have living choices” and those that “blindly follow laws”. The real distinction here is that we are giving the atom a dynamic interiority, an essence and attractor, which reacts with its environment as it “attempts” to maintain an internal order. But can we call this interaction a “choice”? Did the atom represent two different options and make a decision? That’s a bit of a stretch to me, and imho Wilber gets away with this because his ontological structures are under-developed.

Tom, you said, Later in the piece he critiques Sean Esbjörn-Hargens for not taking literally enough the idea that *real worlds* (and not merely epistemic ones) are enacted by different stages of tetra-emergence. But you are saying that this is an “ontic shadow,” and yet you also say that “ontologies are epistemic forms, and epistemologies are ontic forms.

The ontic shadow is clearly being addressed in these later writings by Wilber, but I still see it a bit in the need to project sentience and especially semiotics all the way down, along with the vagueness I mentioned, such as with the notion that “merely epistemic” worlds are not also necessarily ontic. If Wilber were to say that at the deepest levels these epistemic aspects are so enfolded that they really do not show, then that’d be more realistic. An atom simply is not using codes to represent its world in order to make choices. It really is not making choices at all simply because it cannot represent them, with no capacity for abstraction or representation. Also, does the atom really bring a new “world” into being? Is this an epistemic (representational) or an ontic world? Our representation of the atomic world is not the same thing as the atomic world, simply because before we existed, there was no representation of the atomic world. Atoms have no capacity for representation or knowledge. Where do you draw the line between these so-called “worlds”? And in what world is one drawing these lines? What then is the difference between the atomic “world” and this world of worlds?

All of this is arbitrary parsing of terms. So Ken defines “world” as roughly the “space of possibilities” produced by an arbitrarily defined ontological form, between which there really are no lines at all. But there is punctuation between levels, so, that much is granted, as a basis for this arbitrary definition of “world”.

Tom, you said, “… and yet you also say that ‘ontologies are epistemic forms, and epistemologies are ontic forms.’ So…my question is: How does that differ from Ken’s view, particularly when he says, ‘The deep structures of these worlds are the nondual epistemic-ontic Whole occasions, but this doesn’t prevent them from being fallible when it comes to humans’ attempts at disclosing and discovering and describing the real characteristics of the Whole…’?

Specifically, as discussed above, I am not seeing Ken make the clear distinction between ontic and epistemic, nor outline the nature of the polarity as I do.

He doesn’t specify the orthogonal relation between his epistemic AQAL and the ontic-epistemic polarity and situate that on an explicit axis, the immanent-transcendent axis, and he doesn’t address the critical orthogonality at the crossroads of subject-object and ontic-epistemic, the x-interface, as I call it in SpinbitZ II, forthcoming:

Kant-Descartes_xroadsRather Wilber’s discussion here, with his ontic-epistemic conjunction never making the distinction and orientation clear, feels a bit muddled to me, like his terms are becoming stretched out of natural form and blurred into vagueness and left wandering around in a bit of fog. I think this is because Wilber wants to counter a Received and denatured materialist bias with a wholistic mental one (Subjective Absolutism) and hasn’t found much clarity in the ontic realm due to his time avoiding the shadow. You can see this with his use of semiotics at this rudimentary level, such as at the atomic or below.

Peirce defines semiotics as the “quasi-necessary, or formal doctrine of signs,” which abstracts “what must be the characters of all signs used by…an intelligence capable of learning by experience”. (Wikipedia:semiotics) Can we really say this of the atom? Not in my view. And I am curious to know whether Wilber is misreading Peirce to claim such.

Anyway, to sum up, the difference is one of emphasis and embodiment. I am generally claiming that given the inherited postmodern ontic-shadow, Wilber has a fairly anemic or empty ontological framework. He has not spent the time to make the distinctions necessary to get clear on this. His philosophy feels underdeveloped and muddled to me in this area. He’s generally correct as far as he goes (although I disagree with his use of terms), but in the ontological department, he’s not going far enough for me.

So, to simplify, Tom, what I am saying, and this is really obvious, is that in the ontos (root of “one”) there is just one world. The epistemic divides this world into “worlds” in its attempt to dissect and understand it. In reality there is no division between the atomic and cellular and organismic worlds. Forms of involution or closure simply open into new forms of exploration we call evolution. But there is no real separation between these involutionary and evolutionary actions. They occur simultaneously in constant ebb and flux.

But not all these transitional levels from involution to a new evolution can be said to be “epistemic” and certainly not “semiotic,” from my view.

