Saturday, May 21, 2005

An Integral Age at the Leading Edge

Ken Wilber

An odd fact about evolution is that species emerge, not just isolated individuals. For example, in bisexual specie, males and females originate; otherwise the specie cannot sustain itself. So another dimension to "specie selection" opens up when we contemplate this. The dimension is that somehow conditions in the environment treat populations or subpopulations together and not just Lamarckian individuals. This much biologists accept and can explain through Natural Selection alone. Cultural evolution has to go a bit farther. There are intangibles (values, norms) in culture and hence they must be present in the prior culture (the environment). Now as we move up our pondering to Spiritual Evolution, we are to examine what are the givens in Spiritual Evolution so that humanity as a whole takes the next step or next leap. In thinking about givens that are spiritual, we can speak of "evolutionary" givens and "Involutionary" givens. Here is an excerpt from Modern day philosopher Ken Wilber. I find his discussion interesting, even if he overlooks a key citation to Sri Aurobindo, who "saw" the involutionary givens directly. Enjoy - Sri

On the Nature of Involutionary Givens

Are there any givens (other than past inheritances) that determine the nature of
this moment's coming-to-be? Put differently, are there any givens that seem to
have existed prior to the Big Bang? Among the few theorists who have thought
clearly about this issue, the consensus seems to be yes.

Hereis a myth that is sometimes useful in suggesting notions that cannot be graspeddualistically or conceptually in any event: As Spirit throws itself outward (that's calledinvolution)to create this particular universe with this particular Big Bang, it leavestraces or echoes of its Kosmic exhalation. These traces constitute little inthe way of actual contents or forms or entities or levels, but rather a vastmorphogenetic field that exerts a gentle pull (orAgape) toward higher, wider, deeper occasions, a pull that shows up in manifest oractual occasions as the Erosin the agency of all holons. (We can think of this "pull" as thepull of all things back to Spirit; Whitehead called it "love" as"the gentle persuasion of God" toward unity; this love reaching downfrom the higher to the lower is called Agape, and when reaching up from the lower to the higher is called Eros: two sides of the same pull). This vast morphogenetic pull connects the potentials of the lowest holons (materially asleep) with the potentials of the highest (spiritually awakened). The involutionary given of this morphogenetic field is a gradient of potentials, not actuals, so that Agape works throughout the universe as a love of gentle persuasion, pulling the lower manifest forms of spirit toward higher manifest forms of spirit--a potential gradient that humans, once they emerged, would often conceptualize as matter to body to mind to soul to spirit.

"Spirit" (capital "S"), of course, was (and is) the ever-present ground of all of those manifest waves, equally and fully present in each, but "spirit" (small "s") is also a general stage or wave of evolution: spirit is the transpersonal stage(s) at which Spirit asground can be permanently realized.

The residue of this involutionary outpouring are various involutionary givens(or items that are given or deposited by involution, items that therefore pre-existed the big Bang and thus are already operating from the moment of the Big Bang forward), the most general of which is the great morphic field of evolutionary potential, a gentle gradient of persuasion pulling all manifest holons back to their ever-present Ground as Spirit--a Kosmic field of Agape, gently pulling evolution into greater and greater consciousness, embrace, inclusion. The universe, it appears, is tilted, and its entire contents are slowly sliding into the Source and Suchness of the entire display.

This tilt, this grain to the Kosmos, this Agape, this vast morphogenetic potential, exerts a tender pull on evolution to unfold in waves of greater complexity, greater inclusiveness, greater depth, until the entire Kosmos is included in a prehensive unification that can swallow the Pacific Ocean in a single gulp, hold Mount Everest in the palm of its hand, blink and bring nightfall to the entire universe, smile and bring forth the sun to shine on allcreatures great and small.

Are there involutionary givens other than the great Kosmic morphic field of Agape (appearing in all holons as Eros)? In other words, are there any a priori forms, not just in the evolutionary sequence, but in the involutionary sequence? We already saw that evolution inherits its previous moment as an a priori given. But those are not archetypal or timelessly pregiven forms, merely the past creative forms of evolutionary unfolding. We are now asking: are there
any forms that were laid down as "memory" in the involutionary sequence and which therefore show up as timelessly given forms that are present at the very start of evolution itself and operative at every point of evolution's unfolding? As involutionary givens, we have already postulated Eros/Agape and the morphogenetic tilt of manifestation. Are there any others?
(That is, are there any a priori forms that are a priori to evolution's a priori forms?)

Whitehead believed so: eternal objects, for example (these are things that you have to have before you can have anything else, such as shape, color, etc.).

Sheldrake implicitly has a set of involutionary givens. For Sheldrake, there are no archetypal constants or pregiven forms, but in fact he introduces several universal, pregiven constants in order to explain morphic resonance and its formative causation. By Sheldrake's own theory, there are certain categories that must always be the case in order for this theory of morphic resonance and formative causation to be true, and those a priori categories are in fact timeless (or archetypal in that sense). For example, Sheldrake sees the world as composed of energy and form; he sees energy causing energy and form causing form; he sees development occurring; and he sees creativity as essential. All of those--energy, form, causation, development, creativity--are seen to be present everywhere, timelessly, from the start--they do not themselves develop or evolve. They are therefore archetypal by his own standards, at least for this universe.

a priori for subsequent moments, and which do indeed exist; but these mathematical forms appear to be involutionary a priori--not anything created in the past but present all along).

