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!

Some more thoughts on a mind-first perspective, this time with a Jewish, kosmocentric inflection.

Science And The Mind Of Elyon

Being made in the “image of god” can be interpreted to mean that we share qualities with god. A shallow interpretation might be that we visually resemble god. A more interesting interpretation is that sensory experiences are the product of minds. Perhaps god’s “mind” creates the fundamental sensory patterns that we experience and we are god-like in our ability to participate in creating sensory patterns with our minds as well. Another god-like quality that we seem to posses is the ability to participate in the creation of new awarenesses, or at least in a process that correlates an awareness with a body that experiences sensory patterns in our shared environment. We call this “having a child.” I plan on exploring this similarity to god in a separate essay.

If we live in what can best be thought of as a mind, then why is science so effective?

When we imagine something in our mind we often glimpse a brief visual pattern on the stage of our imagination. Our minds also appear to create fully immersive natural seeming environments during our dreams. When we use our minds to transform the sensory patterns we call our “body”, other observers seem to observe the sensory patterns we create. Can we be certain that any other phenomena than mind can create sensory patterns? I propose that we can not!

If the nature of god is primarily thought-like and our minds are a sample of the capacities of god’s mind, then perhaps we can learn about god by examining our own minds. Here are a few features that our minds seem to posses:

  1. Memorization
  2. Triggering recall through association
  3. Self-organizing complex thought forms that enter our awareness without us having to deliberately construct them in an aware way
  4. Sensory experiences are caused by our thoughts, or at least correlated with them (e.g. images in our imagination, movements of our body in response to thoughts)
  5. Different modes of thinking have different degrees of “inertia” or “changeability.” Our imagination, our dreams, and the patterns of sensation we experience through our “sensory organs” all have different degrees of persistence and changeability
  6. A preference for sustainable pleasant sensations and an aversion to sensations that cause suffering

With these components we might be able to reinterpret science. Perhaps what we call the “laws of physics” are actually descriptions of deeply ingrained sequences of associations in a mind we all share. This could be similar to how sensory patterns in dreams seem to be regular, even if those regularities deviate from “normal physics.”

Why would the sensory patterns of waking life seem to fit together in a way that explains how our bodies came into existence through a process of evolution involving the movement of matter and energy? Doesn’t evolution seem to explain how our brain came into being and doesn’t our brain produce our awareness and the rest of our mind?

You can’t observe sensory patterns without being aware. Why assume the sensory patterns that enter your awareness are necessary for your awareness to exist? Perhaps our awareness exists in a way that is separable from the sensory patterns we observe. Perhaps they seem to fit together in neat causal chains because the mind we share found ways to present us with organic forms that correlate sensory patterns in causal chains like ways in order to create a more pleasant way of relating to the world of sensory patterns. Imagine living in a world were sensory patterns occur randomly. A world where sensory patterns appear to relate to one another in causal chains we can learn, and participate in, seems much more preferable.

When we move our hand based on our thoughts our brain also moves. When we touch our hand and experience a sensation our brain also moves. When we work on solving a problem the structures in our brain activate in sequences that produce computation like results that sometimes enter our awareness. This simply means that our brains move in ways that are correlated with our thoughts and our thoughts move in ways that are correlated with our brains. This does not settle the “hard problem of consciousness” - or why are we aware of sensory patterns at all?

Perhaps we are creatures that are fundamentally a form of awareness along with mental processes for creating sensory patterns. Perhaps we are each a localization of awareness that is part of a larger mind-like process, similar to a single creature possessing multiple eyes. Each eye allows a stationary creature to observe the space it inhabits from multiple perspectives simultaneously. By integrating these multiple perspectives, the creature can perceive higher dimensionality without moving, such as two eyes allowing us to perceive the depth ordering of objects in a space while sitting still. Perhaps Elyon integrates the perspective of all sentient beings into a single higher dimensional perspective.

Perhaps our tendency to prefer sustainable pleasant sensations is a reflection of Elyon’s tendency to prefer the same. When combined with the mental tendency to create organic forms in ways that are correlated with deeply ingrained mental associations, we may have the components we need for a theological or spiritual version of evolution. Perhaps Elyon is constantly searching for sensory patterns to focus our awareness on. Perhaps this process has led to the patterns we call our bodies, imaginations, dreams, and the outer physical world.

Instead of an environment that changes whimsically with our thoughts, perhaps Elyon has evolved to present us with a very regular shared sensory environment we call our “physical world”. In this mode we seem to require moving the sensory patterns we call our bodies to change the other patterns we all share. Perhaps imagination evolved to give us a sort of scratch pad where we can test out different sensory patterns, and symbolic references to sensory patterns, without committing to those patterns persisting for long durations for ourselves or others. It’s also interesting to note that our imaginations are able to imagine tendencies other than the tendencies that seem to dominate the “physical world” such as earth gravity. Dreams, hallucinations and visions are similarly less persistent. Perhaps these more ephemeral, flexible ways for experiencing sensory patterns allows sentient beings to communicate without much impact on our shared “physical environment.”

