I recently wrote an essay about this: “Are We the Exception that Proves the Rule?”, relating the question of the rarity of life to various scientific views.
The view that life is limited to our earth can go with a scientific and a religious point of view. The opposite view - life is ubiquitous in the universe - would not necessarily point to a divine origin. It could as well mean that evolving life is relatively “easy”.
But some informed scientists think, even acknowledging the vastness of the universe, the right conditions for complex, intelligent life, are so extremely rare we are, for all practical purposes, alone in the universe.
Well Frank, thank you for taking the time to point this out to me and your contributions to this thread to date.
My personal notes after reading and thinking it all through, is that we do not have the evidence to prove any of the theories. Obviously, I know.
Although our philosophy of science, body of accepted knowledge and technology has grown immensely; when it comes to questions of how and why we/cosmos are here are just as far beyond our grasp as they ever were. Which your website does a great job of pointing out, kudos.
Everything said on this subject has challenged my own beliefs heavily and I can feel that I am in a liminal state on the subject.
To share some of my feelings on the subject. I wanted to be a Lutheran priest when I was 12, after two years of confirmation and driving my minister mad with questions I was very lost in my Bible studies for all too typical reasons. I read the following Voltaire quote when I was 15 and it kicked off a off again, on again relationship with my believing. Which really was just me climbing up the spiral ladder.
I was listening to one of The Great Courses by The Teaching Company (can’t remember which one) and the professor was mentioning the rate of heart disease by religious faith and that in America they can even determine which denomination was the best and worst for heart disease. However cancer affected everyone equally. That was the first time (in my life) I had understood that Religion/Spirituality/Faith/Relationship to the divine had a physical and beneficial effect on human beings.
It came at a great time because although I was very strong in my orange meme life at the time, my life was a wreck. Alcoholic, overweight, womanizer, workaholic, mean spirited angry grouch who was staunchly scientific. The kind of guy who heckled the speaker at the local Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Chapter from the back of the planetarium. I mention that because I did it, I am ashamed of it; but that’s who I was.
So I began to open my heart to a power beyond my comprehension. I could accept that the visible cosmos was beyond my capacity of understanding or appreciation and that it was 3% of the universe but to that point believed I was smart enough to know of God’s existence and his plan. (Please take God and “he” as just place holders for what ever spirit, divinity you like). My life is still messed up and I have replaced most of all my character defects with all new better defects with the help of believing in more than myself. In humbling myself to my place in the cosmos. It has helped my health, my mind and my heart. Although I still have major major doubt and feel I am just giving myself a big placebo.
Did spirit exist before humans or did we invent spirit to get us through those long cold dark nights before we invented fire? I don’t know but am certain that either answer, the need for living with spirit has been sown into the biology of our evolution. SO much so that it is perennial in all of humanity. Hence we would need a test case off our planet to test this.
I hear you Frank on almost every line of your essay. And agree with you but only in my mind. My heart needs something more. Perhaps that’s a human fallacy, perhaps I’ll wake up from my mystical slumber and move back to the materialistic side tomorrow.
Thank you so much for contributing so much. It has been deeply educational and I am still finding new things to read on your website. You have been working on this, incredibly diligently for a long time and I can see it must be a labor of love for you. Thanks for being you.
I would agree with Einstein’s view of God Frank. Reality is divinity. Its too big a notion to fit inside any belief. There’s probably nothing personal about it. We are however people, and can have 1st, 2nd and 3rd person relationships with divinity.
Imagination, whatever it is, is a doorway to experience beyond conceptualization. Its not something we should marginalize. When words are offered to celebrate those experiences and draw us toward them, if we are not ourselves at its threshold, open hearted and humble, their fragrance becomes the stench of our own fear and we will see only empty shells.
That you insist on framing the question in these binary terms assures that you’ll not have an experience of the answer. How could there be anything in reality that isn’t an expression of reality? Reality is Divinity. All forms and activities are its self expression. There is only recursion.
Your basic point seems to be that you need to be open to the idea of Spirit acting in evolution to be able to appreciate or even experience it. Well, i have been open to that idea for two decades until I woke up from that slumber to really study evolution.
