Vertical Polarities: Holism and Partism
We now look at the vertical aspect of development relating to whole and part (and part and whole) polarities, again with reference to the relationship as between atom, molecule, cell and organism.
Perhaps this is especially important as we customarily think of stage development in a somewhat vertical fashion i.e. from "lower" to "higher" stages.
However once again as in dynamic interactive terms the whole is related to the part and the part in turn related to the whole, when we attempt to differentiate in (linear) asymmetrical terms, two interpretations are equally valid.
A holon is customarily interpreted as a whole that is part of another whole. However this is just one arbitrary interpretation where the polar frame of reference is fixed with the whole aspect. When viewed from this perspective, it leads to the philosophy of holism where development in viewed in asymmetrical terms as the progressive movement to higher stages of more collective wholeness.
This indeed is the very basis of the holarchical approach that defines Ken Wilber's overall model of development.
However once again it is important to stress that the holarchical asymmetrical approach is suited solely for interpretation of the differentiated aspect of vertical development.
Also from its appropriate context (i.e. differentiated vertical development) it represents just one of two equally valid models.
So when the polar reference frame is fixed with the part aspect it leads to the counterpart philosophy of partism. Again development is now viewed in asymmetrical terms as the progressive movement to higher stages of more individual (i.e. unique) partness.
However this latter interpretation is greatly missing from Ken's model. This leaves it - in my opinion - decidedly one-sided and unbalanced and does not therefore provide the appropriate basis for movement to an integral appreciation.
Nature of Partism
Q This is all very subtle. Can you explain the nature of partism in a little more depth? I am also very much puzzled as to why we naturally seem to think of vertical development in terms of holism. Why is this the case if partism is equally valid?
PC The starting point again is to remember that in dynamic terms the relationship between whole (and part and whole) is circular. The whole is related to the part and the part in turn is related to the whole with neither aspect thereby having meaning in independent terms.
Once again however, when we attempt to express an interactive circular relationship in (linear) asymmetrical terms, two equally valid (opposite) interpretations are possible, which provide unambiguous rankings (within their own independent frames of reference).
The holarchical approach is defined in terms of the (arbitrary) fixing of the polar frame of reference with the whole aspect.
Thus when we say that every holon is a whole/part where the whole is part of another whole we are - in a sense - already predefining the meaning of the whole.
However in dynamic interactive terms this makes little sense as the meaning of the whole is necessarily derived from its interaction with the part aspect.
Therefore we could equally define a holon in terms of the arbitrary fixing of the frame of reference with the part aspect.
So we then say that every holon is a part/whole where every part is a whole (i.e. in the context) of other parts. However we now have the opposite problem where we are predefining what we mean by parts, when again in dynamic interactive terms the part is necessarily interdependent with the whole aspect.
However if we are to attempt to arrive at a true circular appreciation we must of course first balance the one-sided asymmetrical interpretation of holism with the equally one-sided asymmetrical interpretation of partism.
Thus in (linear) asymmetrical terms development - in vertical terms - is both holarchical (moving to ever more collective wholes) and partarchical (moving to ever more unique parts).
You raise a very good question indeed when you ask why we tend to think of development so much in terms of holism. This in fact raises another fundamental issue.
Our basic notions of the relationship between wholes and parts (and parts and wholes) largely derive from concrete physical type notions. So if I divide a cake for example into five slices it is easy perhaps to appreciate that each slice is a whole which is also part of another whole (i.e. the cake).
In this case we reduce what is - in dynamic terms - a complex interaction of both quantitative and qualitative aspects to a merely unambiguous quantitative interpretation.
The deeper issue here is that though understanding necessarily entails both cognitive and affective aspects in dynamic interaction with each other, in conventional scientific terms we reduce this interaction to mere cognitive interpretation.
Therefore it is indeed true that in cognitive intellectual terms the vertical direction of development does typically appear holarchical. However this represents again an attempt to explain the complex interactive dynamics of understanding, entailing both cognitive and affective aspects, in merely reduced cognitive terms.
Q Are you saying therefore that from an affective sense perspective the typical nature of vertical development will appear partarchical?
PC It is not quite as simple as that. Remember both affective and cognitive aspects can be associated with holarchical and partarchical type interpretations. It all depends on the context.