Science remains important because it gives us a method for establishing correlations between sensory patterns that independent parties seem to agree upon. These observed correlations give us a way to co-create the sensory experiences we have in ways we can comprehend. This is effective even if the sensory patterns we experience are the product of mental processes instead of the physical interpretations provided by scientific materialism. The scientific approach has proven its usefulness at helping us to manage our suffering.

One important question we might ask is does living in the mind of Elyon mean that we have free will? We might ask where do the options come from that we consider and where do the desires come from that lead to a particular selection? How can we “choose” these things? Wouldn’t it require that we “choose” before we have “chosen?” Even if we were to condition ourselves to make certain decisions, why did we choose to do so?

If we can not be thought of as choosing in a totally aware and free way then does this mean our existence is of no consequence or has no purpose? Perhaps our purpose is to simply be aware! Perhaps we are “tasting” or “testing” various sensory arrangements in a way that feeds-back into the mind of Elyon. This feedback might influence the sensory patterns the aware portions of the cosmos experience. If Elyon’s selection process tends to produce beings that have ever increasing control over their suffering and beings that tend to experience sustainable pleasantness, then we might say that Elyon’s nature tends towards “goodness”.

Perhaps we should not think of Elyon as being totally free either. Elyon can be thought of as the awareness capacity of the cosmos. It gives birth to all awareness and sustains all awareness. The structure of this capacity determines the possible configurations of awareness and the possible contents of awareness. This structure simply exists even if it does not correspond with typical notions of god. Within this structure Elyon may search the space of all possible combinations of awareness and sensory patterns for an arrangement that reflects it preferences. Elyon may distribute cognition in a way that is similar to a single substance with variations in density. Some creatures may engage in cognition in a way that is not highly correlated with other portions of Elyon’s single continuous substance. These creatures are not totally free of Elyon, they are perhaps something like a distant appendage where significant amounts of local activity can occur while remaining attached and under the influence of the larger entity.

Elyon might be defined as the ultimate cause of all thoughts. This could include chains of influence where one aware being determines the thoughts of another aware being, but can not account for the origin of its own thoughts in a precise way. These influential beings might even include other distinct beings within themselves, similar to a single eye within a creature possessing many eyes. Although powerful, these beings would not be equivalent to the highest god, Elyon, and perhaps a distinct sub-awareness that is under their influence could somehow be relocated - similar to a tree grafting.

Interestingly, even if an evil computer scientist were to place us in a virtual reality, the mechanism by which they controlled our experiences would be determined by the deeply rooted mental associations of Elyon. In addition to this, our awareness and the awareness of the evil scientist would both be rooted in Elyon. Perhaps over time Elyon would discover an arrangement that is preferable to the arrangement in which we are imprisoned - similar to the Jew’s escape from Egypt.

Perhaps when we pursue justice we are part of a cosmic process that tends towards peace, freedom, flourishing, and longevity.


Interesting academic philosophy that compares common trends in contemporary philosophy with a modern update to Idealism.

I plan on reading his book THE IDEA OF THE WORLD.


I realized tonight that Wilber is intending to use “holon” only in cases where there is an interior and felt a need to update this discussion. It also occurred to me that we might simplify the discussion by dropping the perspective of “holon as a collection of sub-holons” if people feel that this can be addressed by thinking of each collection being accounted for by considering a member of the collection while remaining agnostic about the question of each holon being always divisible into sub-holons (networks of interpenetrating beings?) and we might think of the cosmos as a singleton that contains all holons but is not itself a part of a lager holon.

Since we are no longer thinking of a lone holon as a collection of items that potentially have no interior, then we may not want to label it “with emergent qualities”. We might instead think of each item we place in the matrix as a particular sensory pattern that is being experienced by a particular sentient being and particular collections of sentient beings that being is a part of. We can do this analysis while remaining agnostic about what exists outside of conscious experience.

The top portion would include the way the selected sentient being experiences the sensory pattern on the stage of their imagination (subtle) as and through the sensory organs (gross) while the lower portion would include the qualities of the sensory pattern that we feel are intersubjectively correlated (subtle and gross) with the members of particular groups that the sentient being is a part of. Due to the “Problem of Other Minds” we may never be certain about which other minds exist and what patterns they are experiencing but we may talk about observations of a group that we interpret as indicating that intersubjective correlation is occurring in what we reasonably interpret to be particular other minds. We might think of the lower portion as the collection of all holons the individual holon is a part of and attempt to establish what qualities of the sensory pattern the members of that group seem to be in intersubjective agreement about - which may vary from group to group. Where the subtle realm correlations are attempts at perceiving correlated psychological content (i.e. the stage of the imagination including internal imagery, emotions and other mental associations) and the gross real correlations are an attempt at perceiving correlated observations through the sensory organs. I’m not quite sure how to account for the causal realm in terms of sensory pattern or intersubjectivity but if all experiences occur in all three then some accounting for this realm should be possible.

We might also want to emphasize that as we go from the causal to the gross phenomena seem more mutable in addition to it seeming easier to establish intersubjective correlation about what is being observed with what are reasonably interpreted to be particular other minds.

I also thought to update the name to the “Wilber-Combs-Stone Matrix”.

I hope someone else finds this update interesting. I would love to hear comments and suggestions.