All the esoteric and occult literature of the world can’t beat that moment of insight: that you can postulate or entertain the most lofty notions about God or Spirit, but there comes a time they needs to align with the facts of nature and illuminate them.
We all know there is a gap between the scientific method and the general cultural attitudes and bureaucratic positions held by those who identify with mainstream scientific institutions. Likewise, we all know that people who favor their mystical intuitions tend to shirk the efforts required to rise on the wings of rationality, skepticism and intensified validation.
The general integral position, as I understand it, is as follows:
All things are changing, evolving and becoming.
The results of evolution tend to persist if they are regenerated.
The universe or parts of the universe are “sloped” toward increasing depth and simplexity. However this trend is costly and requires enormous efforts – thus the appearance of “intelligence” occupies only small regions of the cosmos.
Subjectivity is one of the things that goes “all the way down”. That means even the most primitive structures have proto-sentience. However that proto-sentient is so far from what we mean by Intelligence or Consciousness that it is almost better to speak about it as “no intelligence”. Spiritual experiences, validly, often include identification with a transcendent supra-intelligence that permeates the cosmos but this is “emergent” and occurs with the participation of the human experiencer. It is coming-into-being rather than “just lying there to be discovered”. God appears when you meet God. He was not previously present except in the most minimal degree.
Emergent structures can exert influences which encourage more primitive structures to more readily evolve up their own degree.
A tiny handful of pre-requisite “involutionary givens” are needed in order for any universe to occur. These provide a minimal scaffold that allows, among other things, evolution and eu-volution (the evolution we like).
Among the minimized involutionary gives is something like an “omega point” or a “convergent reflector” where completion, wholeness and coherent excess is brought forth as a given structure becomes constructively destabilized and bifurcates to a higher degree of simplexity. This is a divine apex that neither operates “outside” reality nor “governs” it from above – but which nonetheless provides a progressive and compelling “flavor” of patterning.
Both science and religion provide useful ways of psychologically exploring these phenomena – for different temperament and purposes and with different kinds of practical results.
That’s probably enough for now. I’m sure no one agrees…
Layman_Pascal, bravo for writing that. That put a lot of what I was understanding into a really fantastic layout. I wish KW could be so concise, although I wonder if he would agree.
I don’t know if I agree with the theory personally, but I sure like reading it. I had a big smile reading it the first and second time. That’s a good sign. Thank you for answering the question so eloquently. You are awesome!
Frank, you are beginning to completely lose me and I am beginning to doubt your comprehension of Integral Theory. I wish to make this response in all due respect to your years of work and obviously high knowledge base, but there are some things you say that make me feel you are completely missing the conversation going on here. So I’d like to slow down and ask a few questions so I may better frame what you are attempting to do.
You obviously have many years of education in mysticism and occult studies. How far have you taken your Upper Left waking up spiritual journey? How advanced are you in your meditation practice, and have you reached levels of Vision-Logic as described by KW?
I would say I am a very low on the meditation ladder. But I am dedicating my life to getting to Satori/Moksha and the higher levels of witnessing and vision-logic that KW describes. As I Understand it; this all becomes obvious and simple to 95% of those who achieve these states and IT endorses the idea that conclusions reached and confirmed by others in similar states should be recognized as Scientific confirmation.
I completely understand that you may reject that proposition of IT. But my question is whether you have achieved these higher states, are attempting to achieve them and if not why not. And if you have achieved them, are you rejecting the KW conclusions, making you part of the 5%?
Personally I think there is something up there at those high levels. I want to dedicate my life (a small portion of it each day) to getting there and experiencing it for myself.
Jeb, Thanks for your openness here. You seem genuinely curious and gentle which is inspiring to me. I don’t find this conversation at all tiresome. Some of the writing exercises I’ve been doing lately are relevant here so its easy to import some sections of them without much added effort. It feels productive, especially with your receptivity.
I can see how confusing my above writing is… lol. oops. This is why writing practice is helpful. Thanks for asking your questions. Wilber covers this in depth in “The Religion of Tomorrow”. Its a really good book. This is my take on Eros - Telos, at one level anyway.
