Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ken Wilber - a summary

Besides summarizing the integral thought of Ken Wilber, that synthesizes different theoretical models and traditional cartography in a holistic approach, the present text aims to demonstrate that the notions of Communication and Complexity permeate his ideas, although they do not appear explicitly in his books. The integral thought of Ken Wilber represents a step ahead, as much in relation to the neo-platonic holistic movement (and the Metaphysic of the ideal forms) and neo-Hegelian (that generalizes everything on behalf of the whole) movement of the New Age, as much in the inter-subjective relativist pluralism of the post-modern thinkers (whether they are esoteric or academics). Ken Wilber starting point is the necessity of a single theoretical model that would comprise every phenomenon: the theory of everything. However, on a different perspective from the physicists, who, in truth, want to construct a monologic ' theory of whole' and not a theory of everything, capable to get down to each specific domain of the human knowledge without losing the vision entirety. By the way, for Wilber, there is not only one universe subdivided in connective parts, nor a multiple complexity without totalization or synthesis possible, but a Kosmo (with ' k' in a reference to the Greek notion) formed by several 'holons' (wholes-parts) in hierarchy, with a totality being part of another totality in a superior scale: atomic holon, molecular holon, organic holon, planetary holon. Wilber calls these systemic hierarchies ' Holonarchys' and calls the set of these ontological nets, ‘The Great Chain of Being’. To map the holonarchies, Wilber elaborates a complex castle of concepts, crossing some theories and approaches of different domains. It is a complex model that combines different theories and other models. Wilber considers it a map and remembers that “we must not confuse the map with the territory”, that the model is only an attempt to frame and to think reality, a complex physicality, which always escapes from us.

The elements of Ken Wilber’s model or IOS (Integral Operating System) come from the crossing and analogy of several other models and approaches, and are the following: states, levels (or degrees), lines, types and quadrants.

The State of conscience is a subjective reality. The vigil, the dream and the deep sleep. Wilber believes that the development of these three universal states of the human conscience correspond, in many traditional mythologies, to superior states of conscience (to the experience of the physical, subtle and causal bodies) and still adds the experience of a fourth superior state of conscience: the non-duality.

Levels are “relevant emergent qualities in discrete way”. Wilber establishes three of them: pre-conventional (or ego-centered), the conventional (or ethnocentric) and the post-conventional (or globe centric). The levels are graduations in a vertical scale that can be subdivided in minor units. In the system of chakras, for example, the three first ones (food, sex and power) correspond to the ego-centered one; the two central (the communication and 'heart'), to the conventional; and the two superiors (psychic and spiritual), to the globe-centered.

This also is the case of the Levels (or vMemes) of the Spiral Dynamics Integral – SDI, a model where the different levels of psychological development form a specter of the conscience. This model (based in the work of Clare Graves, Don Beck and Richard Cowan) adopts the colors as fundament for differentiation between the levels of personal development, to evidence its transitory character, not-fixed.

The SDI is an emerging and oscillating process, marked by a gradual subordination of older systems of behavior, to most recent systems, of superior order, that occur as the existential problems change. It serves mankind as a whole (in the evolutive sense and in the sense of the current social structure) as much as the individual development (biographical and of levels of perception).

Wilber makes projections on how many people are currently in each level: in the archaic level(beige) 0.1%; in the animistic level (purple) 10%; in feudal imperialism (red) 20%; in mythical level (blue) 40%; in modernity (orange) 30%; e in the post-modern (green) level 10%. In this perspective, the beige and purple waves represent ‘pre-conventional ego-centered' behaviors, that refute social rules and institutions; the red and blue waves represent (60% of the world-wide population) the two 'conventional ethnocentric' behaviors, of imposition and conformity with the rules; and the orange and green waves (30%) correspond to the 'post-conventional world-centered' behaviors, conscientious and individualistic. According to Wilber (2002, 20-24), we are in a moment of increase of the green wave and close to a jump to a thought of second order, the yellow wave. For us, it is important to stand out the partial compatibility between the models of Wilber and the hypothesis of symmetry between the ordinary and extraordinary cognitions. The difference is that the model of the cerebral circuits is less evolutionist from the collective point of view and more fixed in terms of the constitution of the individual identities (conscience, ego, mind, personality). Moreover, Ken Wilber comprehends the green wave inside the ordinary reality (which means that a part of humanity is already developing neuro-somatic cerebral circuits) and only the following levels (yellow, turquoise and coral) as future possibilities of development.