However it is certainly true that if we identify the cognitive intellectual interpretation of vertical development in holarchical terms then in relative terms the corresponding affective sense interpretation will be partarchical.
Indeed this is often revealed in practical terms. Though we might believe from an intellectual standpoint in the validity of holism and the higher stages of reality revealing an ever more collective type wholeness, yet in our emotional lives we could reverse this somewhat through loving commitment to one special person. In other words in affective terms our whole world may become largely identified with a single person.
So rather than the part being (quantitatively) contained in the whole which appears valid from an empirical scientific perspective, in affective terms the whole is now (qualitatively) contained in the part.
An interesting example of the conflict as between holism and partism can be found in the reaction of Kierkegaard to Hegelian philosophy.
Though it seems likely that at one level Kierkegaard admired Hegel's sweeping worldview (representing the extreme emphasis on holism) he clearly could see its great practical limitations. In other words when there is too much emphasis on the collective whole (with all parts being included in the whole) then individual significance is likely to be undermined with the unique existential relevance of each person's decisions thereby lost. So meaning in merely intellectual terms tends to be impersonal and when over-emphasised can thereby repress the personal dimension (where the affective aspect is very important).
There is a very subtle problem to be faced here. One may readily admit that in overall terms an integral lifestyle should achieve a degree of balance as between cognitive (impersonal) and affective (personal) aspects. However the intellectual translation of the dynamics of development is itself largely an impersonal cognitive exercise.
Whereas the intellect cannot of course substitute for emotional experience, however indirectly intellectual translation can be made to correspond more to this need for ultimate balance.
The intellectual problem to be solved therefore is as follows!
How can actual experience - which necessarily involves the continual interaction of cognitive and affective aspects - be intellectually interpreted in a manner, which does not simply reduce the affective to the cognitive aspect in gross fashion? Solving this problem cannot directly replace the need for emotion. However indirectly it can help to keep open - even in the midst of intellectual type understanding - the need for affective experience.
I will explain in considerable more detail later my holistic mathematical way of dealing with this problem.
Another interesting example of the relationship between holism and partism is provided by modern physics. For a long time there were two major approaches, The Theory of Relativity (holism) and Quantum Mechanics (partism). Both within their own frameworks were searching for a physical TOE, which however were incompatible in terms of each other. Now String Theory - and more recently M-Theory - has raised hopes that both aspects can be successfully accommodated within the same overall explanation.
So the discovery - at least theoretically - of the most fundamental parts of the Universe (now believed to be strings or membranes) coincides with the hoped-for discovery of a global universal explanation of the physical universe.
This at least helps to illustrate in practice the interdependence of partism and holism.
The discovery of a new collective whole (in the form of a more general universal theory) helps to throw light on the nature of new more fundamental holons (part).
Likewise these more fundamental holons help in the search for a more general theory (whole).
Once again in terms of differentiation both holarchy and partarchy give unambiguous consistent rankings within their own isolated frames of reference.
So taking our example from a holarchical perspective, when we say that the atom is included in the molecule; the molecule is included in the cell; the cell is included in the organism etc. we are referring to each holon as a whole/part where each (lower) whole is part of a (higher) whole.
Thus the atom as a (lower) whole is included as part of the molecule as (higher) whole; the molecule in turn as a (lower) whole is included as part of the cell as (higher) whole; the cell is then again as (lower) whole is included as part of the organism (as higher whole) and so on.
However from a partarchical perspective when we say that the atom is included in the molecule; the molecule is included in the cell; the cell is included in the organism etc. we are referring to each holon as a part/whole where each (lower) part is a whole (in the context) of a (higher) part.
Thus the atom as a (lower) part is included as a whole (in the context) of a (higher) molecule (i.e. as part); the molecule in turn as a (lower) part is included as a whole (in the context) of a (higher) cell; the cell as a (lower) part is included as a whole (in the context) of a (higher) organism etc.
What this in effect means, is that whereas the part aspect of the (lower) holon is obtained through being (quantitatively) included in the higher, the whole aspect of the (lower) holon comes from the reverse process whereby the (higher) holon is (qualitatively) included in the lower.
