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 tomhuston.com.

David Marshall is a writer and editor living in Chicago.

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

http://integrallife.com/integral-post/response-critical-theory-defense-integral-theory

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.

epistemic-ontic-V-ology

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.

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Essence and Entropy

Put simply, entropy is whatever default attractor within which any “bulk” or unformed matter finds itself embedded. We think of it as “negative” or destructive because we are self-rooted to our functions, and because we don’t see the larger syntropic forms it is being induced to assume.

In Spinozan terms, and even more simply, when an object has no essence, it takes on the essence of its parent. Or, more nuanced, there is a fractal interplay of essences (attractors), and to really play in the inter-play one must “tap into” these nascent and emergent forms in the actual-possible. One must play in the stream of Becoming and harness one’s own flows autocatalytically to its own form and Being.

And for the crude simple machines used in cobbling together our science of thermodynamics, the default essence or attractor is that of the Earth, namely the fine or deep electrogravitational structure of the atmosphere….which is mostly ergodic, or noise, to our senses.

My view, as with Fuller, is that we’ve come in through the “attic window” on practically everything (trans-trans bound), math, science, reality. And the matter we are playing with in mechanics, from the outside, is bulk, crude, relatively un(in)formed. This is basically what Deleuze’s Transcendental Empiricism gets at… that we are already “infinitely” transcendent observers (infinite in a key aspect, but also *not* in another). And this is also the meaning of the move to the infinite Leibnizian-Deleuzian “fold” (near the end of SZ).

So we come out from, and into a boundary, a world, as a part of this infinite fractal boundary-mechanics, these divinely enfolded, unfolding recursive self-hoods or sheathings of self. From this lofty perch, we then start dabbling in the creation process, but from waaaay up here, as ‘one,’ with these impossibly huge fingers, grasping massive chunks of matter and slapping them around. And then we wonder why our machines, our would-be golems can’t even keep it together, let alone walk… until now as we dig into the micro of the mechanical onion.

Or you could say that we open our eyes through connecting lines of sight stretching across an infinite plane, and assume, implicitly that the world is made out of lines and planes, and then proceed to discover the limits, balances, and uses of crossing these lines at right angles. A classic Fullerian shift from transitivity to immanence as we fall into our own implicit singularity, get our bearings and float…finally engaging our hands into the flow of our Being.

Until the current involution and dis-closure into the complexity at source, we had not realized what a “Form” (Spinozan essence) was. We assumed that the universe should just want to maintain the forms that we throw together. We were confused that matter seems inactive (from way above), and we assumed that she was not interested in her own ideas and play. And so we forced our forms upon her in our simple machines. As Leibniz notes, however, our machines are not recursive infinite machines, as are Nature’s. They have no flux within them focused naturally into maintaining any form (essence), except for the deeper bulk material essence of which they are fashioned, smelted, pressed, or whatever. In other words, bulk matter has its own intrinsic attractors, and shares those of the parent attractor within which it finds itself. And so it “seeks” to merge with its essence, both inwardly (back to bulk) and outwardly, off into “space”…or crumbling into the “ground”.

And this puts a spin on Taoist ‘non-action’, as the aligning with your dominant attractors and your total harmonic essence. Going with the flow. Crude mechanics simply does not, of itself, so the flow goes away with it, because that larger and smaller (I/T) flow is its actual essence. It persists in its real being, which we have mis-identified with itself.

This is the key to entropy. A function of an eclipsed view into a play of attractors. Spinozan existential essences which are preceded by (emergent from) existence. This gets down to the labyrinthine nature of continuity, the deep fine structure and intelligence in matter. It has its own forms in dealing with its own infinite perfection, as we should know, BEING these forms and all. Barely coming to grips with the ordering forces from this deep labyrinthine chaos of pure continuity, we get confused by the “negative” gradient from our own top-down impositions, and we assign it an ideal, a Law, and fit a curve to it with some equations. And then naturally we project those Ideals onto the cosmos and predict it’s “heat death” in dramatic form.

Univocity and the Absolute Relation

There is a key truth to the notion of the absolute as (absolutely) free of constructs. Also, this purity that we sense, along with the value or space I feel the distinction holds, is a key function of the univocity framework in SZ. Maintaining this purity in polarity and distinction, is its primary function.

And of course it is also true that for a distinction to be *real* (Spinoza and dependent arising) it cannot be absolute, and must, in some sense, be inter-expressive. There is one voice, and it can only express difference … without limit … because a limit itself is difference. Deep infinity is expressing itself through the relation(s) of I AM. This is really what nondual means, in my view…and the deeper we can *feel* into that, and out from that, by whatever (and all) catalyst(s), the more alive we are.

So, nonduality is convergent with univocity, meaning a polarity and triunity between the relative and absolute, and “Substance turns on its modes” (Deleuze). We get a *feel* into the triunity and interface that we are, with the univocity framework, the cycle of unity, and with Spinoza’s triune infinite, etc. But they are still not it, in the sense that they can’t contain an infinite surface, let alone its depths. They are just ways of peering into its embodied and real form.

That being said, in the exploration of this infinite “boundary” between the absolute and relative which is the nondual itself, how indeed can we make sure not to lose the distinction itself between the absolute and relative? How can we retain the truth in the implicit and emergent or natural meaning of ‘absolute’? What is the truth of the purity that we sense in the word?

In another word, I think it is ‘boundlessness’, or freedom. It’s just a finger pointing at what cannot be contained within our boundary … but it’s always already infinitely full. As well, the finite and infinite are not simply a polarity. They explode into a rich living depth of conscious intelligence and order. And from where they meet, we expand in whatever art or form which resonates with where we are.

So then what is the essence or purity of the absolute which must be guarded… and indeed how can we guard against the guard itself? 😉 Firstly, we note that the absolute is the identical opposite of the relative. And we note that it is relation in the first place which *forms* the absolute (concept) in an orientation on its fundamental limits in infinity. We could say that the absolute is the self-consciousness of the field of relation… in a sense. And insofar as self-consciousness hiders the flow of the self, our own ‘non-action’, then this distinction needs to be resolved, tuned and triuned into a seemless flow and integration of the univocal form.

We have an implicit connection to the infinite and absolute, and absolutely no separation from it. We *are* it. And we can’t help but feel it. This is closure and involution for the field of relation. It’s self-defining other, in identical opposition and return to integration.

So what can be the opposition to relation itself? The absence of it, certainly, as there is nothing other than relation at this level of generality of the term to oppose. So then, what the absolute cannot do is relate (and of course it must…shhhhh!!!). It cannot be used in the field of relation itself, but only in opposition to relation, to give it its embodied form in infinite difference.

But then again, with the inter-expression of univocity, the absolute and relative are one: the absolute-relation, and the ONE-ALL. This then is our only view of what the absolute can be, dealing at such a degree of abstraction. But it is an omni-non. It is everything, and so it disappears. Nothing we can say about it (including herein) can exclude the very opposite of what we can say about it, because it contains all REAL opposites…and if we are using unreal ones, well then that speaks for itself.

So dealing with the absolute we speak its language and invoke its forms. They emerge naturally from our own absolutely real form. Wholeness. One way to see into wholeness, which has the advantage of mirroring our self-similar form, is through the metaphor of embryogenesis, first through polarity and then on into multiplicity or the ten thousand things. So that’s where SZ hangs out. What scars of our own embryogenesis are left in our embodied intuitions about the core issues of multiplicity, differentiation, and integration as they show up in mathematics? And what can that teach us about embodied conceptuality and ontology, either its limits or capacities?