There are differences between States and Levels. The levels of conscience are permanent, marks of the development in a vertical scale (“the subject of a level becomes the object of the following level”) and, as we saw, can be represented in many forms. The conscience states are 'horizontal'. When dealing with common states of conscience, are cyclical and the superior states of conscience are temporary events. One can, then, be a person culturally behind time (prejudicial, moralist) and yet reach high states of mystic conscience; as well as one can be a person sufficiently developed in some cognitive aspects and not get to experience spiritual trances. The levels are in the subjective plan in the 1º quadrant; the states are placed in the objective plan, in the 2º quadrant.

Besides the States (horizontal) and of the Levels (vertical), either of the SD or of other scales, the model of understanding the development of the conscience considered by Wilber has a third dimension, or depth. There are still many Lines of Development (or multiple intelligences as proposed by Gardner), where Wilber, incorporating different authors, adopts specific approaches: aesthetic, psycho-sexual, moral, affective, inter-personal, necessity, values, spiritual and cognitive. But, there are some contradictions and superpositions. Some authors confound lines with levels, giving more emphasis to a factor than to another. The word ' spiritual', for example, has four different meanings: as trans-personal level, as line or intelligence, as religious experience and as a special attitude. (2006, 133) The cognitive development also does not have well defined dimensions in relation to the other lines of development. Wilber criticizes Piaget for considering the cognitive development “the electric wire that illuminates the Christmas tree” of the other lines of development (affective, moral, etc), but does not establish the limits of autonomy of these other lines in relation to the development entirety, limiting himself to affirm that “the cognitive development is a necessary factor, but not sufficient to the development of other lines of development” (2006, 137).

Wilber also crosses the lines with the levels, getting a development psycho-graphic with five lines and three levels.

Thus, one determined individual may be on a pre-conventional level in linguistic and affective point of view (immaturity), and in a post-conventional level in the point of view of its logical-abstract development, for example.

The category Type or horizontal typologies is adopted by Wilber to differentiate the individual perception of the world, and can be used in many ways. It can be used with the 9 types of the eneagram, the 16 types of Jung or 4 types of Myers-Briggs. Wilber stands out the cleavage by gender, that is, how the masculine and feminine types live deeply and perceive life and the world differently. Also one can consider here the social cleavages of age, social class, level of scholarity, income, culture, etc

And, finally, fifth, last and most important element of Ken Wilber’s theoretical castle is the notion of Quadrants. The Model of the Quadrants consists of simultaneously taking things in four analytical dimensions: the subjective individual or 'I' (the mind); the objective individual or 'he' (the brain), the subjective collectiveness or 'us' (the culture); and, finally, the objective collectiveness or 'them' (the society).

Thus, if we take a determined holon as object, the family x, for example, we will have to fit it into four perspectives: the persons (individual history) and the role that that they play (father, mother, son, etc) - first quadrant; the genetic aspect and the hereditary structure - second quadrant; the relation of family x with other similar families in different aspects - third quadrant; and, finally, the economic, social and political relations of family x: how this familiar holon incases within society as a whole, a hierarchically superior holon.

This quadruple perspective, or `integral perspective', pretty much reduces the possibility of reductionist approaches and has other advantages in relation to the traditional, modern and post-modern perspectives. For Wilber, “there two errors that we can be commit in relation to this (4º) quadrant. One is to make it absolute; the other is to deny it. Modernity commits the first one; post-modernity, the second” (2007, 212). That is: the modern critic to the traditional subjectivity is objectivist (“the perspective of nowhere”); the post-modern critic is exclusively inter-subjectivist and ends up denying objectivity itself. The integral approach intends to integrate the subjective metaphysics of the traditions to the modern objectivity and to the post-modern inter-personal contextualization on a single approach. One of the advantages of the quadrant’s model is a re-interpretation of the traditional schemes, which place the material world as “a consequence of the superior worlds” (the mind, the soul and the spirit are previous to the body). For Wilber, the “substance is exterior and not inferior” to the subjective dimensions. For the traditions, the symmetry is not hypothetical, but Metaphysical and Wilber tries to invert this predominance of what is subjective over what is material, establishing its equivalence and differentiating its individual and collective dimensions.