All of these involutionary givens might be viewed as the patterns and constraints that are the residue of this particular round of involutionary creation: what's left of Spirit's exhalation that resulted in the Big Bang, which was therefore already following these patterns (or involutionary givens) when it arrived on the scene.

So it certainly seems that there are at least some forms of involutionary givens.
I would call these "archetypes," but that term has been so abused as to be perfectly meaningless. So let's call them "prototypes," or simply involutionary givens.

On the other hand, many theorists, such as Plotinus, Hegel, and Aurobindo, went a bit too far in trying to specify and determine the form and sometimes content of these involutionary givens. They tended to view these involutionary givens as consisting of actual levels, sometimes with actual contents, so that evolution is nothing much more than a rewinding of the involution videotape.

That view, I believe, does not easily withstand today's scrutiny. In fact, all of those great pioneers were presenting metaphysical, premodern (and certainly pre-postmodern) constructions. As such, they did not adequately grasp the AQAL nature of manifest spacetime; in particular, they did not grasp the formative power of the Lower-Left quadrant: the inescapably constitutive power of the cultural contexts and backgrounds with which all subjects and objects are indelibly meshed, to which they must initially conform, and within which certain of their prehensions necessarily arise. Put bluntly, even the staggering genius of these great pioneers could not escape their own cultural embeddedness enough to see that much of what they called "universal pregiven levels of being" were actually particular, socially constructed surface features. That is, most of what they ascribed to involutionary givens were really evolutionary inheritances. Not forms eternally given by Spirit on its way to material manifestation, but inherited forms of past manifestation on its return to Spirit. This is why we are attempting to construct a post-metaphysical, post-postmodern spirituality that honors the essentials of these masters, while setting them in a context more adequate to today's self-understanding (i.e., the form of Spirit's self-prehension at this particular wave of its own playful unfolding).

Still, these blindingly brilliant, philosophical avatars of Eros saw one, overwhelming, awe-inducing fact: Spirit is your own Original Face. It is not something that is socially constructed, or that is created for the first time when you happen to stumble on it, or that pops out at the end of a temporal sequence, or that is nothing but some sort of Omega that can only be realized at the end of the universe. Spirit is your own ever-present, radically all-inclusive, always-already-the-case reality, which is why some notion of involution, or return to a Spirit that was never lost, is an inescapable part of the theoria of every great philosopher-sage, bar none. There is one, staggering, screamingly undeniable involutionary given: the ever-present Ground of all grounds, Nature of all natures, Condition of all conditions.

Beyond that, the great philosopher-sages (premodern, modern, and postmodern) often disagree on the specifics of the other involutionary givens. Honorable men and women can do so. I have stated my own beliefs in this regard (and will summarize them below). But the notion of involutionary givens is a necessary framework with which the human mind, itself a product of evolution, must use in order to construe evolution in a noncontradictory way. As we saw, even the postmodernists, who deny any givens, actually present their own set of implicit givens to explain why there are no other givens.

Well, all of these theorists, it seems, are intuiting those faint traces and perfumed residues of Spirit's quiet exhalation--your own original breathing out--that created this particular manifest world and thus show up as involutionary givens, there to be interpreted by the AQAL matrix of this and every moment.

As I said, this is a useful myth.

* * * *

Within that myth, we can summarize. The postulated list of involutionary givens seems to include:

(1) Eros.
Eros basically is derived from one fact: Spirit creates the entire manifest world and every holon in it; in fact, every holon is Spirit-in-itself playing at being Other (e.g., the great nest of morphogenetic potential often summarized as matter, body, mind, soul, and spirit is actually
Spirit-as-matter, Spirit-as-body, Spirit-as-mind, Spirit-as-soul, and Spirit-as-spirit). Since the reality, suchness, or isness of every holon is actually Spirit, but because most holons do not realize that they are Spirit, then each holon, so to speak, has an itch for infinity: each holon has a drive, a desire, a push, a telos, a hankering for God--which means, a drive to realize Spirit-itself, a drive which ultimately wants to embrace the entire Kosmos itself. This is a drive toward higher unions, wider identities, greater inclusion--culminating in God-realization, or every holon's realization of Spirit, by Spirit, in Spirit, as Spirit. This ultimate realization, however,
is not a summation at the end of the line, or a culmination of temporal additions, or a finite sum of finite parts adding up to One Really Big Finite Thing, but rather the realization of the ever-present, spaceless and therefore infinite, timeless and therefore eternal, formless and therefore omnipresent, Condition of all conditions and Nature of all natures and radically groundless Ground of all grounds. Nevertheless, in the manifest realm, the paradoxical result is a drive toward greater unity among finite things themselves, yearning to be Free and Full. This drive toward greater unity and wholeness in the finite realm is called Eros: the drive of all finite things to find the infinite, which results in the increasing unification and differentiation-integration of finite occasions. In the temporal realm, the sequence of ever-increasing unifications is endless, stretching from the subtle into millions, billions, zillions of manifest realities in the future, as every moment transcends-and-includes its predecessors, thus bringing new truths, new experiences, new realities, and new integrations into being, with no discernible upward limit (because Spirit is not found as the upper limit of finite things but as their ever-present Ground, and therefore there is no final destination upward). At some point in this spiral of development and evolution, a holon becomes complex enough, differentiated-and-integrated enough, conscious enough, that it can begin to awaken to its ever-present Ground, even as the finite display continues on its agitated round of unifications. In that holon, Spirit then continues its play of manifestation, but now as a conscious, felt, vividly present Presence, a ray of infinity hooking out from that holon on the world that it created.