Eros + Telos = Holarchy
Eros is the tendency of things to join together. Its the coalescing of parts. Telos is the tendency of those connected parts to be encapsulated into bigger wholes. Its a driver for the building up of complexity (simplexity) in holons.
It is fair to think of Eros and Telos as love and the goal. Its maybe a bit easier for some to think of these things philosophically in terms of human activities or feelings. Eroticism from eros having to do with the reproductive drive, and telos having to do with the purposes we pursue and our reasons for them. But, we should also try to extend these ideas out further by looking at the esoteric essence to try to understand why Ken also means them in the context of the whole Kosmos in all quadrants.
While Eros is a description of the motive force of procreation on one level, its also more abstractly the subtle principal of cohesion - things coming together. Parts come together and make bigger whole parts. Atoms come together to make new molecules and chemicals, organisms come together to make new organisms, people come together to make new people and so on.
We can notice this in the subjective realm with language . i.e. Letters join to become words, words join to become sentences, sentences join to become whole ideas and so on. When our understanding becomes sufficiently complex because we have a bunch of individual “bits” of information like an alphabet and a vocabulary, or even an understanding of biology, physics and philosophy for example, our Eros drive, starts to organize those individual “bits” into more comprehensive wholes or bigger whole parts. How do they all fit together? Hence Integral
Abstractly, eros its an attraction of sorts. Its often the case that attraction, like in the example of the reproductive drive with men and women, polarity is involved so that opposites or things that seem to be very different, are in fact the very things that end up going together in the most creatively potent ways. “The work of the Sun and Moon” for the Alchemy minded.
Telos is the tendency of those pair bonds, and groups of smaller units of connected parts to produce something new that wasn’t present with the more basic constituents. i.e. when a couple joins together and have a child, they become a family. Attraction, love, connection, intimacy and obviously sex, aka creativity, creates new life. The new thing produced from the earlier constituents in this case men and women, isn’t merely a couple plus a kid, the whole unit is redefined at a higher level and new meanings and values emerge along with it. Along with that kid are bunch of other new features. The social environment has changed, the economic factors have changed, even the motivational factors like priorities have changed. A family is more than just the group of people, its that plus all the new dynamics and the new definitions and new meanings and overall context that encapsulates the whole unit. “With the aid of Mercury” for the Alchemy minded.
In language, telos is exemplified in the higher order meanings that emerge from stringing together the more basic parts of letters, words and sentences. The letter a is just the aahh… sound, p is just the p sound l is just the l sound, a…p…p…l…e are by themselves meaningless, but strung together the word “apple” has a meaning that’s more than the sum of its earlier parts. This stringing together of separate things keeps producing higher order meanings who’s total is greater than the sum of its parts. Such is the case with everything. The Kosmos is Holarchical (arranged in Holarchies)
Some people call this emergence, but we should be cautious about the use of this word because scientists have very specific definitions for it. They differentiate weak emergence from strong emergence and they mostly reserve this word for things rather than meanings. This example is weak emergence.
Generally though, telos is related to the process of emergence, its the tendency of complexity to arise from simplicity on the one hand. On the other, its also the tendency of higher magnitudes of complexity to be constituted as new autonomous wholes. Like if I said what is an apple? You wouldn’t say “a bunch of letters strung together” or “its a word”, you’d say its a fruit that you eat. This is because you acknowledge automatically that the higher order magnitude of meaning is the more significant information about the letters that make up the word. That knowing is telos.
These ideas together are essentially how Holism works. This gets really interesting when we take in the whole Kosmos. If I asked you what is the universe? Your answer is going to be representative of the degree to which your understanding of each of the individual parts of the universe have joined together to become a whole unit. When we ask scientists, “what is the Kosmos?” We’ll generally get a description of all the constituent parts, the forms the activities the physical laws and interactions between all its parts. But they won’t tell us (in most cases) about the new meanings, properties, mechanisms, dynamics that arise out of the sum total of its more basic constituents, this is because they don’t see how they go together. The parts haven’t coalesced, conjuncted and become a new higher whole.