But, besides reallocating the question of symmetry in terms of exterior/interior inversion in the traditional project, the model of the quadrants also deals with the question of the asymmetry between what is individual and what is social. Asymmetry in two ways. First: if we apply the lines, degrees or levels to each quadrant, one may observe that the different stages of development of the individuals do not correspond to the stages of development of the societies, groups or other collectivities, or that the approaches that make these associations stand out the partial aspects and simplify complex processes in function of the analogy. But, there is also an asymmetry between collective and singular, resultant from the application of the model of the quadrants to itself. In this in case, Wilber presents the distinction between the simple Quadrant, the perspective of the subject, and the Quadrivium, perspective from where one looks at the object. “Only individual holons have or possess four quadrants; but everything can be seen through or from four quadrants (that, then, are called quadrivia)” (2007, 316) All conceptual castle constructed by Wilber is a map of the complexity, a model to locate and to comprehend phenomena of multiple aspects and perspectives. In our case in particular, we are interested in observe how the integral methodological outspread helps to understand the field and the notion of `communication'.

From the IOS model, Wilber points out eight complementary theoretical approaches to compose an Integral Methodological Pluralism (IMP): the phenomenology, the structuralism, cognitive autopoesis, the neuro-physiologic empiricism, the hermeneutics, the ethno-methodology (or genealogy), social autopoesis (in the truth, comprehensive sociology) and the systems theory (Luhmann).

The Phenomenology corresponds to the methodology of the 1º Quadrant (therefore it studies the events from its immediate perception by the subject) and the Structuralism, to the methodology of the first Quadrivium (because it studies how this perception is organized when seen from the outside, how the set of the relations conditions the conscience). In the Leary/Wilson model, the 1º quadrant represents the Conscience (perception of the material universe) and 1º Quadrivium, the possibility of development of a neuro-atomic circuit, or a Quantum Conscience (perception of the universe as energy). This opposition also corresponds to the concepts of Tonal (world of objects and the things, where the substance is a particle) and Nagual (energy universe, where the substance is a wave).

In 2º Quadrant, Wilber points out the ideas of Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela (cognitive Autopoesis). E in 2º Quadrivium, the objectivation of the objective individual, is the neuro-physiologic empiricism. I, particularly, would change Varela’s approach for Giddens’ structure theory. The basic idea here, however, is that the subject becomes a double object, the objective development of perception capacity (in the quadrant) as much as the support (the body organs) that take this experience into practice (in the quadrivium).

The Hermeneutics corresponds to the methodology of the inter-subjectivity study seen from the point of view of a participant observer, in the 3º Quadrant, and Ethno-methodology (as well as genealogy) corresponds to the 3º Quadrivium, which is, the inter-subjectivity seen from the outside. Wilber indicates others disciplines that have the same focus of the ethno-methodology, as the Genealogy and the integral Semiotics.

And the 4th Quadrant corresponds to the theory of the Social Autopoesis, while the current Systems Theory corresponds to the 4th Quadrivium. According to Wilber, individual holons pass by obligatory levels (as the Dynamic Spiral), but not social holons. Also, there is not a centralized cognition in the social holons. In a `system-organism' (individual holon) there is a dominant monad, and in the social holons there is, at the maximum, a dominant discourse (or a predominant way of mutual resonance). It is well known critic of Nickas Luhmann to Umberto Maturana and Francisco Varela (P. 189): “society is not a system”. The ‘We’, the culture, is a collective subjectivity, but not a collective ‘super-I’- nor in man, neither in other gregarious animals. An interesting example is given by Gaia (Earth seen as an ecosystem), is not a single organism, it is a club (P. 223) or a set of nets of organic and inorganic beings. Such conception brings prominence (like Luhmann does) to the idea of communication as the constituent factor of the cognitive systems over which social holons are structuralized.

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