This drive--the drive of Eros--appears, to the third-person perspective of humans at or beyond the yellow wave, as a drive toward self-organization in all complex holons, a drive to create order out of chaos, a series of dissipative structures that eat energy and create unified form: against all scientific sensibilities (which see only "its" without intentionalities), and against every known law of physics (which imagines that "its" only run downhill), the material universe appears to be actively organizing itself into higher and more complex systems. Scientists scratch their heads. How can that be? The universe is self-winding. The universe seeks higher unions. The universe has a drive for self-organization. The universe... well, let us say plainly what the it-perspective misses: the universe is on fire with an unquenchable thirst for God. But however you wish to conceive this Eros, this drive to order-out-of-chaos, this astonishing autopoiesis at the very heart of matter, it is an uncontested pattern in evolution, and a pattern that cannot be accounted for by evolution itself.

Thus, Eros is postulated to be one of the involutionary givens: that is, one of the items present from the start of evolution, a deposit in the manifest realm of Spirit's involution into, and as, that realm--faint echoes of Spirit's sneeze that set this particular round of the Kosmic Game in motion.

(2) If all holons reach toward Spirit, Spirit reaches out to all holons. The first is called Eros, the second is called Agape. Two sides of the same pull.

(3) A morphogenetic gradient in the manifest realm. This refers to the curvature of spacetime across all possible forms of the manifest or AQAL matrix: Eros operates through a gradient of increasing embrace. This gradient (clumsily expressed by premodern traditions as a pregiven, fixed series of levels and planes stretching from matter to body to mind to soul to spirit--the so-called "great chain of being") actually represents the tilt of a universe looking for God. Involution creates, not a series of fixed planes and pregiven levels (there is no pregiven great chain), but a vast morphogenetic field of potentials, defined not by their fixed contents and forms but by their relative placement in the sliding field. (See "On the Nature of a Post-metaphysical Spirituality," posted on this site.)

(4) CertainPrototypical Forms or Patterns. If involution creates, not a series of pregiven fixed levels but a fluid morphogenetic field, the question remains: are there any fixed forms that are involutionary givens? We saw several: Whitehead's eternal objects, basic mathematical-physical laws, Sheldrake's implicitly postulated archetypes, and so on. A list of 20 proposed involutionary givens can be found in chapter 2 of SES. These 20 tenets are simply the residual forms of the Big Sleep, echoes of the Big Forgetting that set this round in motion, involutionary forms that were tattooed on the translucent skin of the radiant Kosmos in its coming-to-be. But aside from those relatively few involutionary givens, keep in mind that what most theorists postulate to be involutionary givens or eternal archetypes (i.e.
involutionary a priori, given for all time) are actually evolutionary a priori, or forms chaotically created in temporal unfolding and then handed to the future, not as forms that were predetermined even before they unfolded, but simply as Kosmic habits that various forms happened to take in their AQAL evolution, forms that were then handed as a priori
to the next moment, an a priori determined not by eternal archetypes but by temporal history.

Still, the point is that at least some patterns appear not to be merely historical--and that is where it is necessary to postulate involutionary givens. Of course, the theorists who do acknowledge involutionary givens, such as Whitehead, must then postulate that the actual emergence of a given occasion is somehow a mixture of involutionary givens, or timeless a priori, and evolutionarily-created or historical a priori, which are not determined prior to their emergence. For example, the early subatomic particles at the Big Bang were obeying various laws of physics, so their actual existence was a mysterious mesh of archetypal givens and historical contingencies. Some version of this mixture or concrescence of eternal objects and actual occasions is postulated by most philosophers who have thought carefully about issues of involution and evolution, and I accept the general outlines of these conclusions.

But two points: be as careful as you can that you are not confusing evolutionary givens--which are not eternally given but are created by temporal, chaotic, evolutionary history and bequeathed to the future as habits that are then givens or a priori in a temporal sense--and involutionary givens, which are what you must have before you can have anything else, and
which therefore appear to be exist at or before the Big Bang.

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