Tuesday, December 27, 2011

An holonic tangent

In our IPS discussion of religious differences we've taken a sidebar into holonics as it relates to the topic at hand. Some excerpts:


Balder said: "Concerning this union being social rather than mystical, I don't see it in either/or terms.  I don't think there's just one type of "real" union.  I think there is value in both mystical (UL) and sociocultural (LL) experiences and expressions of unitive events, which can be mutually informing but which are also both irreducible objects (in OOO terms) in their own right."

I don't see this as a quadrant distinction but rather a perspective distinction. And any perspective can be seen as a holon, that is, as having 4 quadrants per Edwards* instead of holons or perspectives residing in quadrants. In this case, the polydox perspective is not limited to the LL quadrant nor is individual experience limited to the UL. It is more a matter of which perspective, mystical or polydox, is more conducive, or qualitatively better, to our current lifeworld.

I know, this seems like an either/or formal distinction, but not if we accept the kennilingual distinction of basic and transitional structures, the latter of which replace their predecessor. And I know, no one is always in one transitional structure but rather fluctuates from one to another depending on domain, context and other factors. Still, if we are to make qualitative distinctions this seems an important one and pertinent here. And said distinction is not included in a universal, either/or formal rationality. To the contrary, see Edwards' comment below where the idea of quadrants containing holons is indicative of Cartesian duality.

* "I have said this before and I'll say it again - quadrants do not contain holons....once we see holons as occupying quadrants we encounter Cartesian dualism in all its full glory. "

As an aside, in the Edwards article linked above he goes into why distinguishing sentient from insentient holons, for example, is an expression of said duality. In this argument he sounds a lot like Bryant's OOO mereology, in that objects (holons) are not limited to sentience or living systems. Hence there is no need to create a further dualism in quadrants and quadrivium a la kennilingus.
Edwards: "There is no separation between an indidivual holon's 'I' and its 'We.' They simply arise together as soon as any holonic boundary is drawn."

Tying the above theory to a practical example, let's use Spielrein's notion of the apparent dissolution of the ego into a creative and transformative union with a 'collective' commons. It is in the relationship between the I and the we here; the we doesn't replace the I or vice-versa. It is a perspective on this relation, one that contextualizes it in a postmetaphysical way instead of a mystical union with a metaphysical absolute.


I think I will need you to clarify how you are using some of these terms, such as polydox and mystical, to see if I follow (and/or agree with :-) ) what you are saying, because you appear to be using these terms in a way I wouldn't.  For instance, I think there can be a polydox understanding of mysticism (which is something I articulated in my paper), rather than having "polydox" and "mystical" being two mutually exclusive things.

Concerning Edwards' take on holons and perspectives, yes, I have preferred that way of looking, too, but it seemed to me that 000 poses a challenge to it in some ways.  I believe both Harman and Bryant argue that basically everything is an "object," and in that way physical things like chairs and ideas like Popeye are both "equal" (equally real objects, but also quite distinct from each other).

Here's one possible reconciliation of Edwards, AQAL, and OOO.  Using Latour's notion of irreduction, everything is both irreducible and thus an "object" (UR) but also subject to reduction, e.g. understandable in terms of its parts or its being-part of something else (endo- and exo-systemic relations, LR), although there is some "loss" in any such reduction and an object also exceeds any such reductive relational description.  Objects or holons are able to contact or "experience" other objects in some way (UL) and this contact will be mediated by its own internal code (LL).


I like your 4-quadrant analysis of an object/holon. So let's add levels to the mix. What I was trying to distinguish above with a mystical/polydox distinction was interpretative levels. The UL holonic 'experience' of unity would be interpreted* (perhaps the 'outside' on the UL quadrant?) less in a metaphysical way, which is what I mean by 'mystical,' this metaphysical interpretation of union with an absolute assholon. Granted we can take postmetaphysical interpretations of the word mystical, but I'm not so sure Jung did so. Also granted Freud seemed to reduce such experience to the sexual, Jung's complaint. And all of which points to the refutation of an ontotheological interpretation in favor of a more postmetaphyical view, which this thread is pointing to with religious pluralism.

* More like enacted, since it's an all-quadrant, all-zone ** affair, each quadrant/zone tetra (or octo) arising.

** Not to be confused with AutoZone


I agree that a polydox perspective is not limited to the LL, but I'm not sure about saying that individual experience is not limited to the UL.  UL is defined as "individual experience," as I understand it, rather than being a type of, or a particular limitation on, individual experience.  I would say that experience is not limited to the UL, and would obviously grant also that we might choose to conceptualize individual experience outside of the Integral quadrant scheme, but given the definition of UL in Integral Theory, saying individual experience is not limited to the UL is like saying individual experience is not limited to individual experience, which doesn't make sense to me (though maybe you could clarify your statement; I might not be seeing something you're getting at). 