When we say that the (higher) holon is qualitatively included in the (lower) this entails that the lower can only obtain its whole aspect in the context of (i.e. through relationship with) the higher. This is an extremely important point which is frequently overlooked. For example it makes no sense from this perspective to maintain that if all molecules were destroyed atoms would still remain. An atom can only find meaning in the context of (higher) holons. So the very fact that we can even speak about atoms requires the (higher) holon of mind!
So for example the atom as (lower) holon is quantitatively included as part of the (higher) molecule.
However equally the molecule as (higher) holon is qualitatively included as whole in the (lower) atom in the sense that the atom only acquire its whole aspect in the context of its relationship to the molecule.
Thus - though in isolation from each other - both holarchy and partarchy lead to consistent asymmetrical rankings, relative to each other they move in opposite directions.
The implications of this are immense and not properly appreciated for it implies that any vertical ranking of the stages of development is purely arbitrary and can be replaced with exactly opposite rankings that are equally valid.
From a dynamic perspective a vertical ranking of the main levels of development in hierarchical terms as matter, life, mind, soul and Spirit makes little sense.
We could equally start with Spirit as the lowest and matter as the highest stage (from a correct dynamic perspective).
Q I gather that what you are implying is that as Spirit and matter (and matter and Spirit) are in dynamic terms interdependent that that we cannot attempt to dualistically separate them without paradox arising!
PC Precisely! In dynamic terms we do not have matter and Spirit as discrete levels that are somehow independent. Rather we have at every level of existence a dynamic relationship as between matter and Spirit (and Spirit and matter).
So matter has no meaning in the absence of Spirit (even for the very "lowest" phenomenal forms). Likewise matter is still necessarily related to Spirit at the "highest" level of development. So with development, matter becomes continually transformed through the process of spiritual realisation. So there remains an essential two-way interaction as between matter and Spirit (and Spirit and matter) throughout development.
Q I suppose one manifestation of this is the way in which the mystic's view of nature differs from the scientist's!
PC Yes! Because of greater development of the "higher" spiritual levels, nature is thereby greatly transformed in the mystic's viewpoint, where, by contrast the scientist - perhaps operating from a "lower" level of understanding - typically understands nature in a reduced (differentiated) fashion.
From a continuous perspective we do not have matter and Spirit as relatively discrete levels, but rather the dynamic interaction of matter and Spirit at every level. Therefore as the quality of spiritual realisation grows throughout development, likewise the nature of matter undergoes continual transformation.
Thus though we say from a (differentiated) transcendent perspective that Spirit represents the highest level (literally without material phenomena), equally from a (differentiated) immanent perspective, matter represents the highest level, in that the inherent nature of matter as immanent Spirit, that resides within all phenomena, is only realised as matter becomes fully transformed
So from this opposite - and equally valid - perspective, development can be seen as the process of moving away from "low" levels of spiritual realisation (where matter remains in slumber through little transformation) to the completely transformed state of matter (whereby it becomes fully alive as the Spirit of its own inherent nature).
There is a limited arbitrary sense (in the context of the differentiation of levels) whereby it makes sense to rank the major levels in ascending order as matter, life, mind, soul and Spirit. However even in a differentiated context, it becomes very one-sided if not balanced with the equally valid opposite perspective.
As always, appropriate (circular) integration proceeds from reconciling the paradoxes inherent in the balanced bi-directional viewpoint.
Q Can you now explain in like manner with respect to (horizontal) heterarchical development, how forward and backward differentiation take place in vertical terms.
PC Once again in dynamic terms, we can only move forward with respect to one polar aspect, by moving backwards with respect to the other (and vice versa).
Therefore we can only move forward and differentiate a "higher" level in holarchical terms by equally moving backwards in terms of partarchical differentiation of the corresponding "lower" level.
Q I don't yet quite appreciate what this means. Can you illustrate with an example?
PC We have shown how holarchical differentiation leads to the inclusion of a "lower" (whole) as part of a higher" whole. So in this way we are able for example to include the atom (quantitatively) as part of the molecule.
However this is equally associated - in dynamic terms - with the exclusion in partarchical terms of the "lower" part as whole (in the context) of a "higher" part.
In other words through holarchical differentiation we exclude the reverse process by which we see the molecule qualitatively reflected through the atom (i.e. in the sense that the molecule provides the necessary context through which we are enabled to recognise the whole aspect of the atom).
