How to classify our projects: Emergence vs. Emanation and Ascending vs. Descending

All Integral related and adjacent projects that aim to meaningfully address the meta-crisis, which includes metamodrenism and Game B can be classified in a number of ways, including:

1. Where the project falls along the sophistication spectrum, which is related to the dichotomy between the ascending path and the descending path

The ascending path involves conscious beings who wish to invest their attention, mental effort, and emotional energy toward the development of higher states of consciousness, greater intelligence, new frontiers of life, greater complexity, and elevating their own self to higher and higher levels along any developmental dimension. The descending path involves one devoting their mental and emotional resources to the care of other conscious beings, to promote the general well-being among the populace, and to share one’s knowledge and wisdom with others. It is not that such people actually descend to lower states or stages, but to say that they are on the descending path means that they direct their finite and limited mental and emotional resources to the betterment of those who are not quite at their own level of privilege, sophistication, or well-being in some important ways. The result of the descending acts might be to lift others up so that they might end up being on approximately the same level as their descending teachers, mentors, and caregivers. Perhaps the recipients of these investments can rise higher even still. We need both ascenders and descenders in our society, and people often alternatingly play both roles in different aspects of life. Healthy and wise human individuals and human organizations operate as both ascenders and descenders in different situations.

The ascending and descending paths have many manifestations, including in education and research. This dichotomy can be seen as a spectrum, where at the high end we have original research that is highly sophisticated. This is where the educated elite are pushing the bounds of human knowledge in certain ways. This form of the ascending path is only cognitively accessible to those who have already mentally ascended quite high in their life to be able to understand the extremely complicated material that is being produced. This highly complicated research has the potential to change the world as we know it, but hopefully the most advanced forms of human knowledge should not be the domain of a select elite.

At the lowest end of the sophistication spectrum, we have the most basic forms of early childhood education, and this spectrum continues through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood and extends into all stages of higher education. The educational efforts that aim to bring people to higher levels of sophistication in some way can be seen as descending paths that are essential for the inter-generational transfer of knowledge that sustains our society and culture. Teachers act as descenders as they work to educate people and lift them to higher levels of knowledge and understanding so that they might provide for themselves an adequate life and so that they might meet the challenges that they will inevitably face and so that they might thrive in the face of such adversity. A balance is needed between the ascent of original research and the descent of education.

2. The project’s holonic relations, which might involve either emergence from below or emanation from above

Projects can also be classified by their holonic relations. All people, all groups of people, and all projects are holons in some way or another. Holons are inherently related to their constituent parts and also form parts of larger holons and this forms what is known as a holarchy.

In the context of human society, we can identify emanation from above as including people in positions of power, authority, influence, and leadership working within the context of some well-established mainstream institution (governmental entity, business, or other organization). These people have levers of power available to them. If they can use this power more wisely then this can have a meaningful impact on our greatest challenges.

In human society there are many examples of people not in positions of power who self-organize and innovate and create new businesses, organizations, and technologies. We can call this phenomenon emergence from below and it involves grass-roots autopoietic development of new ideas and new ways of doing things. Projects in this category often stay small or fizzle out shortly after creation, but they have the potential to go viral and to have significant impacts on the larger society in unpredictable ways.

Emergence from below and emanation from above are mutually interdependent and mutually interpenetrating. In the two loops model, the top loop represents emanation and will inevitably start to decay and fail over time. All human institutions and cultural forms have a lifespan. At the height of their power as mainstream institutions, they are essential to overall stability, but eventually they will give way to the new emerging order. The bottom loop forms naturally through grass-roots innovation and people’s efforts to respond to new challenges that arise in changing circumstances. The bottom loop becomes stronger in part due to the failing of the top loop, and a transition occurs in which the emerging new order becomes dominant and mainstream while the legacy institutions that once were emanant are allowed to die peacefully.


These two dimensions intersect to form quadrants. We can map projects into these quadrants. Some projects might be plotted in more than one quadrant. My hypothesis is that we can only meaningfully address the meta-crisis through the simultaneous efforts of effective projects within each of these four quadrants.

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Nice grounding of the Ascending (related to Eros/Transcendence) and Descending (related to Agape/Immanence) energies/movements/paths in the gross world.

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This is basically Plato’s call for the philosopher king. For the most part, kingship and philosophy have had uneasy relationships with one another down through the centuries. So a challenge for this model is what to do with established power that is lacking wisdom and not especially interested in wisdom in any case.

I like your use of “emergence & emanation” as a core polarity here. It really resonates with one I’ve been holding for years around the integral stage itself, which is “emergent integral”, which focuses on new kinds of applications and artifacts and procedures that can likely only be fully seen and appreciated by others at the teal/turquoise stages, and “universal donor integral” (or “chameleon integral”) which steps back into the first tier fray and attempts to work directly with prior stages and to heal the growing gaps between them. And there is definitely an ascending/descending current to both of those. Well considered!


Thanks Corey. The emergence & emanation polarity probably originally comes from Plotinus and Ken got into this quite a bit in the core Integral books such as SES. More recently John Vervaeke presented on science, spirituality and Neoplatonism in his keynote address to the UTOK Consilience Conference earlier this year

Also this essay is open source so you can copy and paste and repurpose it for forthcoming newsletters or perhaps even a Ken Show episode if you feel it might work for that. Feel free to edit, enhance, as you see fit.

I hugely resonate with this formulation, @EnlightenedWorldview. My own complex inner model of how this all fits together (based in my home quadrant, the UL), is in nearly complete harmony with yours.

The only tweak I would suggest is this: when we who are centered at (putatively) Second Tier stages take action in the domains of First Tier, that our intention be less to “lift” those we identify as First Tier, i.e. to change them, but more to aid them in improving conditions and removing any impediments so that they can thrive in whatever mode they currently exist. All the stages are essential to the health of the whole. When people are thriving in a healthy version of their home stage, whatever it may be, they are in theory contributing to the thriving of the entire system. And if people are in a healthy version of their home stage structure, they are more likely to naturally move into the next when they are good and ready. Especially if there are examples of people and groups in healthy versions of the later-arising stages available in the surrounding culture.

At least, that’s my understanding at my current stage of ignorance.

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I turned this post here into a full article:

I added significant content as well.