In any event, regarding the contrast between mystical and polydox understandings, as I said, I don't see the two as mutually exclusive.  Rather, I would argue that one could have orthodox (typically exclusivist or inclusivist) or polydox interpretations of mystical (and other types of) experience.  Here, I'm defining mystical experience as a suite of experiences related to the apprehension of sacredness, feelings of awe and wonder and even terror, forms of noesis (a kind of intuitive feeling-knowledge), and various higher or altered state experiences (nondual, subtle/visionary, apophatic, etc).  What is happening in such experiences is open to interpretation, and I accept a polydox (multiplistic) approach to this interpretation.  In other words, I don't think mystical experience needs to be interpreted in a metaphysical way, but neither do I think it can or should be conflated with experiences of "giving over" or (apparently, metaphorically) "dissolving" the self in identification with one's social context, higher cultural ideals, community, etc.  This is a different type of activity or event, in my view, which can be inspired or informed by mystical experience; or which itself, as a practice (distinct from meditation, ritual, yoga, etc), can lead to its own mystical/noetic experiences, but which (again) should not be either conflated with mystical experience (i.e., "this is what is really happening in mystical experience: people are dissolving into their social contexts") nor dualistically/exclusivistically contrasted with mystical experience (as if, in a postmetaphysical worldspace, one must necessarily replace the other).


In kennilingus, true. But Edwards has an UL quadrant for social holons as well,* which is part of his complaint with the AQAL assholon having the upper quadrants as individual, the lower as social.
From "Through AQAL Eyes part 7":

* Actually an UL (and the other quadrants) for his basic 6 holons, which can be expanded exponentially. See the appendix for an appendix-bursting experience.


Oh, yes, I recall that.  Within Integral circles, it is still somewhat controversial to attribute agency to a social holon, but it seems that would be relatively consistent with the Edwardsian/AQAL/OOO interpretation/amalgamation I mentioned above.  Here, a social group, such as a baseball team, can be an "object" in its own right, so it can be referred to as a "unit," and in that sense, one can still refer to that "unit's" individual experience or "contact" or agency (UL) as well as its shared meanings / interpretations / intersubjective content (LL).

Regarding the term 'mystical,' yes, it seems we're interpreting the word differently, as you'll note from my previous post.  I am not using mystical as a synonym for absolute union with a metaphysical absolute, although that is one way to interpret what is happening in mystical experience.


Re-reading TAE part 7 provides a frame for our discussion. In the 1st person perspective of an individual holon the UL is an existential I and the LL is a cultural I. (See the section around figure 8.)

So using Spielrein's example it's not that the UL is dissolved in the LL but rather how they relate in this one perspective, which includes both (as well as the UR and LR of this one perspective). It's only when we place individual holons in one quadrant of a reified assholon do we get such notions that these are separate perspectives instead of aspects of one perspective, in this case an individual 1st person. He says:

"Wilber's depiction of personal consciousness through the schizoid holon often misses the essentially communal nature of individual consciousness." I think this is what is being highlighted in the polydox view, not to be confused with an opposition with an existential I but rather how the two Is, the I-I, as it were, relates. But this has a different meaning than the kennilingus I-I, a more metaphysical construct that has a union of the little I (self) with the big I (Self), which is what I mean by mystical union.

"This has been the point of the whole post-modern discussion of individual consciousness – it is a cultural entity. Your 'I' is not simply an existential unity that exists in a cultural context, it is cultural and communal by its very nature.

"This continuity of interior perspectives as both 'I' is not only intuitively obvious it is also clearly indicated in Wilber's Zone #1 of his model of the perspectival zones of holons (hori-zones). Zone #1 is the inside of the interior. It includes both the existential consciousness (UL) and the cultural consciousness (LL) of the individual holon. It is one zone and one undivided perspective whose horizon enfolds both the existential 'I' and cultural 'I' (see Figure 9).

 Even more indicative of this relation is when we include the right hand quadrants of the 1st person perspective, the "me" (see figure 9). Edwards:

"The perspective of the inside of my identity is the mutual co-existence of "I" and "Me". The personal self is the flow of identity constituted by the existential "I", the cultural "I", the behavioural "Me" and the social "Me". This quadratic flow between holonic perspectives could be called the Integral Cycle of Identity. The Integral Cycle of Identity is the unitive dynamic within the holon that unites the cultural/existential "I" and private/public "Me" into the self identity of a holon. Holonic identity is not an interior quality. It arises as a result of the quadratic mutuality of both interior and exterior aspects of the holon. Identity is an "I/Me" phenomenon and not solely the result of the development of consciousness."

We see this dynamic in Mead's I/me construct:

"The essence of Mead's so-called “social behaviorism” is his view that mind is an emergent out of the interaction of organic individuals in a social matrix. Mind is not a substance located in some transcendent realm, nor is it merely a series of events that takes place within the human physiological structure. Mead therefore rejects the traditional view of the mind as a substance separate from the body as well as the behavioristic attempt to account for mind solely in terms of physiology or neurology. Mead agrees with the behaviorists that we can explain mind behaviorally if we deny its existence as a substantial entity and view it instead as a natural function of human organisms. But it is neither possible nor desirable to deny the existence of mind altogether. The physiological organism is a necessary but not sufficient condition of mental behavior (Mind, Self and Society 139). Without the peculiar character of the human central nervous system, internalization by the individual of the process of significant communication would not be possible; but without the social process of conversational behavior, there would be no significant symbols for the individual to internalize."