The implications of this are quite profound. It means for example that in scientific terms (unbalanced) holarchical differentiation inevitably leads to considerable reductionism whereby (collective) whole notions are reduced in quantitative terms to the sum of their parts.
Such impersonal whole notions lead to considerable fragmentation associated with a corresponding alienation of personal identity.
Though I fully accept that it is not the purpose of integral theorists to support such a fragmented worldview, the fact is that an unbalanced emphasis on holarchy in any development context will in practice tend to support the same form of reductionism.
Now in relative terms - where in the context of this example - partarchy is associated with the personal qualitative dimension of experience, an undue emphasis on this aspect will lead to an alternative form of reductionism, whereby parts are reduced in qualitative terms to the overall (individual) whole.
This can lead in turn to a somewhat ego-centred concern with personal aspirations.
And an undue rigidity with respect to one polar aspect becomes in dynamic terms associated with the corresponding opposite rigidity with respect to the other polarity.
So the unbalanced tendencies I have identified here, with respect to both holarchy and partarchy, provide a fairly accurate account of key features of modern society.
Once again when we identify the forward direction of development (from lower to higher holon) with holarchy, the backward direction (from higher to lower holon) will be associated with partarchy.
Thus forward differentiation and inclusion in holarchical terms is thereby associated with backward differentiation and exclusion in corresponding partarchical terms.
Equally if we now identify the forward direction of development (from lower to higher holon) with partarchy, the backward direction (from higher to lower) will be associated with holarchy.
So forward differentiation and inclusion in partarchical terms is associated with backward differentiation and exclusion in holarchical terms.
Now when we attempt to look on these vertical relationships in (linear) asymmetrical terms we can speak of development in terms of both partarchy and holarchy and in terms of exclusion and inclusion giving us four equally valid accounts.
The lower holon is included in the higher in holarchical terms
The lower holon is included in the higher in partarchical terms
The lower holon is excluded in the higher in holarchical terms
The lower holon is excluded in the higher in partarchical terms
Illustration of Holarchy and Partrachy to Stages of Conop and Formop
Q As the stages of conop and formop are so important in science, I wonder if you could possibly illustrate how these four distinct hierarchies are involved?
PC Let's first start by illustrating the difference as between conop and formop with a well-known mathematical example.
If I draw a right-angled triangle I can easily verify that the sum of the squares on the hypotenuse (i.e. diagonal line) is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides.
If I drew a second and even third triangle I would be able to verify the same truth.
However though we may suspect that there is a general relationship here (connecting the square on the hypotenuse with the sum of the squares on the other two sides) we are still operating at the level of concrete examples (conop). A general proof for all possible cases, would require the more abstract understanding of formop.
In mathematics, the affective - as well as the cognitive - aspect of understanding is necessarily involved. The affective is often especially pronounced at the concrete level where the ability to understand relationships may be very much dependent on the nature of concrete sense symbols.
So the understanding of a relationship is often dependent on a sense "feel" as well as rational thought.
It is enough to recognise for the moment that affective (sense) and cognitive (mental) aspects are complementary (Type 2). Therefore if - in an initial context - holarchy is associated with the cognitive aspect, then partarchy is associated with the complementary affective aspect.
So if we now identify the movement from conop to formop understanding (with respect to the Pythagorean Theorem) as an intensification of rational (cognitive) understanding, then we are speaking of forward differentiation (i.e. inclusion as formop) in holarchical terms.
However this forward differentiation of formop (in holarchical terms) is equally associated with backward differentiation of conop (in partarchical terms).
In other words the inclusion at the "higher" stage (formop) of the rational (cognitive) aspect - through an ability for greater logical abstraction - is associated with the exclusion at the "lower" stage (conop) of identification with concrete sense symbols (reflecting the affective aspect).
Let us likewise look at the relationship where the forward differentiation of partarchy occurs.
As we have seen, while the forward differentiation of formop is taking place in holarchical terms, conop becomes denuded of its sense contents. More correctly through the development of more generalised abstract thinking, there is a lessening in the rigidity of attachment to former sense contents.
So when attention is placed on conop again, a more refined capacity to register sense phenomena becomes apparent, now freed somewhat from more limited earlier understanding.
