The Stone Integral Matrix v0.9 - A Fork of Wilber's AQAL


I’ve been reading some lately about Ken Wilber’s ideas. He likes to compare some of his philosophical ideas to computer operating systems and apps. It occurred to me that open source software systems, like Linux, often go through revisions and can also lead to many derivatives that diverge from the original design in various ways.

In the spirit of open source software, I imagined a fork of Ken Wilber’s AQAL. The basic idea is to combine the Wilber-Combs Lattice with the Four Quadrants and to add a new perspective onto holons - things that are both wholes and parts of other wholes.

This construction is based on a few insights.

  1. Perhaps conceptualizing should be thought of as something similar to turning your attention to very brief dreams.

  2. Dreaming is related to the subtle realm, therefore, perhaps conceptualization is also an an expression of the subtle realm.

  3. Waking is associated with the gross realm and waking is primarily distinguished by receiving sensory input through the sensory organs.

  4. Holons can be viewed from three perspectives -

    a. A standalone whole with emergent properties
    b. A sub-part of another holon
    c. A collection of sub-holons

Under the original Four Quadrants that Wilber proposes, we have a Left Hand side that is described as the “inside” or what a holon “feels like” subjectively. On the right hand side we have the “outside” or what a holon “looks like”. He then places most science in the right hand side, since most of science does not deal with the “subjective” but focus instead on features that “everyone” can observe with their sensory organs.

I propose that instead we could characterize the left hand side as focused on the “Gross” realm of observations made through the sensory organs. The left hand side could then be based on the “Subtle” realm, or observations of sensory phenomena that seem to occur within the stage of the imagination (e.g. dreams, conceptualizing). I would also include the “Causal” realm on the left hand side, since descriptions of it that I have seen also seem to place it on the stage of the imagination.

Going from the Causal to the Subtle to the Gross, it seems that, given our current understanding, it becomes increasingly easier for independent observers to correlate observations. This is perhaps why science focuses mostly on the Gross.

The Four Quadrants also seem to roll two different perspectives of holons into the upper part. They are, the stand alone holon with emergent properties and the holon as a collection of sub-holons. The lower part seems to be the holon as part of a larger holon. I propose that we unpack this and add an additional perspective for the holon as a collection of sub-holons.

It’s interesting to note that since Wilber and others teach that every phenomena is occurring at the causal, subtle, and gross realm all at the same time - and some Buddhist teach that all phenomena are an aggregate and part of an organic Absolute whole - then it follows that all phenomena should co-occur in all nine cells.

This decomposition perhaps suggests the possibility of disciplines that are not represented as explicitly in the existing AQAL system.

Much of Wilber’s use of the Quadrants seems to focus on a human being as the holon under inspection and it can be confusing when the holon is not a human - for instance what appears on the left hand side of the quadrants when the holon is a pet rock? The proposed Integral Matrix seems to work well when the holon is a human or not - since every phenomena is said to occur in all three realms and a human, including oneself, can serve as the holon under consideration.

“Non-Dual” is absent from this matrix since I’m not sure if this state of consciousness is of the same kind as the others or if it is a higher-level fusion of the the others. Perhaps when one has achieved non-dual awareness you experience the other states as unified in some way.

This “Stone Integral Matrix” may not be a replacement for the standard AQAL, however, it may complement it in some ways.

I’m interested in questions, comments and suggestions. I’ll consider updating this matrix if a suggestion convinces me to do so.


Just a comment here (and I’m by no means fluent in Integra Theory). A non human “thing” (at least in the course I took called Core Integral) is called an article or heep (if there are more than one)…. There are deeper and wider observations within Wilber’s AQAL than inside/outside, in my limited understanding. Don’t think you need to “Fork” yet.


I’m still attempting to build my understanding of the states of awareness. I thought I’d mention some of my ideas here in case someone had some insights they felt like sharing.