Edwards' comments on Mead in "The depth of the exteriors, part 3" are also instructive.


  1. More from the above thread (see it for links):


    These are useful points, and I appreciate your bringing them in, but I'm not quite sure how they relate (or whether you intend them to relate) to my questioning of Spielrein's distinction. Here is what you said: "Like what you note above she talked of the dissolution of self during the sexual orgasm, and that this wish for union was indeed a wish for the death of the ego. But again, she seemed to side with Freud on this one, that this was not some sort of metaphysical or religious union with a totalizing All but rather a more concrete notion of putting aside one's individuality in service of a broader, social self. This is something we see playing out with Bendle and the religious polydox in general." This seems to put the definition of "mystical union" experience in either/or terms -- it is either a religious union with a metaphysical absolute, or it is a putting aside of individuality in service of a broader social self -- and I am merely saying this either/or choice is not good enough to cover the territory. I don't see these two interpretations as the only available or (postmetaphysically) viable ones for describing or understanding "mystical" unitive experiences. I don't have any particular issues with Spielrein's notion of putting individuality aside in service of a social identity or set of ideals; in fact, I think many religions already encourage such a thing. I'm just saying that this, in itself, isn't sufficient for "explaining" mystical experience.

  2. My initial statement about Spielrein did put it in either/or terms because that was how it was presented in the movie between Jung and Freud. Spielrein was a go-between to the men personally as well as between their ideas. She seemed to side with Freud on the more social-scientific interpretation, finding Jung's mystical unions counterproductive. I used the occasion to make the point that I too find metaphysical interpretations of such union a regressive step back, as does Kennilingam when he accuses Jung of elevating prototypes to archetypes.*

    Not only that, but such mystical interpretations tend to an imbalance toward the individual pole, or rather consciousness or experience being limited to the kennilingual individual UL. Whereas the more polydox approaches, at least in this thread, tend toward more balance between the individual and the social. That's why I brought in Edwards, for his AQAL holonic expansion provides more precise tools for understanding these dynamics. He hightlights how kennilinus AQAL promotes the exact kind of metaphysical dualities that the polydox surpass by showing that any holon, individual or social, also has an UL (and all) quadrants. Just using his figure of the 1st person perspective of an individual holon more fully shows the kind of individual/social dynamic involved in individual consciousness that is inherent to the polydox approaches and lacking in the more traditional 'mystical' approaches.**

    Grated we can, as you say, interpret mystical experiences in much more postmetaphysical terms; it doesn't have to be limited to union with a super assholon like God, the universe and everything. But that is exactly what this thread starting out criticizing, this ontotheological (i.e., metaphysical) approach to religion and religious pluralism. And Jung, while having some postmeta ideas, did seem to frame them within traditional and metaphysical mystical interpretations.

    So it's not so much that individual mysticism interpreted more broadly is opposed to a social interpretation of such experience. Rather the polydox interpretation seems a much more developed interpretation that allows for broader interpretations of said mystical experience, not limiting it to an UL quadrant of an individual, to put it in kennilingus.

    * That I might agree with this in a certain way discussed elsewhere is a distinction for another time.

    ** Yes, these approaches include the social, as in social service to aid others toward their own enlightenment. But that's the point; enlightenment is through an individual's consciousness and doesn't see the connections of the 'exterior' (like body and cultural body) in forming that individual consciousness.

  3. Also see this post and the one following on Arnsperger from the progressive economics thread. He applies the principles above to economics, noting the metaphysically individual monadology inherent to the neoclassical model. He calls for a more individual/social balance and brings in Levinas to support it, one of the authors referenced in this thread. Check out his use of Levinas in his referenced article and you'll see many of the same criticisms upstream. For example:

    "Enjoyment is the sign of human nature's fundamental embodiment, its physical engagement with `exteriority' as opposed to the transcendental subject constructed by various idealistic methods.... Levinas suggests a rather different scheme, which consists in showing that individual subjectivity is in fact constituted by, rather than able to represent to itself, the exterior and hence prior otherness of world and other individuals" (143 - 45).

    However the individual is not replaced by the other. Arnsperger continues:

    "Of course, all `access' to this exteriority requires an ego, but this ego itself is unable to know itself as an ego by pure reflection, that is, outside of a relation of response to otherness....the basic explanatory entity is still the individual ego (which decides, calculates, and so on), but only to the extent that this ego is viewed as constitutively altruistic.... Viewing the ego as responsibility means....the ego and all its intentional acts can only be described as a response to otherness" (146).


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