Thus we have a new development of conop understanding, with a flexible enlarged capacity that is better able to reflect the more abstract understanding of formop.
In effect one can now creatively use conop - which previously was viewed as the lower stage - to inspire the general relationships of formop. In this sense we have a reversal of the previous ordering of stages, as "higher" formop understanding is seen to be embodied in "lower" empirical sense data.
So this represents forward differentiation of the partarchical aspect (and inclusion of the "higher" stage in the "lower").
This is associated with backward differentiation - and thereby exclusion - of the holarchical aspect.
In order to be able to see how "higher" concepts are embodied in "lower" perceptual data we need to relax our primary focus on such concepts. In other words in this sense we thereby exclude holarchical understanding (where conceptual understanding dominates).
Example of Partarchy
Q Can you give an example?
PC It is a somewhat ironical, but the manner in which Ken Wilber describes his discovery of the four-quadrants serves as an excellent illustration.
Ken talks about gathering a great amount of empirical information through looking at hundreds of different hierarchical structures. Then after wrestling for some time with this data, the overall structure - embodied in all of these hierarchies - emerged.
So in this sense the general explanation of the four quadrants (formop) - applicable to all hierarchies - emerged from studying a wealth of empirical data (conop).
I say this is ironical because Ken is such a champion of the holarchical approach. Yet his discovery of the four quadrants - certainly in the manner he describes it - is in fact a wonderful example of partarchy (rather than holarchy).
By contrast my own discovery of the four-quadrants (and subsequently eight-sectors) was more holarchical in the conventional sense. So in this case, l largely started with the very generalised holistic conception of a mathematical idea (formop) and later discovered how it could be applied in detail to the study of empirical relationships (conop).
Put another way if we identify the holarchical approach in a top-down fashion where the understanding of the higher includes the lower, then the partarchical approach - in reverse fashion - is bottom-up - where the higher explanation is included in the lower.
Science recognises these two approaches very well. The problem is the lack of any true dynamic appreciation!
So the top-down approach is deductive while the bottom-up approach is - relatively - inductive.
Both are very necessary and cannot be properly reduced in terms of each other.
Modern physics represents the respective importance of these two methods with Einstein's Theory of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics serving as powerful examples of the deductive and inductive approaches respectively.
Q How does integration take place in vertical terms?
PC Again we are back to our circular bi-directional approach. Though holarchy or partarchy (in isolation) give unambiguous interpretations within their own respective polar frames of reference, in simultaneous relationship to each other, these frames are deeply paradoxical.
Though we have described the nature of differentiation in dynamic terms, the problem in practice is that mirror image interpretation is lost in the interpretation.
Thus though forward differentiation in a holarchical manner, dynamically entails backward differentiation in partarchical fashion, in (linear) asymmetrical terms these are always separated, with typically differentiation being associated with its merely forward (inclusive) nature.
So the first step in moving to a properly balanced bi-directional interpretation is the recognition of the equal importance of backward differentiation (implying exclusion).
With a balanced bi-directional differentiated interpretation in (linear) asymmetrical terms, we are enabled to move to a proper (circular) paradoxical interpretation in dynamic interactive terms (which is the hallmark of the integral approach).
Thus in (circular) integral terms vertical movements in development are always bi-directional simultaneously with "forward" and "backward" and "higher" and "lower" having a purely relative meaning.
So as we approach nondual spiritual understanding we clearly realise - using dualistic language - that forward development (from "lower" to a "higher" stage) in holarchical terms, necessarily implies backward development (from "higher" to "lower") from a partarchical perspective with inclusion in the former case implying exclusion in the latter.
Likewise forward development in partarchical, necessarily implies backward development in holarchical terms again with inclusion in the former case implying exclusion in the latter.
Q So are you are saying that from an integral perspective "higher" and "lower" stages (and "lower" and higher") both mutually include and exclude each other in both holarchical and partarchical terms!
PC Yes, that is correct! Integration arises from a dynamic circular process entailing flexible interaction as between complementary opposite polarities. Needless to say the more balanced and refined this interaction the closer one comes to the realisation of nondual spiritual awareness. However though the actual interpretation of integration may be considerably reduced at a phenomenal level, in its essential nature integration is a nondual process (which indirectly is represented in circular terms through the complementarity of opposites).