  1. Perhaps all that we can be sure of is that patterns of sensation occur within the space of awareness. The origin of the awareness and the origin of the patterns of sensation may be unknowable.
  2. Awareness must exist before we can make observations. Why assume that the observed sensory patterns create the awareness (molecules make cells make neurons, etc) or are more permanent than the awareness?
  3. The world can be constructively thought of as a shared mind where each of our awarenesses are something like fingers on the same hand.
  4. Examining the functions performed by our own minds can provide us with a microcosm for understanding the shared mind.
  5. When we attempt to visualize something it creates a brief sensory experience within the stage of our mind. We therefore know that mind can create sensory experiences. Perhaps mind is the only source of sensory experiences we can be certain of.
  6. Causal experiences tell us that some parts of mind may exist before all sensory phenomena. We might even experiences a liminal state between the causal and the subtle, that is similar to lucid dreaming, where we are able to experience thoughts directly leading to sensory phenomena.
  7. When we dream our bodies are stationary while our mind creates the appearance that we are moving in a dream. Perhaps something like this is occurring even when we are awake.Perhaps we could think of “moving” as transformations on the field of sensory phenomena, where in some sense we remain stationary. We also view dream objects with dream bodies (e.g. dream eyes, dream ears, etc.). Maybe when we are awake our bodies are also mental constructs (e.g. waking eyes, waking ears, etc).
  8. Subtle experiences happen within what we experience as the stage of the imagination.
  9. Gross experiences happen within what we experience through our sensory organs.
  10. It has been taught that all phenomena occur in all states
  11. The state of mind we are in may be defined as which mode of consciousness our attention is focused on at one moment - where the states are basically exclusive but some awareness of liminal states may occur.
  12. It may be possible for our attention to rapidly switch between modes of consciousness.
  13. For instance, when we are awake we might rapidly switch between focusing on our thoughts (which is like a short dream on the stage of our imagination or subtle realm) then focusing on our sensory organs (gross realm) and then focusing on that part of our awareness that proceeds sensations (causal realm).
  14. Perhaps a simple waking sequence that someone could go through to experience a unification of the gross, subtle, and causal would be to turn your attention to empty awareness (causal), form the intention to move your hand and notice it causing sensations like visualizations on the stage of awareness (subtle realm) then observe with your visual and touch sensory organs a transformation in the patterns of phenomena that occur in those modalities as your hand moves. As when dreaming, perhaps in some sense you remain stationary while these transformations you think of movement take place. Perhaps our “bodies” are user interfaces to the world of sensory phenomena where limiting what changes when we apply our will to just our body form allows us to interact with sensory patterns in ways that tend to preserve our changes instead of transforming in disorienting, unpleasing ways with every thought.
  15. If the causal realm is where all sensory experiences originate, then perhaps there are sensory patterns that we experience that result from willed causal events and un-willed causal events. What we call the subconscious might produce sensory phenomena in an un-willed causal way.
  16. When we examine our own minds we notice that there are the principles of association and memory where one thought causes another thought and where those sequences can be a product of memorization.
  17. Perhaps what we experience as the laws of nature are un-willed causal associations and memories in the shared mind. These associations in the shared mind may be so powerful that we can not escape them with our limited wills. These low level strong associations may set the constraints within which evolution of forms in the gross realm occurs.

“Qingyuan declared that there were three stages in his understanding of the dharma: the first stage, seeing mountain as mountain and water as water; the second stage, seeing mountain not as mountain and water not as water; and the third stage, seeing mountain still as mountain and water still as water.” -Xu Chuandenglu

  1. When we examine our own minds, we notice that some sort of unconscious harmonizing seems to occur before the thought enters our awareness.
  2. Perhaps evolution seems to create improbable developments because the principle of unconscious harmonizing is occurring in the shared mind (self-organization).
  3. Perhaps recognizing that the shared mind is a source of sensory experiences for us, and recognizing our ability to see how the causal, subtle and gross states relate, puts us on a path towards non-dual awareness.
  4. Perhaps the shared mind is evolving away from unpleasant experiences and towards sustainable pleasant experiences.
  5. Perhaps synchronicity experiences occur when we notice an especially mind-like associativity occurring in the gross realm, possibly as a consequence of the shared mind being associative similar to our individual minds.
  6. Science helps us to characterize the patterns of sensations that we experience, especially when we can easily correlate our experiences of sensory patterns with one another. Characterizing these patterns, and predicting how they will behave, helps us to better manage our suffering. For at least this reason science is important even if naive materialism is not correct.
  7. Telepathy may be a kind of willed causal and subtle experience where willing sensory impressions causes them to occur within the subtle realm of another sentient being. Like ideation and dreams, this experience further reinforces that mind may be the source of all sensory phenomena.
  8. The subtle and gross realm distinction may have evolved so that a more malleable set of sensory phenomena (subtle realm) can be used to shape a realm where sensory phenomena stay put (gross realm).

I don’t know that all subtle and causal experiences are positive, but the positive ones we may tend to focus on and associate with spirituality. I would argue that we should keep in mind that some people experience something like demon possession where a malevolent entity seems to take control of sensory phenomena on the stage of their imagination (subtle realm) and maybe even causes their body to move in the gross realm. Positive experiences may involve the sense that gods, angles or a friendly telepath are controlling sensations in the subtle realm or even causing the body to move or causing synchronicities in the gross realm.

I hope you find these pragmatic conventions useful. Maybe they’ll inspire even better ideas. Please let me know if you have any thoughts on any of these points. Thanks!


Something else that occurred to me. There may need to be a distinction between “Modes of conciseness” and “States of consciousness”.

Causal, Subtle and Gross can all be thought of as modes of consciousness, where being in one of these as a state of consciousness means that your attention is nearly completely absorbed by a particular mode. In a non-dual state you are perhaps aware of your attention transitioning between these different modes of consciousness. Sometimes perhaps very rapidly.

This is meant to be one attempt at a pragmatic decomposition of consciousness. There may be other useful decompositions. I hope that you find it useful in some way!