Note 9 - Dynamic Nature of Four Quadrants

Ken Wilber makes great use of the notion of four quadrants as part of his integral approach to development.

However when we examine the typical manner he treats his quadrants we find that he clearly confuses integration with differentiation.

With reference to each of his four quadrants Ken adopts a (linear) asymmetrical holarchical approach.

The direction of movement for each of these quadrants is defined unambiguously in terms of transcendence and inclusion i.e. each lower holon is progressively transcended and included in a higher holon.

He then approaches integration as the multiple combination of these partial unambiguously defined quadrant notions.To see what is involved here let us take the simple example of four motorists (A, B, C and D) who meet at the centre of a crossroads with each subsequently travelling in a separate direction.

So one motorist will journey right (to the East) and another left (to the West).

A third motorist will journey up (to the North) and the final motorist down (to the South).Now from the perspective of each separate driver (with his/her own journey as reference frame) movement will take place unambiguously in a positive (forward) direction.

When we attempt to combine these isolated multiple journeys, all will report movement thereby in a positive (forward) direction.

However this integration of the four journeys really represents a multi-differentiated approach (based on the apparent similarity of isolated reference frames).Now put quite simply this is the basis of Ken Wilber's "integral" approach to the four quadrants i.e. development takes place asymmetrically in the same direction in all quadrants.

However true interaction requires the attempt to view movement in all quadrants simultaneously.

Therefore if A heading East moves in a positive (forward) direction using this journey as reference frame then B (heading West) moves in a negative (backward) direction with respect to A.

Now if we switch reference frames - as we are entitled to do - now using B's journey, then B moves forward relative to A and A moves backward (relative to B).It is quite similar for vertical movement.

So if C moves forward relative to D, then D thereby moves backward relative to C. Finally if D moves forward relative to C, then C moves backward relative to D.Thus from a proper integral perspective (using simultaneous reference frames), the direction of movement for each of our four drivers is seen to be purely relative. Depending on the frame of reference (which is merely arbitrary), each driver can be seen to move in either a positive (forward) or negative (backward) direction.

Likewise from a proper integral perspective, the direction of development in each of the four quadrants is purely relative and depending on the frame of reference can be seen to be either positive or negative.

In other words opposite poles (horizontal and vertical) are complementary and must be formally interpreted using a bi-directional linear approach.

The paradoxes generated by this understanding provide the necessary catalyst for their transforming reconciliation through nondual spiritual intuition. This in turn facilitates the keener appreciation of bi-directional paradox at a reduced dualistic level. So in dynamic terms, refined form and spiritual emptiness mutually enhance each other.So to adapt Ken's concepts for a proper dynamic treatment, we need to make a number of changes.

Firstly we would extend beyond the notion of a holon. Though it may not be the intention, the notion of a holon - as defined by Ken - too easily leads to a static treatment (where dynamic meaning is easily lost).

Personally I prefer to define reality more dynamically as comprising interacting systems of relationships defined fundamentally by opposite poles (which - depending on context - may or may not lead to holarchical interpretation). We are then free to interpret such relationships in a static manner (where poles are separated) or dynamic fashion (where poles are complementary).

Secondly the very notion of holarchy - as Ken defines it - is asymmetric and inherently unsuited for integral appreciation of reality.

Strictly speaking the integral aspect of any process is always nondual and thereby non-holarchic.

Now to move from dualistic holarchic notions to more integral nondual appreciation we have to define holarchies in a more subtle manner (where they move in complementary directions) in opposite quadrants.

Thus if we arbitrarily define a Right-Hand Quadrant with inclusion, then the Left-Hand is thereby defined in terms of exclusion. (When we switch reference frames the Right-Hand is now one of inclusion and the Left-Hand one of exclusion respectively).

Likewise the relationship between whole and part (and part and whole) is dynamically bi-directional.

Therefore if we define the Upper quadrants in terms of holism (i.e. the progressive movement to more collective wholes) the Lower quadrants must be defined in terms of partism (i.e. the movement to more individual or unique parts). Once again the frame of reference can be shifted with the Upper now defined in terms of partism and the Lower in terms of holism.Finally - though this requires the extension to an eight-sectoral approach - if we define diagonal movement through the Upper quadrants in terms of transcendence, then diagonal movement through the lower must be defined in terms of immanence. Once more these can be reversed with the diagonal Upper representing immanence and the diagonal Lower transcendence respectively.