Criticism of Holarchy
Q Can you summarise briefly why you disagree so much with the holarchical interpretation of integration?
PC It should be clear in the context in which I discuss the issue that there are a number of problems with the standard treatment.
Firstly it is unbalanced, as holarchy is based on a arbitrary (linear) asymmetrical interpretation of the dynamic relationship as between whole and part. It is thereby one-sided and somwhat distorted.
It fixes the polar frame of reference with the whole aspect so that a holon is viewed as a whole/part with each lower whole a part of a higher whole.
However we are equally entitled to fix the polar frame of reference with the part aspect so that a holon (or perhaps more correctly onhol) is viewed as a part/whole with each lower part a whole (in the context) of a higher part.
So holarchy in (linear) asymmetrical terms needs to be balanced by partarchy (and partarchy by holarchy).
Secondly the (linear) asymmetrical interpretation of relationships is properly suited for the differentiated understanding of development. Once again there are always two equally valid opposite interpretations (in this case holarchy and partarchy) of this differentiation, which are unambiguous and consistent within their own isolated frames of reference.
As integration is essentially a nondual process we can only approach it - in dualistic language - through the simultaneous recognition of interpretations based on opposite polar reference frames, which are always paradoxical in terms of each other.
So balanced integration in this context entails the dynamic interdependence of the holarchical and partarchical explanations.
Thirdly, when we attempt to approach integration within the context of a (linear) asymmetrical model it inevitably leads to a reduced interpretation, which - especially at the "higher" stages of development - can be very damaging in terms of the actual process of integration.
I believe I am speaking from bitter personal experience here as for many years I made the very mistakes of interpretation implied by this reduced holarchical interpretation of integration.
Q Can you elaborate a little further on this point.
PC As the standard holarchical model is asymmetrical it accustoms us to rank stages in unambiguous fashion. So for example we are encouraged to believe that the centaur is higher than formop, that the subtle is higher than the centaur, that the causal is higher than the subtle and that the nondual is the highest level of all.
Q Well is this not so?
PC As I have repeatedly said it is only true in an arbitrary limited sense (where an exactly opposite equal ranking is equally valid) in the context of differentiated interpretation.
But differentiation is again suited for the establishment of the discrete independent aspect of each stage, whereas integration is associated with the gradual recognition of their growing interdependence.
So when we are talking about interdependence all rankings are paradoxical so that "higher" and "lower" stages are purely relative.
In practice this means that - especially at the advanced stages of development - the discrete aspect becomes relatively less important with attention switching to the harmonious interdependence of all stages.
So "higher" stages are interdependent with "lower" and "lower" with "higher". So ultimately pure spiritual integration is a nondual process where all rigid attachment to asymmetrical phenomenal distinctions is eroded.
Now the point I am repeatedly striving to make is that the very process of deepening integration (nondual awareness) is incompatible with the intellectual attempt to maintain the asymmetrical validity of stage rankings.
Indeed it frequently leads to problems in terms of spiritual development. Very often - especially I believe in the case of men - initial contemplative development is somewhat intellectually based. So spiritual transcendence is thereby largely understood from this cognitive perspective. However because - in the dynamics of experience - forward development of the cognitive is associated with backward development of the affective aspect, this can lead to a significant repression of basic emotional instincts.
So later development often requires a significant reversal to revisit "prepersonal" stages in the attempt to deal with such troublesome emotional dynamics. Now for someone who was formerly accustomed to view the spiritual life in terms of a progression to "higher" stages, the experience can initially prove very confusing and disheartening.
So while preserving the need for arbitrary unambiguous rankings in differentiated terms (in opposite polar frameworks), we need to gradually realise that from an integral perspective such rankings have no ultimate validity. This paradoxical realisation is not something that somehow emerges after arriving at nondual reality (as the culmination of development through an ascending order of asymmetrically ranked stages). No! it is inherent - to some degree - in the appreciation of all stages and unfolds in an especially profound manner with the emergence of the "higher" spiritual stages.
Q And when you say "higher" does this imply their complementary relationship with earlier - what we might term - prepersonal stages?
PC Yes! And of course from a dynamic integral perspective, prepersonal and transpersonal (and transpersonal and prepersonal) are necessarily interdependent.