There’s a couple, but no baby. or maybe a better metaphor. There’s an alphabet, a sentence structure and a basic vocabulary, but we’re not yet writing resplendent poetry.
Asa, I started listening to the Religion of Tomorrow last year (Audiobook). I got a quarter of the way through before admitting to myself, I was just not ready to comprehend it and needed to continue building capacity before re-attempting it. I am re-listening to Integral Meditation for the 3rd time, it’s starting to make more sense and helping deepen my practice. I think your above explanation may help me get closer to re-attempting ROT but this time I’ll buy the physical copy.
I just finished listening to KW on The Buddhist at the Gas Pump podcast and he touched on his Religion of Tomorrow book and much of what we have been discussing here, and I guess because its a Podcast and he is summarizing it I was able to understand. But it was only a summary and he flies through a lot of words without explaining each definition.
Thank you so much for taking the time (and Imagine it took you a good amount of mental writing energy) to write all that. The explanation of Eros and Telos is very good and goes along way in my understanding. And thank you so much for adding in the little Alchemy references. I appreciate it
This really clears up a lot for me.
I’ll admit I was pretty hesitant to participate in this forum. Internet forums usually have a way of devolving into toxic dumpster fires. I felt a little stupid for asking this question but really didn’t know any better way to do so. And was completely flabbergasted at understanding what KW could even believe as his explanations were all over the place and above my comprehension. Thank you for taking the time to make this a really rewarding experience.
Do you really think that all meditators past and present would agree that “there’s an Eros in the Kosmos” or that evolution is “Spirit-in-action”? That’s a wild generalization Wilber is so good at, where in fact this is Wilber’s pet theory of the universe.
95%, really? Wilber’s math is notoriously off when it comes to claims like this.
In my view and experience, witnessing makes you wiser about your own mind, but not about the world and its proceses. That’s a confusion of quadrants to me.
Frank, I don’t know what all deep meditators think and don’t know where I can find those statistics. But in my life’s research I would say that perennial philosophy across the globe and cultures points to a similar concept. However that is inconclusive but none the less persuasive to be heavily considered by my own view.
My plan is to try and experience these states for myself and then speak from a place of personal experience. As scientific as I can get in the upper left quadrant. While that wouldn’t prove anything in an upper right quadrant it is at least a qualification of IT upper left.
I see your point and where you are coming from. The good news is that if you are right, you are right and can kick back happy and relaxed. If your wrong then you have much learning, practice and experience to continue and enjoy. I wish you happiness, contentment and success in whichever you find.
I think there is a difference between belief in telepathy and belief in something like “Einstein’s God”. Perhaps this is where some of the confusion comes in. I believe in telepathy and it’s easy to see how someone experiencing it might call the being(s) they communicate with god(s). This may be the basis for many ideas about god having a “personality”.
It would be interesting to see how much of WIlber’s worldview rests on a belief in telepathy. Perhaps we could address this issue directly by asking Ken questions like “Do you think that the existence of telepathy implies non-duality?” or “Do you think the existence of telepathy and non-duality implies a Spirit-In-Action worldview?”
In my opinion, if telepathy can produce any sensation a person is capable of having and it is a natural phenomena, meaning no cheating with things like computer chip brain implants, then the idea that the world we experience is primarily a mental construct that we all share is pretty convincing. Additional evidence of the world of sensation being a mental construct is the fact that we can cause sensations, however faintly, by simply imagining them. Most people admit to being able to create faint visualizations they are able to control within their mind. I believe that we can also learn to create other sensations in our imagination that we actually experience (e.g. touch, smell, taste, sound). If we can then transmit any of these possible sensations to another receptive mind simply by imagining them, then the idea that we all share a mental construct becomes pretty convincing to me. Again, I’m assuming there isn’t any technological cheating going on.
If the world we experience is primarily mental and the patterns we are aware of seem to be increasingly complexifying, then perhaps you could imagine a mental process that is creating new forms and then operating on those new forms. As in prehension - the past subject becomes the object of a new subject on a cosmic scale.
