How the Upper Left can be seen to relate to other quadrants



This graphic represents how the subjective (Upper Left in Integral Theory) can relate to other quadrants. You can, for example, develop your subjective understanding of objective science and also of cultural forms and of ecosystems. One way of seeing this is that an individual’s interior is developing an understanding of those phenomena that would be mapped within those other quadrants, but your own understanding of them is subjective and thus in the UL. Also you can develop an understanding of any quadrant along any of John Vervaeke’s 4 P’s of knowing (participatory, perspectival, procedural, propositional) and also there are paradigmatic processes that transcend and include all of these. I also hypothesize that there are classes of psychotechnologies and identifiable lines of development for each of these combinations. For further reading please see my draft article and the accompanying tables Your comments are welcome.


Thanks for sharing your draft article. You topic is certainly worthy of consideration. From a framing perspective, I’d like to begin here: Our mainstream knowledge institutions and educational programs are often solely focused on understanding the outer world and unfortunately they rarely focus much time or attention to the inner world From the point of view of my own research focus on civilizational macrohistory and civilizational pluralism in the contemporary world, I would suggest the current outer-worldly focus of educational institutions is a function of the specifically Western Scientific Revolution, followed by attendant processes of colonialism, capitalist expansion, and industrialization. Following the general “knowledge is power” paradigm, Western efforts certainly transformed the material world (for better or worse). Western educational institutions reflect that legacy. (A favorite author on this is Huston Smith). Western scientism (not science - just excessive claims for science) is a metaphysical posture that inclines away from introspection.

Whether our current situation is best described as peak-Western, or post-Western, or clash of civilizations, or globalizing, or already globalized is interesting to consider. I imagine a clear view of that might have some impact on your overall argument. In so far as one can speak of contemporary Indian, or Islamic, or Chinese, or Japanese civilizations (or at least alternative forms of modernization) do they suffer from the same lack of attention to interior dimensions of experience? I would welcome insights from those who came up in different types of educational systems!

In the Western reference frame, that key question of relating Quadrant UL to the rest is the so-called “hard problem of consciousness”. That’s only a hard problem if one insists on a materialistic metaphysics. Then somehow consciousness needs to emerge from the UR and LR quadrants, and the UL becomes epiphenomenal anyway. I’m imaging readers in this forum might favor a metaphysics in which consciousness plays a more independent or leading role. The UL then becomes quite central, and your article may stimulate useful discussion on how consciousness reaches beyond itself.

I’d like to finish by flipping the script a bit and considering what one might call a “hard problem of materialism.” Namely, if the scientific West effectively blinded it’s own third eye over the course of the past five centuries, why did this work so spectacularly well that other ancient cultures are now needing to either adopt Western modernization or create alternative modernizations of their own? Or - did it work really? Maybe the Western material turn leads only to the deadest of dead ends. Groups like IL now search for new directions not found on exterior-exclusive roadmaps. You are certainly correct that we are far from mainstream acceptance of such principles or advances.


Thanks for sharing this here!

While I largely agree with the material presented by Enlightened Worldview and robert.bunge – that the main thrust of our educational institutions is currently unbalanced, favoring the objective quadrants & underserving the subjective – I’d like to add a general comment here.

Aside from our admittedly objective-oriented educational systems, in the human eras of the world, emergences in all four of Wilber’s quadrants have kept pace with each other in terms of actual lived values. Ethical norms, to take one example have evolved with each new emergent stage of civilization. For example, only two thousand years ago in the Roman Empire, compassion was not considered a virtue but a weakness. “Virtue” meant “virile,” deriving from the same Latin root “vir” or male human being. Compassion as a positive value came in with Jesus Christ, and with the subsequent shift in the entire Mediterranean world from Red (power/gods) to Orange (law, both religious/ethical and civil). The point being that each emergent era or stage of humanity has had its corresponding emergent forms of culture, ethics, mode of spirituality & religion, society etc.

A well-guided tour through the humanities could help a lot in rebalancing the current imbalance between Wilber’s Left and Right quadrants, methinks. Speaking as a cultural historian and life-long humanities nerd, I would love to see the study of the humanities re-invigorated in our institutions of learning. At the university level, they’ve been shredded by the recent decades of deconstructionism, and they’ve always been chronically underfunded. I’d love to see this redressed.


Hi @ksv

First - of course! The humanities were always UL! Unfortunately, the humanities are swimming a bit against the current just now:

I generally like your idea that most cultures and civilizations instinctively balanced the quadrants. Just one exception stands out - the West. I like Huston Smith as a diagnostician of what how Western science derailed into scientism. In any case, it’s not like art, humanities, and spiritual sensibilities were abolished in the West - they just got shunted off to the side for a few centuries. I admire the Ken Wilber of 1973 for blithely treating Eastern spirituality and Western psychology as commensurate. That was a massive cultural non-sequitur! But good for him - for here we are!

My very abbreviated history with all this - Phi Beta Kappa, History, 1979. Bailed in the 80’s to avoid the sterility of post-modernism. Made a living with computers for a couple decades. Now rediscovering the humanities and the social sciences through the good offices of Integral, metamodernism, Gebser, complexity theory and related. Paradoxically, beginning work on a course called “Information Technology Fundamentals”. Can professional/technical content capture an evolutionary humanities sensibility? We’ll find out in September…