So "higher" really implies the dynamic complementary pairing of "higher" and "lower" (top-down) and "lower" implies the complementary pairing of "lower" and "higher" (bottom-up).
Q. Therefore a balanced approach to integration should be both top-down and bottom-up?
PC Of course! Common sense would suggest this, but before we can do so in practice we need to properly balance holarchical with partarchical (and partarchical with holarchical) interpretation.
However when we look at the asymmetrical holarchical model, this balance is not maintained.
First integration is viewed in a merely top-down manner so that the lower stage is embraced and included from the perspective of the higher stage.
However integration (and indeed differentiation) should also be bottom-up where the higher stage is embraced and included from the perspective of the lower stage.
Now when we attempt to view development from the perspective of just one arbitrarily defined asymmetrical framework, this latter interpretation carries little meaning.
We can only counter this by recognising that there is always a mirror image asymmetrical interpretation possible where exactly opposite rankings are valid.
So in relation to each other what is top-down or bottom-up is purely relative depending on context.
Indeed to put it bluntly the standard holarchical model encourages a somewhat elitist view of development, which ultimately is very inaccurate in terms of true experiential dynamics.
Secondly in integral terms the lower stage is not included in the higher. Neither is the higher stage included in the lower. Once again this is to give a merely reduced interpretation of integration where it is directly confused with differentiation.
So in correct integral terms both "higher" and "lower" and "lower" and "higher" stages are mutually included and excluded in each other. Once again this paradoxical appreciation leads to the dynamic cancellation of opposite polarities facilitating the transformation to nondual spiritual awareness (which ultimately defines integration).
So starting from the "higher" stages the mutual inclusion and exclusion of "higher" and "lower" represents top-down or - in the context of the direction of differentiation - backward integration. However from the "lower" the mutual inclusion and exclusion of "lower" and "higher" represents bottom-up - or again in the context of the direction of differentiation - forward integration.
Thus in a qualified sense, as integration must work with dualistic distinctions, we can speak of both forward and backward integration, though ultimately these coincide in pure nondual awareness.
Thirdly even in asymmetrical holarchical terms we can define models either in terms of inclusion and exclusion.
Insofar as an asymmetrical approach can be used to approach integration, the one based on exclusion (rather than inclusion) is more valid.
So certainly from my perspective, I would see Ken's holarchical generalisations (even in the context of asymmetrical interpretation) as quite inaccurate.
Example of Holarchical Model of Transcendence and Exclusion
Q This is interesting. Can you give any example of an asymmetrical holarchical model that is based on exclusion (of the lower stage in the higher) rather than on inclusion?
PC Yes! I have long been a great admirer of the mystical writings of St. John of the Cross. For me they reveal a spiritual depth and level of authenticity that I have not found matched anywhere else in the literature.
Now his most extensive work is "The Ascent of Mount Carmel" where he views the spiritual journey in somewhat transcendent spiritual terms as a holarchical ladder to ultimate perfection.
However John is not really interested in the differentiated aspect of these stages but in their growing capacity to reveal their inherent nondual spiritual nature.
So rather than an emphasis on phenomenal inclusion - suited to a differentiated interpretation - we have rather an extremely strong emphasis on phenomenal exclusion entailing the stark purgation of all his various "dark nights" (active and passive).
There are indeed many questionable issues regarding the overall dynamics and balance of his approach (certainly as a universal model of mystical development). However with reference to his formal writings, it can be best characterised as an asymmetrical holarchical model of transcendence and exclusion.
Q Why do you think Ken is making such universal generalisations regarding the holarchical nature of development - based apparently on much empirical evidence - if they are not valid?
PC An interesting question! First what we see is largely a reflection of the intellectual lenses we happen to wear. So Ken's interpretations will reflect his own particular framework of thinking and likewise in my own case!
I am confident however that my translations are consistent with the radial framework proposed and am happy to let others decide - or equally not decide - as to whether such an approach reveals important new layers of interpretation. My major concern in writing has always been to satisfy my own criteria for meaning with belief that in achieving this, it might in some way thereby reveal a new light for others.