Assuming we are experiencing what is fundamentally a mental construct, perhaps involution is a process that first creates the fundamental tendencies within which evolution then occurs. Since we see evidence of evolution something must have happened to enable it.
I think there is perhaps a compatibilist position between materialism and idealism. Perhaps there is “something” that exists in someway before conciousness that generates consciousness. However, we may not be able to directly access this “thing” in a way that gives us certain information about it beyond it being sufficient for the existence of conciousness. The world of sensations then could be a world comprised of mental structures, where some mental structures are more inescapable than others - making them behave like the “laws” of materialism.
Is there a single great mind that creates these especially inescapable mental structures? I don’t know. Maybe it’s something we all play a part in - thus you have people like Wilber stating that he thinks we can become a part of the divine - perhaps more accurately we can learn to recognize that we have always been a part of the divine. Maybe we are all holding down a particular shared mental construct based on something like the avoidance of pain sensations.
I’m not sure how to prove to you that we live primarily in a mental construct, but I would suggest that if you want to understand some of what people like Wilber are saying, then you might want to adopt it as a working hypothesis.
Realism says we perceive the world, idealism says we imagine the world. But since this is largely untenable, idealists often move quickly to the view that it’s not our imagination but God’s. From that God-viewpoint, telepathy is sometimes “explained” by saying we are all connected through this Super-Self. Such a load of assumptions to explain what? We do find a real, shared world, and we do have the capacity for imagination. This shouldn’t be mixed up.
Sure, we all start with our consciousness with which we perceive things, but jeez, we have been to the moon and back - was that all imagination? And if not, it was a reality, right?
I would’t know how accepting telepathy should offer support to the view there’s a Spirit in evolution at work or that the world is a (our?) mental construct. A sophisticated defense of this idealistic view is given by Bernardo Kastrup’s “Why Materialism is Baloney” and other works. Personally I see no reason to accept it. It needs a hell of a lot of assumptions to get to the reality we live in.
There may be some wiggle room on whether Reality means “the universe” (or multiverse) or whether it means the total structure of all possible experiences, etc. In the latter case, the “shape” of Reality may be amenable in several ways to a notion of God that is distinct from merely the divinization of the given cosmos. At the very least (1) second person can be added to the energetic and informational totality (2) a particular trend of evolution (“euvolution”) can be singled out from other patterns of change (3) an apex or focal point of the momenta of all patterns may represent a totalized holistic convergence, of whatever minimal degree, that is capable of of reflecting back up and, for all practical purposes, acting as an integrate telos for, the unfolding of all beings and things. But regardless of what we think God adds to the scientific description we certainly need a reason to single out the concept as an addition or else there is every reason to reject it as emotionally and structurally unnecessary.
We accept that the human body is made of an incredibly complex set of components, yet we operate it effortlessly. Perhaps the mental construct that we all share also contains incredibly complex components that we don’t have to understand or will into existence in order to be impacted by them. The moon, sun, etc. could all be part of an evolved strategy for organizing mental phenomena. How far do you travel in your dreams?
But that’s the point: you can’t take the dream as paradigmatic, to illustrate that the world is just a (common?) dream as well, for that point needs to be established first. Again, you need a whole lot of assumptions to get that working.
“The moon, sun, etc. could all be part of an evolved strategy for organizing mental phenomena.”
What about the zillions of heavenly bodies? All part of this strategy? How parochial.
I took a few months away from the boards and did some deep meditation. I haven’t gotten to the end yet. But I can say I do agree with the Universe has a inherent purpose and evolution is being guided. Pushed is probably the best word. And we humans are not the pinnacle of that evolution. It has been an incredibly awakening and joyous journey to this point. I am going to keep on this path of meditation but I feel I have touched the face of God (poor word to use for the ineffable but its all I have). Its taken me three weeks just to pull myself back together to really “be” in the material world. But wow, it’s really really amazing.
Frank, you are doing an awesome job. I know you won’t get me but dude, I get you. Don’t worry so much, keep on with your page, it’s all part of the plan.