Tom: Awesome, Joel. This is very clarifying… I think Wilber’s ontology is underdeveloped for all the reasons you state plus your aforementioned “wanting to be taken seriously by academia.” Because if he became a nonmaterialist ontologist, he would be…an integral theosophist. But given that his work is new-age esoteric occultism to academic philosophers anyway (and at least one university prof told me his impression of KW in almost exactly those terms), then I guess he doesn’t have much to lose by trying…
But the root of it isn’t just wanting to be taken more seriously by the mainstream (though he explicitly states that as his reason for avoiding as much metaphysics as possible in “Integral Spirituality”)–it’s the Eastern bias that his work was built out of, from the early 70s on. The via negativa and/or transcendental idealism pervades his work, and I think it’s ultimately at odds with the true “spirit of evolution” (his subtitle to Sex, Ecology, Spirituality).

Joel: Beautiful, thanks Tom.

David Marshall: Joel, I’m not clear on what Wilber’s “ontic shadow” is still. Could you explain that a bit, with some examples?

Joel:  The ontic-shadow issue is addressed in depth in SpinbitZ and a bit near the beginning of this thread, but this seems a great place to circle ’round.

A key entry point here is with Kan’t (sick), and specifically with his performative-negation, what has become a shadow-metaphysics on metaphysics, and an implicit ontology of ontic-epistemic dualism (see pic above). In Western Philosophy, the reaction to this ontic-shadow shows up in the “speculative realist” camp (rooted in Schelling, Bergson, Whitehead, and Deleuze) and their rejection of the “finitism” of Kan’t.  Kant, as I show (SZ), was incorrect about the antinomies on infinity. Simply stated, unlike Leibniz, Kant had not integrated Spinoza’s famous letter on the infinite (a key breakthrough for Leibniz in reaching the modern *mathematical* understanding, before Cantor, of the “actual infinite”), and so Kant was unwittingly confusing the limits of the imagination (potential) with the limits of reason (actual). Indeed the human mind, as self-similar recursion of Brahma into Maya is a reflection from infinity itself. And the primitives of both reason and imagination function in an implicit context of, and interface with infinity.

Infinity is, in my view, the acategorical simplex. This is why it is so easy to overcomplexify and “un-get” this concept that every child “gets” intuitively, out of Pandora’s evolutionary box. Infinity is the given itself, giving itself to and as the myth of itself.

As a natural speculative realist myself—ontology as an art of the concept—when I first encountered early Wilber I noted his continual disavowal of ontology as a discipline in general, as if it were a bit of a taboo to have to necessarily enter that domain. It is this early period in Wilber where his Western academic inheritance of the ontic (Kantic) shadow is most pronounced. Personally I do not believe he has studied Deleuze (understandably, not easy), where I feel this ontic line is strongest, and it is also at its most playful, in my view, and difficult to understand. Whitehead and Process Philosophy, in general, has not yet pulled me close enough for a decent comparison, so I reserve judgement, except to point out the reason for my slight repulsion (amidst a strong attraction) to that lineage. This subtle repulsion is with the over-emphasis on the temporal or processism to escape the opposite imbalance of stasis in structuralism. The temporal aspect of Process Philosophy is key to moving into the post-classical era in ontology, as we see with Prigogine and Fuller (and on and on), but I superficially or intuitively found a more balanced and integrated approach (univocal and nondual) with process in the substantial and eternal in Deleuze/Spinoza…. I am getting a bit more into the Process line proper, however, out of curiosity.

And circling back on the discussion of the anatom above [[actually in part 2 of this discussion]], and the cosmic ergodic spine, the trans-dynamic integration of the whole of dynamics, from Being to Becoming (as with Prigogine), there is a clear univocal integration between the simultaneity and infinite difference of the Substantial and the deep temporality of the Processural. But, post-Kan’t, this only happens—as all through the fractal embryogenesis of mathematics itself (see SpinbitZ)—at ergodic closure with infinity. This coming to integration with the absolute and relative scopes—the quantitative aspects of which are the infinite and finite, respectively—is univocity, the “organizing principle” of Spinoza’s work (flattened by orthodoxy and taken as given by Wilber), and seen most clearly in the seed and cultivating third of Spinoza’s triune infinite.

When I look at Wilber’s later interfacing with ontology via e.g. Sheldrake and Whitehead, I see a clear residual ontic shadow. This shows up as an epistemic and Representational or perspectival bias and certain confusions and ambiguities in the ontic realm. These have been explored in detail in this thread, and in my work, and can be looked at further, especially around the concept of ‘univocity’ and “positive infinity” (immanence) which Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty call “the secret of Grand Rationalism”.

Anyway, I hope that helps a bit there.

Also note that I am currently not focused on Wilber at all, and am only critiquing him here because the subject has been brought up. I’m not anti-Wilberian by any means, once the issues of interfacing him have been resolved, as indeed they were in SpinbitZ. I simply offer an outside perspective and some cross-branchings from an alternative philosophical lineage.