Also I have referred to this discontinuity whereby Ken adopts a somewhat analytic unambiguous Western approach in his intellectual treatment while adopting a very opposite nondual Eastern approach to spiritual reality. The problem is that I see little evidence of satisfactory dynamic interpenetration of these two domains in his work.
So his generalisations regarding holarchies are very much in keeping with the type of intellectual worldview that predominates Western Science, Psychology, and Philosophy where integration is greatly reduced to specialised differentiated ideas of understanding. He then assumes that these holarchical notions can be extended to spiritual stages. However because the intellectual community for the most part does not appreciate mystical development, the implications of holarchical generalisations for such stages have not been properly examined.
However for the many reasons I have outlined, I personally find that the manner of his holarchical extension to all development as unwarranted.
Eight Methods of Intellectual Interpretation
Q Am I understanding you correctly? Is your key point that not alone should intellectual inquiry regarding development be extended to all stages of the Spectrum but that the very manner of interpretation of such development should equally be extended to all stages of the Spectrum so that our very translations keep changing as we change the interpretative framework of each stage?
Does this in turn imply that in regard to any developmental issue there is not just one valid method of understanding but rather a wide range of possible valid types of interpretations reflecting in each case the intellectual understanding appropriate to the particular stage of development from which it is viewed?
Finally is it a key intention of your radial approach to clarify the precise nature of the interpretative modes of intellectual enquiry that are appropriate for each stage of development.
PC Yes to all questions! This is a major issue, which I believe is greatly overlooked in intellectual debates.
There is indeed a unique cognitive framework, which informs the interpretations of each major stage of development. I would just qualify this a little by saying that the relevant methods are confined to the middle, higher and radial levels of understanding, which allow for the requisite maturity in intellectual development to have taken place.
The very reason why interpretative frameworks beyond the middle levels are not recognised, is precisely because the cognitive understanding associated with these levels has not been properly investigated!
In my approach to development, I define eight major types of intellectual interpretation, which in all cases are directly related to corresponding stages of the Spectrum. I will deal with these in much greater detail later.
I will point straight away to one major issue, which lies at the root of most of my criticism of Ken's model (which I have always admitted is indeed superb within its own framework).
Ken uses vision-logic as his predominant mode of intellectual inquiry. However vision-logic largely represents the understanding of the centaur stage of development. Now in the context of my approach, vision-logic is but a very sophisticated, spiritually inspired tool of analytic differentiation (and thereby not properly suited for clarifying the true dynamics of integration). Indeed it is the second on my list of three possible analytic modes. (So it is not even the most refined in this category!)
However there are many stages of development beyond the centaur stage and associated with each of these is a characteristic mode of cognitive interpretation. Indeed it is my contention, that proper integral approaches to development - that do not simply intellectually reduce integration to differentiation - require the refined bi-directional understanding of the "higher" spiritual stages, subtle, causal and nondual.
So there exists an integral approach associated with the subtle realm (which I refer to as Integral 1) an integral approach associated with the causal realm (Integral 2) and finally the most refined integral approach associated with nondual reality (Integral 3).
Then we have the comprehensive modes associated with Radial Reality that attempt to fully combine (unambiguous) analytic and (paradoxical) holistic modes of enquiry in what I term the radial approach. Now I would distinguish two versions of this approach Radial 1 and Radial 2.
Again in the context of my own approach what I am now attempting is a preliminary version of the Radial 1 approach.
So all in all we have listed here eight distinct intellectual modes of inquiry (associated in each case with corresponding stages of the Spectrum).
Analytic 1 (formop, conop)
Analytic 2 (vision-logic)
Analytic 3 (Mirror interpretations for all asymmetrical models). This would correspond roughly with the psychic level of development
Integral 1 (subtle)
Integral 2 (causal)
Integral 3 (Nondual)
Radial 1 (Unitive)
Radial 2 (Unitive)
Q So - again in the context of your approach - it would make little sense to attempt to give one interpretation for example of the pre/trans fallacy as presumably a distinct type of interpretation would apply depending on the intellectual perspective of the Spectrum from which you approach the issue!
PC Exactly! There would be a range of at least eight distinct types of interpretations each of which would be largely valid from the context of the intellectual framework reflecting its corresponding stage of development. Indeed on an earlier occasion I attempted to outline the nature of these eight interpretations.